Ancient African Kings

This fact may be unknown to many Africans, but Africa is indeed the father of civilization. In fact, without the ancient Kemet(Egypt), there would be no Greek philosophy; and if the Persians had not invaded Egypt or if the Greek had failed to access the ancient Egyptians’ Education, there would be nothing like Alexandria research center and Aristotle could not have written any book. Here are some of the Kings that shaped that era.

  1. Oba Ewuare, Old Benin Kingdom Nigeria.

Oba Ewuare (also Ewuare the Great) Benin Empire (Edo, Nigeria) 1440 -1473. Oba Ewuare is known as the first king of the Benin Empire, the reformer of Benin City and one of the first warrior kings of West Africa. It’s chronicled that during his reign, he conquered and absorbed at least 201 surrounding towns and villages. Together, Ewuare and his son and successor, Oba Ozolua, were responsible for establishing a viable foreign trade in Benin, building substantial palaces and creating several strategic policies, one of which removed the conquered town’s chieftains from absolute power but allowed them power in a congressional committee. He also created a patrimonial bureaucracy in which freemen served as military and administrative chiefs. Outside of war and politics, Ewuare is described as a charismatic leader. He established several cultural traditions, communal events and festivals. Under Ewuare, the tradition of Beninese arts flourished.

  1. Sundiata Keita, Ancient Mali Empire

Sundiata Keita Founder of the Ancient Mali Empire (The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal)1210 – 1255. The Mali Empire took control after the Almorvarids Berber Kings of Morocco destroyed the Ghana Empire.

Sundiata Kieta is the renowned hero Prince of the Mandinka people. This prince’s rise to fame is chronicled in the poem The Epic of Sundiata traditionally told by “Griots.” The poem tells of Sundiata’s fabled origins and details his pre-ordained rise to kingship, the formation of the Malian Empire and his imperial conquests starting out with a victorious battle at Kirina on the Niger River

Afterward, he marched on, conquering all territories in modern day Senegal, the Gambia and Guinea Bissau. The dynastic line he originated became one of the wealthiest and most powerful ancient West African empires.

  1. Mansa Musa, Ancient Mali Empire

Musa Keita I (Mansa Musa which translates as, “Kings of Kings” or “Emperor” of Ancient Mali) Keita 1 was the 10th Musa of the Mansa Dynasty. Under his rule, Mali became one of  the  wealthiest countries in the world. From their gold and salt production, agriculture and imperialistic nature and dynamic trade location, the kingdom flourished. Forbes named him the richest man of all time. Musa Kieta I is famed with enriching the great trading city of Timbuktu, establishing the library and Islamic Universities. His legendary pilgrimage to Mecca with over 60,000 attendants and lavish outpouring of gold to the poor across Sahel region, Egypt and the Middle East was chronicled by many and is suspected as what drew the attention of the Spanish crown and initial attraction of Europeans to West Africa. Made famous by the Spanish map, which shows him holding a golden orb, Mansa Musa is also credited with initiating extensive building projects in Mali from palaces, Mosques and urban developments.

  1. Taharqa, Egypt and Nubia Empires

Taharqa (Egypt & Nubia) 25th Dynasty Reign 690 – 664 BCE. Taharqa was the one of the Great Napatan Nubian kings/Pharoahs. After his father, Piye, successfully conquered Egypt in battle, Taharqa united the two kingdoms to form the largest African empire at the time. His empire spanned from the 5th Nile Cataract in Nubia, throughout all of Egypt, up into the Middle East in Palestine. Taharqa is credited with bringing new peace and stability to Egypt, resuming building projects and arts in Egypt and Nubia, which were lost for centuries, at the time. Biblical scholars believe he is referenced in the Bible book of Kings 19:9 and Isaiah 37:9 as the great King of Kush who waged war against Sennacherib, King of Assyria. There are several monuments to Taharqa, and recently, in January of 2015, a great tomb sanctuary to the Egyptian God Osiris was unearthed in Upper Egypt. Its construction was traced back to the 25th Dynasty, possibly during Taharqa’s reign.

  1. Ezana Axum, Ethiopia

Ezana Axum (Ethiopia) 333 – c. 356. Ezana is celebrated as the First Ethiopian King to embrace Christianity and convert his entire kingdom. He helped establish the Ethiopic Church. He is also credited with bringing the powerful rival kingdom of Meroe (Nubia) to an end. Under his rule, the Axumite kingdom flourished. Under his reign, several unique structures and obelisks were erected. International trade was also increased. His coinage has been unearthed in locations like India and Greece.

