Ethiopia: Taytu's Wisdom - Fairy-Tale Like Deed That Resonates Down Generations' Lane


Ethiopia has been colonized by none in its 3,000 years history. Despite colonialists' futile effort to conquer the country several times, Ethiopians had prevented them from accomplishing their mission through fierce resistance and gallant defense.

More than any other European countries, Italians had tried to invade and subjugate Ethiopia repeatedly. However, they were bitterly defeated and ignominiously repelled by valorous Ethiopians in Dogali, Sahati, Gundet and other battle fronts. Even if they had been given an unforgettable lesson in the aforementioned battle fields, they could not draw lessons from their past mistakes.

Thus, they launched an assault in the mountainous town of Adwa in 1896, undermining the patriotism and nationalism of Ethiopians. But the final result of the battle was not what the Italians first expected.

The war lasted for only 12 hours resulting in stunning victory to Ethiopians and total humiliation to the invaders. Starting from that time, the Battle of Adwa is seen as a beacon of resistance and independence among black Africans and oppressed people around the world.

During the Battle of Adwa, Ethiopians from every corner of the country had been mobilized to subdue European invaders. Youth, men and women had paid immense sacrifice to protect their country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Among the many lionhearted Ethiopian women who made a superb history in the battle of Adwa is found Empress Taytu Betul, the wife of Emperor Menelik II. Taytu was not only the wife of the King but also his political and military advisor. Many Royal historians believe that Taytu had inspired Ethiopians to wage war on colonialists to be remembered later as the bravest female war commanders of all times.

"After the Battle of Adwa, the European colonizing nations were shocked by the Ethiopian victory. The Italian media at that time were highly amazed by the courage and outshining patriotism of Taytu. Even some used to compare her with Zenobia, Cleopatra and Joan of Arc.

There were also skeptics to undermine her contribution when it comes to the role she played the sovereignty of her country and the freedom of her people. But all these attempts were in vain. Nothing could change her astonishing personality," says historian Alemu Belay.

Empress Taytu Betul was born in Wollo in 1851 and grew up in aristocratic Ethiopian family. Alemu explains that her aristocratic background had facilitated fertile ground for her to gain comprehensive education and was fluent in Ge'ez, which was a rare accomplishment for women at that time. Her father Ras Betul Haile-Mariam was not as famous as her uncle Dejazmach Wube Haile-Mariam who had ruled much of the Northern part of Ethiopia in the 1840s.

Taytu had the reputation of being openly proud of her linage in Yejju, Semien and Begemidr where her great grandfather Ras Gugsa, a member of the powerful ruling family of Yejju, to which Gugsa traces his linage, as to him.

"Taytu was very powerful in the Ethiopian Royal family. She had crucial power which had helped her to create an impact in the 19th century Ethiopian socio-economic atmosphere. She was a beloved, loyal and respectful wife as well.

Understanding her wisdom, her husband used to consult her in very key political, social and economic issues of the nation. Her role in unifying the disintegrated states of the country to one strong Ethiopia was what history would depict remarkably for generations to come," the historian underlines.

Taytu was a highly progressive queen who had been eagerly striving from dawn to dusk for the modernization of her country. She had put her fingerprint on numerous technological outputs and infrastructural development endeavors.

It was she who inaugurated the Ethiopian Red Cross in her capital, Addis Ababa. Besides, the empress worked to kick start many national industries including wine production, candle-making and more. She was so kind and merciful that she had often been granting mercy to her prisoners.

In addition, she personally used to cook for prisoners and starved countrymen. Moreover, she supported women to be empowered socially and economically by facilitating various income generating mechanisms. Because of this, the queen had been seen as role model for many women of her time, Alemu notes.

She was also a visionary leader, very capable of predicting about the future. Hence, she founded Addis Ababa, which remains still as the commercial and political capital of Ethiopia and Africa. Finally, when the health of her husband began deteriorating, she started to take decisions alone vigorously and confidently and served her country as de facto leader for some years. However, after her husband passed away in 1913, the nobility turned against her. This situation eventually led to the queen's retirement till she passed away in 1918.

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