Select Page

ADS

 

Patreon: More modern queens on patreon, like Nandi, the mother of Shaka Zulu, and the great Yaa Asantewaa; touched by people who have had to stop support

 

Eric won week 1 moxiemillion

 

Apple: Can’t get enough of Y.B.O.F!

I started listening about 1 month ago after Hearing Moxie on Fantastic History Of Food, and can’t stop listening! I especially liked the episode about banned books. I love to listen as I am reading, and playing with legos. Anyone in my family will tell you about my love of facts, and this podcast nurtures my appreciation of history and facts. Moxie’s voice is extremely relaxing and never ceases to make me feel better after a long or stressful day. Whenever I see a new episode I drop everything to put on my headphones and listen. I recommend this podcast to anyone who will listen, and can’t wait when new episodes are released. Thank you so much for this wonderful podcast Moxie!

supersithy739

only got 2 more after this, so if you want to hear your opinion

 

When King Karam of Zazzau, a Hausa city-state in what would become Nigeria, died in 1576, he successor has already been waiting to take the throne for 28 years.  After being schooled in political and military matters and proving themselves a skilled warrior, they had been named ‘Magajiya’ or heir apparent at age 16.  King Kurama’s favorite grandchild would eventually become Queen Aminatu.  My name…

 

History and folklore have a tendency to intertwine.  This can happen especially when the history has been systematically eradicated.  You’ll hear me mention or notice on your own a lot of gaps and uncertainty in today’s stories.  The history of Africa is the least well-known or widespread of any continents.  The cause for this is as sad as it is obvious.  Europeans in Africa saw no great libraries or troves of history books, so they assumed the peoples of Africa had kept no history.  In fact, their histories were kept orally, a system that worked out fine until some whitey, the blue-eyed devil, paddy-o, fay gray boy, honkey melon-farmers showed up and started kidnapping and killing people en masse.  Victims of the Atlantic slave trade would be intentionally removed from their families and neighbords and mixed together with people from other communities.  This meant a lack of common language, which was meant to stymie unrest and uprisings on New World plantations.  It also meant that those who knew their history had no one else of their nation to pass it on to, as well as all the gaps created in the collective knowledge back home.  

 

But let’s start well before Columbus “discovered” an island with half a million people living on it.  

In the 12th century, life was nice for the Yoruba people in what is modern Nigeria, ruled by the beautiful and benevolent Queen Moremi Ajasoro, wife of Oranmiyan, the King of Ife-Ife, and mother to Oluorogbo.  But there was one small problem, and it’s a big one.  Their neighbors, the Igbo, literally Forest People, had a persistent habit of raiding their villages to loot, pillage, and kidnap people into slavery, either for their own use or to sell.  This is *not the same as the Igbo ethnic group, and if my friend Phoenix is listening, did I say it right this time?  The raiders were not only terrifying for their violence, but also their strange, alien-like appearance.  So otherwordly were the Igbo that the Ife people thought they’d been sent by the gods as punishment.  The Ifes offered sacrifices to the gods, but all for naught.  The raids continued and the land was thrown into a state of panic.

 

Not one to sit idly by while her people suffered, Moremi hatched a plan, but she was going to need help and a lot of it.  She would allow herself to be taken prisoner by the Igbo so she could learn about them.  But before she put herself in such a precarious position, Moremi went to the river Esimirin and begged the goddess who lived there to help her save her people.  As the story goes, the river goddess said that she *would help, but only if Moremi would sacrifice that which was most precious and valuable to her.  Moremi was a queen, to wit, rollin’ in dough, so she didn’t hesitate to agree.  Whatever the river goddess wanted, surely she could spare it, and her people needed saving.

 

During the next Igbo raid Moremi allowed herself to be captured.  On account of her beauty, she was given to the King of the Igbos as a slave, but it was her keen intellect that allowed her to move up the ranks until she was made the anointed queen.  No idea how long that took or how many more raids happened in the meantime.  If you want to learn about a group of people, you need to infiltrate them and gain access to what they know.  Moremi was not only among the Igbo, she was their queen.  As spy-craft goes, that’s S-tier work.  This was how she learned that the terrifying appearance of the raiders that had tormented her people was battle dress made from raffia palm and other grasses.  It made them look monster-y and demoralized their victims with pante-wetting terror, but if you know anything about dry grass and vegetation, you know that those costumes were extremely flammable.  The Ife didn’t need spears and weapons to protect themselves.  All they needed was a bit of the old “How about a little fire, Scarecrow?”  She probably picked up tactics and such-like as well, but nobody who’s written about her seems bothered to have written that down.  Same with her escape from the Igbo and return to Ife-Ife, which I’m sure was harrowing and adventuresome.  Either way, she returned to her people and said “You know those supernatural beings who’ve been pillaging and kidnapping us?  Yeah, they’re just dudes and it turns out they’re also covered in kindling.”  During the next Igbo raid, the Ife armed themselves with torches rather than weapons and were finally able to repel the invaders. [sfx cheer]  One assumes the Igbo backed off after that.  I mean, you didn’t see Michael Jackson doing any more Pepsi commercials. [sfx unhappy crowd]  “Too soon”?  It was 1984.

