Susenyos II

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Susenyos II
Emperor of Ethiopia
Reign August–December 1770
Predecessor Tekle Haymanot II
Successor Tekle Haymanot II
Died circa 1771
House House of Solomon
Religion Ethiopian Orthodox

Susenyos II (Amharic: ሱስንዮስ) (or Greek Sissinios; died circa 1771) was nəgusä nägäst (reigned August 1770 – December 1770) of Ethiopia. His name at birth was Wolde Giyorgis; he was the son of a noble woman who had lost her fortune and made her living by carrying jars of water, while it was rumored that he was the illegitimate son of the deceased ruler Iyasu II.[1] The Scottish traveller James Bruce, who was living in the capital city of Gondar at the time, described him as "a drunkard, a ruffian, and a profligate".[2]

His reign

On 5 June 1770, Ras Mikael Sehul was forced to evacuate the city with Emperor Tekle Haymanot; they marched to Tigray to suppress several revolts there. Goshu and Wand Bewossen entered Gondar 10 June, where they attempted to convince Empress Mentewab to join them but failed.[3] After waiting several days for Fasil to fulfill his promise to join them from his headquarters at Bure in Gojjam, on the 27th they left Gondar.[4]

By the beginning of August, the principal inhabitants of Gondar held a council to select a new Emperor, and Ras Sanuda's nomination of Susenyos, then 24 years old, was accepted.[1] Ostensibly, Susenyos was to gather an army and march against Ras Mikael, but the only noble who still who could provide enough soldiers was Fasil, who continued to temporalize over marching to Gondar until 2 November, when he arrived with 400 horse and 600 foot. At his arrival Susenyos rashly granted him a third of Ethiopia, only to find that in doing so he weakened his most loyal supporter, Ras Sanuda. This led to further disagreements between the pretender and Fasil, and despite Abuna Yosab III's attempts to make a peace between them, by 26 November Fasil declared his allegiance for Emperor Tekle Haymanot and left Gondar for Dengel Ber.[5]

Bruce had only one encounter with this ephemeral ruler. On the night of 5 December, in a drunken fit, Susenyos with some confederates left the Imperial palace and plundered several private homes, including the house Bruce was living in at the time. "Every thing that could be carried away was stolen or broken; among which was a reflecting telescope, a barometer, and thermometer; a great many papers and sketches of drawings, [were] first torn then burnt". The next day Bruce was summoned to the palace where he presented himself before Susenyos, who

was sitting, his eyes half closed, red as scarlet with last night's debauch; he was apparently at that moment much in liquor; his mouth full of tobacco, squirting his spittle out of his mouth to a very great distance; with this he had so covered the floor that it was with great difficulty I could choose a clean place to kneel, and make my obeisance.[6]

J.M. Reid, in his biography, pointedly notes the "sickening contrast" between the chamber when Bruce waited on Emperor Tekle Haymanot and the presence audience.[7] The audience with Susenyos was a trying experience for Bruce. Susenyos complained that the Scotsman had paid him no attention and demanded gifts from Bruce. Bruce reports that he made a bold reply, at which point "an old man of noble appearance" came forward, whom Bruce identified as Ras Sanuda, and lectured Susenyos on his behavior, reminding him Bruce "is a friend, not only to the king but to us all: the whole people love him." Susenyos' only response to his advisor was to joke, "You are very angry to-day, Baba."[8][9]

His fall

Susenyos' time on the throne was all but over 15 December, when Ras Mikael forded the Tekezé and swiftly closed on the capital; Ras Sanuda declared for Mikael Sehul. Accordingly, Susenyos fled Gondar with the Empress Mentewab; first she sought refuge with Abuna Yosab in Emfraz only to be turned away, then after sending her valuables to safety on Dek Island in Lake Tana proceeded to Qwara. Once there, writes Bruce, "Those who made Socinios a king never made him a friend."

It was here suggested, that his presence would infallibly occasion a pursuit which might endanger the queen, her country, and all her friends. Upon this it was resolved to abandon the unworthy Socinios to the soldiers, who stript him naked, giving him only a rag to cover him, and a good horse, and with these they dismissed him to seek his fortune.[10]

Ras Mikael Sehul entered the capital city on 23 December, restored Tekle Haymanot, and began a purge of his enemies whom he found in the city, beginning with the crucifixion of Abba Salama and Germa Tseyon, the brother of Waragna.[11]

The last glimpse history has of Susenyos is after the Three battles of Sarbakusa the following year: somehow he fell into the hands of Wand Bewossen, who before leaving Gondar with Ras Mikael Sehul as his prisoner sent the deposed pretender in chains to Emperor Tekle Haymanot; the Emperor made him a slave in the palace kitchen where, after a short time, Susenyos was caught stealing and hanged.[12]


  • Bruce, James, Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile, 5 (1805 ed.)
  • Reid, J.M. (1968), Traveller Extraordinary: The Life of James Bruce of Kinnaird, New York: Norton


  1. ^ a b Bruce, p. 163
  2. ^ Bruce, p. 215
  3. ^ The Royal Chronicles include Gerazmach Ayadar with Goshu and Wand Bewossen (H. Weld Blundell, The Royal chronicle of Abyssinia, 1769-1840 (Cambridge: University Press, 1922), p. 225)
  4. ^ Bruce, p. 157-62
  5. ^ Bruce, p. 491-504
  6. ^ Bruce, p. 505
  7. ^ Reid 1968, p. 176
  8. ^ Bruce, p. 506-509
  9. ^ Reid paraphrases Susenyos' response as "You are very angry with me today, daddy." (Reid 1968, p. 176)
  10. ^ Bruce, p. 509-511
  11. ^ Weld Blundell, The Royal chronicle, p. 227
  12. ^ Bruce, p. 205
Preceded by
Tekle Haymanot II
Emperor of Ethiopia
Succeeded by
Tekle Haymanot II
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