Menelik I

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Menelik I
ArkCovenant-Axum (Menelik I).jpg
Detail from a larger painting in the church at Axum
Emperor of Ethiopia (traditional)
Reign982–957 B.C. (E.C.)[1]
975–950 B.C. (G.C.)[nb 1] (according to Tafari Makannon's King List)[2]
954–930 B.C. (Alternate dates from E. A. Wallis Budge)[3]
SuccessorHanyon or Tomai (depending on the king list)
DynastyHouse of Solomon
FatherKing Solomon
MotherQueen of Sheba

Menelik I (Ge'ez: ምኒልክ, Mənilək) was the claimed first Emperor of Ethiopia. According to Kebra Nagast, a 14th-century national epic, in the 10th century BC he is said to have inaugurated the Solomonic dynasty of Ethiopia, so named because Menelik I was the son of the biblical King Solomon of ancient Israel and of Makeda, the Queen of Sheba.[4][5]


According to the medieval Ethiopian book, the Kebra Nagast, translated into Geʽez in 1321 CE,[6][7][8] his name was Bäynä Ləḥkəm (from Arabic: ابن الحكيم, Ibn Al-Hakim, "Son of the Wise."[9]). He was conceived when his father Solomon tricked his visiting mother, the Queen of Sheba, into sleeping with him. His mother raised him as a Jew in her homeland and he only traveled to Jerusalem to meet his father for the first time when he was in his twenties. While his father begged Menelik to stay and rule over Israel, Menelik told him that he wanted to return home. Thus, Solomon sent many Israelites with him, to aid him in ruling according to biblical standards; which were aggrieved at being exiled forever. One recount is that King Solomon gave his Ark of the Covenant to his son as a gift, while another states Solomon attemped to regain the ark but was unable to due to its supernatural properties aiding Menelik. Upon the death of his mother, or upon her abdication in his favor, Menelik was crowned King of Ethiopia.

According to one Ethiopian tradition, Menelik was born near the village of Addi-Shmagali, located north west of Asmara,[10] which is now part of Eritrea.


According to legend, Menelik I founded the Solomonic dynasty of Ethiopia that ruled Ethiopia with few interruptions for close to three thousand years. This ended 225 generations later, with the deposition of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974. However, historical records show that the Solomonic dynasty began in 1262 AD, when Yekuno Amlak, who claimed descent from biblical Solomon and Sheba, overthrew the last ruler of the Zagwe dynasty, dismissing them as not of "the house of Israel" (i.e., of Solomon).[11] and established the Solomonic Dynasty in 1270 AD.[12] Acts 8:26–40 depicts a 1st century account of an Ethiopian royal official on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem from Ethiopia.[13]

Popular culture[edit]

Much tourist art in Ethiopia depicts the narrative about Menelik I in a series of panels, 44 scenes, eleven for each of four lines.[14][15] The story depicted on them is the oral version (beginning with a backstory on Sheba and including an Ethiopian maid who also becomes pregnant by Solomon), not the medieval text version.

2004 short documentary, Menelik I, was filmed in Ethiopia. It tells the story of the son of the Queen of Sheba through tableau images and music.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The dates included on Tafari Makannon's king list follow the Ethiopian calendar. According to Charles Fernand Rey, the Gregorian date equivalent would be 7 or 8 years ahead.[1]


  1. ^ a b C. F. Rey, In the Country of the Blue Nile (1927), Camelot Press, London, pg. 263
  2. ^ C. F. Rey, In the Country of the Blue Nile (1927), Camelot Press, London, pg. 266
  3. ^ Budge, E. A. Wallis (1928). A History of Ethiopia: Nubia and Abyssinia (Volume 1). London: Methuen & Co. p. 229.
  4. ^ Marrassini, Paolo. 2007. "Kəbrä Nägäśt." In Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: He-N: Vol. 3, edited by Siegbert Uhlig, 364-368. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
  5. ^ Fiaccadori, Gianfranco. 2007. "Mənilək I." In Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: He-N: Vol. 3, edited by Siegbert Uhlig, 921-922. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
  6. ^ Bezold, Carl. 1905. Kibra negest , die Kerrlichkeit der Könige: Nach den Handschriften in Berlin, London, Oxford und Paris. München: K.B. Akademie der Wissenschaften.
  7. ^ Anonymous. 1932. The Queen of Sheba and Her Only son Menyelek ... A Complete Translation of the Kebra Nagast. Translated by E. A. Wallis Budge. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press.
  8. ^ Hubbard, David Allan. 1957. "The Literary Sources of the Kebra Nagast."PhD diss, University of St. Andrews.
  9. ^ The name "Menelik" is Amharic (a Semitic language spoken in Ethiopia) in origin, and has two meanings:[1]
    1. "Son of the wise man"
    2. "What will he send?"
  10. ^ Budge, E. A. Wallis (1928). A History of Ethiopia: Nubia and Abyssinia (Volume 1). London: Methuen & Co. p. 200.
  11. ^ Pankhurst, Richard (1986). "Fear God, Honor the King: The Use of Biblical Allusions in Ethiopian Historical Literature, Part I". Northeast African Studies. 8 (1): 11–30. JSTOR 43660191. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  12. ^ "Zagwe dynasty | Ethiopian history".
  13. ^ "Acts 8 NIV - - Bible Gateway".
  14. ^ "The Story of the Queen of Sheba". Retrieved 2020-01-06.
  15. ^ Biasio, Elisabeth (2009). "Contemporary Ethiopian Painting in Traditional Style: From Church-Based to Tourist Art". African Arts. 42 (1): 14–25. doi:10.1162/afar.2009.42.1.14. ISSN 0001-9933. JSTOR 20447932. S2CID 57561543.
  16. ^ Menelik l at IMDb, Menelik l on YouTube