Del-Nä‘ad, or Del-na’od, Emperor (perhaps fl. 9th or 10th century A.D.), was, according to many traditional sources, the last ruler of the Solomonic line before the usurpation by the Zagwé. Although many different traditions relating to this king have survived, they are not necessarily mutually contradictory. Some scholars have conjectured that Del-Nä’ad was the younger son of an Emperor named as Tabtahäj in a reference in the History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria and sometimes identified with Emperor Degna-Zan, and was chosen as his father’s successor by Abunä Pétros but was shortly afterwards deposed through the intrigues of his elder brother, sometimes identified as ‘Anbässa-Wedem, and of the false Abunä Minas, who then consecrated ‘Anbässa-Wede as Emperor. According to this hypothetical reconstruction, the party which favoured Del-Nä’ad may have later succeeded in dethroning ‘Anbässa-Wedem and restoring Del-Nä’ad to power. Certain traditions hold, however, that Del-Nä’ad was only a child at the time of the fall of Aksum and that he was taken to safety in northern Säwa or Amhara, where his descendants remained until the restoration of their line in the person of Emperor Yekuno-‘Amlak. It may be possible to reconcile the traditions if it is supposed that Del-Nä’ad was very young at the time of his deposition and that, after taking refuge in Säwa or Amhara during his brother’s reign, he later returned to rule in Aksum for an indeterminate period before the final collapse of the kingdom. The Paris Chronicle edited by Basset records that Del-Nä’ad was the son of ‘Anbässa-Wedem, however, not the younger brother.
While it is clearly impossible to place much reliance upon such traditions, the accretion of legends attached to the semi-legendary figure of Del-Nä’ad seems to indicate that decisive events took place in this period and other widely-known traditions relate Del-Nä’ad’s further tribulations to the founding of a new dynasty. Having heard it foretold that the man who married his daughter, Princess Mäsobä-Wärq, would dethrone him, Del-Nä’ad kept her in seclusion. A young man of the family of Hépasa, named Täklä-Haymanot, won the confidence of the king and gained access to the Princess. After marrying her by a ruse, he absconded with her to Lasta - or perhaps Hamasén. He later made war on Del-Nä’ad and seized the kingdom by force.
That Del-Nä’ad spent some time in the area of northern Säwa and Amhara is confirmed by the Gädlä ‘Iyäsus-Mo’a, where it is recorded that he built many churches on the shores of a lake. He is said to have founded Däbrä ‘Egzi’abehér, at Lake Hayq, at the exhortation of Abunä Sälama Zä-Azéb who came 618 years after the arrival (c. 330 A.D.) of his namesake, Abunä Sälama I, Frumentius. This would enable us to date Del-Nä’ad in mid-tenth century, which accords with Ethiopian tradition on the fall of Aksum. (A date of mid-ninth century has also been postulated as the same chronicler also gives the date of 6362 A.M., i.e. 869/870 A.D. for the construction of the church of St. Stephen by the king, on the grounds that some traditional Ethiopian sources place Frumentius in the third century A.D. rather than in the fourth century, dating the establishment of the church in Aksum at 252/3 A.D. This theory gains some support from a tradition quoted in the Futuh al-Habasha that the church of Däbrä ‘Egzi’abehér was built in the early ninth century.) In the Gädlä ‘Iyäsus-Mo’a, it is further recorded of Del-Nä’ad that “… in the seventh year of his reign … [the seat of] the kingdom was tranferred from Aksum to the country of the east.”
J. Ludolf, (J. P. Gent, trans.), A New History of Ethiopia (London, 1684), Chap. IV, 168.
R. Basset, Etudes sur l’histoire d’Ethiopie (Paris, 1882).
——–(ed.), Futuh al-Habasha (Paris, 1897-1901), 231-232 of text.
J. Perruchon, “Notes pour l’histoire d’Ethiopie,” Revue Sémitique, Vol. II (1894): 78-93.
C. Conti Rossini, Storia d’Etiopia (Bergamo, 1928), 262-3, 304-5, 319.
E. A. Wallis Budge, The Book of the Saints of the Ethiopian Church (Cambridge, 1928), Vol. III, 666-8 (Synaxarium, 3 Mäggabit).
——–, A History of Ethiopia (London, 1928), Vol. I, 276.
S. Kur (ed. and trans.), Actes de Iyasus Mo’a, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, Scriptores aethiopici, t.49 and t. 50.
Taddesse Tamrat, “The Abbots of Däbrä-Hayq 1248-1535,” Journal of Ethiopian Studies, Vol. VIII, No. 1 (1970): 87-88.
——–, *Church and State in Ethiopia 1270-1527 *(Oxford, 1972), 36, 66, n. 3.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from The Dictionary of Ethiopian Biography, Vol. 1 ‘From Early Times to the End of the Zagwé Dynasty c. 1270 A.D.,’ copyright © 1975, edited by Belaynesh Michael, S. Chojnacki and Richard Pankhurst, Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. All rights reserved.