A long, long time ago, when Rome conquered Egypt, it advanced south to try and take Kush, a Nubian kingdom that was based in what is today known as Sudan. Rome had figured that since it had a larger army, and Kush’s emperor, Teriqetas, had just died, taking Kush would be effortless.
Little did they know what was in store for them – a fierce one-eyed queen who would fight them tooth and nail.
Who exactly was this woman?
Born in the 60s BC, Amanirenas grew into a fine African woman and became the wife of Teriqetas, emperor of Kush. One day, Teriqetas was killed battle. The widowed Queen Amanirenas became the sole ruler of Kush.
During her time as queen, Augustus, who was the emperor of Rome, laid Egypt under siege. He attacked at a time when the famous Marc Anthony and Cleopatra were the rulers of Egypt. Augustus defeated the duo and managed to make Egypt a province of Rome.
After defeating the Egyptians, Augustus wasn’t satisfied. His plan was to advance south and expand his colony. After Egypt, the next target south was Nubia, which housed Amanirenas’s empire. Augustus figured that since the kingdom’s king had recently died, taking Kush would be an easy process. He never thought a woman would put up a fight. Besides, Kush was even smaller than Egypt, so it made sense that taking it would be easier than it was to take Egypt.
But Amanirenas had other plans. She aimed to not only resist the Roman invasion but also drive them out of Egypt. Would she accomplish these daunting tasks?
You see, Amanirenas was a woman, going up against men, and not just any men, but Augustus and the Roman soldiers. Secondly, Amanirenas was one-eyed. And thirdly, her army was much smaller than that of the invading Romans. What was she to do?
Amanirenas had to be very smart even to stand a chance.
In the 20s BC, she gathered an army of soldiers, 30 thousand strong. She did not go into an open field with the Romans, as she knew she’d lose using that strategy.
Instead, she applied the element of surprise. She did not inform the Romans of her intention to fight back.
So, Amanirenas waited for Gallus, the prefect in charge of Roman Egypt to go on other campaigns. As Gallus would have taken a part of the army, the one-eyed queen figured she would be confronting a smaller army. That, coupled with the element of surprise, would give her an edge.
The queen took her army of 30000 soldiers and marched to Egypt at night. She attacked two major cities, Philae and Syene, which served as the Roman bases. Amanirenas and her soldiers struck with such vigor that the Romans didn’t stand a chance. The queen and her Kushite army beat the Romans and captured the two cities. They destroyed most of the statues the Romans had put up and took many captives before returning to Kush.
Amanirenas did something else. She cut off the head of Emperor Augustus’s bronze statue and took it along as a trophy when she returned to her land. The brave queen went ahead to burry the head beneath a temple’s steps in Kush.
Today, the head is preserved as an artefact in the British Museum.
As much as Amanirenas’s actions infuriated the Romans, they sent a message – she was not afraid of them and she would fight them to death.
The following year, the Romans raided Amanirenas’s base in Egypt. With their army, which was larger, the Romans managed to drive the Kushites out of Syene.
Augustus was mad at the Kushites for their audacity to resist Rome, which everyone feared in those days. He ordered his army to not only take Egypt back from the Kushites, but also advance south and take all the kingdoms in the region.
So after taking Egypt and pushing out the Kushites, the Romans went toward the south. They arrived in Natapa, a city to the north of Amanirenas’s territory. The Romans conquered Natapa and captured numerous Nubians, who they sold out as slaves.
After that, Amanirenas and her people were the next target.
But Queen Amanirenas did not have any intentions to surrender.
Queen Amanirenas faced the same major problem as before – the Roman army was much larger than hers. Still, she was not Over a period of five years, the queen led numerous campaigns to stop the Romans from making their way into the heart of Kush.
Her tactic was guerilla warfare. With it, she was able to frustrate Augustus’s men for five years, until Rome finally got fed up. Afterward, the two parties entered a peace treaty. The Romans gave back the land they had stolen from the Kushites and ceased their activities in Egypt.
Kush enjoyed prosperity and growth thereafter and throughout Amanirenas’s reign. After Amanirenas was a series of queens who served as sole rulers in the Nubian kingdom of Kush. The Nubian queens, going from Amanirenas and Amanishakheto to Amanitore, were a perfect illustration of the dexterity of the woman, in this case, the African woman.