Tewodros

ca. 1820–1868
Emperor of Ethiopia

Considered the first modern ruler of ETHIOPIA, Tewodros set out to reunite his country, then a cluster of warring states. Born to noble parents and originally named Kasa, he was educated at Christian monasteries. He became a bandit in the early 1840s, and in 1852 he launched a military campaign against feudal chiefs throughout Ethiopia. Three years later, he was crowned emperor and took the name Tewodros, meaning “King of Kings.”

Tewodros had mixed success during his years as emperor. He pioneered the use of Ethiopia’s modern vernacular language, Amharic, over the classical literary language, Ge’ez, which had dominated for centuries. His attempts to reorganize local government angered local leaders and left him struggling to hold Ethiopia together. He made efforts to modernize his military but was unable to convince the British to give him the advanced equipment he desired. In 1862 Tewodros imprisoned a British official and other foreigners after the British failed to acknowledge a letter of friendship. The British responded by sending a military expedition to the emperor’s fortress in 1868. Surrounded by British troops, Tewodros chose to commit suicide rather than submit to them.

Tewodros