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"A PRINCE ought to have no other aim or thought, nor select anything else for his study, than war and its rules and discipline." Machiavelli[1]

Chapter Eleven. 1930: EMPEROR


What is power if not a struggle with power, overpowering the existing forces? We, the outsiders, can't fully envision the powers Ras Tafari had to deal with. Powerless, we imagine nothing but a vacuum instead of power fields he was placed in....

The world "empire" became popular and to the point of being ridiculous. We think of symbolic not real powers, we like the magic flavor of the concept of Empire....


It was a day of his public marriage to the country. As usual he rose early and read his daily morning prayer, the verses from the chapter one of the book of the prophet Jeremiah: "Thou therefore gird up thy lions, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them...." He was in confort talking to God, he knew questioned by the silence, he knew that Lord was listening. "For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land." He will walk his path and he renewed his promice this morning at sunrise. He won't be discouraged. "And they shall fight against thee: but they shall not prevail against three; for I am with thee, said the Lord, to deliver three."[2]

In 1930 he was 38. Most of his life was a Ras. A prince, not a king, till two years ago. Not King of Kings. Till now. He had no excuses anymore. Now no man was above him, only God. Now was the time to fulfil his destiny. That was his birthday, the day when a new man was born and his name was Haile Sellassie The First. This name was new to Tafari, he had to get use to the sound of it. Eerything around was the same, he was different. Now was the time to let them know that the new emperor will give birth to new Ethiopia. It was a new month -- November.

Many came. They say, local and foreign dignitaries arrived at Addis Ababa on horseback, train and airplains. On the day before, November the Second, Empress and Emperor were greeting them while a visiting British naval band played the newly composed national anthem. The 300.000 British pounds show started. And many wrote about this day.

It was a good day to be seen. There are many such days under 13 months of Ethiopian sunshine. He was about to face them all. It was his day, the moment of triumph. He had to remember the words of Lord. Power is a war which knows no truce. New powers ask for more battles. It was Sunday.

"...all in Addis Ababa began to prepare for the impressive event of the morning. The Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah and his Empress have just completed a night of prayer and devotion at the most high alter within. Through the early morning the chanting of praises continued, accompanied by the dancing of the priest with their great pulsating drumbs, the whole suggestive of the Ancient Jewish rites which were in use at the time of King David danced before the Arc of the Covenant.
Proceeded by waving incense burners, His Imperial Majesty, attired in white silk communion robes, entered the ceremonial hall with an escort of aides and clergy, and took his place upon the Throne. The thrilling but solemn silence gently breaks to the throaty voice of his holiness the Abuna Kyrillos: "Ye princes and ministers, ye nobles and chiefs of the army, ye soldiers and people of Ethiopia, and ye doctors and chiefs of the clergy, ye professors and priest, look ye upon our Emperor Haile Selassie the First, descended from the dynasty of Menelic the First, who was born of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, a dynasty perpetuated without interruption from the time of King Sehale and our times.
Forty nine bishops and priests of this ancient Christian country, in groups of seven, have held place for seven days and nights in the seven corners of the National Cathedral to chant without ceasing nine Psalms of David. They are now joined by hundreds more. The established Coptic Church is revered and all-powerful in Ethiopia. This is a day when it may and does show its impressive might and splendor.
The Emperor, whose name is Anglicized as Power of the Holy Trinity, before the questioning of the Abuna gives his sacred pledge to uphold the Orthodox religion of the Church, to support and administer the laws of the country for the betterment of the people, to maintain the integrety of Ethiopia, and to found schools for development the Spiritual and Material welfare of her subjects.
Chanting and prayers to the God of Gods rise from a multitude of priestly throats and reverberate from the lofty ceiling of the Cathedral. One by one with the solemn rites and blessings of the high Ethiopian clergy, He received the Gold-Embroidered Scarlet Robes, the Jeweled Sword, Imperial Gold Septer, the Orb, the Diamond Encrusted Ring, and two Gold Filigree Lances in token of His position and responsability. Following ancient customs, as when Samuel anointed David, and Zodak and Nathan anointed Solomon, so the Abuna anointed His Majestys head with oil. Seven differently scented ointments of ancient prescription are received on the Imperial head, brow, and shoulders. He then concluded with the words,: "That God make this Crown a Crown of Glory. That, by the Grace and the blessing which we have given, you may have an Unshaken Faith and a Pure Heart, in order that you may inherit the Crown Eternal. So be it."