 

Now that her people were safe, it was time to repay the river goddess for her help, so Moremi assembled a flock of cattle and other livestock, as well as cowrie shells and other valuables, a veritable lifetime’s fortune, which she was glad to give up now.  But that wasn’t what the goddess wanted, not even close.  As anyone who’s ever heard a fairy tale can probably guess, the goddess wanted something much more valuable, more precious than all the commodities even a queen had to offer.  The river goddess demanded the life of Moremi’s only son, Ela Oluorogbo.  To go back on her word would be to tempt an even worse fate for the Ife, so Moremi had no choice but to sacrifice Ela Oluorogbo to the river.  The Ifes wept to see this and vowed to their queen that they would all be her sons and daughters forever to repay and console her.

 

To this day, the Yoruba people mourn with her and hold her in the highest esteem of any women in the Kingdom.  According to sources, anyway.  If, like my friend Phoenix, you have family from that region and no better, not only do I not mind being corrected, I appreciate and even enjoy it, because it means I learned something.  You can always slide into my DM [soc med].  Queen Moremi is recognised by the Yoruba people because of this bravery and celebrated with the Edi Festival as well as with a 42ft/13m statue, popularly known as the “Queen Moremi Statue of Liberty,” which is the tallest statue in Nigeria, and the fourth tallest in Africa.

 

[segue]

 

While the word “Nubian” is used broadly by many and incorrectly by most of those to refer to all things African or African-American, it refers to a specific region and its people.  In what is today Sudan, south of Egypt along the Nile, was the kingdom of Kush.  I’ll wait while the stoners giggle.  By the way, if you work in the cannabis or CBD industry, I’d love to talk to you about doing voiceovers for your business.  My NPR voice, as we call it around the house, is just dripping with credibility.  The Kushites’ northern neighbors, the Egyptians, referred to Nubia as, “Ta-Seti” which means the “Land of Bows,” in honor of the Nubian hunters’ and warriors’ prowess as archers.  Archery was not limited to men, an egalitarianism that gave rise to a number of women Nubian warriors and queens, the most famous of whom was Queen Amanirenas of Nubia, conqueror of the Romans.

 

Since 1071 BC, the peoples of East Africa had established a small realm along the Nile River valley south of Egypt known as the Kingdom of Kush.  Prior to their autonomy, the peoples of this region had been living under foreign occupation since around 1550 BC when they were absorbed by the Egyptian New Kingdom.  It was during that period that they adopted many aspects of Egyptian culture.  It was only during the catastrophic Bronze Age collapse that the Kushites were able to reassert their independence. By 754 BC, the Kushites actually managed to conquer their former overlords in the campaigns of King Piye and ruled them as the Pharaoh of the “Twenty-Fifth Dynasty.”  they were eventually pushed out of Egypt by the Assyrians by 674 BC, but still maintained independent rule over the region of Nubia.

 

For many centuries, this small autonomous kingdom had successfully coexisted alongside neighboring foreign dynasties that had been occupying the provincial territories of Egypt, such as the Achaemenid Persians and the Greeks of the Ptolemaic Dynasty.  It was at the end of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, after the death of Cleopatra VII, the one we think of as Cleoptra, that things started to get a little hinky.  When the Roman Empire rose in prominence and annexed the territories of the House of Ptolemy by 30 BC, the Prefect, or appointed provincial governor for Egypt, Cornelius Gallus, attempted to make further incursions into the territories south of Egypt and impose taxation on the Kushites.  The Kushites said, collectively and officially, yeah, no.  They launched counter-attack raids against Roman settlements in southern Egypt in 27 BC

The armies were led by the ruling Kushite monarchs at the time King Teriteqas and Queen (or Candace, meaning great woman) Amanirenas.

