Ethiopia-Fassil Ghebbi

  • Topic: 500 to 1000 BP
  • Country: Ethiopia
  • Related Congress: 13th Congress, Dakar

The northern plateau of Tana is home to the world heritage site of Lalibela that serves as testimony of the modern civilization of Ethiopia. The mountainous terrains rise as high as 2.300m, where the empire of Gondar was discovered by Emperor Fassilidas in 1636 and was residence to Fassilidas and his successors. Gondar rose to prominence as a result of shift in political power from the Axumite kingdom resulting in the Islamization Gondar and in the 12th century the Axumite dynasty was overthrown by the Zagwe leaders. The rise of the Zagwe dynasty resulted in a shift of the centre of political power south-ward to the province of Lasta. The empire marks a 17th century architectural style that serves as an architectural marker not only for this cultural site but for Ethiopia as well. The Gondar Empire was occupied until the turn of the 18th century and during its occupation it was known and appreciated for its many medieval castles, designs and decorations of its churches. Accounts from the past particularly oral tradition indicate that the empire used different names at different time periods and all names began with the letter “G”. Initially it was known as Guzara and then as Gorgoza during the period 16th-17th centuries and it finally became Gondar. Traditional Gondar was simply erected as a winter settlement for emperor Fassilidas who had a castle built in the settlement, the significance of Gondar however, is not that an emperor built a castle here but that subsequent emperors lived in Gondar. Gondar was found a century after the defeat of Gran and this prompted archaeologists to suggest that Gondar emerged as a of military invasions at Gran without which not only Gondar would not have been found but Addis Ababa as well.

Horvath, R.J. 1968. The Wandering Capitals of Ethiopia. The Journal of African History, Vol. 10. No. 2, pp 205-219.

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