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The Ethiopian-European Encounter

Since the very beginning of my graduate work, I developed a profound interest in the history of cross-cultural encounters, particularly interactions between sub-Saharan Africa and the Western world. During my dissertation research, I became intrigued by the complexity of Ethiopian-European relations in the early modern era.

Over the years, I maintained and further developed my interest in transcultural dealings between individuals and societies of the Horn of Africa and their interlocutors in the Red Sea, Mediterranean and Indian Ocean worlds. My historiographical method is heavily dependent on archival research as I privilege primary sources over theory.

If there is an order to my scholarly production, it would be the following: first, one should read The Ethiopian Age of Exploration (2010), which overviews 15th century Ethiopian arrivals in Europe and offers both a chronological and a thematic introduction to my scholarship. Then, my monograph expands on the 15th century dealings discussed in the article and examines 16th century Ethiopian-European relations. If you want to know more about exceptional Ethiopians in 16th century Rome, consider reading the monograph on Täsfa Ṣeyon (Pietro Abissino) I co-authored with two dear friends, which expands on the article we wrote for Itinerario a few years ago.  You should also read about Täsfa Ṣeyon's close friend Yohannәs or Giovanni Abissino. Next is the Society of Jesus’s mission to Ethiopia: while other scholars have written much more extensive accounts on the Jesuit era, my two articles offer a handy introduction and a discussion of its inception. I also wrote a brief article about the diplomatic legacy of the failed Jesuit mission in Ethiopia and Rome. If you are hard-pressed for time and only looking for a general introduction to early modern Ethiopian-European relations, consult my article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History.

In the last few years, I have been working on Ṣägga Krәstos (Zaga Christ), the self-styled Ethiopian prince who reached Italy as the Jesuit mission was faltering. Find out more about his incredible journey throughout Europe here.

Täsfa Ṣeyon, Yohạnnǝs, and Ṣägga Krәstos were Ethiopians who enjoyed positions or situations of privilege that departed significantly from the more common experience of diasporic oppression and, often, enslavement that characterized the lives of many Africans in early modern Europe. For this reason, in the last years I also worked to document the lives of individuals who left the Horn of Africa in bondage. Two such stories are that of Gabriel and António.


Täsfa Ṣәyon


Pietro Abissino

Ṣägga Krǝstos 
Zaga Christ





The African Prester John and the Birth of Ethiopia-European Relations, 1402-1555

The Ethiopian Cross at the Bargello



The Black Renassaince



Giovanni Battista Abissino

TED-Ed Lesson: The Imaginary King Who Changed The Real World

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