Meroe in Sudan, Capital of the Great Kushite Empire: Black History 365

Welcome readers, 

It’s been a while since I did a Black History 365  post on the history of African civilizations but look no further because this post is all about one specifically the Kushite Kingdom in northern Sudan and lower Egypt. Leave a like if you’ve enjoyed what you read and hit that follow button so you can stay up to date with my future posts. As always, peace and keep it real. 

Historical documents collected by archaeological discoveries indicate that the ancient city of Meroe served as the capital of the Kingdom of Kush, which is located in present-day Sudan. The Kingdom of Kush was a northern African Kingdom that had a profound influence that spanned from approximately 1069 BCE to 350 CE. Even though the region around Kush, later known as Nubia had been inhabited since 8,000 BCE, the kingdom of Kush didn’t become established and gain prominence until years later. Additional findings indicate that Egyptians and the Kushites were in contact as early as 3150 BCE and 2613 BCE during Egypt’s Early Dynasty Period, the Kushite civilization most likely evolved from the early cultural contact and was heavily influenced by the Egyptians. 

The Kingdom of Kush was robust with rich resources such as gold which was the Egyptians’ main source of this precious commodity, and it is widely assumed that the later name was derived from the Egyptian word for gold “Nub”. Due to the Kushite kingdom’s exorbitant wealth, it quickly ruled over Egypt and dominated its politics, with its kings ruling over Egypt. Egypt’s weakness benefited Kush, and Kushite kings took advantage of it and reigned without regard for Egyptian monarchs or policies around 1069 BCE. Furthermore, as the kingdom expanded steadily, it reached a point where it could strongarm Egypt and take whatever it wanted without deferring to Egyptian kings. As a result, the kingdom rose to power in Egypt over time, not to conquer, but to preserve Egyptian culture and heritage. 

    The previous ruler of Meroe, The Great City was succeeded by a puppet king named Necho 1 after the 25th Dynasty ended with Tantamani. The 25th Dynasty was a line of Pharaohs who originated in the Kingdom of Kush. All the kings of these dynasties called the city Napata their spiritual homeland. Moreover, Necho’s son Psammetichus 1, aka Psamtik 1, (c. 665-610 BCE) ended Assyrian rule and paved the way for the establishment of Egypt’s 26th Dynasty. Under those circumstances, Psammetichus and his successor, Necho 11 ruled successfully. Nonetheless, Psammeticus 11, Necho 11’s successor led an expedition against the Kingdom of Kush, destroying towns, temples, monuments, steel, and finally the sacred capital city Napata before calling it quits and returning to Egypt because of boredom. After the desecration of Napata, the capital city of the Kushite Kingdom was moved for safety reasons. It was relocated further south to the town of Meroe around 590 BCE. Meroe’s rulers continued to imitate Egyptian customs, fashion policies, and religious rituals until the reign of King Arkamani.

Arkamani 1 had some basic education in Greek philosophy and resisted being controlled by priestly superstitions according to historian Dlodorus Sirculus (1st century BCE). Consequently, he led a band of men to the temple, slaughtered all the priests, and ended their reign over the monarchy. In addition, while in the temple, he implemented a new policy and practice that included removing Egyptian cultural practices in favor of Kushite practices. Furthermore, it didn’t stop there, Arkamani would go on to replace Egyptian hieroglyphic script with Meroitic, which has yet to be deciphered. He also changed the fashion style from Egyptian to Meroitic and Egyptian gods such as Aperdemak were assimilated into the Kushite ones. Alterations were done to burial customs, with royalty now buried in Meroe rather than Napata. 

