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Kingdom of Kaffa



The kingdom is through the first legendary king Minjo have been founded. Minjo to the legend, not to have been born of a woman, but from a stone. In the oral tradition, the name of eighteen followers in the five-hundred-year history of the Empire is preserved. [3] The tradition was limited to special merits and exploits individual rulers. Were not given such circumstances, the corresponding ruling was not included in the tradition. Other sources are not available, so that the other rulers have disappeared in the darkness of history. [4]

Kaffa in the 16th century 

The greatest extent reached Kaffa before the forays of the Oromo (formerly known as Galla). The empire included its vassal states could at this time from Sudan lowlands as far as the Rift Valley have passed and from the northern erosion furrow of Omo have extended to the south by the Omo, which both the territory of the Kingdom of Jimma and the the Kingdom Limmu within the had located the kingdom. [5]

In the 16th century Oromo began in the highlands of Abyssinia to settle and to found States and not to undertake only occasional forays. [6] Kaffa fought in numerous battles against the Oromo, but had to accept that it south to the area of River Goreb was pushed back. [7] After the fighting ended, the Kingdom intensified its contacts with the Ethiopian Emperor Sarsa Dengel (1564-1597), and Christianity was introduced. [7] Under the rule of Bonga-king (presumably 1565-1605 ) to have been divided into provinces the empire.He should Bonga took over from Matto-Clan and made ​​the place for capital. He also said to have undertaken military expeditions to the north. [8]

Discovery History Kaffa from a European perspective 

Map of Abyssinia (ca. 1690). The kingdom is listed as “Regno di Cafate”.

Kaffa was because of its remoteness and seclusion from a European perspective with a “Tibet compared Africa”.[9] The Kingdom was known by name and Europeans, but the reports that reached Europe were rather poor. The first mention of the empire as Cafa goes back to Manuel de Almeida in 1632. [7] It was not until the research of Europeans after the source of the Nile in the 19th century was to change this. First succeeded the missionaryJohann Ludwig Krapf to obtain 1840 reports of middlemen on Kaffa, as he not Kaffa itself reached on his travels, but areas traveled north of Djimma. [10] Also the Briton Charles T. Beke was on his travels and his search for the source of the Nile 1843-1847 by middlemen receive detailed reports of Kaffa. [11]

1843 reached with the Frenchman Antoine d’Abbadie first time Europeans the Kingdom. He accompanied a prince who had gone to Kaffa to marry his twelfth wife. D’Abbadie spent eleven days in Kaffa and described this visit in his published work until 1890 Geography de l’Ethiopie. From 1855 began Capuchin with Guglielmo Massaia their missionary work in Kaffa. Massaia built there two churches, Schappa-Mariam and Schappa-Gabriel. However, the missionaries had to leave again already in August 1859 Kaffa. Massaias records were lost, his authored 1885-1895 twelve-volume under the title I miei anni di missione Trentacinque nell ‘alta Etiopia therefore published reports based in terms of Kaffa mainly on memories. From a 1876 launched major Italian expedition reached onlyAntonio Cecchi, after a very adventurous journey, Kaffa. He has published over his five-year stay in East Africa in 1885 a book that also dealt with Kaffa. [12] The French adventurer Paul Soleillet was able to reach the end of 1883 Kaffa, but managed to stay in the UK only eleven days, until he was forced Kaffa to leave again.

It was only with the conquest of Kaffa in 1897 came back on Europeans to Kaffa, as the Russian Alexander Bulatowitsch accompanied the Ethiopian army. 1905 reached the Austrians Friedrich Bieber with an expedition of Baron Alphons von Mylius Kaffa. He toured Ethiopia in 1909 again. Bieber published his studies of Kaffa 1920-1923. [13] His work is regarded as one of the essential books about Kaffa. Bieber releases made, with the exception Cecchis book obsolete all previous publications on Kaffa. [14] From 1925 to 1929 was the “German Ethiopia expedition” led by Max Grühl place which also toured the former kingdom. [15] in 1928 traveled also Enrico Cerulli West Ethiopia and thus Kaffa and drew on what he could identify on the former Reich. He published his results in 1932. [16]

End of the kingdom

Ethiopian troops of Ras Wolda Giyorgis on the march back to the subjugation of Kaffa (Photo by Alexander Bulatowitsch)