The centuries seemed to have slipped suddenly backwards into Biblical ritual.
The assembly applauded their greeting, and the visiting naval band played the National Anthem, while outside cannons roared a salute of 101 guns, and cheer after cheer came from thousands of sublects massed in the vicinity of the Cathedral.
The final ceremonies is a grand tour of the Cathedral by their Imperial Majesties. There are escorted by the bishops and priest, the princes and high dignitaries, assistants and others, carrying Palm Branches and chanting in Mighty Volume, "BLESSED BE THE KING OF ISRAEL."[3]

At 8 am the coronation began at the St. George's Cathedral. Two hours later a 101-gun salute was fired and the Emperor went for a two-mile journey through his capital in spender of the Husburgs royal carriage bought and delivered for this occasion.

The weeks were spent in feasts and receptions. On December 7 the masses witnessed a huge military parade with Emperor in his field-marshall uniform. Imperial Bodyguards with modern rifles, machine-guns and bazookas in khaki uniforms demonstrated to all, domestic and foreign, allies and enemies, that Haile Sellassie is in charge and committed to New Ethiopia. He always was called the best public relation man of Africa. It was a demonstration and it served the purpose. He was King of Kings for his subjects and the leader of Ethiopia for the world.

Tafari a devoted student of politics knew that he has to be ahead of changes. He has to be the change and never a re-action to imposed from outside changes. Being ahead, and play their games, prophet is the best adviser of a ruler. King has to have both, he has to be both. Good king is the change for better....

And above all things, a prince ought to live amongst his people in such a way that no unexpected circumstances, whether of good or evil, shall make him change; because if the necessity for this comes in troubled times, you are too late for harsh measures; and mild ones will not help you, for they will be considered as forced from you, and no one will be under any obligation to you for them.[4]

Oh, if only he can follow this wisdom at the times of Revolution! But the year of 1974 was too far ahead, almost a half a century later. Even 1935 was a few years ahead. He didn't know what we know. And the world didn't know him. Even his own people knew nothing about their their new ruler, emperor Haile Sellassie I. In 1930 he was full of energy and expectations. The future was wide open and promising. He was ready for changes without waiting for them to come. He came that far and they listen, he wanted to go further and had to find the ways between harsh and mild measures for them to follow. His new name -- "The Power of Trinity" -- and his "The First" -- the sings of his intentions. He, first, and then them, the country. Oh, yes, that was the day of changes, the last for Tafari, first for Haile Sellassie I. The country should see it, must remember this day, the Coronation Day.


Constitutional monarchy is a monarchy in name only. HIM was interested in this concept politically and intellectually. Very little is understood by the royalist party Moambasada of the complexity of this paradigm of monarchy. Unfortunatelly, as a result of this lack of knowledge and experience, it lost any support and almost vanished from Ethiopian political scene as a movement. The understanding of monarchy could save Ethiopia many lives...

There is always the last man pays for all the wrongs of the past. The countries are conquered, the empires fall apart. The system of power for modernization he built wasn't modern. Haile Sellassie, King of Kings, Power of the Trinity, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God, Defender of the Faith, 225th descendent of the dynasty born of the biblical love of the Queen of Sheba and king Solomon, was replaced by a committee of soldiers. That was a radical step in modernization. The power of one passed away forever. He was the last emperor to closed the last chapter in the book of classical history. In 1974 he did little to save the throne, his family and himself. "Was it murder or suicide?" -- asks Lefort in his good book "A Heretic revolution."(74)[5] This question is of a modern mind which doesn't believe in divine destiny. He was Ethiopia and they were one and died together.

The form "within analysis" of culture is important because an observer, an outsider, with all the advantages of seeing more from the distance would be inclined to link the facts according to his "model," not according to hidden "disciplines" of culture. If Foucault's methodology of "disciplined society" could be fully applied to cultural studies, we have to study the distribution of power within that particular culture. Traditional societies were based not on legal (written) law but on "living" law, represented by a king (Solomonic wisdom). An Ethiopian emperor was a system of an inner relations of people in all their multiplicity. Monarchy was first a cultural, not a political system. The family was constitutionalized, succession outside of the family had become unconstitutional and the transition of power from the emperor to the crown prince proven to be even more difficult as seen by the events of 1974. The crown prince at the time was in Europe, and when the military requested for him to replace his father, he flatly refused to return to Ethiopia; the throne was empty.

The article 2 of the 1975 Constitution states: "The imperial dignity shall remain perpetually attached to the line of Haile Sellassie I, descendent of King Sahle Sellassie, whose line descends without interruption from the dynasty of Menelik I, son of the Queen of Ethiopia, the Queen of Sheba, and King Solomon of Jerusalem." HIM wrote into a constitutionalized law what Menelik asked him to swear before naming Yasu as his heir. "Uninterrupted" claim, of course, is doubtful; the idea was more important than facts.

My children: princess and prince. Well... What does it mean? What should it be? The mystery of dem doesn't reveal its logic. "Blood" is a sense of blood, a call from within, personal and secret. It's an understanding of value of being "born of," which is different from "being born." Conceptually, "blue blood" is a selected, special, unique blood, which shouldn't be mix with any blood but with the one of the same quality. In darwinist terms it could seen as in-breeding.

