Ancient African Female Warriors

Ancient Africa had many women that were not only voluntary warriors but also rulers of their kingdoms.

Unlike some of the European and Asian countries and continents, where females were considered to be a lesser class and too vulnerable for battle, ancient Africa took pride in the prowess and power of their female warriors. S

tories and tales have been passed down verbally regarding the intellect and power of many of the ancient African warriors and warrior-queens.

African Female Warriors

Amanirenas

Amanirenas was not only a warrior but queen of the Kingdom of Kush. From 40 B.C. to 10 B.C., Amanirenas rules in today’s modern day Sudan.

She led her Kushite army to fight against the Romans in what is called the five-year war. At the time, Egypt was under the control of Rome and Queen Amanirenas and her army attacked the Romans in Egypt and got control of Philae and Syene (today’s Aswan).

Amanirenas

It was told that Amanirenas lost an eye in the fight. However, the power of the Romans was great and when they returned attack, Amanirenas negotiated a peace treaty that lasted until the third century A.D.

Nzinga Mbandi

During the 1600’s, the Portuguese had taken over many areas of Africa as their colonies. King Ngola Mbandi had tried to get rid of the Portuguese and failed, and in 1624, when he committed suicide, his sister became queen of the Matamba and Ndongo Kingdoms.

The Portuguese had not honored previous peace treaties, but instead were intent on increasing their slave labor and refused to recognize Nzinga as the leader of the area.

In an attempt to achieve more slaves, the Portuguese chose to recognize Nzinga’s son, Ngola as leader.

Nzinga Mbandi

The warriors of Imbangala that lived within the Mbundu kingdom acknowledge women under the “tempanze” title as a leader of both politics and war, and since they supported Nzinga, they assisted her in killing her brother’s son.

After this, Queen Nzinga continued to reign and gave other women positions of power in the kingdom.

Amina

Today’s modern day Nigeria once contained Zaria in the Zazzau Kingdom. Queen Amina ruled the area at the end of the 16th century and during her 34 years as queen, expanded the territory so that the traders coming through the Sahara desert could have safe passage.

Amina’s prowess was so great that she built fortress walls that enclosed military encampments that were so strong that many are still there today.

Amina made use of the skilled metalworker talent of the Zazzau people and she is credited for the introduction of battle armor made of metal.

Ahosi or Mino (Dahomey Amazons)

Also known as Mino, the Dahomey Amazons were an all-female military regiment of the Kingdom of Dahomey.

The area now known as the Republic of Benin, existed as Dahomey from the 17th century to the end of the 19th century. They called themselves “Ahosi” (king’s wives) or Mino (our mothers) in their native Fon language, but the name “Amazon” was given to them by the Europeans.

The Ahosi were ferocious fighters, well-trained and were aggressive. They were known for decapitating soldiers in the midst of battle and those that had been captured.

One of the greatest leaders of the Mino was She-Dong-Hong-Beh. She led a 6,000 strong army of women in 1851 against the Egba fortress of Abeokuta.

The Egba had European cannons, while the Mino were armed with only swords, spears, and bows. After the battle, only about 1,200 survived.

Sarraounia Mangou

In the African Hausa language, the word “Sarraounia” means female chief or queen. One of their most famous queens was Sarraounia Mangou, who refused to follow those before her and submit to the colonization of Africa by the French.

In 1899, Sarraounia Mangou led her army against the French in the Battle of Lougou (what is now Niger).

Those intent on colonizing overwhelmed her troops, forcing them to retreat. However, Sarraounia’s army made use of guerilla war tactics that kept the French from capturing her. 

Q&A:

What was the two real names of the Dahomey Amazons?

Ahosi or Mino

Who was Amanirenas?

Amanirenas was not only a warrior but queen of the Kingdom of Kush

What does the African Hausa word “Sarraounia” mean?

female chief or queen

Why did the Dahomey Amazons lose their last battle?

they had only swords, spears, and bows and their enemy had European cannons

What was the reason that Nzinga Mbandi became queen?

her brother killed himself

Who was the African warrior queen that ruled the Zazzau Kingdom?

Queen Amina