Historical Background



The earliest records of Ankober as an administrative center dates back to the 12th century when King Yikuno Amlak established his base in the area.
More recently Ankober was recognized as the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Shoa/Ethiopia, with Merid Azmatch Amha Iyesus (1745-1775), a ruler descended from the Solomonic dynasty, being credited as the founder. His descendants ruled from Ankober for around a hundred years and a number of Shoan rulers, most prominent being King Sahle Selassie the grand father of Emperor Haile Selassie, are buried in the church yards in the area.
During the reign of Emperor Menelik II, Britain, France and Italy established diplomatic missions in Ankober, and the sites of their missions can still be distinguished. Menelik married Itegue Taytu at the Ankober Medhane Alem Church, where the golden wedding cloak is still kept. In 1886 Menelik decided to move the capital to its current location, Addis Ababa.
In addition to Ankober's heritage as an important historical site on its own right, the surrounding mountains, including Emmemihret, Fiqre Gimb and Gorgo and the low lands stretching up to the Red Sea have witnessed harmonious coexistence of different peoples with different religious convictions (Followers of early Judaism, Orthodox Christians, Catholics, and Moslems.) The birth place of the famous Lucy, the precursor of Mankind is only a 100 Kilometers or so from Ankober the plains of the Afar Region.


Emperor Menilik II

Emperor Menelik II (1844 - 1913) following on the footsteps of his immediate predecessors (Theoderos and Yohanes) is credited with the reunification of several kingdoms the Ethiopian Empire in the 19th Century. He was a major contributor to the creation and modernization of present day Ethiopia; it was during his reign that the first formal schools providing western-style education were established, starting in 1908. He granted the concession for the building of the Ethio-Djibouti railway line in 1895, which opened up the hinterland of the country to communication with the sea. Menelik also introduced in 1895 national and international telephone and telegraph services in the country a mere ten years after the invention of the telephone.
Emperor Menelik II successfully defended his country against the colonial invaders who were scrambling for African land in the nineteenth century. Indeed he created unprecedented history for black people by defeating the Italian invading forces at Adwa in 1896. This was the first time that colonialist invaders were stopped by an African power from grabbing African territories. With such a remarkable achievement Menelik became a great source of pride for Africans and black people around the world. He is still revered by many as a wise Emperor who successfully defended the territorial integrity of his nation and launched Ethiopia towards modernization.


Shoan Kings that ruled from Ankober

  • Abiye Qedami Qal (1720 - 1745)
  • Merid Azmatch Amha Iyesus: founder of Ankober (1745 - 1775)
  • Asfa Wossen (1775 - 1808)
  • Wossen Sagad (1808 - 1813)
  • Sahle Selassie (1813 - 1847)
  • Haile Melekot (1847 - 1855)
  • Menelik as King (1865 - 1889)
  • Menelik as Emperor of Ethiopia (1889 - 1913)


Royal «Guests» and dignitaries on the Palace Hill

During Menelik's campaign to unify Ethiopia, the following kings and rebel dignitaries were detained at Ankober:

  • King Tona, of Wolayta
  • King Tchinito, of Kaffa
  • Ras Wolie Betul, of Yeju
  • Ras Hailu Teklehaymanot, of Gojjam
  • Ras Mengesha Yohannes, of Tigray
  • Dejach Tayye Gulilat, of Kaffa