Treating yourself as royalty when Family seen as a STATE BUSINESS (social model). Old Joe Kennedy did it in one generation, the sons also played the part. POMO position of every man -- king.

The principle of Constitutionalism is in a contradiction with the idea of absolutism. Constitution separates power from a living ruler to a living law. Monarch sets the rules which he is obliged to follow. It's still nothing less than his will. That's why all existing constitutional monarchies give kings only ceremonial no-power roles. Chapter Two: "The Powers and prerogatives of the Emperor" can't solve the fundamental problem of modern structure of power, which asks for a control mechanism. Democratic division of powers ask for non-personal character of governing. Haile Sellassie faced the task of deposing himself. Was he or Ethiopia ready for it?

From 1930 to 1955 many events took place in Ethiopia and the world: although is hard to see that the quarter century passed between the two constitutions. There was no constitutional thought or movement in the country. It common to think that Ethiopia went through changes as no other country. Is it so? Russia went through no less dramatic and radical transformations. What about Japan or Korea? How unique is the national experience? Not much, according to marxists. They were right, for a while.
[We keep forgetting that Europe went through the agonies of two great wars and paid for its lessons in democracy. What about the changes Germany went through?]

Secondary, we usually keep an intellectual development of the nation outside of historical analysis. We notice its impact only at the moment when the new forces (ideas) come to the historical surface as events. This lack of interest to the idea of constitutional monarchy cost the coup of 1960 and the revolution of 1974. There was no development of the concept of monarchy throughout the whole reign and the royal house came to test of history unprepared. The idea of monarch wasn't modernized.

Modernization and institutionalization of the modern: government is a force, needed centralization. "Revolution from above" was the model for changes in the world where changes were treated as revolt. The change could come only from the center -- the palace. To reconstruct the order of things H.S. has to deconstruct the monarchy, redefine it. It can't be done with a destruction in a time span less than one generation.

Decentralization of the central government, Federal idea finally came to Ethiopia? History undoing what the Emperor strived for. The 20th century history river like to change its course -- often to reverse itself.


Emperor v. kings. Central and regional -- right way to see the binary? The balance. The game to play all the time. It was a day to reflect. King of Shoa, this event has little significance, almost a formal step on his way to the throne of the emperor. A recognition of the powers of Ras Tafari. His leadership was accepted. His promise to Menelik was already broken.
The palace coup of October 1928 was short. Empress Zewditu send the imperial guards to arrest the regent. His wife, Mennen, sent for a loyal troops -- it was an open war. That was the moment when Ras Tafari from a chosen overlord became a ruler. He became Negus. In March of 1930 Prince Gugsa of Gondar was killed. The day after her husband defeat on the battlefield Empress died and was buried within six hours. Ras was about to start his modernization by decree.

His son was sixteen at the time of coronation. With his father's ascendence to the throne of the emperor Asfa Wossen became the Crown Prince and Duke of Harar. He was young and next in line. The was a shadow of his father's power. Haile Sellassie and the Crown Prince were no exception to this classical situation. During the 1960 unsuccessful coup, the Crown Prince was pronounced as a new Emperor of Ethiopia. This was to strain the father son relationship as the father never forgot or forgave his son.

Richard Pankhurst writers that "the text thus recalled the words of Moses: `Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee whom the Lord thy God shall choose; one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.' (Deuteronomy, XVII,15)"

Pankhurst traces royal ceremonies through Ethiopian history emphasis the "family" relation between the monarch and his subjects. The absolute power of master over servant which survived well into the twentieth century, to an outsider would be seen an slavery (even though it was outlawed by Haile Sellassie after his coronation in 1930). The divine dynamic of power (since a king is in total power of God) has to be extended all the way down; king -- subject has to be in the same totally unequal position. The equality in nature (thy brother in God) expressed itself as extreme inequality on the social level.

There is another specific point in Ethiopian model of monarch, expressed in the imperial title: "King of Kings" is the name biblically reserved for Jesus (Revelations). Second, "Lion of Juda" in the Bible refers again to Jesus as a son of David. Those two qualities alone make the Emperor the Third Adam, or Jesus of resurrection. It is interesting that Rastafarians picked up this aspect of Ethiopian Kingship and took it one step further, naming him Jah.

The story of Ras Tafari replacing Yasu, the blood heir of Emperor Menelik, is the best example of the relation between the power of church and the royal power. Yasu, experimenting with Islam, was never blessed by the church, and because of this his legitimacy as emperor became questionable. Ras Tafari used this point in his struggle for the throne.


