Tewodros II

born с 1818
died April 13, 1868, Magela, Eth.

Emperor of Ethiopia (1855–68).

Often called Ethiopia's first modern ruler, he came to the throne through the conquest of other chiefs. He reunified the various Ethiopian kingdoms into one empire, attempted to focus loyalty around the government rather than the Ethiopian church, and worked to abolish the feudal system. Though he failed in his aims, his example was followed by his successors. His reign ended when a British force under Robert Napier attacked in response to the imprisonment of several British citizens.

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▪ emperor of Ethiopia
English  Theodore II , original name  Kassa 
born c. 1818
died April 13, 1868, Magdela, Ethiopia

      emperor of Ethiopia (1855–68) who has been called Ethiopia's first modern ruler. Not only did he reunify the various Ethiopian kingdoms into one empire, but he also attempted to focus loyalty around the government rather than the Ethiopian church, which he sought to bring under royal control. He worked to abolish the feudal system and create a new nobility of merit, dependent on the ruler alone. Although he failed in these aims, his example was ultimately followed by his successors.

      Not of noble birth, Tewodros came to the throne through warfare against the feudal chiefs. One of his first acts as emperor was to break up the provinces into smaller districts with personally appointed governors, a move that angered many provincial nobles who saw their status diminished. He also wanted to reorganize and modernize the army. To get the necessary weapons, he demanded first that European missionaries and adventurers then living in Ethiopia build him a cannon (successful after much trial and error), and then he brought in artisans, especially arms makers, from England. Contemporary European accounts portray him as an Ethiopian Peter the Great, both for his hot temper and cruelty and for his courage, ambition, military genius, and interest in technology.

      His modernization program, however, failed. Several incidents in the 1860s, including a letter to Queen Victoria that remained unanswered, led Tewodros to feel insulted by England. When he imprisoned several British missionaries and envoys, accusing them of plotting against him, Great Britain sent the Napier (Napier, Robert Napier, 1st Baron) expedition (1867–68) to rescue the prisoners. Aided by rebellious nobles along the way, the British force attacked Tewodros's forces at Magdela on April 10, 1868. The emperor, realizing the hopelessness of his position, committed suicide three days later.

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