Meroe, on the Nile’s banks, thus became the capital of the Kingdom of Kush. Its ironwork and trade brought a vast amount of wealth as an agricultural and industrial center. Agricultural products such as grains and cereals were exported in addition to iron weapons and tools, and with that, the city was overrun with livestock.Meore legendary status brought forth rivalries. Adversaries were on the horizon to take on the Kushite Kingdom. King Cambyses 11 of Persia (525 – 522 BCE) is said to have launched an unsuccessful expedition to plunder. Cambyses 11’s army suffered defeat by the treacherous and inhospitable terrain they crossed, as well as the weather. However, The Axumites forged a successful attack against Moroe around 330 CE. Even though the city survived for another 20 years, it was effectively destroyed due to the massive manpower of The Axumites. The Axumites would send the fatal blow to the Kingdom but Meroe was doomed even before the invasion and was on the verge of imploding. For one thing, the iron industry required a large amount of wood to produce charcoal and fuel the furnaces used in iron smelting. Due to this high demand, a large portion of the city was deforested. Moreover, due to the city’s large livestock population, the fields around the city were heavily overgrazed and overused for crop production resulting in a depletion of the soil. The once prosperous and wealthy Kingdom of Kush had effectively ended by the time the last of the people left the city around 350 CE. 

The motherland five: The cultures of Ancient Africa

Welcome readers, 

It’s been a while since I did a Black History 365 entry on stories that pertained to Africa. Still, I’m glad to present this post on the prosperous kingdoms that were prominent in Africa before colonization. Ancient African tribes are immersed in prosperous cultures, and with their own distinct traits that have remained intact to this day. In regards to this, a lot of Ancient African cultures that are known today have been passed down orally via storytelling. A rich storytelling history is told from the perspective of Griots (a historian) who helps maintain the integrity of the culture’s history. Moreover, in terms of Griots, these historians are specifically West Africans, and they tell stories that pertain to that region of the continent. However, that isn’t to say that the Eastern, Northern, or Southern parts of the continent didn’t have prolific orators that have passed down their rich history in ways of poems, speeches, and preservation of the culture in tangible artifacts that told stories. Below are five African kingdoms that were valorous at all times, affluent, formidable, and memorable. 

  1. The Kingdom of Kush: Along the Nile River, the Kingdom of Kush was located directly below Ancient Egpyt. The Kingdom was prominent roughly from 1070 B.C.E to 300 C.E. The Kush People were known for their use of bows and arrows, which helped them gain leverage over their foes in combat. The majority of the Kush Kingdom inhabitants were cotton, wheat, and barley growers. Moreover, the Kush society admired women and had a number of queen leaders that held power. 
  2. The Kingdom of Aksum: Aksum existed from 400 B.C.E until 940 C.E., making it one of Africa’s longest civilizations. The people of Aksum lived near the Red Sea coast and were important traders and merchants. Their city became an integral trading port for African and Egyptian merchants, as well as traders from Asia specifically India and Persia. This inclusive trading resulted in an array of civilizations traveling through the ports and becoming incredibly diverse. 
  1. The Kingdom of Ghana: On the western side of the continent in the savanna grassland, the Kingdom of Ghana was active from 300 to 1100 C.E. Ghanians were largely farmers, but they were known for their iron and gold, and there was a reverence for metalsmiths who were often regarded as strong “magicians” in their culture. These “magicians” would forge powerful weapons from iron and gold, making them powerful warriors. 
  1. The Kingdom of Zimbabwe: It wasn’t until around 1200 C.E. when The Kingdom of Zimbabwe rose to prominence, making it one of Africa’s later civilizations. Located in southern Africa, the people of Zimbabwe had a significant trading presence and captivating architectural talents. Furthermore, they built towers and gigantic stone walls that can still be visible today, despite the fact they only lasted around 200 years. 
  1. The Egyptian Kingdom: Located on the Nile River in the north of Africa, Ancient Egypt beats all other African civilizations in terms of longevity. It is also the most influential civilization. Ancient Egyptians had expertise in science, math, and writing, and they even practiced medicine. 

Moreover, Ancient Egypt was ruled by Assyrians, Persians, and Greeks (Alexander the Great) between 3150 and 30 B.C.E. but it had previously been ruled by these same people in the third and fourth centuries B.C.E. Ancient Egypt’s culture was advanced, with riveting clothing, art, and intricate and rigorous religious systems.    

The story of Shaka Zulu (Black History 365)

In Southern Africa at the beginning of the 19th century, Shaka Zulu set up, propelled the Zulu Kingdom, and completely changed its warfare. 

