Africa has produced some of the greatest warriors and leaders that have graced the earth, these war lords are not only exceptional Men that are good at hand to hand combat but who were also great leaders and brilliant strategists, here are just ten of the famous African warriors that have helped to make the continent’s history, listed chronologically.
Well Known African Warriors That Shaped African History
Hatshepsut (c1508-1458BC, 18th Dynasty, Egypt)
Hatshepsut was one of the greatest rulers of Ancient Egypt, being their longest-reigning woman pharaoh, the earliest ‘great woman’ of which history can tell us, and is certainly one of the most famous African warriors. Originally thought to have merely been regent, then co-regent, for her stepson and nephew, Thutmose III, after the 1479BC death of her husband, Thutmose II, she is now accepted to have actually been pharaoh in her own right from at least 1472BC until her death in 1458BC – contemporary records show she definitely was pharaoh in 1472BC so she must have become so sometime during the previous seven years. During her reign, she greatly increased the wealth of Egypt by establishing trade networks and funding expeditions to ‘far off lands’ such as the ‘Land of Punt’ (around the mouth of the Red Sea) and, of course, like all pharaohs, commissioned many buildings, monuments and statues. No record has been found of the reason for her death, aged ~50, but medical investigations indicate she had bone cancer and diabetes, either of which could have been to blame. After her death, many of the stone representations of her were defaced by simply chiseling off the features of the face; it was thought this was done by Thutmose III, to remove her from the official records in a fit of angry revenge, but it is now thought more likely that it might have been done by his son, Amenhotep II, to help secure his right to the throne, as opposed to any of Hatshepsut’s descendants who might have a claim as strong or stronger. Amenhotep is also known to claimed many of her accomplishments for himself.
Thutmose III (1481-1425BC, aka Thutmosis/Tuthmosis/Thothmes III, Egypt)
Thutmose III another famous African warrior, was Hatshepsut’s stepson and nephew and took the throne on her death in 1458BC. Or it might be that he reigned from the age of two (quite an achievement!) for nearly 54 years, allowing Hatshepsut to share his throne until he was 23 years old (when she died), if you accept the idea that Hatshepsut was his regent rather than ruling in her own right. Once allowed to take his throne, however, he proved himself an able ruler and military genius who substantially increased his empire to make Egypt one of the great powers at the time. He made many raids, captured some 350 cities and conquered everywhere from the Syria to Canaan and Nubia in a series of campaigns, mostly in a ‘town by town’ method whereby each town conquered was another small fraction of a country until he had enough of a percentage that the opponent gave in. This successful military activity was largely enabled by improvements in war weaponry at the time, and earned for him the reputation of being one of Egypt’s greatest warrior pharoahs – all of which was recorded on the walls of the Karnak Temple of Amun by his royal scribe, Thanuny, enabling us to know more about Thutmose III than almost any other Egyptian ruler.
Piankhy (753-721BC, founder of 25th Dynasty, Egypt)
Piankhy, or Piye, a king of Kushi in Nubia (now Sudan), became Pharaoh of all Egypt when the current rulers fell to squabbling and allowed him to gradually take over Upper Egypt, then Middle and Lower Egypt as well, finally conquering the entire country when he took Herakleopolis, Hermopolis, Memphis and some other cities, and received the surrender of their rulers after a five-month siege at Hermopolis. Tefnakht, the overall Pharaoh, retreated to an Nile Delta island and wrote to concede defeat but refused to do so personally. Piye didn’t bother to force his rule on some of the smaller areas of Egypt, however – it was left to his successor, his brother Shabaka, to finally clean up and bring the Egyptian empire back under one rule. Piye was, however, passionate about one thing – the worship of his god Amun, in which effort he renewed and restored the almost forgotten Great Temple of Amun, until then being ignored at Gebel Barkal, and this temple contains many scenes of Piye celebrating the 30th jubilee of his accession, around a year before his death in 721BC.
Hannibal (247BC – 183/182BC, Carthage)
Almost everyone has heard of Hannibal of Carthage, generally considered to be one of the greatest and one of the most famous African warriors, not just of Africa but in the world, and throughout history. He was one of a very warlike family – his father, brother-in-law and two younger brothers were also notable warriors. On the north coast of Africa, Carthage (now the northern part of Tunisia) was Hannibal’s starting point to conquer most of the countries that faced into the Mediterranean over his lifetime. His most famous adventures used elephants to help get his armies across the Pyrenees and the Alps, epic journeys that cost the lives of many of his soldiers and most of the elephants, for whom the conditions were too harsh. The war that followed was a ‘world war’ in that it involved most of the population of the ‘known world’ at the time and almost every Roman family lost one or more members to Hannibal and his Carthaginian forces. He always swore he would never fall into his enemies’ hands, and when as an old man of nearly sixty-five years he was finally facing this happening, he took poison (carried with him for a long time in a ring) rather than accept it.
Zenobia (AD240- sometime after 274, Palmyrene Empire)
Zenobia, born in AD240, was the second wife of King Septimius Odaenathus of Roman Syria’s Palmyrene Empire, and became Queen in his stead when he died in 267. Over the next couple of years she expanded the empire, then conquered Egypt and ruled there until she was defeated and taken to Rome as a hostage by Emperor Aurelian in 274. After that, accounts differ as to what happened to her – they range from her being beheaded the same year, through dying of illness or hunger strike, to being released (because Aurelian was impressed by her beauty and dignity), granted a villa in Tibur (Tivoli in Italy, now), becoming a well-known philosopher, marrying a Roman senator, and giving him several children!