top of page



Empress Taytu Betul (1851-1918) was the wife of the Emperor of the Ethiopian Empire. She was a trusted advisor of her husband, and was a skilled strategist in war. 

Taytu Betul (1851-1918) was born into an aristocratic family. Betul studied and she could read and write Amharic. Because of her status, King Menelik II was arranged to be her husband. 


When Menelik became emperor of Ethiopia, Betul became empress. She advised Menelik in many areas and he listened to her ideas and used them. He often found it hard to say no, whereas Taytu would do so confidently. 


When Italy was trying to colonise Ethiopia they tried to trick the Ethiopians. They made a treaty in Italian and Amharic (Ethiopia’s main language). In the Italian version of the treaty, it said that Ethiopia would become an Italian colony but in the Amharic version it did not say this. When Betul found out, she was furious! She tore up the treaty and made her husband declare war on Italy. 


Even though she was advised to stay away from the fighting, she went to war. She motivated citizens to join or support the fighting and she led her own group of 5500 soldiers. 


She came up with clever ideas for winning the war. At one battle, she cut off the water Italian’s water supply and they surrendered after 10 days. She also worked out the best places to attack the Italians. She chose to attack them in a place called Adwa and this was a great success, leading to the end of the war and Ethiopian victory. 


Betul was also successful outside of war. She founded Addis Ababa and the city became a centre for commerce and politics, it also attracted foreign interest and investment. 


When Menelik became ill around 1906, Betul tried to get more power but not everyone liked her so she was forced to retire. She spent her last years in the mountains of Entoto. Taytu is the Amharic word for ‘sun’ and Taytu Betul is still known today as ‘the light of Ethiopia’.

Betul (810L-1000L): text

1 August 2020, Laura Webb

Works Cited Betul

Works Cited

Msemo, Mweha. “Ethiopian Empress behind the Battle That Humiliated the Italians.” Face2Face Africa, Pana Genius, 22

     Mar. 2019,

Ofoego, Obioma. “Taytu Betul” Women in African History,

Ofoego, Obioma & Onajin, Alaba. “Taytu Betul: the rise of an Itege” United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization,


The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Italo-Ethiopian War.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 27 May 2020,



Meyer, H. “Taytu Betul”, Le Petit Journal, 29 Mar. 1896,

Prokopiou, Georgios. “The Empress of Ethiopia Taytu Betul”, 1905,

bottom of page