Painting of Empress Mentewab at the feet of Mary and Jesus at Selassie (1748). Image Credit: WikiCommons.

In 980BC, the kingdom of D’mt was established across Eritrea and the Tigray region of Ethiopia, and is considered one of the first kingdoms of the area. After it’s fall in the fourth century BC, several smaller successor kingdoms emerged. In the first century BC, the kingdom of Aksum was established across a similar area as D’mt. The kingdom became known as Ethiopia during the fourth century AD, and after it conquered the kingdom of Kush in 330, it reached its peak as a polity. Akdsum collapsed in 960 when Aksum was defeated by Queen Gudit. The remaining peoples migrated south and established a new kingdom under the Zagwe dynasty. The Ethiopian Empire was created after a thirteenth-century revolt against the king Yetbarak, and developed as a major power until the sixteenth century. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw imperial isolation and the rising of noble power, and further contact with European powers. Various twentieth-century conflicts, not least the Italian-Ethiopian wars, weakened imperial power, and the rule of the last emperor, Haile Selassie, came to an end on 12 September 1974.

During this rich history of changing kingdoms and expansion, there were several female rulers of note, and you can find out more about some of them below!


Beauregard, Erving E. “Two Ethiopian Empresses: Menen and Taitu,” Horn of Africa 6.3 (1984-85): 35-39

Bizuneh, Belete. “Women in Ethiopian History: A Bibliographic Review.” Northeast African Studies. Women in the Horn of Africa: Oral Histories, Migrations, and Military and Civil Conflict 8.3 (2001): 7-32

Hay, Margaret Jean. “Queens, Prostitutes, and Peasants: Historical Perspectives on African Women, 1971-1986.” Canadian Journal of African Studies 22.3 (1988): 431-447

Henze, Paul. Layers of Time: A History of Ethiopia. London: C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2000

Krebs, Verena. Medieval Ethiopian Kingship, Craft, and Diplomacy with Latin Europe. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021

Krebs, Verena, and Yonatan Binyam, eds. Ethiopia and the World, 500-1300. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022

Prouty Rosenfeld, Chris. Empress Taytu and Menelek II: Ethiopia 1883-1910. Trenton: The Red Sea Press, 1986.

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