The Ethiopian expansion efforts, which should lead to the end of the Kingdom of Kaffa, began during the reign of the penultimate king of Kaffa Gali Sherochi (1868-1890). Rulers (“Ras”) of the Shoah was the later Emperor of Ethiopia Menelik II. Menelik policy had been determined even before his coronation as Negus Negesti (“King of Kings”) in 1889 by the expansion of its empire in the Shoah. [17] In the extension in the direction the White Nile and so on Kaffa like French ambitions have played a role, by French possessions in the Sudanand a friendly wholesale Ethiopia the British ambitions of a compound of the British colonial possessions “from the Cape to Cairo” to oppose. [18] in 1881, there was a first foray of the Shoah against Kaffa. At the behest of the ruler of the Shoah commander Ras Gobanna handle first to the Kingdom, there was a promise of tribute, which was, however, not complied with. Menelik now lay down the title of “Negus of Kaffa” to. [19] Ras Gobanna but had to retire on command Menelik to his troops now against another Ethiopian rulers to fight the Takla Haiamont,. [20] The Emperor of Ethiopia. Yohannes IV withdrew Menelik the title of Negus of Kaffa but again to curb its growing power, and gave him the Takla Haiamont, who had to give, however, defeated in 1882 Menelik troops after the Battle of Imbabo [21] and the title again Menelik transferred back. [22]

1890 and 1892 came to conquest attempts by Ethiopia, which were, however, rejected in both cases. [23]

With the Battle of Adwa Menelik II had colonial ambitions on March 1, 1896. Italy finished. Was the Ethiopian army already sufficiently equipped already before the battle with modern weapons to counter even European armed forces [24], so she could after the battle itself additionally amplify the captured war material. [25] In contrast, possessed Kaffa mainly on traditional weapons as spears and more modern weapons might still have only 300 guns. More modern ordnance should not have been present since the last king to have banned from Kaffa imports. The ban was intended to prevent revolts against his rule. [26]

Shortly after the Battle of Adwa ordered Menelik II. In Addis Ababa a new attack on Kaffa on. [27] On September 11, 1897 had to Gaki Sherocho as the last king of Kaffa, after months of fighting give the combined armed forces of Ethiopia. With the end of the kingdom, there was a significant depopulation of the area. It is estimated that about 60 percent of the population died during the fighting or were deported. [28] The country was now considered to be the property of the Negus Negesti. Under Menelik II. Therefore made ​​generous distributions to soldiers who were involved in the invasion. [29]

In a reorganization of Ethiopian provinces 1942, the former Kingdom of Kaffa was with other areas of the province Kaffa summarized.

Political Structure

Gaki Sherocho, the last king of Kaffa, after the capture by the Ethiopians in 1897

Gaki Sherocho, the last king of Kaffa, after the capture by the Ethiopians in 1897Political Structure

At the head of state was the king who had political and spiritual meaning. Originally the king bore the title Tato, which means “king”. With the expansion of power over neighboring kingdoms he bore the title Aadiyo or Åttio, which means “King of Kings”. [30] The full title of KingKafino tpd meant “Kaffa king” and not “king of Kaffa”. [ 31] According to tradition, the name of the kingdom is to be derived from this title.[32]

Due to information gathered by local middlemen, the traveler described Charles Tilstone Beke in 1843 the king of Kaffa as more powerful and richer than all the rulers of the Oromo and the whole of Abyssinia. The rule was despotic. [11] From today’s perspective, however, it has doubts about a strong despotism. [33]

Was attached to the king a council, called Mikerecho. The members of the Council had both department-related responsibilities and could also act as a collegial body. Of these seven counselors the king was merely the Kateme-Rasho, the War Minister, appoint and settle freely. The other members of Mikerecho were appointed by the other Mikerecho. [34] The Council each elected the new king, the predecessor could only propose his successor, but the choice could fall on any other member of the ruling Minjo-Clanes. [35]

The Empire (middle or end of was the time of the so-called Bonga King 16th century) initially divided into twelve provinces (Showo or Shawo). [36] According to a provincial reform in the 19th century it finally had but eighteen provinces. [37 ] These were again in districts(Rash show, but the name probably varied [38]) divided. It was the end of the kingdom 134 such districts. [39] The district chiefs wore as a sign of their dignity silver necklaces, red Stofftuniken, a leopard skin and a bar. They had to collect taxes and judicial tasks. The Office of the district heads of each remained in the hands of the same clan, the power of the district chiefs strongly depended on the support of his clan. [40]

