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The political center shifted southward to the mountains of Lasta (now Lalibela).

Around 1150, a new dynasty arose in the mountains of Lasta. This dynasty was called the Zagwe and controlled much of northern Ethiopia from 1150 until 1270. The Zagwe claimed descendency from Moses, using genealogy to establish their legitimacy, a characteristic of traditional Ethiopian politics.

The Zagwe were unable to forge national unity, and squabbling over political power led to a decline in the dynasty’s authority. A small Christian kingdom in northern Shewa challenged the Zagwe politically and economically in the thirteenth century. The Shewans were led by Yekunno Amlak, who killed the Zagwe king and proclaimed himself emperor. It was Yekunno Amlak who forged national unity and began constructing the nation.

Most historians regard Yekunno Amlak as the founder of the Solomonic dynasty. In the process of legitimizing his rule, the emperor reproduced and possibly created the Kebra Nagast (Glory of the Kings) , which is regarded as the national epic. The Glory of the Kings is a blend of local and oral traditions, Old and New Testament themes, apocryphal text, and Jewish and Muslim commentaries. The epic was compiled by six Tigrean scribes, who claimed to have translated the text from Arabic into Ge’ez. Contained within its central narrative is the account of Solomon and Sheba, an elaborate version of the story found in I Kings of the Bible. In the Ethiopian version, King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba have a child named Menelik (whose name is derived from the Hebrew ben-melech meaning “son of the king”), who establishes a duplicate Jewish empire in Ethiopia.

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