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The Legendary Queen of Sheba
Queen Makeda (Ma-kee’-da) (fl. c. 960 B.C.-930 B.C.)
The legendary Queen of Sheba has been known under various names at different periods. To St. Matthew, she was the Queen of the South. To the ancient Moslems, she was Bilqis. To King Solomon of Israel, she was the Queen of Sheba or Saba. To the ancient Greeks, she was the Black Minerva and the Ethiopian Diana. And to her own people, she was Makeda, the beautiful.
Makeda was the queen of both Ethiopia and Saba, in southern Arabia. It is believed that Axum, the capital city of her empire, was founded one hundred years after the Great Flood. Makeda made many changes and rebuilt the territory of Saba during her reign. There are many versions of the Solomon and Sheba story. The biography is based on the Glory of the Kings, a chronicle of the rulers of Ethiopia.
Queen Makeda was very beautiful and exceedingly rich. She had heard a great deal about the wealth of Israel and the wisdom of King Solomon from her royal merchants. The more she heard the more she longed to travel to Jerusalem. One day, she announced to her constituents that she intended to visit Jerusalem to learn from the wise King Solomon. Makeda departed for the Holy City with a carazan of almost eight hundred camels, asses, and mules, which were loaded with precious stones, metals, and other valuable items.
During her six-month visit, Makeda conferred frequently with King Solomon. She was so impressed with his wisdom that she gave up her religion and adopted Judaism. King Solomon desired to father many sons who would rule in the name of the God of Israel. Shortly thereafter, she requested to return to her own country. Although Solomon would have preferred for her to stay, he pulled her aside saying, “Take this ring so that thou mayest not forget me. And if it happen that I obtain seed from thee, this ring shall be a sign of it, and if it be a man child he shall come to me…”
Queen Makeda promised King Solomon that if she begot a male child, she would crown him king of Ethiopia. At the time of Makeda’s reign, Axum and Saba were matriarchies so her promise was significant. The queen departed for home, and nine months and five days after Makeda left King Solomon, she gave birth to a male child. She named him Ibn al-Hakim, “son of the wise man.” His royal name was Menelik.
At the age of twenty-two, Menelik traveled to Jerusalem to visit his father. He did not need the ring Solomon had given his mother for identification, because when he arrived in Gaza, the people knew by his appearance that he was Solomon’s son. When Menelik finally reached his father, Solomon stated, “He is handsomer than I am, and his form and stature are those of David, my father, in his early manhood.” Solomon kissed and embraced his son, and asked him to stay. He promised Menelik the kingdom of Israel upon his death, but Menelik replied, “My lord, it is impossible for me to abandon my country and my mother; I swore to her by her breasts that I would return to her…”
When Solomon realized that he could not persuade his son to remain in Jerusalem, he anointed Menelik king of Ethiopia, bestowed upon him the name of David, and provided him with councilors and officers for the founding of Israel’s new kingdom in Ethiopia. Except for a brief period during the ninth and tenth centuries, and until the demise of Haile Selassie, Queen Makeda’s descendants ruled the throne of Ethiopia.
Queen Makeda’s tomb, along with twenty-two obelisks of her period, were excavated at Axum in the early 1900s. The reign of Queen Makeda, one of the most beautiful and richest African monarchs, was an important part of East African history and culture.
Excerpt from A Salute to Historic African Kings & Queens.
This is only a summary of the life of Queen Makeda.