Narrative of Captivity in Abyssinia with Some Account of the Late Emperor the Late Emperor Theodore, His Country and People

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Language: English
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CHAPTER I.

The Emperor Theodore—His Rise and Conquests—His Army and Administration—Causes of his Fall—His Personal Appearance and Character—His Household and Private Life.

Lij Kassa, better known as the Emperor Theodore, was born in Kouara about the year 1818. His father was a noble of Abyssinia, and his uncle, the celebrated Dejatch Comfou, had for many years governed the provinces of Dembea, Kouara, Tschelga, &c. On the death of his uncle he was appointed by Ras Ali's mother, Waizero Menen, governor of Kouara; but, dissatisfied with that post, which left but little scope for his ambition, he threw off his allegiance, and occupied Dembea as a rebel. Several generals were sent to chastise the young soldier; but he either eluded their pursuit or defeated their forces. However, on the solemn promise that he would, be well received, he repaired to the camp of Ras Ali. This kind-hearted but weak ruler thought to attach to his cause the brave chieftain, and to accomplish that object gave him his daughter Tawavitch (she is beautiful). Lij Kassa returned to Kouara, and for a time remained faithful to his sovereign. He made several plundering expeditions in the low lands, carried fire and sword into the Arab huts, and always returned from these excursions bringing with him hordes of cattle, prisoners, and slaves.

The successes of Kassa, the courage he manifested on all occasions, the abstemious life he led, and the favour he showed to all who served his cause, soon collected around him a band of hardy and reckless followers. Being ambitious, he now formed the project of carving out an empire for himself in the fertile plains he had so often devastated. Educated in a convent, he had not only studied theological subjects, but made himself conversant with the mystic Abyssinian history. His early education always exercised great influence on his after-life, giving to his intercourse with others a religious character, and impressed vividly upon his mind the idea that the Mussulman race having for centuries encroached on the Christian land, it should be the aim of his life to re-establish the old Ethiopian empire. Urged on, therefore, both by ambition and fanaticism, he advanced in the direction of Kedaref at the head of 16,000 warriors; but he had soon to learn the immense superiority of a small number of well-armed and well-trained troops over large but undisciplined bodies of men. Near Kedaref he came in sight of his mortal foes the Turks, a mere handful of irregulars; yet they were too much for him: for the first time, defeated and disheartened, he had, for a while, to abandon his long-cherished scheme.

Instead of returning to the seat of his government, he was obliged, on account of a severe wound received during the fight, to halt on the frontier of Dembea. From his camp he informed his mother-in-law of his condition, and requested that she would send him a cow—the fee required by the Abyssinian doctor. Waizero Menen, who had always hated Kassa, now took advantage of his fallen condition to humble his pride still more; she sent him, instead of the cow, a small piece of meat with an insulting message....