A prince, therefore, ought always to take counsel, but only when he wishes and not when others wish; he ought rather to discourage every one from offering advice unless he asks it; but, however, he ought to be a constant inquirer, and afterwards a patient listener concerning the things of which he inquired; also, on learning that any one, on any consideration, has not told him the truth, he should let his anger be felt.6

The new emperor did something radical and potentially dangerous. He hired several foreign advisers: an Englishman in the Ministry of Interior, two Frenchmen to the Ministry of Posts, Telegraphs and Telephones (and for arms-purchasing); one American, German, Greek, and two Swiss. The emperor was in desperate need of new people for Ne Ethiopia and he found them abroad. How different was his style!

"Given Ethiopia's limited resources and educated manpower, projects were mostly privately financed: the emperor, the royal family, the aristocracy, the national and foreign bourgeoisie, all profited from investments in transport companies or toll-road construction consortia."7 It should be emphasized that all the above were the only source of financing, the country has no middle class and doesn't have it now. The national currency and the state bank were establish during the emperor's reign. The changes were limited not only by a resistance to changes but the lack of wealth. Creation of economics was and is the main problem of Africa. Economics and politics have a complicated relationship even in theory.

A lot is said about "objective" circumstances of history. What was the special feature of Ethiopian Absolute Monarchy? The first constitution which was announced on the 16th of July, 1931 was a free-will grant of the Emperor. The idea of constitutional monarchy was imposed on the country which didn't ask for it. Therefore even with establishing the Parliament (Article 7) Ethiopia always remained an absolute monarchy. Emperor was the supreme power in symbolic and real terms.


What does "Emperor" mean when viewed within an Ethiopian cultural framework? The basic model of an Ethiopian monarchy must have its particular criteria and the evaluation of data must take into account the Ethiopian cultural context.

Our present sense of culture is based on written laws, codes, rules, texts, etc. therefore making it difficult to adapt our minds to traditional cultures, as unwritten systems of power. Unless we are ready to view a culture as a chain of links or as what Foucault would call "disciplines" which are organized into a whole. It will be difficult to understand the ideologies of traditional cultures which are not expressed in open forms as is the case in our constitution, instead they are comprised of numerous invisible limitations passed on from generation to generation.

"Discipline" may be identified neither with an institution nor with an apparatus; it is a type of power, a modality for its exercise, comprising a whole set of instruments, techniques, procedures, levels of application, targets; it is a "physics" or an "anatomy" of power, a technology.8

Ethiopian culture as any other culture is like a maze of "disciplines" which in their interaction create the identity of "Ethiopian" culture as a power. Only in view of this complexity of living "organism" of culture can we understand why a culture has its powers over people. What holds them together and why do they act in their specific manners and styles? A cultural approach is not a substitute for economic or socio-political analysis but an essential component and a complimentary method in the understanding of ethnic and national identities.9


It is interesting to notice that the original title of Kapuscinski's book in Polish is "Cesarz."10 The selection of term "Caesar" v. Emperor (or Tzar) is problematic. Autocracy of Ethiopian monarch although bearing many resemblances of European, Russian or any other forms of absolute monarchy, has still its own specifics which makes it "Ethiopian" Imperial model. What are these distinguishing features?

The Emperor in Amharic translates as Nega Negus or "King of Kings," not "First Among Equals" but the ruler of rulers. Absolute ruler of absolute autocrats? Europe went through this transformation of powers at the time of formation of national states. Ethiopia by that account was a new nation. Multi-ethnicity was known to practitioners of power long before we invented this name. As an empire Ethiopia has no more than two generations behind. By the turn of the century Menelik made a small central highland kingdom into a country of the size of France and Spain combined. Even the idea of emperor was restored two generation before Menelik. The use of name Abyssinia is the reference to Amhara, the advanced tribe, which lead the country to the imperial state. Haile Sellassie inherited a fresh empire with no tradition of imperial existence. He made use of Menelik's given habit of empire; it was Ethiopia not Abyssinia.

This Ethiopian concept of an emperor, is a self-conflicting formula. At the time of the final formation of the imperial rule in Ethiopia in 19th century, the power structure was consistent with three major elements: the traditional aristocracy, the Orthodox Church and the monarchy. Since the Imperial stage of monarchy has an ontological contradiction within, it and makes the existence of the Empire into a "crisis management." "Nega Negus" was supposed to rule the rulers, emperor -- the country. A king, by definition, is the pinnacle of social hierarchy. Thus the institutionalization of an emperor had to lead to the demise of the institution of the kings. This process of destruction and self-destruction of the traditional aristocracy took place during the imperial faze.


