A brief guide to the Hatetas
In this short blog post I’ll try to shade a light on the works of Zera Yaqob, the Philosopher and his dispel, Welde Hiwot as well some of the selected commentaries on their works. Disclaimer suggests no detailed analysis of their work is implied and if you’re one looking for it, you may have to look some other place.
It’s true that there was/is a debate over the identity — even their existence — of these two philosophers. There are some Eurocentric scholars like Carlo Conti Rossini, who doubt the existence of a seventeenth-century philosopher called Zera Yaqob and boldly remarks:
Zar’a Ya’aqob is not Ethiopian or there was no such philosopher called Zar’a Ya’aqob. The one known as Zara Ya’aqob was a pseudonym used by a 19th Century Freemason European — who penned the treatises as better known as the Hatetas.
Yet again in recent times, some Ethiopians reiterate this conclusion from a totally different perspective. However, from the Hatetas themselves to scholars who studied them in detail, we’ve got an enormous scholarship that ascertains Zera Yaqob’s citizenry — Ethiopian.
The squabbles aside, this post is all about introducing the Hatetas to a novice. Reading the Hatetas kicks us to see the resemblance of Zara Yaqob-Wolde Hiwot duo as something akin to with the Socrates-Plato duo — a master-pupil relationship. That’s why Welde Hiwot’s treatise feels akin as a sequel to Zera Yaqob’s grand treatise.
When we jump to the biography of the master and the pupil, the opening lines of Hateta Zar’a Yaaqob began by introducing the writer’s himself:
I was born in the land of the priests of Aksum. But I am the son of a poor farmer in the district of Aksum; the day of my birth is 25th of Nahase 1592 A. D., the third year of the year of [King] Yaquob. By Christian baptism I was named Zar’a Ya’aqob, but people called me Warqye.
Contrarily, there’s no such autobiographical introduction on Welde Hiwot’s treatise. Some delve into his life and suggest ‘Melaku’ as Walde Hiwot’s pre-baptismal name. On a different point, though, the treatise of Welde Hiwot is much longer, detailed, parable-filled and allegorical, scholars seems interested in the work of Zara Yaqob. Mathias Victorien Ntep aptly remarked the status of Zara Yaqob in the world philosophy as:
If the Frenchman René Descartes is regarded as the pioneer of “Modern Philosophy”, if many believe that Kant – the philosopher who borrowed the concept of the “Thing in itself” or “Noumenon” from Amo, the philosopher of Guinea in Africa – is the “greatest philosopher” of the “European Enlightenment”, then all those who´re hep to and familiar with the treatises of Zera Yacob or Zar´a Ja´aqob would argue with me that the works of this East African philosopher represent the climax of both “Modern Philosophy” and the “Age of Enlightenment.
Amplifying the above assertion, Ethiopian philosopher, Tedros Kiros enunciate that:
Zar’a Ya’aqob is the founder of rationality in Africa. He was a contemporary of Rene Descartes, the founder of rationality in France.
Yet again Claude Sumner, ‘a Canadian by birth an Ethiopian by choice’, Philosopher takes the praise to Zara Yaqob to a new level as:
Modern Philosophy, in the sense of a personal rationalistic critical investigation, began in Ethiopia with Zär´a Ya´aqob at the same time as in England and in France.
Hereinbelow are the treatises of Zera Yaqob and Welde Hiwot in different languages and selected commentaries/critiques on the treatises — all downloadable.
Hateta Zera Yaqob
Amharic 1, translated by Zemenfes Kidus Abraha, 1955
Amharic 2 translated by Getachew Haile, 2014
English, translated by Claude Sumner
Hateta Walda Heywat
Critiques and commentaries on the Hatetas — by Claude Sumner
Ethiopian Philosophy, vol. II: The Treatise of Zera Yaqob and Welde Hiwot: Text and Authorship
Ethiopian Philosophy, vol. III: The Treatise of Zera Yaqob and Welde Hiwot: An Analysis
Classical Ethiopian Philosophy
The Light and the Shadow: Zera Yacob and Walda Heywat: Two Ethiopian Philosophers of the Seventeenth Century, Page 172 -182
Critiques and commentaries on the Hatetas — by Tedros Kiros
Zera Yacob and Traditional Ethiopian Philosophy Page 183-191
Critiques and commentaries on the Hatetas — by different scholars
The Ethics of Zär’a Ya’eqob, by Dawit Worku Kidane
Review on Tedros Kiros’s ‘Ethiopian rationalist philosopher of the seventeenth century, Zara Yaqob, by Andrej Krause
Zara Yacob’s theory of truth, by Abel Cherinet
Zar’a Ya’aqob: The Ethiopian philosopher founder of “Hatataism“, by Mathias Victorien Ntep
Zar’a Ya’eqob’s Argument For The Existence Of God, by Chemeda Bokora
Philosopher Zereyacob, by Habte Churnet
To be updated….