The lowest administrative level was finally the village or town. [41]

Social Structure

The company in Kaffa initially was divided into clans. These were in turn placed into a class system. Then there were the following classes:

  • Oge Ashi Yaroo, the clan of the great people. These were the clans, the land and slaves possessed.
  • Dea Ashi Yaroo, the clan of the so-called good people.
  • Sharare Ashi Yaroo that simple clans or “thin people”.
  • Gonde Ashi Yaroo, the clan of the “bad people”. This group included one hand, the slaves, but also as a “hunter” respected the ethnic group Manjo. [42]

Location and Climate 

The northern border of the kingdom in the 19th century formed the eastward flowing from west Gojeb, a tributary of the Omo. North of Gojeb lay the kingdoms of the Oromo. To the north bordering the Kingdom of Gera and west of the Kingdom of Jimma to Kaffa. To the northwest was the Kingdom of Garo. To the east were still inside the arc of the Omo the areas of Konta and Kullo, in the southeast, the area of Chara joined. In the south Kaffa reached to the Omo. [43]

Max Grühl described the landscape Kaffa as follows:

“When the hand of the Creator of all things created the large central African jungle, she took a rag from him and threw him into the mountains on the northern end ofLake Rudolf; so Kaffa was a woodland full of gloomy beauty. [44]

The territory of the Kingdom reaches heights of 3,000 meters above sea level. Despite its relatively close location to the equator (6.15 degrees north of the Equator) it has because of the altitude on a rather mild climate. The annual mean temperature be 12-26 ° C. Influenced by the climate is a dry and a rainy season. The rainy season lasts from May to September, at the wedding of the rainy season from mid-June to the end of August there will be heavy rains, it rains every day total during the rainy season. It is also during the dry season to scattered rains. In Bonga, the average is rainfall of 1800 mm per year. [45]

Business Basics 

Kaffa was on several trade routes and was therefore an important trading post. It had direct trade contacts with Kullo, Konta and Walamo. The trade routes reached to the Somalicoast, the Red Sea and into the Sudan, as far as Zeila, Massawa or Metemma. The main market was on a small plane at Tiffa, south of Bonga, instead. This market was operated on four days of the week. [46]


The entire country is in Kaffa was initially property of the king, the inhabitants of Kaffa is leased by him, and he could at any time again to escape. [47] In general, however, the ownership of the land was inherited from father to eldest son. [48 ]

Agriculture in the Kingdom of Kaffa in the 1880s was Cecchi as a subsistence economy is described in which only so much was harvested as self consumed or could be directly exchanged. [49] In addition to food Otherwise, were as

The livestock and animal husbandry in the Kingdom of Kaffa included cattle, sheep, goats, horses, donkeys mules, dogs, poultry and civet cats, but not pigs. [51]

There were numerous taboos about eating. For example, men ate no carbon, but no women priests poultry and the consumption of beef was forbidden. [52]

The tobacco was in hookahs enjoyed and by Muslim traders consuming was Khat came to Kaffa. [53]


Illustration of a branch of the plant of Arabica coffees from Koehler’s Medicinal Plants in lifelike pictures with short explanatory texts (1887)

Kaffa is the origin of coffees considered. The term in many languages ​​(eg. As German coffee, french cafe, Englishcoffee) to go back to the name of the Kingdom. Because of the rich gene pool of the southwest Ethiopia occurring wild coffee trees southwestern mayhighlands of Abyssinia as secured region of origin of Arabica coffees are, the scientific evidence that Kaffa is the origin, but has not yet rendered in absence of more precise investigations. [2] The According to tradition, the coffee should have been discovered by a shepherd in Kaffa, should be the noticed that a goat began after drinking fruit of the coffee plant to dance. [2] In addition to the gathering of coffee in forests of coffee was in the Horticulture manner produced. So there should have been in Kaffa little houses that were not surrounded by coffee bushes. [54] The Kingdom of Kaffa exported coffee and was before the invasion in 1897 as the most important coffee producer in Africa. Exports were at 350  tonnes valued. [55]

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