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War between Rome and Kingdom of Kush

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Fragment of a bas-relief with a representation of the Queen of Kingdom of Kush
Fragment of a bas-relief with a representation of the Queen of Kingdom of Kush

Kingdom of Kush, which was located in what is now Sudan, was a country similar in culture and religion to ancient Egypt.

During the reign of the kandake (or queen) Amanirenas (reigned c. 40-10 BCE), the Kushites attacked Roman Egypt. They took advantage of the absence of perfect Gallus, who was on his way to the kingdom of Sheba and defeated the Romans in two battles, near modern Aswan and the island of Philae. One of the loot was the bronze head of Emperor Octavian Augustus, which came from a destroyed statue and was buried as a sacrifice under one of the Nubian temples. The head was unearthed in Meroe in 1912 and is now in the British Museum. The queen reportedly also lost one eye in battle.

However, the war fortune turned away from the Kushites when Gaius Petronius launched a counter-offensive. The Roman army managed to reach as far as Napata. At the turn of 21 and 20 BCE a peace was concluded, the terms of which were relatively mild for the defeated Africans. Not only was Kush not conquered and retained most of its territory, but it was also exempted from paying tribute to the emperor. Such mild conditions could have been caused by the assumptions of Augustus’ foreign policy, which focused much more on strengthening the current borders and not on further expanding the empire. This policy was not more clearly abandoned until the reign of Trajan (98-117 CE).

Author: Tomasz Gontarz (translated from Polish: Jakub Jasiński)

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