Queen Amanirenas

(1850 BCE)



Amanirenas, Kandake of Meroe.

Amanirenas presided over the kingdom of MeroŽ, the capital of the Cushite dynasty, in northeast Africa. When Roman emperor Augustus levied a tax on the Cushites, Amanirenas and her son, Akinidad, led a fierce attack on a Roman fort at the Egyptian city Aswan. Under orders from Augustus, the Roman general Petronius retaliated but met strong resistance from Amanirenas and her troops. Marching at the head of her army, Amanirenas reached the strategic city of Qasr Ibrim, south of the Egyptian city of Aswan. There she confronted the Roman general Petronius, who told her that Emperor Augustus was willing to lay aside the arms if Amanirenas would negotiate a settlement with him. The Candake agree. She sent her ambassadors to the Greek Island of Samos to meet with the representatives of Rome, where they negotiated return of all conquered lands and the remission of the controversial tax. The Roman historian Strabo records the results of the meeting with these words:

"The meroitic Ambassadors obtained everything for which they asked. And the Roman Emperor even remitted the taxes that he had levied on the region."

Amanirenas' title, Kandake, is thought to be the origin of the common woman's name Candace; foreign authors incorrectly thought that was the queen's name, and thus called her "Candace."

Amanirenas, was bold enough to challenge the Roman Empire for control of Egypt. The Greek geographer at the time, Strabo, described her as "a very masculine sort of woman, and blind in one eye." In 25 B.C., five years after the Romans conquered Egypt, Aelius Gallus, the prefect of Egypt, launched an attack on Arabia Felix, the wealthy part of the Arabian peninsula we now call Yemen. It failed, because a country that hard to reach can't be taken with poor planning. Amanirenas saw the Roman distraction as an opportunity, and in the following year she sent an army north, occupied Lower Nubia and Aswan, and pillaged Philae, the southernmost Egyptian temple, because it contained statues of the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus. However, the Romans were experienced in dealing with such intruders