Amanishakheto, Warrior Queen of Nubia

Nubia_Stele of Amanishakheto from the temple of Amun in Naqa
Stele of Amanishakheto (center) from the temple of Amun in Wad ban Naqa (Wikipedia)

Amanishakheto was a great queen of Nubia and is known as a great warrior and pyramid builder; she built numerous pyramids and temples at Meroë. She is also the daughter of Amanirenas, the fearless and one-eyed queen who defeated the Romans, and the mother of Amanitore, another great queen. Today, vestiges of her palace which had been destroyed and plundered by the Italian explorer Giuseppe Ferlini can still be seen at Wad ban Naqa, and her jewelry (looted by the same Italian), are now on display at the Egyptian Museum of Berlin, and at the Egyptian Museum of Munich.

African Heritage

Candace Amanishakheto on a mural Candace Amanishakheto on a mural

Great women are often left out of history.  Rarely do we hear or read about African queens.  It is already hard enough to read about great African men and leaders in history books, but as for African women… it is more like impossible.  How many have heard of the great warrior queen of Nubia, Amanishakheto, who defeated a Roman army?  Who has heard of this great queen whose pyramid/tomb was leveled to the ground by an Italian treasure hunter, Giuseppe Ferlini, in 1832? Who has heard of this woman who led her people with a strong arm, and built pyramids in Meroë?  Who has heard of this great candace, whose daughter Amanitore, also queen of Nubia, is mentioned in the Bible (Acts 8:27) … yeah the Queen of Sheba is not the only African…

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Great Warrior Queen of Nubia: Amanirenas

Sculpture of Candace Amanirenas on a pyramid wall in Barwa, Sudan

Amanirenas was a great Candace, queen, of the Nubian kingdom, mother to queen Amanishakheto, and grandmother to queen AmanitoreAmanirenas was a great warrior queen.  She built considerable pyramids and temples at Wad Ban Naqa, where she was buried with great treasures.

Her full name and title was Amnirense qore li kdwe li (“Ameniras, Qore and Kandake“). She reigned from about 40BC to 10BC, and is one of the most famous Kandakes, because of her role leading Kushite armies against the Romans in a war that lasted five years, from 27 BCE to 22 BCE. After an initial victory when the Kushites attacked Roman Egypt, they were driven out of Egypt by Gaius Petronius and the Romans established a new frontier at Hiere Sycaminos (Maharraqa). Amanirenas was described as brave, and blind in one eye. Some say that her name means Amani is her name. Amani is the Nubian name for Imana/Amon, Unique God of Africa.

nubia_hamadab stela showing amanirenas and akinidad
Hamadab stela showing Queen Amanirenas and Prince Akinidad facing various Egyptian deities Amun and Mut

Meroitic inscriptions give Amanirenas the title of qore as well as Kandake suggesting that she was a ruling queen. She is usually considered to be the queen referred to as “Candace” in Strabo‘s account of the Meroitic war against the Roman Empire. Her name is associated with those of Teriteqas and Akinidad. King Teriteqas died shortly after the beginning of the war. She was succeeded by Akinidad (possibly the son of Teriteqas) who continued the campaign with his mother Amanirenas. Akinidad died at Dakka c. 24BC. The loss of one eye during battle made Amanirenas even stronger and braver. She despised death, and her fearlessness forced the admiration of Strabo, the Greek historian, who said, “this queen has a courage above that of her gender.”

When Aelius Gallus, the Prefect, or chief magistrate, of Egypt, was absent on a campaign in Arabia in 24 BC, the Kushites launched an attack on Egypt. Amanirenas and Akinidad defeated Roman forces at Syene and Philae, and drove the Jews from Elephantine Island. They returned to Kush with prisoners and loot, including several statues of Emperor Augustus ; the Queen buried a bronze likeness of the Emperor beneath the entranceway to her palace so that she and all who came and went could tread on the head of her enemy. The head, found in Meroë in 1912, now resides in the British Museum

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Stela showing Candace Amanirenas crushing Roman enemies. This also appears in Cheikh Anta Diop’s book cited below

The Kushites were driven out of Syene later in the year by Publius Petronius, who now held the office of Roman Prefect in Egypt. According to a detailed report made by Strabo, the Roman troops advanced far into the Kingdom of Kush, and finally reached Napata. Although they withdrew again to the north they left behind a garrison in Qasr Ibrim (Primis), which now became the border of the Roman Empire. The Kushites made a renewed attempt to seize Primis, but Petronius forestalled this attempt.

