"African Queens: The First Women to Rule"
Updated: May 4, 2021
Did you know?
African Women were the first women in history to Rule, to be a Priest, Politician, and even be considered a god. Yes, before the Euro-American women's liberation movements in the 1800's, African women descended from the longest list of Women Rulers in world history.
African women played significant roles in the history of the continent. There were many powerful and clever women who were African leaders and played influential roles in the history of the world, most especially during pre and post-British colonial era.
Here are 3 of the Most powerful African Queens:
Amanirenas was a queen of the ancient African Kingdom of Kush/Nubia who was best known for skillfully defending her kingdom against the armies of the Roman Empire. The Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 B.C. led to further excursions south toward Kush. The attempt by the new Roman provincial governor of Egypt, Cornelius Gallus, to impose taxation on Kush, prompted the Kushites to peremptorily attack Roman-held cities in southern Egypt in 27 B.C. The Kushites scored initial victories at Philae and Syene (today Aswan). However, during the early stage of the five-year conflict, the queen’s husband, King Teriteqas, perished in battle, leaving the responsibility to prosecute the war on Kandake Amanirenas and her son, Prince Akinidad. From her throne in the capital city of Meroë, she led the Kushites north to engage the Romans. The Kushite triumph at Syene in 24 B.C. resulted in the city being sacked and statues of Roman Emperor Augustus vandalized. A bronze head of the emperor was transported to the royal palace where it was buried under the entrance, a contemptuous insult to a powerful, defeated foe. Having lost an eye in battle, Petronius referred to the queen as “One Eye Kandace.” By the end of 24 B.C., she had lost her son in the war to thwart Roman expansion and ensure Kush’s sovereignty. After five years of ongoing wars, a peace agreement recognized a stalemate between Rome and Kush.
Kandake Amanirenas, had spared her people centuries of domination by successfully resisting complete conquest by Rome. Unlike other kingdoms on the edge of Roman Europe, Roman Africa, or Roman Asia, she did not cede large swaths of territory and never was forced to pay tribute or contribute material resources to Rome.
Hatshepsut was an Kemite (Egyptian) Queen who became Pharaoh and ruled Kemet (Egypt) for 20 years. Her reign, was the longest any women had sat on the throne in Egypt. Her name means "Foremost of Noble Women" or "She is First Among Noble Women". She began her reign as regent to her stepson Thutmose III. She was the fifth pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty during the period known as the New Kingdom and regarded as the best dynasty in Egyptian history since the pyramid builders.
Hatshepsut's greatest efforts went into trade campaigns like, "The Expedition to the Land of Punt", and building projects like the mortuary temple, "Djeser-Djeseru". Hatshepsut's delegation returned from Punt bearing 31 live myrrh trees, the roots of which were carefully kept in baskets for the duration of the voyage. This was the first recorded attempt to transplant foreign trees. It is reported that Hatshepsut had these trees planted in the courts of her mortuary temple complex. Egyptians also returned with a number of other gifts from Punt, among which was frankincense. Hatshepsut would grind the charred frankincense into kohl eyeliner. This is the first recorded use of the resin. These events not only elevated her name and honored the gods but employed the people. The scope and size of Hatshepsut's constructions, as well as their elegant beauty, attest to a very peaceful and prosperous reign.
Nandi, whose name means "a woman of high esteem," was born into the Langeni tribe in the mid-18th century, in what is now South Africa. Around 1787, she had an illicit affair with Senzangakhona, the chief of the Zulu tribe, and gave birth to Shaka, who would later become one of the greatest Zulu chiefs and African military leaders. Although Senzangakhona then married her, Nandi was condemned as a disgrace by the Zulu and the Langeni, both because of her pregnancy and because she and her husband were considered too closely related to be married. Abuse at the hands of the Zulu forced Nandi and Shaka to return to her tribe, only to be cast out once more during the famine of 1802. They then found refuge with the Mthethwa (Mtetwa) people, whose chief Dingiswayo was in the process of creating a powerful military state. Shaka proved to be a fearless warrior and rose through the ranks of the Mthethwa army, being named by Dingiswayo as his successor before Dingiswayo's assassination in 1817.
Senzangakhona died around 1815, and Shaka soon claimed the chieftainship of the Zulu by force. Many believe Nandi shared equal power with her son, she was called Ndlorukazi, "The Great Elephant." Nandi's close relationship with her son, who never married, gave her unheard-of power. She used her position to take revenge on her enemies whom mistreated her during the reign of Senzangakhona. Under Shaka's rule, the Zulu became a powerful, even legendary, military force, some 70,000 strong. He also established an all-female regimen, which has been attributed to the example set for him by his warrior-mother.
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