Yeshaq I of Ethiopia

Yeshaq I of Ethiopia

Yeshaq I or Isaac (Ge'ez ይሥሓቅ "yisḥāḳ", Amh. "yishāḳ"; throne name Gabra Masqal II ገብረ መስቀል "gabra masḳal" "slave/servant of the cross," Amh. "gebre mesḳel") was "IPA|nəgusä nägäst" (1414 - 1429) of Ethiopia, and a member of the Solomonic dynasty. He was the second son of Dawit I.

He continued the campaigns against the Falashas. Yeshaq invaded the Shanqella region beyond Agawmeder, and in the southern part of Ethiopia he fought against the sons of Sa'ad ad-Din II who returned from exile in Arabia.

Yeshaq made the earliest known contact from post-Axumite Ethiopia to a European ruler. He sent a letter by two dignitaries to Alfonso V of Aragon, which reached the king in 1428, proposing an alliance against the Muslims and would be sealed by a dual marriage, that would require the Infante Don Pedro to bring a group of artisans to Ethiopia, where he would marry Yeshaq's daughter. It is not clear how or if Alfonso responded to this letter, although in a letter that reached Yeshaq's successor Zara Yaqob in 1450, Alfonso wrote that he would be happy to send artisans to Ethiopia if their safe arrival could be guaranteed, for on a previous occasion a party of 13 of his subjects travelling to Ethiopia had all perished. [O. G. S. Crawford (editor), "Ethiopian Itineraries, circa 1400 - 1524" (Cambridge: the Hakluyt Society, 1958), pp. 12f.]

A notable example of Ethiopian literature that has survived from this period is a panegyric addressed to Yeshaq, which Cerulli has singled out as a gem of Ethiopian poetry. [David Buxton, "The Abyssinians" (New York: Praeger, 1970), p. 131]

Tadesse Tamrat believes that the primary sources mask Yeshaq's death in battle against the Muslims. E. A. Wallis Budge states that he was assassinated, and "buried in Tadbaba Maryam". [Budge, "A History of Ethiopia: Nubia and Abyssinia", 1928 (Oosterhout, the Netherlands: Anthropological Publications, 1970), p. 303.]


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