Who were the greatest African warriors of all time? The countries making up the African continent have had some of the greatest African warriors to ever grace the earth. Besides being exceptional combat men, these warriors were also great leaders and outstanding strategists.
Over time, many African cultures have become extinct due to the adoption of new traditions. Nevertheless, the individuals that ruled over such dynasties live on and are mentioned in African folktales. Some of these African warrior names are revered for their bravery and accomplishments.
15 greatest African warriors
Starting from the Egyptians in the North to the Zulus in the South, Africa has no shortage of legendary and influential figures. For some individuals, they like to associate themselves with these figures by decorating their bodies with African warrior tattoos. Here are 15 fascinating rulers in African history.
Even though many Egyptian pharaohs have faded into oblivion over thousands of years since their rule, one Hatshepsut has maintained her mark to date. Despite being a woman, she is the longest-reigning woman pharaoh from 1472 BC till her demise in 1458 BC.
Hatshepsut is among the female warriors that were well educated. During her reign, she managed to increase the wealth of Egypt by developing vital trade routes. Moreover, she also managed to construct and commission several buildings, statues, and monuments.
2. Yaa Asantewaa
Yaa Asantewaa is a heroic warrior queen who ruled over the Ashanti Kingdom in Ghana. She is remembered for her role in leading the army that fought against the British invasion. During that time, the Golden Stool was one of the most significant possessions of the Ashanti tribe. When Fredrick Hodgson, a British Governor, demanded that he wanted to sit on the stool and own it, it angered the Ashanti community. For this reason, under the directive of Yaa Asantewaa, the Ashanti managed to fight and win against the British. Yaa was later exiled to the Seychelles, where she stayed until her death.
3. Almamy Suluku
Almamy Suluku, born in 1820, is remembered as one of the continent’s fierce warriors. He ruled over the Biriwa Kingdom, one of the biggest in Sierra Leone, and managed to keep his independence for the most extended period. Under his regime, the Kingdom flourished in riches and wealth as Almamy engaged in the trade of gold, ivory foodstuffs, and hide.
Hannibal of Carthage was considered one of the most prominent African warriors not only in Africa but across the globe. Hannibal was from a family of fierce warriors with his dad, brother-in-law, and two younger siblings who were also notable combatants.
Under his regime, Hannibal led his armies in conquering most of the nations that faced the Mediterranean. One of the famous stories of this African ruler is how he used elephants to help his soldiers cross over the Pyrenees and the Alps. According to many legends, all the Roman families lost at least one family member to the Hannibal militias in what was dubbed the first great war of the world.
5. Ezana of Axum
Ezana reigned over the Axum Kingdom during the 4th Century AD. The Axum kingdom covered a vast region, including modern-day Northern Ethiopia, Northern Somalia, Yemen, Djibouti, parts of Southern Saudi Arabia, and Eritrea.
Ezana is revered as the first king of his region to switch to Christianity and becoming a saint of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahado Church. Besides this, he was a generous ruler who cared for the happiness of his subjects. Ezana also constructed various significant monuments and stelae during his regime.
6. Behanzin Hossu Bowelle
Behanzin Hossu Bowelle was arguably the bravest and most influential West African King who ruled during the end of the 19th century. He is also known as The King Shark. Among his many wins was out-powering the 1890 French voyage and demanding they pay to utilize the port of Cotonou. Behanzin was considered a courageous and wise king by his subjects owing to the fact he commanded more than 150,000 male soldiers as well as 5000 infamous Amazon women.
7. Mansa Kankan Musa
Mansa Kankan Musa was one of the wealthiest African warriors whose sovereignty lasted from 1312 to 1337 AD. Mansa was also the tenth sultan of Mali, and under his control, Mali conquered 24 cities. Due to his bravery and power, this African king earned many nicknames and titles, including Conqueror of Ghanata and Lion of Mali.
8. Cetshwayo Kampande
Cetshwayo Kampande is recognized as a true African hero owing to his victory against the British. When the Englishmen invaded Zululand with excessive force, Cetshwayo did not surrender and instead sent over 20,000 Zulu fighters. This army empowered the British in what was seen as the biggest opposing battles by the Africans losing just 1000 of their warriors. It was at this battle that King Kampande managed to kill the heir of the French throne, Prince Napoleon.