There's an ontological contradiction within the mechanism of "nobility" itself:

Noble means the "well known," that is, known by everyone, famous, he who has made himself known by excelling the anonymous mass. It implies an unusual effort as the cause of his fame. Noble, then, is equivalent to effortful, excellent. The nobility or fame of the son is pure benefit. The son is known because the father made himself famous. He is known by reflection, and in fact, hereditary nobility has an indirect character, it is mirrored light, lunar nobility, something derived from the dead. The only thing left to it of living, authentic, dynamic is the impulse it stirs in the descendant to maintain the level of effort reached by the ancestor. (G 7)

The new aristocracy had to own everything not their fathers but the father of the nation -- emperor. He is their true and only family.

Always, even in this altered sense, noblesse oblige. The original noble lays an obligation on himself, the noble heir receives the obligation with his inheritance. But in any case there is a certain contradiction in the passing-on of nobility from the first noble to his successors. (Ortega Y Gassett. 7)

The complexity of the Royal Family as a social (state) apparatus is reflected in the 1st chapter of the Ethiopian Constitution. In addition there are almost 30 articles describing the accession to the throne. Aside from the natural links between father and son, in the case of the Royal Family the two are inter-connected by duties to the nation. King-Son by situation is positioned to compete with King-Father. In order to be a true descendant the son has to out-perform his father; thus creating a perpetual conflict between the two. Further more, the first born in some cases did not necessarily posses the qualities required in an heir.

Therefore within the royal "family machine" this drama is always present; what Ortega Y Gassett calls "Tragedy of Aristocracy":

The aristocrat inherits, that is to say, he finds attributed to his person, conditions of life which he has not created, and which, therefore, are not produced in organic union with his personal, individual existence. At birth he finds himself installed, suddenly and without knowing how, in the midst of his riches and his prerogatives. In his own self, he has nothing to do with them, because they do not come from him. They are the giant armor of some other person, some other human being, his ancestor. And he has to live as an heir, that is to say, he has to wear the trappings of another existence. What does this bring us to? What life is the "aristocrat" by inheritance going to lead, his own or that of his first noble ancestor? Neither one nor the other. He is condemned to represent the other man, consequently to be neither that other nor himself. Inevitably his life loses all authenticity, and is transformed into pure representation or fiction of another life. The abundance of resources that he is obliged to make use of gives him no chance to live out his own personal destiny, his life is atrophied. All life is the struggle, the effort to be itself. The difficulties which I meet with in order to realize my existence are precisely what awakens and mobilizes my activities, my capacities. If my body was not a weight to me, I should not be able to walk. If the atmosphere did not press on me, I should feel my body as something vague, flabby, unsubstantial. So in the "aristocratic" heir his whole individuality grows vague, for lack of use and vital effort. The result is that specific stupidity of "our old nobility" which is unlike anything else -- a stupidity which, strictly speaking, has never yet been described in its intimate, tragic mechanism -- that tragic mechanism which leads all hereditary aristocracy to irremediable degeneration. [G XI]

This natural contradiction within the aristocracy grows with each generation into an unsolvable inner conflict. Perhaps, that's the reason for violent changes, which takes place in any royal court, and the Ethiopian one was no exception.

Leaving aside the complexity of imperial ideology in relation to the "second," "moral" power (church), we see that the "monarchy idea," as a form of power production and distribution, has at least three fundamental conflicts: 1) within aristocracy as a class, 2) on the level of "king-kings" redistribution of power, 3) the duality of "imperial" in modernity. How were these conflicts able to unravel themselves historically during Haile Sellassie's reign?

In 1955, during the celebration of the 25 anniversary of his accession to the throne, the Emperor promulgated a new version of the constitution. Since the "imperial' stage of monarchy is already a "modernization" of a traditional power structure, the actual process of perpetual modernization (which was required of the imperial stage of governing) forced the emperor to satisfy two mutually exclusive tendencies: the past and the future. This duality is visible in the 1955 constitution.11 The classical Ethiopian book "Fetha Negast" describes the Scriptual reasons for a king's power, Haile Sellassie saw his constitutional monarchy as a chance to give the traditional monarchy a written and legal power. Ras Tafari's own way to the throne had taken place by means of a traditional Ethiopian power structure. He went through a rapid succession of traditional titles and corresponding duties, beginning as a dedjazmatch (leader, or field marshal; as well as "son of Ras") then he became a Ras, and from Ras Tafari to Negus to Emperor Haile Sellassie I (the changing of name is equivalent to the assumption of a new personal identity). Having Royal blood was a necessary condition for "competing" for a title but it was not by any means an entitlement. The Emperor himself went through all the stages of "managerial" competency (or training) before he could be "promoted" to the next level and was granted a title. Traditionally, a son of a king has to start at the dedjazmatch level, which was given by the order of the emperor. As dejamatch he served in the capacity, of a governor of a province. Only then could he be promoted to the status of Ras, which was at the same time his birth right. This double requirement was there to insure that a ruler was "capable" and "able" to continue his journey to his father's position. Ras Tafari himself served as a regent for eleven years before he receive the title Negus in 1928. The traditional model was designed to balance the imperial rights with the imperial duties.

