From the Queen of Sheba in Biblical times to Nana Yaa Asentawa infamously telling the cowardly men that the women would fight until the very last of them falls, and women who led armies against Alexander and Augustus Caesar, charmed kings.
1. Nana Yaa Asantewa
I must say this, if you the men of Ashanti will not go forward, then we will. We the women will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields."-- Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewa
Yaa Asantewaa was the queen mother of the Edweso tribe of the Asante (Ashanti) in what is modern Ghana. She was an exceptionally brave fighter who, in March 1900, raised and led an army of thousands against the British colonial forces in Ghana and their efforts to subjugate the Asante and seize the Golden Stool. The Golden Stool was the Asante nation’s spiritual symbol of unity and sovereignty.
Yaa Asantewaa mobilized the Asante troops and for three months laid siege to the British fort of Kumasi. She took the grandstand when many were ready to submit to the British’s demands to seize the Golden Stool.
The British colonizers had to bring in reinforcements and artillery to break the siege, exiling Queen Yaa Asantewaa and 15 of her closest advisers to Seychelles. Yaa Asantewaa’s War, the Ashanti-British "War of the Golden Stool”, as it is presently known in Ghana, was one of the last major wars on the continent of Africa to be led by a woman. On August 3, 2000, a museum was dedicated to Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa at Kwaso in the Ejisu-Juaben District of Ghana.
2. Amanirenas, Queen of Kush
Amanirenas was a queen of the Kingdom of Kush, now Sudan, from 40 B.C. to 10 B.C. and is one of the most famous for leading the Kushite army against the Romans in a five-year war from 27 B.C. to 22 B.C. During her reign, Emperor Caesar Augustus of the Roman Empire defeated the Egyptians and made Egypt one of the provinces under the Roman Empire. After the defeat of Egypt, Emperor Augusts aimed at expanding his province and thus decided to push further south making Sudan the next target.
Reported to have lost an eye in battle, Queen Amanirenas and her forces attacked Roman Egypt gaining control of Syene (present-day Aswan) and Philae. She is famed to have fought side by side her soldiers, leading her army from the frontline with her son close by her side. Her attack was highly successful and Queen Amanirenas captured three major Roman cities, took captives and destroyed and defaced many statues of Emperor Augustus.
The Romans struck back. Due to the sheer size of the Roman army, they easily reclaimed the lost cities and soon occupied part of Kushite land. However, this did not deter the brave queen from rallying her troops to battle. After three years of battle, the two parties decided to sign a peace treaty which favoured the Kushites. Emperor Caeser Augustus agreed with the queen to take his army out of Egypt, give the Kushites back their land, withdraw their forts and cancel the taxes.
3. Queen Candace of Ethiopia
The wildly accepted view given by Chancellor Williams who wrote ”The destruction of black civilization” is that upon hearing Alexander the Great coming, Empress Candace gathered her troops, lined them up across the first cataract along with herself and stood on top of two African elephants on a throne and waited for Alexander to show up. Alexander the “Great” didn’t want to chance a loss and give up his undefeated winning streak. He definitely didn’t want to lose it to a woman, so once he saw the queen on her elephants and her armies along with her, Alexander the “Great” halted his armies at the first cataract, and turned back up into Egypt.
Once he saw the deadly military tactician in all her glory and her army with the latest iron weapons, he decided against an invasion and turned around.
The other view offered by William Leo Hansberry says that Alexander met semi-privately with Candace. Legend has it that Candace advised Alexander to leave the region immediately and if he refused, after defeating his army, she would cut off his head and roll it down a hill. Use your imagination and pick which one happened! Candace is to date one of the most revered tacticians and military commanders in history.
4. Queen Ranavalona the First, Madagascar
Queen Ranavalona the First ruled the large Indian Ocean island of Madagascar from 1788–1861. She is best known for being one of the few African rulers who stood defiantly and successfully against European colonialism. She was regarded by the Malagasy people as a ruler favoured by powerful gods, and now she turned her attention to the last vestige of European influence: the Christian church. The teaching of Christianity in mission schools was restricted, then banned, and missionaries began to leave the island or go underground.
Her 33-year reign mainly consisted of preserving the political and cultural sovereignty of Madagascar in the face of European colonialism while creating a self-sufficient state for the good of her people. This led to her being viewed as a great sovereign and patriotic leader at heart, while colonists and Christian missionaries viewed her as a tyrant. Little is known about her history and reign as most of it was written by missionaries and colonialists, who regarded her as an enemy. It is believed that she was born in 1788 and may have been named Ramavo. It is also believed that she is of Merina descent, which is the island’s largest ethnic group.
5. Queen Makeda of Sheba
She is the subject of one of the most recited verses in the Bible, a woman who is famed to her stolen the heart of one of the most powerful Biblical kings. During her reign, the kingdom of Ethiopia was known to be only second to Egypt in wealth and power. This made the kingdom a subject of interest at a time were kingdoms were largely ruled by men. The wealth of the kingdom is evident in the Biblical account of her journey to Israel in which it is reported she went bearing many gifts with an enormously large entourage.
Makeda is popularly known for her interesting story with biblical figure King Solomon of Jerusalem, who is reported to have had conversations with her about leadership and monotheism. They had a son named Menelik I (or Ebna la-Hakim), meaning ‘son of the wise’, who became the first Imperial ruler of Ethiopia and the first of a line of Aksûmite Kings.
According to historians, Makeda and her son brought back the biblical Ark of the Covenant to Axum. Through them, the lineage of great East African and Nubian kings was born. The legacy she left to the Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity is the strong emphasis on the Old Testament, as well as a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, which serves as a symbol of the connection between Makeda, Queen of Sheba, and Solomon the Wise.
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