  1. Oba Oduduwa, Old Oyo Empire, Nigeria

Oba Oduduwa is considered the progenitor of the Yorubaland and Yoruba Dynasty. He is a national folk-hero and considered a primordial God in Yoruba culture. There is much debate on where Oduduwa originally came from or when exactly he founded the Yorubaland and language; however, he and his clan descended on the lower region of Nigeria and defeated several existing settlements to establish Yorubaland. Legend has it that he had 16 sons and daughters, and before he died, he sent each one to the centers of his conquered territories to rule autonomously, where they founded the kingdoms of Ila Orangun, Owu, Ketu, Sabe, Popo and Oyo. Oranmiyan thus established the Yoruba dynastic family line.

  1. Osei Tutu, Old Ashanti Kingdom, Ghana

The Ashanti was a highly political, wealthy, and powerful West African Kingdom. The Ashanti was one of the first Sub-Saharan militaries to adopt firearms into their arsenal. Their source of wealth came from the large salt and gold deposits mined in their region, which they traded within the continental African states’ trade routes.

The Ashanti were an organized and disciplined Akan people. The Akan was the ethnic/linguistic grouping of people who spoke Akan or Twi. There were several Akan States. In 1701 Osei Kofi Tutu, chief of the small Akan city-state of Kumasi, helped form the Ashanti Empire by unifying other Akan groups under the Golden Stool (Ashanti Seat of Power). He influenced the other Akan to overthrow the dominating Akan group, the Denkyera, as well as conquer several other neighboring states. As the Ashanti, the unified Akan people absorbed several Akan territories and expanded the Ashanti wealth, power and influence. The Golden Stool would remain the seat of power for the Ashanti until the British Imperial Government demanded the sovereignty of the Ashanti be turned over to Britain as its “protectorate.” This resulted in the “War of the Golden Stool.”

  1. Shaka Zulu, Zulu, South Africa

Shaka Zulu is one of the most popular African kings who is well-remembered for turning Zulu warriors into great fighters. His fighters are known for using standardized weapons and great tactics to combat their enemy. As a result, Zulu became a powerful kingdom during the reign of Shaka until his death. From nowhere, Shaka Zulu devised a short stabbing spear called Assegai, as well as the large shields that could protect his regiments from the spears that were being thrown by his opponents.

Within a very short time, Shaka Zulu managed to transform his troops into a great fighting machine that made him to be feared by most of his enemies. In fact, most of them would flee on seeing his troops; and he eventually managed to ethnically unite all groups in South Africa. Up to date, he is globally remembered as a great military innovator as well as one of the most formidable leaders in African history.

Glossary of Terms

  1. Obelisk: a tapering stone pillar, typically having a square or rectangular cross section, set up as a monument or landmark
  2. Regiment: a rule or government
  3. Protectorate: a state that is controlled and protected by another
  4. Clan: a large family; a group of people with a strong common interest
  5. Primordial: existing at or from the beginning of time
  6. Sovereign State: a state with a defined territory that administers its own government and is not subject to or dependent on another power
  7. Empire: an extensive group of states or countries ruled over by a single monarch, an oligarchy, or a sovereign state
  8. Dynasty: a line of hereditary rulers of a country
  9. Progenitor: a person or thing from which a person, animal, or plant is descended or originates, an ancestor or parent.
  10. Carnage: the killing of a large number of people;slaughter, massacre, bloodbath
  11. Kingdom: a country, state, territory ruled by a king or queen
  12. Monument: a statue, building, or other structure erected to commemorate a notable person or event
  13. Imperialistic: the policy of extending the rule or authority of an empire or nation over foreign countries, or of acquiring and holding colonies and dependencies.
  14. Pilgrimage: a religious journey; holy expedition
  15. Chronicle: a factual written account of important or historical events in the order of their occurence.
  16. Golden Orb: a golden globe surmounted by a cross, forming part of the regalia of a monarch.
  17. Griots: a member of a class of travelling poets, musicians, and storytellers who maintain a tradition of oral history in parts of West Africa.
  18. Chieftains: the leader of a people or clan
  19. Patrimonial bureaucracy: A “patrimonial system” is defined as any form of political domination or authority based on personal and bureaucratic (a system of government in which most of the important decisions are taken by state officials rather than by elected representatives.) power exerted by a royal household.
  20. Charismatic leader: Charismatic leaders inspire their followers to do things or to do things better; this is done by conjuring up enthusiasm in others for a stated vision or goal.
  21. Communal: shared by all members of a community; for common use.
  22. Legend: a traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but not authenticated
  23. Territory: an area of land under the jurisdiction of a ruler or state.
  24. Autonomous: of a country or region) having the freedom to govern itself or control its own affairs.
  25. Arsenal: an array of resources available for a certain purpose
  26. Troop: soldiers or armed forces
  27. Ethnically: with reference to birth, origins, or cultural background.



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