It may well be said that precisely the sec. XIV and XV marked the highest flower of the Ethiopian letters. Strange to note: among the many works passed from Arabic or written in Ethiopian there is an operetta – The Acts of San Sebastiano – translated from Italian. In the century XV, or much more probably at the beginning of the XVII, the collection of canon law and civil law (the latter partly drawn from Muslim law and partly from Byzantine juridical books) was translated from Arabic into Ethiopian Arab around the middle of the century. XIII from the Egyptian Coptic Ibn al-‛Assāl and who in the Ethiopian translation took the title of Fe ṭḥ a Nagast, that is “Right of Kings”. The great invasion of Grāñ stops, does not completely stop this activity: in 1540 a Marqoryos translates prayers from Arabic, and the same proceeds to revise some of the biblical books on the original Hebrew. Vinto Grāñ, the kings Galāwdēwos and Sarṣa Dengel resume favoring letters. ‛Enbāqom, Muslim of origin, who for a short time came to occupy the supreme office of Dabra Libānos, in addition to minor things, translated in 1553 the novel by Barlaam and Ioasaf, and, shortly after 1563, the great chronograph work of Abu Shākir. Salik, by Dabra Libanos, in 1583 finished the version of one of the most voluminous works of Abyssinian literature, a kind of theological encyclopedia, called the Ma ṣḥ afa Ḥ awi. And it is said that at the same time another of the major Abyssinian theological works, the H ā ym ā note Abaw “Faith of the Fathers”, was translated by a Mabā’a Ṣyon son of ras ‛Amdu. In 1602 the important Lronaca di Giovanni di Nikiu was translated, the original of which seems lost. But now the age of translations is over. However, the impulse in indigenous production remains: indeed the many religious controversies, particularly those raised by Catholics, give rise to a certain amount of polemical writings. Regardless of these, there are several original works at the time of Malak Sagad it seems to have composed an indigenous novel on the legendary events of Alexander the Great; in the convent of Dabra Māryām a collection of Mazmura Krestòs “psalter of Christ”; on the initiative of the king, abbā Gērā and abbā Ḥabla Sellāsē give the current form to the Deggu ā, a powerful collection of sacred hymns, which, although not likely to re-mount in Yārēd (6th century) as tradition dictates, must be quite ancient.
Practically it can be said that – except in the historical field – the Abyssinian literary movement ends with King Malak Sagad and his immediate successors: the translation of Faws Manfas ā wi “Spiritual Medicine” by order of Queen Sabla Wangēl, around 1687 is an exception; in the sec. XVIII, with kings Iyāsu II and Iyo’as and with queen Mentewwāb, there is a resumption of activity, but it is limited to the copying of codes, thus reaching the Abyssinian calligraphy at the maximum point of regularity and beauty. Indigenous literature and culture are affected by the devastation of Grāñ, which had destroyed an infinity of churches and convents with the adjoining libraries, the invasions and immigrants no less devastating than the Galla, the progressive decline and the barbarization of the country, the religious struggles first between Catholics and Monophysites then between the various Monophysite sects, struggles that absorb all the attention of the clergy and writers, as in the worst ages of Byzantium.
Only one branch should be excluded. The sec. XIV and, more, the XV, were noted for the interest given to indigenous hagiography, from which the Acts (gadl) of many contemporary abbots and monks or dead not long ago, in their own convents and sometimes by their disciples and companions (eg. Acts of Baṣalota Mika’ēl, d’Anorēwos, Philippos di Dabra Libānos, d ‘Ēwosṭātēwos, of Absādi, of Filippòs of Dabra Bizan, etc.). In the following centuries the hagiographic literature, not infrequently important also for the history of the country, does not completely cease, as we have in the century. XVI the Acts of Mātyās of Addi Chè (Eritrea); in the seventeenth those of Marqorēwos of Dabra Demāh (Dembelas), and of Walatta Pēṭros bitter enemy of the Catholics; in the sec. XVIII those of Zar’ā Buruk and Abrānyos (died 1718), the most recent of the Abyssinian saints known to us. But more than gadgets the history of the kings is cultivated, of which only occasional narratives are known for the previous centuries. From Lebna Dengel up to the time of King Theodore, with rare gaps, the events of the country are written down, by historians living at the royal court, and who sometimes read the chronicles they wrote to their own sovereigns: of these historians the name is also often known. Among them the most notable is the historian of Malak Sagad, perhaps called Takla Hāymānot; some pages of his work would also figure well in a more advanced literature, while the precision of his exposition and the equanimity of his judgments are worthy of praise ”, p. ex. towards the Jews, against whom his king waged a bitter war. Alongside the official historians there are private ones; hence for some periods there are several written sources, animated by different spirits and tendencies. Apart from a report on the Galla, written towards the end of the 16th century by an abbā Bāḥrey, important not only for the subject but also for a spirit of investigation into the causes of the ruin of Ethiopia, and the abbreviated chronicle of the king of Abyssinia, the work of several authors and several centuries, which, starting from a report on the wars between Grāñ and the Christians, was conducted to the century. XVIII, and, in an editorial office, even to the XIX, using direct information from the writers or sources not yet known to us.