Revisting Zagwe Dynasty

By Netsanet K.

Beginning from the late ninth century onwards, the political center of Aksumite Empire shifted from Kubar, in southern Tigrai, near the predominantly Agaw inhabited districts. It was from the Agaw region that the Zagwe dynasty emerged and took over the political power from the weakened Aksumite rulers around 1150 AD.
After the downfall of Aksumite, the Zagwe dynasty took over the political power in northern Ethiopia. This dynasty came from the local Agaw ruling class of Bugna, a destrict in Lasta. This province was part of the Aksumite Empire and the people were long Christianized after the arrival of the “nine saints”. The southward shift of Aksumite political center led to more integration of the Agaw people and the ruling class. The considerable integration was carried out through army recruition and intermarriage with the Christian court of Aksum. This closer interaction eventually enabled the Agaw to take power easily from the Aksumite rulers just before the middle of the 12th century.
The Agaw dynasty was founded around 1150 AD. The founder of this dynasty was Merera, also known as Mera Tekle Haymnot. He established a new capital at Adefa, in Lasta, in the center of the Agaw speaking region. Adefa was later on renamed Lalibela, after one of the greatest kings of the dynasty king Lalibala (r.about 1190-1225 AD). The territorial limits of the Zagwe state included the former highland Aksumite provinces in the northern and the present northern Shawa in the south. The Zagwe also seemed to have pushed their territory in to the Lake Tana region in the west.
The economy of the Zagwe dynasty was based on agriculture. The peasantry formed the bulk of the population. The peasantry paid part of his produce to the court in the form of tribute. District governors were expected to organize an army to ensure peace for traders, trade routes and peasants. Trade brought additional income to the state. The trade of the kingdom was conducted through two outlets. The Dahlak Island on the red sea cost served as an outlet for the trade of the northern part of the kingdom, while the Zeila port was the main outlet for the trade of the southern territories of the Zagwe state.
The Zagwe dynasty maintained the cultural traditions of Christian Aksumite state almost intact. Christianity continued to be the state and official religion of the country. Geez was maintained as the language of the church and writing. The dynasty continued to maintain cordial relations with the Muslim rulers of Egypt. The tradition of visiting the holy land of Jerusalem for religious purposes seemed to have reached its peak during this period.

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3 Responses to Revisting Zagwe Dynasty

  1. Baalya says:

    Well, I thought the People of Lasta, Agaws once the house of knowledge and wisdom were vanished for once and all. Yes, Israel disappeared almost for 2,000 years from the world map; lost their language and dignity and re-emerged as as state in the middle of the 20th century. It is great experiences those who lost their hope on their being. Now, it is interesting to hear the voice from the Lasta people. In contrary, I heard also re-installation of Lalibela Wollow Band, Derg’s legacy recently. I don’t believe re-installation of Lalibela Wollow Band is made for a positive intention. Why the band is needed this time after 20-years of ban? To me the reason for rehabilitation of Lalibela Wollow Band is to slow down or if possible to cease growing Agaw identity around Lasta Lalibela. Wogene, my sisters and brothers of Lasta Lalibela should be aware of wrong motioves behind the band and reject it.

  2. Eigzi W/A says:

    Yes, I pray might God (Waaqaa), Jesus Christ to revist the Agaw people in general; restore their dignity and pride once they had; I pray mighty God liberate the Agaw peole from social economic marginalization, the second class citizinship status. I confess heartdly this is true in the town of Lalibela, which does not have any single production industry and infrastructure; the same situation is peritent in Wag, Gojjam and Gondar, especially in the Kemant area. Might God help us to stand together for liberty and justice; Mighty help us overcome all forms of hatred through love and compassion, to pray together, to give ourselves for our people’s honor and freedom; Amen!

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