Thursday, February 15, 2007

Kings and Kings of Kings in the modern context

Dear Solomon and AryaAmsalu and friends of Addis Ababa University Alumni:

Greetings and best wishes in the Seaso of Hudade- 55 days of Fasting & Prayers!

It is interesting we are talking about Kings, Kingdoms, King of Kings in the context of Ethiopia.

I am not a language scholar but remember my language training in Amharic - the last one at Haile Sellassie I University between 1972-74 and some additional personal reading since then.

Considering our grammar- or Sewasiw as it is referred to, verbs (Gis) , nouns (Sem) adjuctives (Qisel), adverbs (tewlategis) etc come to mind.

As you can observe, the Amharic language has evolved over time. Just to remember the recent changes; for instance during the Communist days (1977-1991) and now in the Revolution or Developmental State time( post 1991 to present (2007) it has expanded rapidly. There fore we can all learn from each other's perspective and understanding that language evolves with time.

The root words: Negus, Nigist, Negest, Negestat, Mengist, Mengistat, Menagesha, Mengesha etc.

Negus is noun (sim) and refers to the male king while Nigist tot he female queen. Negest and Negestat is the singular and plural for kingdom
Mengist is governance or administration or even a state and Mengistat is the plural form. Menagesha is the place where the Kings and Kingdoms reside

Referring to your sources, there has been a lot of attempt to revise our culture and our language during the communist era of those dreaded 17 years. Professor Mesgin, although a geographer by profession has been one that flourished into all sorts of Ethiopian culture and philosophies. He has made lots of statements, some of them rather interesting others completely out of sink with our cutlure and history.

I am sorry, Professor Mesfin has got it wrong if he thinks there were no emperors in Ethiopia. You just cannot deny the truth. Emperor Haile Selassie -the August Emperor and man of the Millennium as we call him, declared himself Emperor and had a constitution and kingdom to show for it. Yes, there were kings of each reagion, though after the war, they became administrators or Governors and ministers in addition to their traditional king titles.

Neguse Negest is the nearest to an Emperor. Now, the European version is slightly different. Queen of Victoria is Queen of England but Emperess of India. This is also to acknowledge that India at the time had kings, prince and princesses. That is a special arrangement.

To be true, the word Emperor and King or King of Kings have been used alternatively to mean the same, although the Emperor has more authority and covers different kingdoms.

The real question is should Ethiopia revert back to Neguse Negestat or go in a limb to a Developmental state without kings and kingdoms?

I am afraid, this is more real than just the mere words. Should we explore to honor our heritage or just copy any thing and everything the world bank or the KGB and chinese publish.

What about our own individual creativity and heritage is the real question. I trust Solomon, you can entertain this in the same light. How are these words applicable to our lives today is my question.

Please visit to see our heritage and the continuity of kingdoms for so long. Should we be the generation that abandons this rich heritage? I have began to document some of the current discussions at a blog site ( to continue the dialogue and reasoning even in cyber world as we do now and you can review some of my writing in response to our web communications with some friends.

With respect and seeking to learn from yuor perspective.

Keakbrot gar

Belai Habte-Jesus, MD, MPH
Global Strategic Enterprises, Inc & Partners for Peace and Prosperity! wrote:
selam Solomon,

I do not have the reference books at hand, and I will respond with references later. For now I would like to point Geez like many old languages (I think this includes Arabic, Latin etc)has more than one plural form.
Thus if I remember correctly, both negest and negestat are plural forms of negus.

Can you please provide the reference to Prof Mesfin's comment about the Emperor translation?

The traditional Ethiopian title NeguseNegest is indicative of the existence of many kings who are vassals of the king of kings. Atse Yohannes had negus Minilik of Shewa, negus Teklehaymanot of Gojjam. Atse Minilik had Negus Teklehaymanot of Gojjam, Negus Woldegiorgis of Keffa.

Thanks-----Original Message-----From: solomondejene@ yahoo.comTo: addis-ababa- university- alumni-associati on@yahoogroups. comSent: Tue, 13 Feb 2007 9:05 AMSubject: [Addis-Ababa- University- Alumni-Associati on] Negest vs. negestat ?

Dear all,

While inquiring some Ethiopian terms, I am confronted, in my view, with a misreading of the Ge'ez word negest as negestat. Prior the 1974 revolution, Ethiopia was considered as an empire which as the title of the Negusse Negest was/is translated as Emperor. Mesfin Wolde-Mariam contested this in one of his books that the title could not correspond to Ethiopian Negusse negestat as empire implies an authority over a number of states like the former British empire.

In any case, that is another issue. My point here is the plural form of Negus is negestat and the title of the emperor in Amharic/Ge'ez is negusse negest and not negusse negestat. But it is translated as king of kings or emperor. But negest in my view is nothing other than kingdom. So, the translation of Negusse negest should be king of the/a kingdom. And the book of 'Kibre Negest' is also mostly translated as 'The Glory of kings'. I think this should also be translated as 'The Glory of the Kingdom'.

