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Queen Amanirenas (pronounced AH-mah-nee-REH-nahs) is a revered queen of the ancient African Kingdom of Kush. She is known for leading a valiant defense of Kush against the Roman Empire. Born around 60 to 50 BCE, she was the second among the esteemed Kandakes, or queens, of Kush, which was located in present-day Sudan. Amanirenas’s reign overlapped that of Queen Cleopatra, who reigned from 51 BCE to 30 BCE. 

Amanirenas, alongside her husband King Teriteqas and son Prince Akinidad, led her people in a fierce resistance against Roman efforts to subjugate Kush for taxation and tribute in Kush-controlled Nubia. During this conflict, Amanirenas’ husband was killed, leaving her as the sole ruler. Her throne was located in the capital city of Meroe.

A formidable military leader, Amanirenas initially won several victories against the Roman Empire. One of the most notable victories was the sack of Syene in 24 BCE, where she defeated Roman forces led by Gaius Petronius. Pretorius was a Roman statesman and military leader serving under August Caesar Octavian. Petronius responded with crushing force, which produced significant losses for Kush, including the death of her son Akinidad during the occupation of Napata. Amanirenas is also reported to have lost an eye during one of the military battles, with historians referring to her as the “one-eyed Kandake.”

Facing this and many other setbacks, Amanirenas continued to persevere. Knowing that her military forces were depleted and exhausted, she entered into peace negotiations in 24 BCE. This decision likely prevented the Roman conquest of her kingdom. The resulting peace treaty secured her kingdom’s independence and sovereignty. A vital feature of the treaty ensured that Kush did not have to turn over any of its lands to become part of Roman territory, nor did it have to pay any tribute, unusual concessions not usually made by the Roman empire. 

This queen’s achievements place her among a revered group of African women and political and military leaders. She is believed to have died around 10 BCE.

For more information, check out this YouTube video on Queen Amanirenas.

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