Emperor Yohannes IV

Emperor Yohannes IV

Emperor Yohannes IV

Yohannes IV was Ethiopia's emperor from 1872 to 1889.

He succeeded to the Ethiopian throne on 21 January 1872 four years after the death of Emperor Thewodros.

His original name was Kassa Mercha and prior to becoming emperor, he was a dejazmatch or earl of Tigray in northern Ethiopia.

Like his predecessor Yohannes IV was a strong, progressive ruler, but he had to spend most of his time repelling military threats from Egypt, Italy, and the Mahdists of the Sudan.

His main rival was Menilek II - king of Shewa - who did not recognize Yohannes as emperor.

In 1882, a dynastic marriage was arranged between Menilek's daughter and Yohannes' son, and it was agreed that Menilek would be Yohannes' successor as emperor.

Their separate spheres of influence were carefully defined and Yohannes recognized Menilek's control of the south, while he took control of the northern half of the country.

Apart from the recurrent problem of the powerful king of Shewa, Yohannes' domestic concerns were mainly to reduce the power of the other regional nobles and to increase his hold on his subjects through enforced conversion to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

His attempt to use religion as the basis for unity ignited resistance, particularly from Muslims who were ordered to build churches, pay tithes, and eventually be baptized.

After the Egyptians had advanced into Ethiopia, Emperor Yohannes IV drew them into battle and beat them resoundingly once at Gundat in 1875 and again at Gura in 1876.

His victories not only ended any Egyptian desires on the territory, but also brought him much captured weaponry turning his army into the first well-equipped military force in Ethiopian history.

In 1869, the Suze Canal opened in eastern Egypt and it made it easier for European ships to effortlessly reach Ethiopia.

Italy - the next aggressor in 1885 - occupied the Red Sea port of Massawa and began to expand inland toward the province of Tigray, only to be soundly defeated by Yohannes in 1887.

Ethiopian forces, led by Emperor Yohannes IV, beat the Italians at the battle of Dogali in the far north of the country.

In the same year, the Islamic revivalist Dervishes forces, gaining ground in the Sudan, invaded Ethiopia, devastating the old Ethiopian capital city of Gonder.

Emperor Yohannes IV fought the Dervishes severely and at the close of another Ethiopian victory, he was killed at the Battle of Metema in March 1889.