A Woman to Know: Amanirenas

She buried the severed head of the glorious Augustus beneath the steps of a temple dedicated to victory. — Strabo

She buried the severed head of the glorious Augustus beneath the steps of a temple dedicated to victory. — Strabo

(image of an unknown kandake, via Wikimedia Commons)

Amanirenas is remembered as “the One-eyed Queen of Kush,” famous for her fiery spirit and milky blind eye. Her homeland of Kush, the area today known as Sudan, had a long history of female-led rule. From 40 BC to 10 BC, Amanirenas reigned as “Kandake,” or warrior queen, and set her sights on protecting Kush from the encroaching Roman Empire.

Between 27 BC and 22 BC, Amanirenas waged a deadly war against the Romans. She led an invasion into Egypt, defacing Roman statues, taking captives and conquering forts and camps. She rode into battle on war elephants and stories claimed she fed Roman soldiers to her dogs. In one particularly legendary move, she decapitated a bronze statue of Emperor Augustus and buried the head underneath a Kush temple, perfectly preserving the head and its two wax eyes.

Ultimately, the Romans decided it was better to make peace with Amanirenas than to risk a longer, bloodier war. After some tense negotiations, Augustus agreed to respect the boundaries of her kingdom, so long as Rome could maintain a military presence at the fringes. Amanirenas agreed, under the condition that her people would not pay tribute to the Roman empire.

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