Another contradiction, can be seen in the model of the "modern autocrat" as it became institutionalized as a constitutional monarchy. "Indisputable power" of emperor in absolute, not constitutional, monarchy makes any law outside of emperor impossible.

By virtue of his imperial blood, as well as by the anointing which he has received, the person of the emperor is sacred. His dignity is inviolable and his power indisputable. He is, consequently, entitled to all the honors due to him in accordance with tradition and the present constitution. (from Article 4. of the constitution of 1955)

Thus, the document which declared Ethiopia a constitutional monarchy was in contradiction with the very notion of absolute monarch. The constitution itself made absolute powers into "rights of emperor" -- that was the begining of the end of imperial Ethiopia. The stage of economic imperialism is an alien environment for absolutism. Absolutism emerged out of the family, (tribal) rule and was extremely concentrated type of governing. It is a model whereby all the governing forces had to be connected to the center, in the hands of the king. The principles of absolutism made it impossible for Haile Sellassie to manage the country and was and consequently it became one of the reasons for the fall of the monarchy.

Ethiopian aristocracy...

The judgement by foreigners that in contrast to the allegedly egalitarian pattern of the Somali clans, Ethiopian society is aristocracy-oriented, is distorted and considerably of the mark. (S 121)

What does constitute an Ethiopian "aristocrat"? "But titles in general were not hereditary, were mostly military, and had to be earned by each generation,*" writes Spencer (S 122). Anobel boy must learn how to serve, he has to start from the bottom of the leader of powers. This is an aprentenship of a ruling class.
Spencer stresses the service aspect of receiving a title by pointing that usually military acheavements lead to the status in Ethiopian high society:

* No titles are hereditary, even in the case of members of lineage aristocracies. All had to be won on proof of merit. While most of the titles were awarded by the Emperor, local dignitaries frequently granted titles below their own rank. Thus, a Dedjazmatch could, for proven merit and for lifetime only, award a local title of Fitawrari.
Starting with Blatta, a title of dignity signifying a youth of learning, the order of ascendancy rose with age and distinction to that of Blatengueta. With these came the military titles of Shambel (Captain), Shaleka (Major), Balambaras (Commander of the Fort), Grazmatch (Leader of the Left Wing), Kegnazmatch (Leader of the Right Wing). Above Blatengueta and this military title came Fitawrari (Commander of the Vanguard), this title was always taken by the minister of war (later defense) upon his appointment to the post even though at the time he may have held a higher title. Still higher came Dedjazmatch (Count, Marshal of Provisional Headquarters) although not necessarily a military title. Tsahafi Taezaz (The Writer of the Order, Minister of the Pen), Afe Negus (The Mouth of the Emperor, Lord Chief Justice), Bitwodded (Beloved), Ras (Head of Province), Ras Bitwodded; Leul (Prince) Ras. The Crown Prince bore the full title of Leul Merid Azmatch Asfa Wossen Haile Sellassie Ye Ityopya Negusa Negusi Alga Worash. His short and usual title is Asfa Worash. The Empress had the title of Itegue and the Emperor that of Negus Negusti (King of Kings). In conversation he was frequently referred to as Djanhoi (His Majesty). In the course of work at the office, he was often signified by the appellation Getoch -- the respectful plural of Gueta. Ato (Mr.), Woizero (Mrs.), Woizerit (Miss) and Gueta (Master, Sir) constitute forms of address rather than titles. (S 137)

The Emperor was the center of the Aristocratic idea. The top of the hierrarchy, which in a similar manner has to be taken, not given. By force. Emperor finilized these "personal" victories.

Land, titles, an appointments to office were generally held at the will of the Emperor: `The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away.' This emphasis on lifetime rather than inheritable grants of titles and lands as reward for intelligence and for services already rendered (or in prospect) was the source of that upward mobility at once so central and so paradoxical in a monarchial society based on traditional authority. The effects were to diminish the strength and influence of the traditional aristocracy and to soften class and ethnic distinctions. But color and religious barriers to advancement remained in place. (S 122)

This model of new nobility was known in Europe as a countra-balance to the old aristocracy of princes. It was used by all nations in their process of formation.

In general, however, it may be said that upward mobility has served the cause of national unity. (Galla and Eritreans. A.A.) There remain the two barriers it cannot remove: color and religion. (S 123)


In Spencer's book there is a photo12: Haile Sellassie receiving the Archbishop (Abuna). Note that in the kissing of the ring the role usual in most countries with established churches is reversed. The Archbishop is kissing the hand of the Emperor. Orthodoxy was a state religion, a property of a monarch.

