Before the coming of Europeans to Africa, the continent was divided into kingdoms and empires of different tribes. The kingdoms grew mainly because of strong leadership, among other factors like trade and geographical setup. In the article below, we will look at the top ten of the greatest ancient African leaders.
In African kingdoms, having a strong leader is vital since he leads the community in war, which means expanding territories. However, kings do not lead alone; they are guided with the wisdom of a council of elders in most cases.
Who was the greatest African king?
We have prepared you a list of some of the most powerful African kings of all time. These rulers have maintained their legacies for what they did for their communities. Some led their empires to victorious wars and others lifted their economies through various activities such as trade.
1. Endubis (c. 270-c. 300)
Endubis was a King in the Aksum Kingdom in Eastern Africa, present-day Eritrea and Ethiopia. He was among the earliest rulers in the Horn region to mint coins, the Aksumite currency, which was issued in gold and silver denominations. On the coins of Endubis that have been recovered, either of two mottos was engraved. On some coins, he is described as "BACIΛEYC AΧWMITW", "king of Axum". On others appeared the motto "BICI ΔAXY", "bisi Dakhu"; this is the first appearance of the title "bisi", which S. C. Munro-Hay believes is related to the Ge'ez word "be'esya", "man of".
2. Mansa Musa
Musa I was the tenth Mansa of the Mali Empire, an Islamic state in western Africa. Mansa is a Mandinka word meaning "sultan" (king) or "emperor", mainly used in the Keita dynasty of the Mali Empire. Musa I has been recognized as one of the wealthiest individuals in the Middle Ages. He is known for building Islamic libraries and universities. His empire's economy was at its peak when he was the ruler, as he funded the great trading Timbuktu City.
3. Sundiata Keita (c. 1217-c. 1255)
Popularly known as Manding Diara, Sundiata was a powerful prince and the founder of the Mali Empire. He was the great uncle to Mansa Musa. He is known for freeing the Mandinka people from the tyranny of Soumaoro Kanté of Sosso at the Battle of Kirina.
4. Amenhotep III of Egypt
Amenhotep III AKA Amenhotep the Magnificent was the ninth pharaoh of the eighteenth Dynasty. He had a lengthy reign, which had unprecedented prosperity and artistic splendour when Egypt reached the peak of its cultural and international power. His monarchy is also remembered to be peaceful.
5. Thutmose III
Thutmose III was the sixth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. He ruled Egypt for approximately 54 years from around April 28 129 BC to march 11, 1425 BC. He is remembered for creating the most extensive empire Egypt ever; more than 17 campaigns were conducted, and he expanded territories by conquering lands from the Niya Kingdom in the north of Syria to the Fourth Cataract of the Nile in Nubia.
6. Ezana of Axum
Ezana was the ruler of the Axum Kingdom, presently Eritrea and the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, from 320s to c 360 AD. He is famously known as the conqueror of the Kingdom of Kush. He also launched several campaigns as recorded in his inscriptions.
7. Ewuare the Great
Ewuare was the Oba (king) of the Benin Kingdom from 1440 to 1473. He overthrew his brother Uwaifiokun from the throne in a coup that destroyed much of Benin City. Due to his prowess in war, he is considered one of the most powerful kings of Africa.
After the war, Ewuare rebuilt much of the city of Benin, reformed political structures in the kingdom, greatly expanded the territory of the kingdom, and fostered arts and festivals. He left a significant legacy and is often considered the first King of the Benin Empire. Furthermore, he greatly expanded the kingdom and took over a considerable territory.
8. Sonni Ali
Also known as Sunni Ali Ber, he was born in Ali Kolon. Ruling from about 1464 to 1492, Sunni Ali was the first king of the Songhai Empire, located in Africa, and the 15th ruler of the Sunni dynasty. Under his rule, many cities such as Timbuktu and Djenne were captured and fortified. During his administration, Songhai's height surpassed that of the Mali Empire. He died in 1492 after drowning in the Niger River.
9. Osei Tutu Kofi I
Osei Tutu was one of the founders of the Ashanti Empire, an Akan ethnic group in West Africa, with the help of his chief priest, Okomfo Anokye. Osei Tutu led an alliance of Asante states against the regional hegemon, the Denkyira, ultimately defeating them. Then, through force of arms and diplomacy, he induced the rulers of the other Asante city-states to declare allegiance to Kumasi, his capital. Throughout his reign, he was politically advised by Anokye, a cleric whose spiritual authority over the people aided in his founding of the empire.
10. Oba Oduduwa
Oduduwa was a Yoruba divine king remembered as one of the great African warriors. According to tradition, he was the holder of the title of the Ooni of Ile-Ife, the Yoruba holy city. Presently he is remembered as the hero, the warrior, the leader, and the father of the Yoruba race. Through a war lasting many years, Oduduwa was able to defeat the forces of the 13 indigenous communities of Ife led by Obatala, and he formed these communities into a single Ife unit.
So there you have it, a list of the topmost influential ancient African leaders. There are still kingdoms that have maintained their leaders and cultures up to date.
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