A peace treaty was signed between the Meroites and Augustus in the year 21/20 BC, which  continued until the end of the third century AD, with relations between Meroë  and Roman Egypt remaining generally peaceful during this time. However, the Kingdom of Kush had begun to fade as a power by the first or second century AD.

nubia_africa in 400 bc_location of kush
Nubia or the Kingdom of Kush in 400BC

Thereafter a preponderant place falls to two queens, Amanirenas and
Amanishakheto. Their husbands remain forgotten and we do not even know the name of Amanishakheto’s. The throne was also occupied for some years by a king, the former prince Akinidad, son of Queen Amanirenas and King Teriteqas. Nevertheless, it is important which of these two queens came first, both of them ‘Candace’, which is the transcription of the Meroitic title Kdke according to the tradition of the classical authors.

To learn more, check out the UNESCO funded book General History of Africa Vol.2, Ancient Civilizations of Africa, P. 307-308Nations Negres et Culture by Cheikh Anta Diop , Presence Africaine 1979 p. 216-217, 50 Greatest Africans — Pharaoh Natakamani and Queen Amanitore & Ngola Ann Nzinga , The Kingdom of Kush by László Török, P. 198 and 461, ISBN 90-04-10448-8. Also check out the Rejected Princess website,, and

Great Warrior Queen and Builder of Nubia: Amanitore

Amanitore at Wad ban Naqa

How many of you know that two great African queens have been cited in the Bible? Most people know about the Queen of Sheba who was the queen of a kingdom in modern-day Ethiopia, and gave birth to a son to the Great King Solomon (Solomon was taken by her beauty). The second queen, who most people ignore or forget, is the Candace, or queen, of Nubia, Amanitore. She is mentioned in the Bible, Acts 8:26–40, or should we say her finance minister is, and so by ramification she is cited. So who was Amanitore, this African queen who was cited in the Bible?

Candace (queen) Amanitore is the daughter of the Nubian warrior queen Amanishakheto and grand-daughter to another warrior queen, Amanirenas. She descends from a long line of kings and queens who ruled over the ancient Kushitic Kingdom of Meroë, which also is referred to as Nubia in many ancient sources. In Egyptian hieroglyphics the throne name of Amanitore reads as Merkare. Like all her predecessors, she was a warrior queen who led forces to battle. Her rule extended over the area between the Nile and the Atbara rivers.

Amanitores pyramid in Meroe
Amanitore’s pyramid in Meroe (Wikipedia)

Kandace Amanitore is often mentioned as co-regent with Natakamani although the evidence does not show whether she was his wife or his mother. Many believe that she might have been his mother. Images, on pyramids, of Natakamani frequently include an image of Amanitore. Her royal palace was at Gebel Barkal in modern-day Sudan, which is now a UNESCO heritage site.

Amanitore is mentioned in a number of texts as a ruler. These include the temple at the Nubian capital of Napata in present-day Sudan, in a temple in Meroë near Shendi, again in Sudan, and at the Naqa Lion Temple.

She was part of the Meroitic historical period and her reign began in 1 BC. The rule of her successor, Amanitaraqide, was complete by 50 AD. She is buried in her own pyramid in Meroë. The tomb is approximately 6 m square at its base, and not a pyramid in the mathematical sense.

Nubia_Pyramids of Meroe
Nubian pyramids at Meroe (Wikipedia)

Amanitore was among the last great Kush builders. She, and Natakamani, were involved in restoring the large temple of Amun at Meroë and the Amun temple at Napata after it was demolished by the Romans. Reservoirs for the retention of water also were constructed at Meroë during her reign. The two rulers also built Amun temples at Naqa and Amara. At Naqa, the great centre of the steppe-country south of Meroe: the frontal approach to the temple of Amun became a pylon whose decoration combines Egyptian influences and purely Meroitic features, while the most famous building is the Naqa lion temple whose reliefs are among the most representative examples of Meroitic art.

The quantity of buildings that was completed during the middle part of the first century indicates that she led the most prosperous time in Meroitic history. More than two hundred Nubian pyramids were built, most plundered in ancient times.

She led a wealthy country, with large resources of gold, and exported jewelry, exotic animals, and textiles.

Nubia_Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe_Sculpted gantry
Sculpted palace? on the facade of the temple in the background, a king and queen – could this be King Natakamani and Queen Amanitore? (Wikipedia – UNESCO)

The pyramids of the king, the queen and the princes have been identified at Meroë. The king and queen liked to be portrayed with one of the royal princes, ArikankharorArikakhatani or Sherkaror, varying according to the monument; perhaps the princes were viceroys of the provinces in whose principal temples they were pictured. Sherkaror seems to have ascended the throne in succession to his parents shortly after the opening of the Christian era; a rock carving at Gebel Qeili in the south of Butana shows him triumphing over innumerable enemies under the protection of a solar deity.

To learn more, please check out, the UNESCO funded book General History of Africa Vol.2, Ancient Civilizations of Africa, P. 307-30850 Greatest Africans — Pharaoh Natakamani and Queen Amanitore & Ngola Ann Nzinga , The Kingdom of Kush by László Török, P. 198 and 461, ISBN 90-04-10448-8.