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Zä-Mika'él 'Arägawi
fl. late 5th to early 6th century
Orthodox
Ethiopia


Zä-Mika'él 'Arägawi, or 'Arägawi Zä-Mika'él, Abba, was one of the Nine Saints of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church who came from various parts of the Roman Empire to escape persecution after the Council of Chalcedon (451). The Nine Saints, Abba 'Afs, Abba 'Alf, Abba Grima, Abba Guba, Abba Liqanos, Abba Pntlwon, Abba Shma, Abba Ym'ata and Abba Z-Mika'l 'Argawi were learned monks who revitalized Christianity in Ethiopia and to whom the Ge'ez version of the New Testament is attributed. The account of the life of Z-Mika'l 'Argawi, contained in a gdl, or Acts, of the late fifteenth century, emphasizes the miraculous, is somewhat contradictory, and reflects the prejudices of Dbr Damo. The son of Yeshaq and 'Edna of the royal family in Rome, he became a monk at the age of fourteen with Pachomius (d. 348) in the Thebad, and it was the latter who called him Z-Mika'l. His fame attracted the other eight, who remained many years with him and Pachomius. 'Edna too joined him as a nun. Seven years after Pachomius' death, Z-Mika'l returned to Rome and then proceeded to Aksum, which he found already evangelized, whereupon he invited the others to join him there. Along with Yeshaq and 'Edna, they were welcomed by Emperor 'Al'amda (Emperor 'Ell-'Amda II) in the fifth year of his reign, and then by his successor, Emperor Tazn. The Nine Saints lived at the court for twelve years, but in the sixth year of Tazn's reign they separated, each to go to his own way. Z-Mika'l and 'Edna, with a disciple called Mattwos, went to Eggala, Tegr, where the hill Damo was chosen for a monastery and he established the Pachomian or coenobitic monastic life. In Ethiopian iconography Z-Mika'l 'Argawi is often portrayed with a serpent, for, when unable to find a path up the rocky site, he held fast to the tail of a serpent and was pulled up to the summit. His gdl claims that Emperor Kalb consulted him before setting out to attack Dhu Nuwas. The monastery of Dbr Damo was erected by Emperor Gbr-Msql in the eleventh year of his reign on a spot indicated by Z-Mika'l, and a large community of monks gathered around him, 'Edna, and a disciple, Ptros. His death took place on 14 Teqemt (24 October), after he had appointed Mattwos as his successor.

A. K. Irvine, Otto F. A. Meinardus and Seifu Metaferia


Bibliography:

E. A. Wallis Budge, The Book of the Saints of the Ethiopian Church (Cambridge, 1928), Vol. I, 155.
--------, A History of Ethiopia (London, 1928), Vol. I.
I. Guidi, "La chiesa abissina", Oriente Moderno, Vol. II (Roma, 1896).
F. M. Esteves Pereira, Historia dos Martyres de Nagran (Lisboa, 1899).
A. Dillmann, "Zur Geschichte des Axumitishcen Reiches im vierten bis sechsten Jahrhundert", Abhandlungen der Kniglichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin (1880).
E. Littmann, The Legend of the Queen of Sheba (Leyden, 1904).
M. Chaine, "Repertoire de Salam et Malke'e," La Revue de l'Orient Chrtien (1913).
J.-B. Coulbeaux, Histoire politique et religieuse de l'Abyssinie (Paris, 1929), Vol. I.
M.-A. Van Den Oudenrijn, La vie de Saint Za Mika'l 'Aragawi (Fribourg, 1939).
C. Conti Rossini, "L'omilia di Yohannes vescovo di Aksum in onore di Garima," Actes du Congrs International des Orientalistes, Section Smitique (Paris, 1898).
-------- (ed. ), Acta Yared et Pantalewon, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, Scriptores aethiopici, series altera, t. XVII.
--------, Storia d'Etiopia (Bergamo, 1928).
Sergew Hable-Selassie, Ancient and Medieval Ethiopian History to 1270 (Addis Ababa, 1972), 115 ff.


This article is reproduced, with permission, from The Dictionary of Ethiopian Biography, Vol. 1 'From Early Times to the End of the Zagw Dynasty c. 1270 A.D.,' copyright © 1975, edited by Belaynesh Michael, S. Chojnacki and Richard Pankhurst, Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. All rights reserved.

Za-Mikael Aragawi