Sunday, November 25, 2012

"If you would gain a throne and hold it, . . .

fear not to make of human skulls they stepping stones."
Taitu Betul (Empress of Abyssinia) 

Is murder an outward demonstration of psychosis? Does a thirst for power, and acting on it, make someone a psychotic killer? In my previous blogs, I've discussed novels that pertain to certain psych-killers in fiction. Today, I'll highlight a case that is debatable as psychotic or as simply strategic. Was she a homicidal maniac or extreme opportunist? Maybe she was both.

Taitu Betul is often seen as a heroine in Ethiopia, and hailed the "mother warrior." In the late 1800's while battling with the Italians, she helped to keep the leaders of Italy from taking over the country. She's considered a strong female hero in her country and many websites and articles praise her strength and perseverence.

But who was Taitu Betul before she rose to power? One thing articles of praise fail to mention is that she was married several times in her life. She's alleged to have killed eleven husbands, labeling her one of the most aristocratic "black widows" of her time.  The following is a listing of her husbands:

1 – RAS ABARA (married him at age 16) 

2—A COMMON SOLDIER (reportedly stabbed him in the back) 

3—THE CONQUERING GENERAL (stabbed him through the heart)

4—RAS MOGOLO (contracted to have her husband murdered)

5—RAS MONTARA (it is sais she beheaded him)

6—GEN. TACKEL GHEORGHIS (her husband was executed after her plot to take over the kingdom of Tigre) 

7—THE GOVERNOR OK EGIOU (her husband died as a result of her conspiracy with others)

8—THE MONEY LENDER OF GONDOR. (reportedly died showing symptoms of poisoning)

9—ABEBA. (Her husband was decapitated as a result of conspiracy against Menelik)

10—ZECCARAGAGIAN (cause of death not mentioned)

11—MENELIK (reportedly died years before his death was announced)

This listing was supposedly obtained from an article written in 1914:

“The Worst Woman In the World – Dowager Empress Taitu, Who Climbed from the Gutter to the Throne, Married Eleven Times, Joined in Innumerable Intrigues and Murders, and Is Now at Last Safely Locked Up, to the Great Relief of Abyssinia,” Indianapolis Star Magazine Section (In.), Feb. 22, 1914, p. 1]

In addition, the following are quotes attributed to Empress Taitu Betul

As a woman dealing with men, let dissimulation be thy watch-word. Let no man know thy secret thoughts and ambitions.

If another woman stand in thy way, take her to thy bosom; if a man, beguile and marry him.

Harden thy heart to all pity, all remorse; then shall thy mind and heart be free, without scruple, to gain high aims.

A heart that is without tenderness of mercy alone can inhabit a body able to endure and to suffer all.

When thou hast gained thy throne, yearn not weakly for the love of thy subjects lest they perceive thy weakness and one day overthrow thee; as by blood thou gainest thy crown, through blood only shall thou retain it.


There is little other than these quotes and brief history that describe the Empress. Was she a victim of circumstance eleven times? You decide.


  1. I've been chewing this article over a lot since you posted it and it's definitely thought provoking. My knee jerk response is usually to define psychos as aberrations in a healthy society and that the cultures of previous ages were defined by atrocity, but even amid bloody times you get exceptional tyrants like Vlad the Impaler (who, to be fair, was probably the victim of Catholic propaganda.)

    Interesting article. Good pick. I salute you for going off the path. If you could, expand on what makes a person a psycho if they live in an age where cruelty is rewarded. Doesn't that make it a rational choice?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Cruelty finding reward is common in all ages. Kindness is also found in all ages. So are cowardice and self-sacrificial bravery.

      Rewarded cruelty today: Look at Secretary of State Albright's comments on the painful deaths of 100,000s of Iraqi children's deaths due to sanctions or, just a few years back, the bountifully rewarded "Operation Cast Lead" with its phosphorous bombs dropped on kids. (You can find daughter of Ergun member Ms. Livni's comments on this massacre on Youtube).

      For quotes of some closer to home psychos, google this: "Female Serial Killer Quotations"