How many have ever heard of the name Amanirenas before or even read about her? Probably none or very few, if any. We do not hear about her often because no one wants to tell us that an African Queen and her military forces stood against the Romans. It is a wake-up call to us people of African descent to tell our own stories rather than sit back and expect someone else to do it for us.

Amanirenas was a kandake (queen/great woman) of the Kush Kingdom( located in modern-day Sudan) between 40-10BC. She was born between 60 and 50 BC and was the second of the eight Kandakes of the Kingdom of Kush. She was best known for skillfully defending her kingdom against the Romans.

Among the Nubian people, archery was not limited to men, as women too exhibited matching prowess. This gave rise to women Nubian warriors and queens, among them Queen Aminarenas.

After the demise of her husband, Emperor Teriqetas, she took over as the ruler of the Nubians. Her transition into rulership was accepted as the Kush Kingdom had been previously ruled by a dynasty of women. 

During her rule, the Roman Empire under Emperor Caesar Augustus was conquering various territories such as Egypt. He defeated Egypt under the rule of Cleopatra and Marc Anthony, making it one of its provinces. After the defeat, Emperor Augustus decided to push further south, making Nubia the next target.  

When Queen Amanirenas received the news of the impending Roman attack, she had to think swiftly and strategically because Kush was much smaller than the Roman Empire in size and army. She decided to take the battle to the Romans by launching a surprise attack. 

Together with her son Prince Akinidad, Queen Amanirenas led an army of 30,000 soldiers to fight the Romans in Egypt, which was highly successful. She took over three major Roman cities, took captives and destroyed many statues of Emporer Augustus. Amanirenas ordered the head removed from one bronze statue of Augustus. Upon return to her palace, she buried it beneath the entrance as an insult to the emperor.

Rome retaliated by invading Kush, destroying its old capital, selling thousands into slavery and reclaiming its cities. The Romans declared victory, but woe unto them, the battle wasn't over yet. Amanirenas counterattacked quickly and repeatedly, with what must have been well-calculated war tactics. Some historical paintings depict her with two swords feeding captives to her pet lion. Others claim that she used war elephants on her enemies.

During one of the fights, the queen was injured by a Roman soldier and blinded in one eye(leading to her reference as the Brave One-Eyed African Queen ). After her wound healed, she went back to leading her army in several more fights against the Romans.

After three years of battle, the two parties decided to sign a peace treaty that favoured the Kushites. Emperor Caesar Augustus agreed to take his army out of Egypt, give the Nubians back their land, and cancel all taxes.

Amanirenas ruled until her death in 10 BC, and Kandake Amanishakheto took over. Today, we remember many kandakes of the Kush Kingdom as brave women who led their kingdom to great victories.

Additional Resources

The Greatest African Queen The World Forgot: Queen Amanirenas

Amanirenas, the brave one-eyed African queen who led an army against the Romans in 24BC

Queen Amanirenas: The Story of the White Nile Nubi Archeress


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