I hope our Ge'ez experts in this forum will help me verify this. I am using my common sense to come up with this idea as my Ge'ez knowledge does not exceed from repeating the Holy Mass.

Selam lekulkimu

1 comment:

  1. Dear Patriotic Ethiopians and Friends of Ethiopia

    Millennium Series Two

    Re: Appreciating alternative ideas and means of communication in the New Mellennium

    This is yet another set of my communication with friends as to how to begin anew and charter a better future towards the 8th Millennium.

    It has been now over twenty three years since Ethiopia moved away from the traditional system of over 7,000 years of Imperial Divine Governance as ruled by Fitha Negest, Kibre-Negest and most recently by a series of western modelled Imperial, Socialist and now Revolutionary Constitutions.

    Even though there is a dirth of paper to coroborate the above transformatons, in reality Ethiopia is still ruled by the age old Traditional Social Governance that excels all the above constitutions and structure of governance. In short, the Ethiopian governance is still in transtion. Our social & cultural traditions and governance still rules the day.

    The movement from Imperial Divine Governance to Revolutionary Socialist and at times Marxist Governance did not really take place as the protagonists spent too much time killing humans and destroying existing institutions and the ecology rather than building new ones to match or even excel the old ones.

    Appreciating alternative ideas has always been Ethiopian culture and civilization. The folk lore, music, poetry and literature incuding "Semna Worq; Medina Zelesegna, etc" and modern dramas and Quine or rap, continue to be the alternative outlets of ideas and constructs.

    The modern mushrooming of different ditial communication networks, especially the internet has given unprecedented opportunity for communication, inluding alternative media and think tank groups.

    The Ethiopian community has not been second to any as they crowd the cyber space with yahoo.groups, blogspot and more recently the podcasts and websites are proving to be excellent means of communication.

    More recently, the digital communication network has been utilized for political campaigns and discussions groups that is being actively utilized mainly among Diapora communities. As there are competing ideas of governance, the intolerance of certain groups to declare only one perspective, that too that has been tried and has failed has forced many to come out withy alternative ideas. Free Market liberating Democracies are still pie in the sky. The current series of Developmental States, new versions of the the same old socialist democracies and totalitarian systems are still evolving with new names and groups.

    The habit of the protagonists are still the same, totalitarian and I know it all regid constructs. Unfortunately modern technology cannot allow do not challenge me rigid instituitins to flourish. The question is how do we adopt to the new challenges. Learn continously and modify behavior and apprach by seeking "win-win synergestic partnerships and enterprises, that seek compromise and synergy.

    Unfortunately from time to time calls has been aired to make the common communication platforms only for party and specific purpose dialogue, making the specific group poorer interms of accessing alternative ideas, espcailly if those ideas are the only option for the current situtation and will not enhance quality and improve participation and progression with the option of acquiring the best alternatives.

    Some misguided Ethipian foreign educated students (the old fanos) for a long time have been advocating changing Ethiopian society and social order by force calling it .."Challenge, Combat and Revolutionary Democracy, etc. " The result has been only death and destruction, taking society to over 1,000 years behind the expected modern civilization of the 21st centuries.

    Some patriotic Ethiopians have been providing alternative media and communication channel to provide new direction to the ethos of discussion and communication, as we contemplate to celebrate the 8th Millnnium. They have been using radios as witnessed on their regular 3 hours show on Sundays that can be archived at, and web sites at Although, some Patriotic Ethiopians and friends of ethiopians have taken on the suggestions and alternative views. The majority so called vocal left leaning Diaspora are still singing the old 1960 songs of "Fano Tesemara" Revolutionaries to the bush instead of the academic and technology institutes. Now, most of these early fanos are reaching their 60s and 70s, no families and no properties or any sort of social institutions to show for their fano-days.

    Amazingly, they are still preeching the old" we know it all, not only for themselves but the for the rest of the community. This we know it all construct has not been beneficial except the loss of citizenship, loss of identity, loss of productive and gainful employment in the chosen field.

    Now, as Ethiopians and Africans are beginning to review the past 8 Millnnnia and look forward to the new ones in September 2007, new ideas and new approaches are mushrooming from all over the globe.

    Most importantly, the young, bright highly eucated youth are asking to show their perspective and their vision. It is critical to allow young leadership to evolve and the old ones to write their biographies for whatever it is worth and not crowd all the avenues of communication.

    Surely, they should appreciate how the rest of the world left them behind and are marching now beyond the moon, to other planets and other stars, galaxies and looking for even another universe.

    As global warming or as some of us call it global cooling is taking over the world, we cannot plough with the old oxen, and should try modern technology and modern approaches.

    That begins with appreciating alternative ideas. So, let there be freedom of communication and let us seek alternative ideas and approaches to life.

    With regard

    Belai Habte-Jesus, MD, MPH
    Global Strategic Enterprises, Inc and
    Partnes for Peace and Prosperity

    Belai Habte-Jesus, MD, MPH
    Global Strategic Enterprises, Inc;; Telephone: 703 933 8737

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