Most scholars would dismiss the accounts of Herodotus, Strabo, and Diodorous as compelling evidence to support the existence of women warriors in Africa, although all three ancient writers have proved accurate in the great majority of their testable observations about life in the centuries before Christ. As time progresses, the evidence supporting the presence of a tradition of African women warriors grows in its persuasiveness.
An impressive series of Nubian warrior queens, queen regents, and queen mothers, known as kentakes (Greek: Candace "Candake"), are only appearing to the light of history through the ongoing deciphering of the Merotic script. They controlled what is now Ethiopia, Sudan, and parts of Egypt. One of the earliest references to the kentakes comes from 332 B.C. when Alexander the Great set his sights on the rich kingdom of Nubia.
The presiding kentakes, known in history as "Black Queen Candace of Nubia," designed a battle plan to counter Alexander's advance. She placed her armies and waited on a war elephant for the Macedonian conqueror to appear for battle. Alexander approached the field from a low ridge, but when he saw the Black Queen's army displayed in a brilliant military formation before him, he stopped. After studying the array of warriors waiting with such deadly precision and realizing that to challenge the kentakes could quite possibly be fatal, he turned his armies away from Nubia toward a successful campaign in Egypt.
Bas-reliefs dated to about 170 B.C. reveal kentakesShanakdakheto, dressed in armor and wielding a spear in battle. She did not rule as queen regent or queen mother but as a fully independent ruler. Her husband was her consort. In bas-reliefs found in the ruines of building projects she commissioned, Shanakdakheto is portrayed both alone as well as with her husband and son, who would inherit the throne by her passing. The following African queens were known to the Greco-Roman world as the "Candaces": Amanishakhete, Amanitore, Amanirenas, Nawidemak, and Malegereabar.
Source: Jones, David E., Women Warriors: A History, Brasseys, Inc.; (March 1, 2000)
THE ROMAN CONQUEST OF EGYPT AND THE REVOLT OF A MEROITIC CANDAKE
Nubia never became part of the Roman empire – although the Romans tried to make it part.
Roman involvement in the affairs of Africa progressively increased during the course of the first century B.C.E., particularly after Ptolemy XII Auletes secured financial and military support from Rome in his successful bid to reestablish himself as pharaoh of Egypt, having been forced into exile by a rival faction. Upon his death in 51 B.C.E. he bequeathed his kingdom to his daughter, Cleopatra VII, and her much younger brother, Ptolemy XIII. Of Cleopatra's direct ancestors, only the identity of her maternal grandmother remains unknown, and there is no compelling evidence to suggest that she was either an Egyptian or a Nubian. All of Cleopatra VII's other forebears were of Macedonian Greek descent. The account of her spectacular rise to power and her relationships with Julius Caesar and Marc Antony are beyond the scope of this narrative, but her ultimate confrontation with Octavian at the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C.E. and suicide a year later enabled the Romans to gain possession of Egypt. Octavian, now named Augustus as the first emperor of Rome, fearing that Egypt might mount another challenge to his authority, declared the country his personal property rather than a province of the empire and forbade immigration except by those with specially issued imperial visas.
Between 28-21 B.C.E., his administrators were confronted with disturbances in the Arabian peninsula directly across the Red Sea from Egypt. Wishing to address the situation as expeditiously as possible, the Romans decided to dispatch legions already stationed in Egypt to the troubled area. Once the legions had departed, the Nubians of Lower Egypt appear to have revolted and stormed the frontier at Aswan, sacking the area and toppling official monuments, including recently erected statues of Augustus himself. The head of one of these bronze images of Augustus was severed from its body and carried off to Meroe, where it was intentionally buried beneath the threshold of one of the palaces so that each time the Meroites entered and exited, they would be symbolically trampling the head of their foe underfoot. The Classical authors credit a Candake as the leader of the Meroites. As one has seen earlier, they had mistaken the title, kdke, for the personal name of the female ruler of kingdom of Meroe. Her identity remains unknown, although there are attempts to identify her with the Queen Mother Amanirenas, who is suggested to have ruled during this period of time. She apparently shared power with the pqr, Akinidad. If one's reading of the monuments is correct, Akinidad continued to rule after her demise with another kdke, Amanishakheto by name. Akinidad exercised personal control over both Upper and Lower Nubia, as his titles attest. He is to date the only Meroite known to have held the office of pqr and pesato, "viceroy [of Lower Nubia]," simultaneously.
In order to address this insurrection, the Romans dispatched new legions to the region in anticipation of a military confrontation and began their march into Lower Nubia. The Meroites, in an attempt to meet the Roman challenge, mustered their own forces and marched north. Both forces marched into the vicinity of Qasr Ibrim (Primis). A pitched battle was avoided when representatives from both sides agreed to discuss the matter. The Meroites indicated that their revolt against Rome was prompted by certain grievances that had not been remedied. The Roman geographer, Strabo, writing in Greek shortly after the actual events, is decidedly prejudiced in his account, incredulously posing a question to the Meroites inquiring as to their reason for not bringing their concerns to the emperor Augustus. As if to portray the Meroites as individuals ignorant of current affairs, Strabo records their reply by stating that the Meroites did not know where to find Augustus. In point of fact, the Meroites were correct because Augustus himself had been on the move as a result of his inspection tour of the East.
It was then resolved that an embassy of the Meroites would be granted safe conduct to the Greek island of Samos, where Augustus was temporarily headquartered. This was perhaps the first recorded instance in the entire history of Africa when diplomats representing a Black African ruler independent of Egypt traveled to Europe to effect a diplomatic resolution. The Meroites and Romans signed a peace treaty that not only remitted their tax liability to Rome, but also established the Dodekaschoinos as a buffer zone. In order to gain the favor of the inhabitants of this region, Augustus directed his administrators to collaborate with the priesthoods of the region in the erection of a temple at Dendur. In its relief and inscriptions, Augustus himself appears as the chief celebrant of the local deities but there pays particular homage to two youths [brothers, Pahor and Pedese, who are believed to have been sons of a local Nubian elite ruler], whose deaths had elevated them to the status of divine intercessors. They are enrolled among the local deities in this temple and are the recipients of a cult. The temple of Dendur also served as their cenotaph.