Queen Amenirenas was a Nubian ruler of the ancient African kingdom of Kush (located in modern-day Sudan), who is widely recognized as a skilled warrior after defending her kingdom against the armies of the Roman Empire. Under her guidance, she led over 30,000 soldiers in a victory against Caesar Augustus. She is one of the earliest personalities who fought against Western rule.
Amanirenas was born between 60 and 50 B.C. She was the second of eight Kandakes (Kandake or Candace meaning “great woman” and the equivalent of queen or queen mother) who governed the territory of Kush. These queen mothers were specially vested with the duty of ruling the kingdom at that time. It wasn’t an unfamiliar occurrence. More female dominance existed for a longer period of their political rule. The Nubians had a strong reputation for being excellent archers. Their Northern Egyptian neighbours referred to their land as “Ta-Seti,” meaning the “land of the bows.” As a result, Queen Amanirenas gained notoriety for being one of the best archers in the land.
Queen Amanirenas ruled the area between the Nile and the Atbara River between 40-10 B.C. Her ascension to the throne began after the death of her husband Teritegase in late 25 B.C. Teritegase had died during a battle against the Roman soldiers in their attempt to further expand into the land of Kush. Initially, Amanirenas’ territory had made enormous wealth by trading their gold and other valuable items to Egypt. However, everything came crumbling when the Roman forces headed by Caesar Augustus seized control of Egypt from Mark Anthony and Cleopatra in 30 B.C.
When Emperor Caesar Augustus defeated the Egyptians and made their land one of the provinces of the Roman Empire, he figured an opportunity to expand his political governance by encroaching further south into the Kingdom of Kush. Queen Amanirenas and her son Prince Akinidad were the only trace of royalty left to save and lead the people against what was a possible threat. When word spread out to Amanirenas that danger was looming, she knew she had to quickly plot a defence as Kush was much smaller and outnumbered against their Roman counterparts.
Thus, she decided to go on the offensive after she launched a surprise attack against the Romans. Queen Amanirenas commanded over 30,000 soldiers of the ancient Kingdom of Kush, who, took to arms and fought back Roman invaders who had advanced from Egypt. Caesar Augustus’s men had already settled on the region’s fertile land and enforced exploitative taxes on the people of Meroë—the capital of Kush. The Queen led her army from the front with her son by her side. Her surprise attack was a massive success and she captured the Roman-occupied cities of Aswan, Philae and Elephantine. To make an intimidating statement, the Queen’s fighters demolished the statues of the Roman emperor and sold the prisoners of war into slavery.
Caesar Augustus went into a total and complete rage because of this and retaliated by invading Kush. His men destroyed the old capital and sold thousands into slavery. The Romans then celebrated defeating Kush. Lo and behold, Queen Amanirenas was not ready to give up! She counterattacked and fought extensively to avoid surrender. The battle continued for another three years!
On one occasion, Queen Amanerinas was blinded in one eye by a Roman soldier. She sought shelter within her walls and treated the condition. After her wound healed, Queen Amanerinas went back to fighting and commanding her army in several more fights against the Romans. After three years, however, there were peace talks and a treaty was signed, which was favourable to the Nubians. The now-humbled Emperor Augustus summarily agreed to take his army out of Egypt, return the stolen lands, and completely cancel the taxes.
It is said that 400 years later, some areas of Kush would eventually weaken and become fragile to another attempt by Roman Empire. However, history highly classed Queen Amanirenas as the bravest and most confident ruler in the history of Kush. Her gains and charismatic prowess against the Roman empire sealed her legacy as one of the few historical figures who resisted Western rule.