 

They began the campaign by launching [more] successful raids on Roman settlements

Shortly after the war began, King Teriteqas was killed in battle, and was succeeded by his son Prince Akinidad, but Amanirenas was really in charge as queen regent.  In 24 BC, the Kushites launched another round of invasions into Roman Egypt after the new Prefect of Egypt Aelius Gallus was ordered by Emperor Augustus to launch an expedition into the province of Arabia Felix (now part of modern-day Yemen) against the Arabic Kingdom of Saba.  According to Strabo, the Kushites “sacked Aswan with an army of 30,000 men and destroyed imperial statues at the city of Philae.”  The Greek historian Strabo refers to Amanirenas as the “fierce one-eyed queen Candace.”  Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that?  Sorry, buried the lede there.  Amanirenas didn’t lead her soldiers from the throne room, war room, or even a tent camp well behind the lines.  She was in the vanguard, properly leading as leaders these days can’t be asked to.  Maybe if we required all the kings, presidents, prime ministers, dictators and their generals fight on the front lines with their sole heir beside them, things would be a little more chill up in this bish.  Amanirenas lost her eye to a nameless Roman soldier and I’m ready and willing to assume she immediately slew him in a single epic, slow-motion swing of her short-sword.

    

The Kushites had also met and engaged a Roman detachment outside the city of Syene.  The battle was another astounding victory for the Kushites, but these successes would be short-lived

That same year, in a battle at Dakka, Prince Akinidad fell, just as his father had, and the Kushites fell back, but took with them all of the riches and slaves they had acquired.  The expedition of Aelius Gallus proved disastrous, as the movement of the army depended on a guide named Syllaeus, who deliberately misdirected them, costing them months of marching.  When they finally reached the capital city of Ma’rib, Sabean, Gallus’ siege lasted only a week before he was forced to withdraw due to a combination of disease, the harsh desert climate,

and the over-extension of supply lines.  That’s basically the trifecta of reasons behind a larger army’s retreat.  The Roman navy did better, occupying and then destroying the port of Eudaemon, thus securing the naval merchant trade route to India through the Red Sea, which was no small yams.

 

Having failed utterly at bringing the Kushite’s to heel, Gallus lost his Prefect job to Publius Petronius, who then took his legions and marched directly into Kushite territory, looting and pillaging villages and towns before finally reaching the capital of Napata in 23 BC.  The Kushites attempted to get their own back with a siege of Primis, but Petronius broke through.  It was at this point that the Kushites sued for peace.  You might be thinking that Rome had Kush on the back foot and this was a desperate surrender to save their skins.  Well you can put that out of your mind right now.  The Kushites *did send negotiators to Augustus in 21 BC and a peace treaty *was negotiated, but it was remarkably very favorable to the Kushites.  Rome would pull its soldiers from the southern region called the Thirty-Mile Strip, including the city of Primis, 

and the Kushites were exempt from paying tribute.  More importantly, they had managed to secure their autonomy and remain free from Roman occupation.  When have you ever heard of Rome, or any conquering army, giving terms like that?  That leads historians and armchair historians alike, myself included, to conclude that Rome was shaking in their sandals at the prospect of having to continue to fight Amanirena and her warriors on their home turf.  It was worth giving up whole cities and forgoing tribute to stop being beaten by them. 

 

Although the Kushites had managed to retain their independence, Rome’s monopoly on Mediterranean trade plus their newly established trade route to India, greatly diminished Kush’s economic influence during the 1st and 2nd century CE.  The rising Kingdom of Axum in Ethiopia managed to push the Kushites out of the Red Sea trade which led to even further decline that resulted in the Axumites invading the kingdom and sacking Meroë around 350 AD and that was pretty much that for the kingdom of Kush.  But I’ve saved my favorite part of Amanirenas’ story for last: the souvenir.  When Kush troops moved through an area that had already been conquered by Rome, the warriors would destroy anything Roman that they found, chiefly buildings and statues.  With Augustus being emperor, there were a lot of statues of him about and the Kushites said “get rekt, son” to every last one of them.  The head of one bronze statue was taken back to Meroe, where it was discovered during an archeological dig in 1912, positioned directly below the feet of a Kushite monarch on a wall mural.  Apart from the sick burn, the head was also significant for being the only head of a statue of Augustus ever found that still had the bright white inlays for the eyes, so when you look at it, link in the show notes, Augustus looks like he’s permanently, perpetually surprised to have been beaten by a widowed queen with one eye.

 

MIDROLL

 

While I’d happily humor debate, especially over a pint and a basket of fries, I’ll stake my position Queen Ranavalona I of Madagascar is the bloodiest queen in world history.  People should think of her, not Lady MacBeth or Elizabeth Bathory, when they need an icon for ‘woman with blood on her hands.’  From the start of her reign, she tortured and killed her rivals and presided over the untold suffering of her own people.  In those 33 years, while also successfully repelling European attempts to dominate the country, her orders reduced the population of Madagascar by half, or *more.  