In 1787 Shaka was born to Senzangakhona who was a minor chief of one of the clans of the Zulu tribe. His mother Nandi was the daughter of the rival clan chief Mbhengi. According to the Zulu people, Shaka’s birth was a sin because his parents did not belong to the same clans. Also, since Shaka was considered an illegitimate child, he was not named heir to the Zulu kingdom. When it comes to his name, Shaka translates to intestinal beetle. It can be quite funny when we in the west call him Shaka Zulu since Zulu means heaven in the Zulu language we are essentially calling him intestinal beetle heaven. So there’s that. 

Anyway, because of the ongoing frustrations and disapproval from tribal leaders, Shaka’s parents split. Shaka and his mother ran away from the clan of his father. This would ultimately end up with his mother and Shaka returning to her clan the Elangeni where she had been shunned. Growing up Shaka was often insulted, bullied, and disregarded, but as Shaka grew into adulthood, the members of the Elangeni clan remembered his determination and ferocity. Subsequently, when Shaka became sufficiently a man he left the Elangeni and became a citizen of the Mthethwa (Mtetwa) clan. 

Under the rule of Mthethwa (Mtetwa) chief Dingiswayo (Dingiswyo), Shaka operated as a six – year fighter. Dingiwayo (Dingiswyo) had been overwhelmed by Shaka’s courage, perseverance, and relentless determination to be at the top ranks of Mthethwa (Mtetwa). Shaka would stay with Mthethwa (Mtetwa) until 1816 when he heard about the death of his father Senzangakhona. 

With Dingiwayo’s (Dingiswyo) military support Shaka demanded to be given the title of chief that was previously held by his father. With the expertise of the Mthethwa (Mtetwa), he turned the army of his clan into a powerful military capable of protection and provocation by a greater symbolic force.

In 1818, Shaka’s mentor Dingiswayo (Dingiswyo) was by Zwide (Zwaydi), the head of the Ndwande (Nawandwe) clan. Shaka sought retribution in the Battle of Mhlatuze (Mylatheus) River in 1820, and won it with Zulu’s dominance over the Ndwande (Nawandwe). 

Afterwards, Shaka went to build a powerful empire for the various Zulu clans. In regards to this, the Zulu Empire numbered approximately 250,000, including rival groups, and its province became the largest in the history of Southern Africa. 

Shaka Zulu Painting by esther deVries | Saatchi Art

At the height of Shaka’s reign in 1827, he managed to control more than 50 thousand warriors and captured the majority of the region in the modern state of South Africa. 

All of Shaka’s strategic moves and actions were extremely strong and cruel. On the other hand, his army became unified under his control. His mother Nandi, died at the height of his power in 1827. Anger due to her death and her Elangeni’s care would result in the death of thousands of tribal people. This nearly directly led to his mutiny in the harsh treatment of his soldiers. 

Shaka Zulu was assassinated in 1828 by Dingane (Dingae) and Mhlangana (Mylanjana) , his half – brothers. Dingane (Dingae) took over the Empire that lasted half a hundred years before the British Army eventually collapsed. 

Shaka Zulu … feared king, innovative warrior and a legend of old - South  Coast Herald

Works cited :

The King Shark (Behanzin Hossu Bowelle, Black History 365)

The Scramble for Africa or to put simply the colonization of Africa was destructive for the continent due to the invasion, occupation and division by European powers. In 1870 only 10% of the countries in the continent were under European control, but by 1914 it skyrocketed to 90% with only Ethiopia and Liberia not colonized. Having said that, in this post I will present a man fought against European Imperialism in the Dahomey Kingdom (Present day Benin). 

The Dahomey Kingdom, present day Benin during the 18th and 19th centuries was one of the most powerful kingdoms in Africa. The nation had one of Africa’s biggest armies at the time, including the powerful Dahomey Amazons. At the height of the Scramble for Africa they had extensive foreign trade with different European nations. The kingdom had a robust economy, as well as a highly functioning political structure. Even though the kingdom was strong, the French colonized it in 1894. However, the Dahomey Kingdom did not go down without a fight led by Dahomey’s last king known as King Shark.

Behanzin Hossu Bowelle was born in 1844, in the capital of Dahomey, Abomey. He was the son of King Glele, who at that time was king of Dahomey. Behanzin became the 11th King of Dahomey when his father died. After this he was referred to as the King Shark. A king is given a name reflecting his personal symbols as per Dahomey’s customs. The dolphin, the egg and the coconut palm trees are representations. 

