Yohannes I

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Emperor of Ethiopia
ቀዳማዊ ዓፄ ዮሐንስ.jpg
Yohannes I as depicted on a French engraving
SuccessorIyasu the Great
Bornc. 1640
Died19 July 1682
Regnal name
A'ilaf Sagad (Ge'ez: አእላፍ ሰገድ a'ilāf sagad, "to whom tens of thousands bow")
HouseHouse of Solomon
ReligionEthiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

Yohannes I (Ge'ez: ቀዳማዊ ዮሐንስ qädamawi yōḥānnis, Amh. qädamawi yōhānnis, also sometimes called John I), throne name A'ilaf Sagad (Ge'ez: አእላፍ ሰገድ a'ilāf sagad, "to whom tens of thousands bow"), (c. 1640 – 19 July 1682) was Emperor (nəgusä nägäst) (1667–1682)[1] of Ethiopia, and a member of the Solomonic dynasty. He was the fourth son of Fasilides.

Library and Chancellery of Yohannes I in the Fasil Ghebbi, Gondar, Ethiopia.

Yohannes was appointed nəgusä nägäst by a council of the senior dignitaries of the Empire, at the encouragement of the noble Blattengeta Malka Krestos. The council then imprisoned the other sons of Fasilides on Mount Wehni, continuing the practice Fasilides had revived.

According to G.W.B. Huntingford, Yohannes spent much of his reign campaigning, stating that 6 of the 11 itineraries he reproduces were military expeditions. Three of these were against the Agaw in Gojjam, and Agawmeder, one against the Oromo, and two punitive expeditions to the area around Mount Ashgwagwa—Angot and Lasta—to quash the revolts of Feres (in 1677) and Za Maryam (1679).[2] Emperor Yohannes died on 19 July and was buried at Teda.[3]

Religion under Yohannes[edit]

Chancellery of Yohannes I in Gondar, Amhara Region.

Due to the violent religious controversy that Catholic missionaries had caused in Ethiopia under the reign of his grandfather Susenyos, Yohannes acted harshly towards Europeans. In 1669, he directed Gerazmach Mikael to expel all of the Catholics still living in Ethiopia; those who did not embrace the beliefs of the Ethiopian Church were exiled to Sennar. Six Franciscans sent by Pope Alexander VII to succeed in converting Ethiopia to Catholicism where the Jesuits had failed 30 years before, were executed during his reign. As a result, he favored Armenian visitors, whose beliefs also embraced Miaphysitism, and were in harmony with the Ethiopian Church. These included one Murad, who undertook a number of diplomatic missions for the Emperor; and in 1679, the Emperor Yohannes received the Armenian bishop Yohannes, bearing a relic of Ewostatewos.

The growing controversy over the nature of Christ had grown severe enough that in the last year of his reign Yohannes called a synod to resolve the dispute. The Ewostathian monks of Gojjam advocated the formula "Through Unction Christ the Son was consubstantial with the Father", by which they came to be known as the Qebat ("Unction") faction, who were supported by the Emperor's own son Iyasu; they were opposed by the monks of Debre Libanos, who at that time still advocated traditional Miaphysitism. The outcome of the synod is in dispute: according to E.A. Wallis-Budge and H. Weld Blundell, Emperor Yohannes was convinced to condemn the Qebat doctrine, which led to Iyasu attempting to flee his father's realm; but according to Crummey, Yohannes favored the Gojjame delegation for political reasons: at the time Gojjam was an important province. These decisions were revisited once Iyasu became Emperor, at a synod he called in 1686.[4]


  1. ^ James Bruce wrote that Yohannes ruled between 1665–1680, but E. A. Wallis Budge showed this was an error by identifying an eclipse seen in Ethiopia during his reign with one calculated to have occurred on 4 November 1668 (E.A. Wallis Budge, A History of Ethiopia: Nubia and Abyssinia, 1928 [Oosterhout, the Netherlands: Anthropological Publications, 1970], p. 408).
  2. ^ G.W.B. Huntingford, The historical geography of Ethiopia from the first century AD to 1704, (Oxford University Press: 1989), pp. 187-200
  3. ^ James Bruce, Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile (1805 edition), vol. 3, p. 447
  4. ^ Budge, pp. 406f, 410f; H. Weld Blundell, The Royal chronicle of Abyssinia, 1769-1840 (Cambridge: University Press, 1922, p. 525; Donald Crummey, Priests and Politicians, 1972 (Hollywood: Tsehai, 2007), p. 22.

Further reading[edit]

  • Richard K. P. Pankhurst. The Ethiopian Royal Chronicles. Addis Ababa: Oxford University Press, 1967.
Preceded by
Emperor of Ethiopia Succeeded by
Iyasu I