 

Born with a commoner with the name Rabodoandrianampoinimerina in 1778, Princess Ranavalona found upward mobility quickly when her father helped foil an assassination plot being assembled by the king’s uncle.  As a reward, King Andrianampoinimerina (y’all should see these names) betrothed Ranavalona to his son and heir Prince Ra and declared that any child from this union would be first in the line of succession after Radama.  Talk about a glow-up.  Ranavalona wasn’t the only wife, nor was she the favorite, though at least she was the first, and it probably didn’t help their relationship when Radama became king and immediately executed all potential rivals, as was the custom, which included some of Ranavalona’s relatives.  When Radama died in 1828, possibly of syphilis, possibly of poison, having not managed to get one child from his dozen wives,  according to local custom, the rightful heir was Rakotobe, the eldest son of Radama’s eldest sister. 

 

Rakatobe was considered to be intelligent, as he was the first people to have studied at the first school established by the London mission, which also made him sympathetic to the ambitions and efforts of the European missionaries and businessmen who sought to establish themselves on the island.  R was still a threat, though, as any child she bore would be the heir before Rakatobe, so she had to go.  The military supported R and helped to secure her place on the throne.  Rakatobe, his family, and supporters were put to death, the men with spears and the women starved in prison.  R then ceremonially bathed in the blood of a ceremonial bull.  For anyone who wants a sense of how the rest of this story is going to go, that sets the tone pretty accurately. 

 

At her coronation, she gave a warning to those who would seek to undermine her authority.  “Never say ‘she is only a feeble and ignorant woman, how can she rule such a vast empire?’ I will rule here to the good fortune of my people and the glory of my name, I will worship no gods, but those of my ancestors, the ocean shall be the boundary of my realm, and I will not cede the thickness of one hair of my realm.”  So Rana woke up this morning and chose violence, huh?  The late king had attempted to modernize the military by building modern forts and cribbing Napoleonic tactics.  To achieve this, he’d signed treaties with the British and French for supplies and arms, as well as allowing Christian missions to be built.  In turn, the European powers sought to establish dominance over the nation, which is information I will find under W for ‘Who could ever have foreseen that comma sarcastic.’  From the very beginning of her reign, Rona walked that back,ending treaties with the British and restricting the activities of the missions, just little stuff like banning the teaching of Christianity in the missionary schools.  Three years into her reign, King Charles the 10th of France ordered the invasion of Madagascar, but the malaria and political strife back home forced them to pack it in, a big check in Rana’s win column.  But just for good measure, she ordered the heads of the dead French soldiers to be placed on spikes along the beaches.  The Queen soon turned her attention to her Christian subjects and a few European missionaries and traders who remained.  If you were caught practicing Christianity. you could expect to be beaten and hundreds were arrested.  Once imprisoned, they face torture and starvation, which beats being hung from a cliff and left to die of exposure in the tropical heat.  Whatever horrific fate they chose for you, your family had to watch.  Rana was not a nice lady, I really can’t stress that enough.  Though there were some Christians who kept themselves to themselves and managed to outlive her. 

 

 If you were up on charges of treason, you’d face an ordeal by food.  You’d be forced to eat three servings of chicken skin and a poisonous nute from the tangena tree.  If you threw up all of the chicken, and just the chicken, you were free to go.  But it you didn’t vomit up all three pieces, you’d be executed, or probably dead from the poison, six of one.  For every other crime, you’ll be treated to a nice boiling, either water or oil, depending on the day, or, and here’s a phrase, incremental dismemberment.  Queen Rana, I should mention, also did away with trial by jury, because that was a European thing.  

 

Whilst the Queen was fiercely anti European,she was very much aware of her need to modernize.  Madagascar needed industry of its own.  In 1831, a French industrialist and adventurer named Jean Laborde presented himself to the queen after he found himself shipwrecked on Madagascar.  Labardi was soon made the chief engineer to the court, and possibly father of Rana’s son Rakoto, charged with building a giant factory to turn out cannons, weapons, soap, ceramics and cement, with the “help” of 20,000 enslaved laborers.  Her military was paid by the kingdom, but not well, but they had a benefit to offset that – official permission to pillage, loot, and extract any value from her subjects.  