John Spencer makes a proper observation on "politics" of Ethiopian church when he talks about its behavior after the revolution: "As with the Fascist regime, the church promptly made its accommodation with the communist Derg." (S 124) It could be added that the same took place after the Meles government became the power. The church (almost) never let itself to be in opposition to the state. Any state.

The state bought in the church. No taxation even on the Islamic Church. The Church was one of the biggest landowners, behind the Royal family only.

Alas, there is a divine reason for such submissive role of the church, it's rooted within the doctrine of the Orthodoxy.

The doctrine remains monophysite in holding that Christ had but one nature -- the divine, rather than two natures, the human and the divine, while still recognizing the Trinity (Sellassie). (S 124)

And the Church survived, during the Italian or marxist occupation. Deaths of bishop Petros and bishop Mikael made them into saints. (Four Kilo Square Monument).

Ethiopian Orthodoxy is inclusive. It takes everything in, and never forgets it. Even today you might find Hebrew symbols and ever holidays within traditional Ethiopian sacred calendar. The most striking is the dance of Ethiopian liturgy, which is objected by their Orthodox brothers -- Russian, Armenians, Greeks -- and pagan and non-Christian.

Although, there are some historical justification for this ritual. The Dance of David before the Ark of the Covenant. Dance of Christ at the last supper.

Ethiopia is all about inclusions: the only Christians who live simultaneously under the law of Moses and the law of Christ. Not to mention enormous element of "African" origins. One glance at the Ethiopian Orthodox cross would give you a sense of exquisite blooming flower. Something totally opposite to the protestant sensibility of the "Northern" Christianity.


A few notes on Ethiopian Historicity, the way how Ethiopian history "feels" about itself. Any national history always includes a national sense of itself. Ethiopians see their history different than Italians would see it. Ethiopian history is different for the British. Reaction to history is a part of historical logic. Without considering this national sense of its own history we can't fully understand the events, their motivations and -- therefore the subject itself.

Modern anthropology asks us consider not only facts but also perceptions of those facts (which are also a part of reality). They, the Ethiopians, do see themselves differently (next the western impression of Ethiopians). The same goes for an Ethiopian perception of "forengies" -- foreigners. During the previous century, foreigners habitually were referred to as "Turks." (Muslims, but not Arabs). Now "forengies" are white people. In many ways Ethiopians are foreigners for Africans. Similar to the Egyptians, who do not see themselves a s Africans at all.

Ethiopians are essentially "orientals." East Africa, Horn, marginally African. Southern borders of the Arab world. Northern animalistic cultures of Africa. In the past -- Egypt, Palestine, Arabia. The West made him realize that his empire is indeed in Africa. Five years in Europe brought him to realization that he is not closer to the west than to Africa. His later days strive for African leadership came from the time when he saw Ethiopia and Africa from the outside.

National Psychology is the most culturated inner structure of anyone's identity.13 Emperor is cultural construct. Haile Sellassie show himself as no less a king in exile.

If King is an Idea and Ideal is the sacred value14:

Much as politicians in the West wrap themselves in the flag of the cloak of religion or alleged morality, so Ethiopian politicians concealed their designs by a fakkad (approval) from the Emperor. (S 131)

Even the Emperor himself needed this approval from the Idea of the Emperor.

The old, the traditional -- The Father of People.
The Aqabe Sa'at, the tradition by which each minister and, indeed, even his subordinates, had direct access to His Majesty, to report against colleagues and superiors. (S 131)
Un-approachable Majesty was father of all Ethiopians.

There was Chilot, the weekly court where even his humblest subjects were entitled to present themselves for His Majesty's personal judgment on their disputes.


How did the second power, the church, see the Imperial Model? How was the vertical line "people -- aristocracy -- king" connect the whole hierarchy with the metaphysics of gods?

The status accorded to the Ethiopian monarch corresponded very largely with his position as laid down in the country's traditional legal code, the Fetha Nagast, or "Laws of the Kings," which proclaimed the Divine Right of Kings on Scriptual basis. (Pankhurst, 23)15

We know that according to the teachings of the Orthodox (Eastern) Church, the first king Adam was manifested in three functions: The King, The Priest, The Prophet.16

5.1. THE PRIEST. "The Elect of God" indicates the divine nature of Emperor. In Ethiopia, the imperial idea was borne at the crossroads of European, African, Egyptian and Asian model of kingship. Ethiopia is the only culture whereby conversion took place from Judaism to Christianity (10 century B.C. and 4 century A.D. respectively). Religious dimension of royal power were as follows: Emperor represents God on earth (Ethiopian Orthodoxy, monotheism = Christ has one nature only, the divine.) The king is a priest in God's eyes, God's presence in the eyes of his subjects.

