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Menelik II (1844 – 1913)

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Emperor Menelik II played a significant role in Ethiopian history. Here in this blog we don’t cover all the major events during his reign in detail but give you highlights of the major ones.

Proclaimed to be a descendant of the legendary Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, Menelik II was a prominent figure of his time in Africa. And he made a lot of political and economical forms in his country.

He united a group of independent kingdoms into the strong, stable empire known as the United States of Abyssinia, otherwise known as Ethiopia. 

His achievement of pulling together several kingdoms, which often violently opposed each other, earned him a place as one of the great statesmen of African history.

His further deeds in bringing Ethiopia into the twentieth century, coupled with his stunning victory over Italy in the 1896 Battle of Adwa, in their attempt to invade his country, put him among the great leaders of world history and maintained his country’s independence.

Menelik II was Emperor of Ethiopia from 1889 until his death in 1913. He was originally Ras or ruler of Shoa in central Ethiopia.

After the death in 1868 of Emperor Tewodros II, Menelik, with Italian support, gained strength. He seized the throne after Emperor Johannes IV died.

In 1889, Menelik concluded the Treaty of Uccialli with Italy.  Nevertheless, when he found out that the Italian version of the treaty was different from his Amharic version, basically making Ethiopia a protectorate of Italy, he rejected the agreement.

The Italian invasion that followed in 1895–96 was crushed by Menelik’s great victory near Adwa with great assistance from his wife Empress Taitu.

Italy was forced to give up all claims to Ethiopia and to pay an indemnity. Then after, Menelik took important steps to strengthen and modernize his domain.

It was in his time that Addis Ababa made his capital, constructed a railroad, attempted to end the slave trade, and curbed the feudal nobility.

His conquests widened the size of the country and brought the present day southern Ethiopia, which was largely Muslim, into the realm.

Progressively his health failed, and the end of his reign was marked by intrigue and maneuvering for the succession due to his lack of a living male heir. He was succeeded as emperor by his grandson Lij Yasu.

It is interesting to note that a young man who in 1911 married Menelik’s daughter Wayzaro Menen, was now working his way up in the ranks and would later become Ethiopia’s last emperor, Haile Salassie.

Keywords: Menelik II, Ethiopia, Queen of Sheba, King Solomon, Abyssinia, Ras, Battle of Adwa, Shoa, Uccialli, Treaty of Uccialli, Lij Yasu, Haile Salassie, Wayzaro Menen,

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