Menelik I

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Menelik I
ArkCovenant-Axum (Menelik I).jpg
Reign10th-century BC
DynastySolomonic dynasty
FatherKing Solomon
MotherQueen of Sheba

Menelik I, or Menilek (in Ge`ez: ምኒልክ [Mənilək]) was the first emperor of Ethiopia. According to oral tradition, 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 Ethiopian Queen of Sheba [1][2]


According to the medieval Ethiopian book of the Kebra Nagast, translated into Geʽez in 1321 CE,[3] [4][5] this man's name was Bäynä Ləḥkəm (from Arabic: ابن الحكيم‎, Ibn Al-Hakim, "Son of the Wise."[6]). 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 Ethiopia 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 to Ethiopia. So, Solomon sent many Israelites with him, to aid him in ruling according to biblical standards, and they, aggrieved at being exiled forever, King Solomon gave his Ark of the Covenant to his son as gift for being his son and being king of Ethiopia. Menelik then became king of Ethiopia, upon the death of his mother.


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 CE, when Yekuno Amlak, who claimed descent from the Kings of Aksum and Solomon and Sheba, overthrew the last ruler of the Zagwe dynasty, dismissing them as not of "the house of Israel" (i.e., of Solomon). To date, there is no evidence that the people of highland Ethiopia were Jews before the fourth century CE.[7]

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.[8][9] 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.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Marrassini, Paolo. 2007. "Kəbrä Nägäśt." In Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: He-N: Vol. 3, edited by Siegbert Uhlig, 364-368. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
  2. ^ Fiaccadori, Gianfranco. 2007. "Mənilək I." In Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: He-N: Vol. 3, edited by Siegbert Uhlig, 921-922. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
  3. ^ Bezold, Carl. 1905. Kebra Nagast, die Kerrlichkeit der Könige: Nach den Handschriften in Berlin, London, Oxford und Paris. München: K.B. Akademie der Wissenschaften.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Hubbard, David Allan. 1957. "The Literary Sources of the Kebra Nagast."PhD diss, University of St. Andrews.
  6. ^ 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?"
  7. ^ Ullendorff, Edward. 1956. "Hebraic-Jewish Elements in Abyssinian (monophysite) Christianity."  Journal of Semitic Studies 1 (3):216-256.
  8. ^ "The Story of the Queen of Sheba". Retrieved 2020-01-06.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Menelik l on IMDb, Menelik l on YouTube