9. Tunka Manin
Tunka Manin ruled as the king of Wagadou from 1062-1076 AD. History books describe Tunka as just king who mediated over most disputes in his realm personally. Besides his involvement in the communities, King Tunka also managed to boost the economy of his empire.
10. Warrior Queen Amina
Amina, also referred to as Aminatu, was a renowned female warrior of the Zaria Emirate, today Nigeria. This warrior queen ruled for 34 years, during which she seized many cities. Queen Amina was an eager warrior, even from a tender age, she showed interest in wielding weapons. To keep her authority, this female warrior refused to marry. A vital part of her legacy is that she began the cultivation of kola nuts in her kingdom.
11. Ewuare the Great
Ewuare was a legendary African warrior of the Benin Empire. He came into power after a bloody battle that claimed his brother’s life. Despite a rough start to his reign, Ewuare managed to rebuild the city. Under his regime, he conquered new cities, reformed the political structures, became a patron of the arts, and encouraged trade with other countries that made ivory and wood famous. Most believed that Ewuare had magical powers demonstrated in most of the artwork of the epoch. To date, an annual festival dubbed Igue is marked annually in Benin, and the meaning of the holiday is to renew Ewuare’s magical powers.
12. Shaka Zulu
One of the popularized traits of the Zulu fighters is their exceptional skills in combat. Shaka Zulu, a fierce ruler of the Zulu community, introduced military reforms that enabled his people to gain their warrior culture and formidable reputation.
Why was Shaka Zulu deemed a warrior? Even though Shaka Zulu had the power to defeat many, the war was not his first decision. He was a skillful diplomat who incorporated other techniques to negotiate with his enemies. During his tenth year rule, Shaka was in charge of 50,000 combatants and reigned over 250,000 people. If you are looking for an African warrior tattoo, Shaka Zulu would be an ideal choice.
13. Ann Nzingha
Ann Nzingha was a great queen and smart ruler of the Matamba and Ndongo Kingdoms, current Angola. She ruled over the Mbundu tribe during the 17th century and is celebrated for heroically and astutely fighting against the Portuguese to free her people. Besides, Queen Nzingha built a formidable army by recruiting runaway slaves as well as Portuguese-trained African soldiers. Matamba became a supreme trading power in the Central African region under the Nzingha rule. Over time, since her control, her nation was among the African countries that resisted Portuguese colonization after several attempts.
Amanirenas ruled over the Kush Empire between 40 BC and 10 BC. She is remembered as a courageous female queen who defeated the Romans in Egypt with approximately 30,000 soldiers. After the defeat, the Romans tried to fight back, but Amanirenas and her army retained their power resistance. After three years of facing violent battles, the two parties decided to negotiate a peace pact. She was considered a devoted warrior for fighting alongside her army.
15. Carlota Lucumí
Our list of 15 greatest African warriors is incomplete without mentioning one African warrior name-Carlotta Lucumí. While still a child, Carlota was kidnapped from her home in Yoruba and was exported to Cuba in chains and later became a slave in Matanzas. In 1843, Carlota alongside another woman known as Fermina planned to lead a rebellion at Triunvirato, where they had been enslaved. However, their plan backfired when it was discovered, and Fermina was imprisoned. Carlota rallied up other slaves to help free most of the slaves, including Fermina. After fighting for her freedom, she led a group of slaves to form an army uprising against brutal slavery acts. Carlota had a good run for one year before she was apprehended, tortured, and murdered.
Q and A
Who were the greatest African warriors?
Apart from the ones discussed above, other renowned African warriors were Thutmose III, Piankhy, Yakub-al-Mansur, The Dahomey Amazons, and Kwame Nkrumah among many others.
What is the strongest tribe in Africa?
The Somali people are undisputedly the strongest African tribe.
Who was the most powerful African king?
Mansa Musa, of all African kings, is considered the most powerful king due to his influences in medieval times. He ruled over the Mali empire from 1312-1337.
Who was the great warrior king that all South Africans of African descent look up to as a cultural icon and hero?
This list features only a few of the essential African warriors that played a significant role in shaping the history of Africa. Which one is your favorite? Share with us below.