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Queen Amanirenas: The Nubian Queen Who Defeated the Romans

May 23, 2022

Armed with bravery and clothed in strength was Queen Amanirenas – a fierce woman with impeccable courage; this is the story of Nubian archeress who conquered the Romans from 25 to 21 B.C

No man thought to cross her.

Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Kush, the region below modern-day Sudan, was Queen Amanirenas: the second Queen of the Kush Kingdom, popularly known as Queen Mother of Kankade.

In Kush, archery was not strictly limited to men, but women were allowed to practice it as well. This ultimately led to a large number of Nubian warriors and queens adopting the practice, and amongst them was Queen Amanirenas.

She ascended to power when her husband, Teriteqase, passed away in late 25 B.C. The queen was left with her son, Prince Akinidad, to fight the Roman invasion which had begun in lower Nubia (the north of the kingdom).

In a moment of fierce determination, the queen would soon become one of the most well-known female rulers of the ancient world. Under her rule, she decided to fight the Roman invaders who had advanced from Egypt, encroaching on the fertile lands of Nubia, and enforcing high taxation on the people of Meroë, the capital of Kush.

Kush was a part of Nubia, it is described as the region between the Cataracts of the Nile, which is an area that corresponds to the modern areas of Aswan in Egypt and Sudan.

Kush Kingdom / Modern-day Sudan | image via Encyclopedia Britannica
image via Egyptian geographic

Leading an army of nearly 30,000 soldiers equipped with swords, bows, and arrows, Queen Amanirenas launched a surprise attack. With her son by her side, the queen led the army from the front. The operation was successful, and she managed to capture the Roman-occupied cities.

However, the war was not over yet. After the queen’s victory, her army celebrated by defacing many statues of Emperor Augustus, the leader of the Roman army, as a testament to their victory. As a result, the Romans retailiated by invading Kush, destroying its old capital, and selling thousands into slavery. Determined, the queen fought tooth and nail throughout the battles, during which she was blinded in one eye by Roman soldiers, landing her another title as “the one-eyed queen.”

After nearly four years of grueling battle, a peace treaty, favorable to the Nubians, was signed. Although details of the treaty are unclear to this day, sources suggest that Amanirenas’ resistance was what led to the weakening of the Roman standing in the area, despite her military losses.

The queen’s victory against Roman rule presumably inspired generations of powerful female rulers in Meroë – she is remembered as a strong warrior and a true leader.

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