Zä-Mika’él ‘Arägawi, or ‘Arägawi Zä-Mika’él, Abba, was one of the Nine Saints of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church who came from various parts of the Roman Empire to escape persecution after the Council of Chalcedon (451). The Nine Saints, Abba ‘Afsé, Abba ‘Aléf, Abba Gärima, Abba Guba, Abba Liqanos, Abba Päntäléwon, Abba Sähma, Abba Yäm’ata and Abba Zä-Mika’él ‘Arägawi were learned monks who revitalized Christianity in Ethiopia and to whom the Ge’ez version of the New Testament is attributed. The account of the life of Zä-Mika’él ‘Arägawi, contained in a gädl, or Acts, of the late fifteenth century, emphasizes the miraculous, is somewhat contradictory, and reflects the prejudices of Däbrä Damo. The son of Yeshaq and ‘Edna of the royal family in Rome, he became a monk at the age of fourteen with Pachomius (d. 348) in the Thebaîd, and it was the latter who called him Zä-Mika’él. His fame attracted the other eight, who remained many years with him and Pachomius. ‘Edna too joined him as a nun. Seven years after Pachomius’ death, Zä-Mika’él returned to Rome and then proceeded to Aksum, which he found already evangelized, whereupon he invited the others to join him there. Along with Yeshaq and ‘Edna, they were welcomed by Emperor ‘Al’améda (Emperor ‘Ellä-‘Améda II) in the fifth year of his reign, and then by his successor, Emperor Tazén. The Nine Saints lived at the court for twelve years, but in the sixth year of Tazén’s reign they separated, each to go to his own way. Zä-Mika’él and ‘Edna, with a disciple called Mattéwos, went to Eggala, Tegré, where the hill Damo was chosen for a monastery and he established the Pachomian or coenobitic monastic life. In Ethiopian iconography Zä-Mika’él ‘Arägawi is often portrayed with a serpent, for, when unable to find a path up the rocky site, he held fast to the tail of a serpent and was pulled up to the summit. His gädl claims that Emperor Kaléb consulted him before setting out to attack Dhu Nuwas. The monastery of Däbrä Damo was erected by Emperor Gäbrä-Mäsqäl in the eleventh year of his reign on a spot indicated by Zä-Mika’él, and a large community of monks gathered around him, ‘Edna, and a disciple, Pétros. His death took place on 14 Teqemt (24 October), after he had appointed Mattéwos as his successor.
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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.