As the King Shark, Behanzin Hossu Bowelle lived up to his reputation due to his fearlessness. He commanded a strong army as a ruler, with 150,000 males and 5,000 females. He was considered to be a brave and wise monarch. 

In 1868, the French government came to agreement to sign a treaty with King Glele (his father) before his death. The agreement placed Contonou’s territories under French control. However, they were prohibited from enforcing their customs and practices on the indigenous people. Subsequently, the French did not keep their word, and they were regarded strictly by the local people. The French were hoping to have a better relationship with the King Shark when King Glele died, but he was unable to play according to their rules. As a result, this contributed to one of the most important resistances to European invasion in Africa. 

The motto of King Shark was “the angry shark will terrorize his enemy” , and this is exactly how he fought against the colonizers from the West. Furthermore, he was able to battle endless wars against the French in Cotonou, Dogba, Poguessa, and Oueme Valley with his strong army, including the Amazons of Benin, and his relationship with Germany. Unfortunately, in 1894, the Battle of Adegon put an end to the brave war of King Shark because the French had better weapons than the Dahomey army. The French took possession of the kingdom afterwards. 

This caused The King Shark to be exiled to the island of Martinique in the Caribbean. He would spend the rest of his life on the island, but died in Algeria on African soil in 1906. Behanzin Hossu Bowelle is regarded today as one of Africa’s greatest rulers who refused to cooperate with colonizers and fought for his people.

Leave a like if you enjoyed something new from this post. Also give my page a follow so you can stay up to date with my future episodes. As always peace and keep it real.

The Dahomey Warriors (Black History 365)

Welcome readers, to another entry in Black History 365, a series where I explain, educate and explore historical events, unsung black figures in world history, and recount the struggles and triumphs of black people worldwide. In this entry, I will present the story behind the Dahomey Warriors from West Africa. With the recent passing of the extraordinary actor Chadwick Boseman, I felt it would be fitting to present the real life African women warriors that inspired the Black Panther film. I for one didn’t know about them, but after taking a look at the photos of the Dahomey Warriors and the fictional Dora Milaje in Black Panther, it’s hard to not notice the similarities  and the inspiration for the blueprint on how to depict the Dora Milaje army in the Marvel Universe. 

On the coast of West Africa, the Dahomey Kingdom was in what is now modern day Benin was once home to one of the most fierce and elite female warrior troops in world history. Furthermore, there are various myths surrounding the creation of this army commonly known as the Dahomey Amazons. Oral legends state that the Dahomey Warriors were descendants of Queen Hangbe who was the sister of the King of Dahomey, Akaba. Queen Hangbe was a warrior who led men and women in battle and it is believed during her reign (estimates range from 3 to 6 years) she gradually established an all – female troop called the Dahomey Warriors. 

The Dahomey Warriors were said to be formed in order to protect their Kingdom. The Kingdom Dahomey was outnumbered by their enemies and the rise of the European Slave trade forced the Kings of Dahomey to conscript women into the military with their main objective to protect the King and their Kingdom. 

At the end of the 19th century, the Dahomey kingdom found themselves battling the French. Unfortunately, they would lose their battle to the French, and nowadays there is very little evidence of the survivors. Many sources claim that the last of the Dahomey Warriors, a woman named Nawi, was discovered living in a remote village but she died at the age of 100 in 1979. On the other hand, other sources suggest that the last of the Dahomey Warriors died in the 1940s.

All in all, the Dahomey warriors have gone down in history as strategic leaders, fearless warriors, ruthless soldiers, and revered protectors. A French soldier once praised them as “warrioresses… who fight with extreme valor, always ahead of the other troops.” He continued, “They are outstandingly brave… well trained for combat and very disciplined.”

Leave a like and comment if you found this interesting and would like to chime in. Also, give my page a follow so you can stay up to date with my future posts. Lastly, if any of you use Spotify or Overcast, check out my podcast series Black History 365 : The Throw Down which is the audio version of this blog series. You can simply type in the podcast name and it will be the first one to show. As always, peace and keep it real.


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