Ethiopian Orthodoxy proved to be extremely inclusive, what were the reasons why Judaism, Islam and Paganism could co- exist under the umbrella of Christianity. In brief, the orthodox church was an exception in maintaining a peaceful and close relations with the other religions and their exclusive ideologies. (see Religion).

5.2. THE PROPHET. The emperor was the informal head of the church. Prior to the reign of Haile Sellassie the orthodox church was headed by the pope sent from the coptic church in Alexandria. It was Haile-Sellassie who for the first time abolished this law and allowed the pope to be selected from the local Ethiopian patriarchs. Formally, the emperor must have the church's sanction as one of the essential elements of accession to the throne (a coronation was not consecrated without the blessing of the church).17 According to the prophet concept, king's leadership requires a "visionary" quality, not only managerial abilities. A King must "lead" his nation, he must read "God's will." It is important to remember, that in traditional society the king himself was understood as a manifestation and the fulfillment of prophecy, his presence alone expressed God's "text" to the people.

5.3. THE KING. This quality of imperial power is probably best known, and can be understood as the rights of blood. But the two other qualities are no less important; high priests traditionally formed a special cast and the prophets are the ones who are blessed with the Holy Spirit at God's will. Anybody could be a prophet, but the king must possess the quality of a prophet and a priest.

If king is a model of man than blood is sacred and the person is dignified all way down to the bottom of hierarchical pyramid. Not only in king but in everybody. Strangely enough, this strong concept approaches the human rights issues from the divine, not the civic grounds.

"The Emperor himself was a servant of the state, so his subjects should submit their lives and work for it too," writes Lockot (55). But the model of Modern Ethiopian State was unclear to anyone, including the emperor. Both parties, the king and his people, lost their bond -- Imperial Monarchy. The collapse of the monarchy and the fall of the monarch were to follow. To answer a rhetorical question of Lefort. In the orthodox mind a suicide is a murder.


He had to rule two countries. One which lived in pre-historical or feudal past and the nation represented by the best in the capital. At the time to a very few in power it was obvious that the task for a 20th century Ethiopian emperor was to modernized his country. Haile Sellassie used the "Japanese example" as a model for cultural development. "We always had great admiration for Japan and for the achievement of the Japanese people in preserving their traditions, and while acquiring the best of the new, successfully reconciling it with the best of the old. (E.S.A.)"18 Reforms from above were aimed at changing the nature of traditional absolute power of the monarch. The emperor never could find the formula which would allow him to escape the built-in contradictions of "reformed autocracy." Emperor v. Negus is the conflict of power, inner contradiction of absolutism.

The dynamics of changes were the actual causes of the revolution of 1974. "The Throne, the notables, the Church: the third pillar of the Empire had not, like the other two, been destroyed, but it had inexplicably vanished." (Lefort 75) The nature of the Orthodox church, especially, Ethiopian church, was to be a state religion. The monopoly of the church was protected by its full integration within the monarchy and at the same time separated from real political power (the country always was equally divided between Muslim and Christian population as far as numbers are concerned). The church didn't vanished, it was silent, as usual, -- and it actually survived through all the political changes. Ethiopian Orthodoxy is among the oldest (4th century A.D.) and remarkably it never went through any reformations, it maintained what can be described as a non-power, apolitical attitude entity.

The church, through independent, has maintained her special link with the Egyptian Coptic church of Alexandria. It adheres strictly to the doctrine that confesses the One Nature of Our Lord Jesus Christ and thus refused to conform to the teachings at the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451. Since the controversy st the council, the church has retained its faith, its ancient traditions and customs, and its way of life. (The Ethiopian Church xxi).

Perhaps, the monotheism is also responsible for the absence of "dialogism" and flexibility in the Ethiopian mind. The church did not change this conservative (Orthodox = Right) attitude even during the revolution, this disinterest in time is the very essence of Ethiopian Orthodoxy.


Perhaps, "Emperor" is an alien concept for "democratic" and "republican" mind, which holds exemplary the idea of the individual would never put "persona" in position of power. We elect the President, who can govern but not rule. Monarchy with all its limitations, which after all cost its downfall, had a greater degree of societal trust. Class society was a product of social creativity, a result of needs for social self- organization. A form of government which has functioned for so long, could be seen as antiquated on managerial level. We see "imperial principle" as a concentration of power, a monopoly in economic sense.

What is Emperor from the Marxist's pov?

In Garvey's words:


Kings and Emperors do not hold their crowns today by Divine right. They hold them by superior statesmanship, such as is being demonstrated to us by the nations of Europe and America. When the Negroes get this kind of a sense in their heads they will be able to fight a successful war in Abyssinia and elsewhere.19

HIM knew it all alone...

How did he come to the summit of Ethiopian power?

He never forgot the Menelik's curse and hoped for his forgiveness...

2004 & After

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texts: HIM (summary)

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reading: Story of Esther


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