of both Muslim and Christian power away from the frontiers, it opened the way for the remarkable expansion of the Oromo people, speakers of a Kushitic language, and, at this stage, adherents of neither Christianity nor Islam.10
The migration of the Oromo reversed the two and a half centuries of southward expansion of Christian power and culture, hammered the Christian kingdom, making recurrent inroads which, in several key areas, turned into settlement, creating insecurity and draining resources, and forced the withdrawal of the kingdom northwestward into the great bend of the Blue Nile and the regions around Lake Tana, to its north. By the end of the sixteenth century many of the splendid churches built by the Solomonics had disappeared and significant areas, previously inhabited by Christians, now passed into the hands of the newcomers.11 It was in these circumstances that two of Ethiopia's rulers at the beginning of the seventeenth century turned to the Catholic faith, represented by Jesuit missionaries behind whom stood the power of Portugal and Spain. A Portuguese expeditionary force had played a key role in the death of Ahmad Gran and its survivors settled in Ethiopia, marrying Ethiopian women. Their presence was a constant reminder of the efficacy of European arms.
The Jesuits had first arrived in Ethiopia in 1557 on the misunderstanding that the Ethiopian rulers were prepared to submit to Catholic belief and practice.12 Quickly disabused they retreated to northern Ethiopia, where the mission atrophied. A Jesuit priest was sent out in 1603 to revive it, but found himself called to court by King ZaDengel (The Virgin's) (1603-4), who explored Jesuit teaching sympathetically. ZaDengel was soon to be succeeded by King Susenyos, who, in 1607, fought his way to the throne and quickly turned to the Jesuits. In 1622 he made an open, formal submission to Rome, establishing Catholicism as the religion of court and country. But Catholicism served this Solomonic ruler no better than Orthodoxy had in transforming his relations with the powerful forces which dominated in the provinces - the monasteries and the noble lineages. Rebellion mounted, and in 1632 Susenyos abdicated in favour of his son, Fasiladas, who directly restored Tawahedo Orthodoxy, expelled the Jesuits, and cut ties to Portugal and Spain.
10 For a general account of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries see Mordecai Abir, Ethiopia and the Red Sea: the rise and decline of the Solomonic dynasty and Muslim-European rivalry in the region (London: Cass, 1980).
11 See Mohammed Hassen, The Oromo of Ethiopia: a history, 1570-1860 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).
12 For anuancedandinformative account of the Jesuit mission, seeH. Pennec, DesJesuitesau Royaume du PretreJean (Ethiopie): strategies, rencontres et tentatives d'implantation 1495-1633 (Paris: Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian, 2003).
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