The Letters of the Ethiopian Ambassador Mateus and his Embassy to Lisbon: When Prester John Actually Ruled Ethiopia, 1509–1520

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.15460/aethiopica.26.1943

Keywords:

Prester John, Portugal, embassy, identity, ʾƎleni, Lǝbnä Dǝngǝl

Abstract

The relationship between Ethiopia and Prester John, the mythical ruler from the East searched for by the Latin Christians of Europe since the twelfth century, is long established in scholarship for the period between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries. This relationship, however, appears one sided in the surviving source corpus with no reference to Prester John found in any Gǝʿǝz texts. Indeed, the Ethiopian monks at the Council of Florence in 1441 were recorded as actively rejecting such an association between this Prester John and their ruler to the Latin Christians. The absence of Gǝʿǝz sources aside, this article presents an edition and translation of four letters written in Arabic by the Ethiopian ambassador to Lisbon between 1509 and 1520, Mateus, to Dom Manuel, King of Portugal, which present him as the anbašadūr Brist Ǧuwān and pose further questions for this discussion. The letters provide examples of a counter narrative to the outright dismissal of the myth by the monks at Florence. With only one known clear proponent of each stance, and in different centuries, the discussion concerning Ethiopia's rejection of the Prester John myth may require more nuance.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

Downloads

Published online

2024-05-07

Issue

Section

Articles

URN

Metrics
Views/Downloads
  • Abstract
    348
  • PDF
    403
Further information

How to Cite

[1]
Simmons, A. and Garnier, S. 2023. The Letters of the Ethiopian Ambassador Mateus and his Embassy to Lisbon: When Prester John Actually Ruled Ethiopia, 1509–1520 Aethiopica 26 (2023) 92–139. DOI:https://doi.org/10.15460/aethiopica.26.1943.