Profiles in Black History: The Warrior Queen Amanirenas


Makheru Bradley

Amanirenas: A Kentake Queen of Ancient Kush

During the 1st BCE a series of strong Afrikan women known as the Kentake (Candace) Queens ruled the kingdom of Ancient Kush (modern day Sudan). Amanirenas, who ruled Kush from 40 – 10 BCE is the most renowned of these queens, largely due to her wars with the Roman Empire.

Unfortunately we don’t have the full history of Amanirenas from the Kushite perspective, because their language, written in the Meriotic Script, has not been fully deciphered. However, what we do know from historians such as Strabo (who was obviously biased towards Rome), is a story of remarkable leadership and battlefield courage.

In 30 BCE, the Roman Empire led by Octavian, who became known as Caesar Augustus, claimed KMT (Egypt) as a Roman province after the death of Cleopatra VII.

To secure its control of Egypt the Romans marched south conquering territories right up to the border of Kush. The countries eventually struck a deal that defined their respective borders. The Romans promised not to expand into Kush as long as the Kushite’s paid taxes to Rome.

By 24 BCE revolts against Roman taxation broke out in parts of Egypt as well as in Kush. The Kushite’s were also concerned by Roman designs to capture the gold mines of Wadi Allaqi, so they organized their forces and marched into Egypt attacking the Roman army.

Queen Amanirenas led the Kushite’s into battle, with her son Prince Akinidad, and defeated the Romans at Aswan and Thebes. During one of these battles Amanirenas lost one of her eyes, but she continued to fight, claiming Roman artifacts along the way. One of those artifacts was a decapitated head of Augustus which Amanirenas had buried at the entrance of a temple, so that she and her people were symbolically stepping on the Roman emperor every time they entered that temple.

The Romans regrouped with more troops and superior weapons and drove deep into Kush, but Amanirenas’ led fierce resistance that prevented the Romans from capturing their capital, Meroe. After three more years of war, Rome and Kush negotiated a peace treaty. The Romans agreed to return to Egypt, give Kush its land back, and end taxation.

The Warrior-Queen Amanirenas, an Afrikan woman of indomitable courage, led by example, fought the most powerful army in the world, and by fighting saved her people from foreign domination. Long live the spirit of Amanirenas.

Makheru Bradley is the author of the blog “Makheru Speaks”Makheru Speaks