Za Dengel, the son of the ’Abeto Lesana Krestos • h M . - , the brother of Malak Sagad I, reigned for about one year, 1603-4, and died on the 16th of Tekemt, 14/24 October 1604. To all intents and purposes Za Dengel owed his accession to the throne to Za Selase, who had been the prime mover in recalling him to Dankaz. This astute and able governor lost no time in resuming his authority at court, and during the whole of the short reign of Za Dengel he was the de facto king of Abyssinia, and used his power in persecuting the friends and allies of Jacob, who was then in exile in 'Enarya. Za Dengel had served in many of his uncle's wars, and he showed great skill in war against the Galla who had invaded Damot, and defeated the governor's army and killed him. He was greater as a military general than as king. When Paez came to his court in December 1604 he received him kindly and showed him great respect. One day in the presence of the king the two pupils whom Paez had brought with him held a theological discussion with some of the native priests, whom they refuted with the greatest ease. The king was much impressed with the result of the discussion, and openly showed his sympathy with the teaching of Paez. Mass was then said according to the Roman use, and a sermon followed couched in eloquent language. Soon after this the king decided to embrace the Catholic Religion, and imparted this decision, not only to his friends like La'eka Maryam, who was himself converted, but to Paez himself under the seal of secrecy. The people in general learned about his change of mind by the proclamation which he issued about this time forbidding the observance of Saturday as the Sabbath, after the manner of the Jews. He wrote letters to Pope Clement V III, and to Philip III, king of Spain, acknowledging the spiritual supremacy of the former, and asking the latter to send him artisans and soldiers to help him in his wars, and missionaries to teach his people the new faith which he had embraced. (See Tellez, Historia, I. III. cap. 18, and Ludolf, CommentariuSy pp. 485, 486; and Hist. A e t k III. chap. x.) He also proposed that his son should marry the daughter of the king of Spain, and that the Spaniards should come and establish a settlement at Maswa (Massawah), so that, with the help of the
Abyssinians at Arkiko, the country might be delivered from the Turks. These letters were entrusted to Paez who no doubt dispatched them with great secrecy, but the contents leaked out and the native priests and governing classes throughout the country were filled with anger and fear. The conversion of several of the king’s intimate friends to the Roman Faith angered the people still further, and when La’eka Maryam, who was a fine soldier, a bold warrior, and a man of the highest character, joined them, Za Selase felt that it was high time to remove the king from the throne. With this object in view he persuaded the clergy that the king had abandoned the doctrines of the National Church of Abyssinia, which were those of Alexandria, and made Peter, the Abuna, release the people from their oath of allegiance to the king, and excommunicate Za Dengel. Once before only had any king of Abyssinia been excommunicated, viz. when Abba Honorius excom municated ‘Amda Seyon for incest.