Ethiopian Dark Ages

About 1000 (presumably c 960), a non-Christian princess, Yodit [“Gudit”, a play on Yodit meaning evil]; conspired to murder all the members of the royal family and establish herself as monarch. According to legends, during the execution of the royals, an infant heir of the Axumite monarch was carted off by some faithful adherents, and conveyed to Shewa, where his authority was acknowledged, while Yodit reigned for forty years over the rest of the kingdom, and transmitted the crown to her descendants. At one point during the next century, the last of Yodit’s successors were overthrown by an Agaw lord named Mara Takla Haymanot, who founded the Zagwe dynasty and married a female descendant of the Axumite monarchs (“son – in – law”) or previous ruler.

The Zagwe Dynasty

By the tenth century, the Zagwe dynasty had emerged as a post Axumite Christian Empire. The Zagwe kingdom was born out of the cultural and political interactions of the Cushitic and Semitic peoples in the northern highlands. Like the Axumite kingdom, the Zagwe dynasty was a political empire rooted in religion. The Zagwe devoted themselves to the construction of new churches and monasteries. Born out of this patronship of religious art is the construction of the rock hewn churches of Lalibela. Ethiopian Christianity, however, was increasingly isolated from other Christian nations. With the conversion of Egypt to Islam, the Zagwe dynasty lost contact with its closest link with the outside Christianity, the Egyptian Coptic Christian Church.

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