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The legendary founder of the Ethiopian empire, Menelik was the son of King Solomon of Israel and Makeda, the Queen of Sheba. The wise king already foresaw his birth at the time of the queen's departure from his court, and as a farewell gift gave her a ring which bore his seal. He also told her to send their child to him if it was a son.

She did bring forth a son, who was called Bayna-Lehkem, or son of the wise man. When he was thirteen, his mother sent him to Jerusalem to see his father. Everyone who saw him remarked how much he resembled King Solomon, but the king himself said he was more like his own father, King David.

The son of Solomon received gifts and blessings. His father begged him to stay, but he had promised his mother that he would return. So instead, he was given the title Emperor of Ethiopia and the name David II - he was called Menelik later, when he was crowned in his own homeland. He left Israel along with several nobles, one of them the son of Azariah, who could not bear to part with the Ark of the Covenant. So they took it with them, believing that God would only let it happen if he allowed it.

According to local belief, the Ark is still kept in the Mary of Zion cathedral in Axum, and is still very powerful. Whether the act is true or not, Judaism spread to Ethiopia, and the Falashas or black Jews kept and practised a simple form of it which would later admit them to the new state when Israel was founded in 1948. These Jews only had the first five books of the Bible, the laws of Moses, because all the other books were written down later.

Menelik is considered a saint by the Ethiopian church. His son was Handadyo, and they are both believed to have lived in the second century BC. In 1270, Emperor Yekuno of Ethiopia declared that he was lineally descended from Menelik. The following emperors therefore all claimed the ancestry of King Solomon. The last emperor of this line was Haile Selassie, who was given the ring of Solomon upon his coronation.

Legends are wonderful things. This one is assembled from both Egyptian and Syrian text, but mostly from the Kebra Negast, which is a royal chronicle of Abyssinia compiled in the 14th century. Menelik's story is also important and therefore evolving in the Rastafarian religion.

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