 

In 1845, new laws meant that all foreigners on the island would be forced to take part in the public work, many were able to leave Madagascar to avoid such servitude, but the people who lived there weren’t so lucky.  These works were usually performed by slaves or by those who hadn’t paid their taxes and would find themselves in bondage for the remainder of their lives.  That may not be too long, when you consider how many people they literally worked to death, tens of thousands.  Per year.  To make sure there would always be enough expendable labor in Madagascar, Queen Rana abolished the export of enslaved people.  Importing them, still A-ok.  

 

The public works were bad enough, but the enslaved could never have imagined the horror that would come with the 1845 buffalo hunt.  Have you ever heard of the extravagant boar or deer hunting expeditions/parties of ye olde times and thought they sounded completely extra and nuts?  They look like a carpool to the grocery store in comparison.  The Queen ordered the royal court to embark on a buffalo hunt through the malaria infested swamps and jungles.  In order to allow the royal party to travel more comfortably, some 20,000 forced laborers were sent into the jungles to build a road.  Not a road to one place or between two places, a road that existed solely for this trip.  An estimated 10,000 enslaved men, women and children died due to disease and the harsh conditions.  Mosquitos and bacteria have no care for rank and many of their 50,000 strong hunting party would die in the jungles.  I mean, it was still *mainly servants and slaves dying.  who died by the end of the hunting trip.  And how many innocent buffalo got wiped out in this boondogle debacle? [sfx paper rustling] Let me check.  In round figures, zero.  [in different languages]  1000s died on a buffalo hunt that killed no buffalo, all because the Queen wanted to go on a buffalo hunt. 

 

It is not surprising that many within the Queen’s Own court were eager to dispose of her, but the closest anyone got was when her Son Rakoto gave French businessman Joseph-François Lambert exclusive rights to the lumber, minerals, lumber and unused land on the 4th largest island in the world.  All Lambert had to do on his end was get rid of the Queen and make room for Prince Rakoto to become King Radama II.  Lambert attempted to obtain support from the French and British governments, to no avail.  In 1855, the Prince wrote in secret to Napoleon III of France, but Boni III left him on read.  It was not until 1857 that the coup was actually attempted and you might surmise by my use of the word “attempted” that it did not work.  Queen Rana responded by expelling all Europeans from Madagascar and seizing all of their assets.  With their oppressors gone, the enslaved worked in the factories burned those mothers down.  The prince faced no consequences and his actions were downplayed, as though he had been led astray by smooth-talking Europeans eager to exploit their country. 

 

Speaking of no consequences, Queen Ranavalona I died peacefully in her sleep at the impressive-even-today age of 83. While she was one of the few African rulers to keep Europe at bay, but more than half million suffered and died during her 33 year rule.  Per her orders, the country entered into the official mourning period.  The bloodiest queen in history was dead, but she wasn’t off-brand.  12,000 zebu cattle were slaughtered, though the meat was distributed to the people; and during the burial, a stray spark ignited a barrel of gunpowder destined for use in the ceremony, which caused an explosion and fire that destroyed many of the surrounding buildings and killed many people.

 

And that’s… The Hausa Queen Amina reigned spectacularly for 34 years, winning wars, enlarging her territory, introducing kola nut cultivation and metal armor, and making sure her traders had safe passage throughout the Sahara region.  Today, she is remembered not only for her bravery, but also for building fortification walls called “ganuwar Amina” around her cities.  Remember…Thanks..

Sources:

https://www.pulse.ng/bi/lifestyle/7-most-powerful-african-queens-in-history-you-need-to-know/dwhncf5

https://www.rejectedprincesses.com/princesses/amanirenas

https://artsandculture.google.com/story/queen-amanirenas-the-story-of-the-white-nile-nubi-archeress/bALSN3WTK_YEJA

https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/Who-Was-the-One-Eyed-Queen-Who-Defeated-Caesar

https://face2faceafrica.com/article/amanirenas-the-brave-one-eyed-african-queen-who-led-an-army-against-the-romans-in-24bc

https://historyofyesterday.com/madagascars-mad-queen-that-you-ve-never-heard-of-25e27ebe121d

https://www.madamagazine.com/en/die-schreckensherrschaft-ranavalonas-i/

https://oldnaija.com/2019/11/06/moremi-ajasoro-history-of-the-brave-queen-of-ile-ife/

https://www.pulse.ng/lifestyle/food-travel/queen-moremi-did-you-know-about-the-courageous-legend-whose-statue-is-the-tallest-in/hr4llg4

https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/hausa-queen-amina-51267.php

 

TikTok: https://africanpoems.net/modern-poetry-in-oral-manner/moremi-ajasoro/