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Battle of Sahart

Battle of Sahart
Part of the Abyssinian–Adal war and Ottoman–Portuguese conflicts (1538–57)
Date April 24, 1541
Location Modern day Ethiopia
Result Adal victory

Ethiopian Empire

Portuguese Empire

Adal Sultanate

Ottoman Empire
Commanders and leaders
Galawdewos Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi
Garad Emar

The Battle of Sahart was fought on April 24, 1541 between the army of Emperor Gelawdewos and the forces of Garad Emar, a lieutenant of Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi. According to Ethiopian sources, Gelawdewos was defeated.[1]

Gelawdewos succeeded to the throne soon after his father's death on 2 September 1540. Despite his youth, over the next few months he made several successful attacks on the Somali garrisons in northern Ethiopia. These lifted the morale of the restive Christian Ethiopians, and upon arriving in Semien, he was surrounded by the apostates and others who had joined the Imam who sought his clemency. Soon after the young Emperor crossed the Tekezé, to observe Easter in Sard.[2] Garad Emar, Ahmad Gragn's governor of Ganz, assumed that Galawdewos' lieutenants would be away at their homes to celebrate the holiday, so picked this date to strike; according to Bruce, these plans were quickly communicated to Gelawdewos, who was able to prepare his own response.[3]

According to Bruce, when Garad Emar approached Sard he fell into an ambush Gelawdewos had prepared, and the governor's army was destroyed. However, Ethiopian chronicles state that Gelawdewos was defeated at Sahart.[4] Regardless of the outcome, Gelawdewos retired back over the Takaze. Although traditional account is that Gelawdewos retreated as far south as Shewa, C.F. Beckingham has produced evidence showing that the Ethiopian Emperor fled far to the south, over the Abay River into Gojjam, then back over the Abay to eventually reach Gindabret, "lying south of the most southerly reaches of the Blue Nile", sometime after 26 May.[5]


  1. ^ C.F. Beckingham, "A Note on the topography of Ahmad Gragn's campaigns in 1542", Journal of Semitic Studies, 4 (1959), p. 370
  2. ^ G.W.B. Huntingford locates Sard in Sahart (The historical geography of Ethiopia from the first century AD to 1704, (Oxford University Press: 1989), p. 134
  3. ^ As paraphrased by James Bruce, Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile (1805 edition), vol. 3, pp. 202f
  4. ^ C.F. Beckingham, "A Note on the topography of Ahmad Gragn's campaigns in 1542", Journal of Semitic Studies, 4 (1959), p. 370
  5. ^ Beckingham, "A Note," p. 371

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