By Gabby Storey
The queen known as Yodït, Gudït, Isat, and Isato is a compelling figure in Ethiopian history. She brought down the ruling house of Aksum in the tenth century, a dynasty which was not to rise again until c. 1270.
Historians disagree on the finer details and her background, with some arguing that she was ruler of the kingdom of Damot, others stating that she was based at Lake Hayq in Wollo Province. Doubtless of her background, it is clear that Ethiopic tradition records the history of a conquering queen who laid waste to Aksum, and took over the kingdom, ruling for at least thirty, and plausibly closer to forty, years. If we are to follow Andersen’s conclusion, Dil Nä’ad was the son of the Queen of the Habasha (Gudït), and continued the line of Aksumite kings through his mother. He moved the royal camp to Lake Hayq, which would explain the association with the area.
Due to uncertainty around her background Gudït has sometimes been confused with the sixteenth-century Muslim queen Ga’ewa of Tigray, perhaps owing to Gudït’s likely origins from Tigray. Despite her acts of violence during the conquest, thereafter Gudït appears to have focussed on diplomacy, sending regular gifts to the rulers of Yemen. She was succeeded by her son Dil Nä’ad, and thereafter a power shift in the region occurred as the Zagwe dynasty was established.
Knud Tage Andersen, “The Queen of the Habasha in Ethiopian History, Tradition and Chronology,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental & African Studies 63.1 (2000): 31-63
Paul B. Henze, Layers of Time: A History of Ethiopia (London: C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2000)
Reidulf K. Molvaer, “The Defiance of the Tenth-Century Empress Yodït (Judith) of Ethiopia from an Unpublished Manuscript by Aleqa Teklé (Tekle-Ïyesus) of Gojjam,” Northeast African Studies 5.1 (1998): 47-58
Stuart C. Munro-Hay, Aksum: An African Civilisation of Late Antiquity (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1991)