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African Kingdoms

East Africa


Nubia / Kerma
c.2500 BC - c.AD 350

The first developed societies appeared in Africa's Nubia region before the time of the First Dynasty in Egypt (3100-2890 BC), including at the important site of Kerma (modern Doukki Gel, or 'red mound', located north of Khartoum, relatively close to modern Egypt's southern border). Around 2500 BC, Egyptians began moving south, and it is from them that most of our knowledge of Kush originates. This expansion was halted by the fall of the Middle Kingdom in Egypt, by which time a strong Nubian society had emerged. This early Nubian society formed its own kingdom, founding a capital at Kerma. By circa 1500 BC Egyptian expansion had resumed, but this time it encountered organised resistance (either from multiple city states or a single unified empire based at Kerma, it is unclear which). The Egyptians defeated this and made the region a colony.

It has long been thought that Nubian society was heavily influenced by Egypt, and may only have begun as an Egyptian outpost. However, more recent discoveries have helped form a theory that Nubian society emerged at the same time as that of its northern neighbour, and was entirely indigenous, albeit born out of a shared Nilotic culture. The two cultures may have evolved in competition with one another, both producing pyramidal structures (the tumuli at Kerma were sometimes larger than the pyramids at Giza), and their own unique art forms.

(Additional information by Dr Ray Kerkhove.)

c.3000 BC

Discovered by archaeologists, a storage pit is dug at this time for the storage of wheat and barley at the very beginnings of Nubian civilisation as it emerges from a further 4,500 years of pastoral existence. The earliest levels of Kerma as a small town are laid down during this period.

The remains of part of the ancient Nubian city of Kerma, which may also have given its name to the kingdom and which housed a population of around ten thousand in the second millennium BC

c.2500 BC

Apparently a Nubian kingdom already exists by this time and is already large enough to rival Egypt in size. Egyptians begin to move into the land, importing their culture and setting up trading centres. This would seem to be the same land as that of the kingdom of Punt or Put. Punt is sometimes described as being Libya in Greek texts, but 'Libya' could be used to describe a broad sweep of the North African territories. Instead, Punt appears to lie to the south-east of Egypt, making either Nubia or the Arabian peninsula more likely as its location.

c.2000 BC

The Nubian kings build their oldest-known mud brick temple at Kerma. They appear to have funerary rituals which involve taking the entire royal court to the grave, retainers, relatives and all. One tomb holds an incredible four hundred skeletons, along with a few thousand sacrificed cattle which have been brought to the tomb from across the length and breadth of the kingdom.

c.1950 BC

Pharaoh Senusret I officially establishes the southern border of Egypt 'in order to prevent' any people from Kerma 'crossing the frontier, by water or by land unless for trading or other approved purposes'.

c.1850 BC

The heavily policed Egyptian border is used as a launch pad for a series of raids against Kerma under Senusret III. A canal is built around the Nile's first great series of rapids (the First Cataract) near Aswan to facilitate troop movements. The pharaoh launches a series of invasions and boasts of his exploits in the kingdom of Kerma.

fl c.1850 BC


Ruled at Kerma. A powerful king.

fl c.1650 BC


Extended the Nubian kingdom northwards.

c.1650 BC

During this period, the Nubian kingdom continues to rival that of Egypt in its size and power. This is during Egypt's Second Intermediate Period in which the country is divided into at least three kingdoms, ruled by the short-lived and unstable thirteenth to seventeenth dynasties. Nubia occupies territory as far north as Elephantine Island near Aswan. The chaos to the north frees Nubia from interference and intrusion in its own affairs and may even offer a more stable environment for settlement. When Nedjeh takes over the Egyptian forts in Nubia towards the beginning of his reign, some of the Egyptian soldiers based there remain and work for him.

1475 BC

FeatureKerma remains the capital of the Nubian kingdom, surrounded by at least three kilometres (two miles) of ramparts and dozens of bastions to protect it. However, the city falls, and the Egyptians also found the city of Napata as they re-take control of the gold trade following the resurgence of the New Kingdom. A viceroy governs the district on behalf of the pharaoh, and seemingly the whole of a conquered Nubia, although there are frequent uprisings during the next three hundred years.

Wall painting of Nubians
This Egyptian wall painting depicts Nubians taking offerings of gold to Egypt around 1850 BC, at which time the two kingdoms seemed to be of relatively equal power, although Egypt was frequently the aggressor in their military encounters

1075 BC

Egypt becomes divided at the start of the Third Intermediate Period (1075-664 BC). The Nubians take the opportunity to regain autonomy under their Egyptianised local ruling families and maintain their capital at Kerma.

fl c.1020 BC


Name unknown.

c.1005 - 950 BC

Kandake Makeda

c. 950 - ? BC


Queen Kadimalo

Depicted in Semna.

c.900 BC

The capital of the Nubian kingdom is moved to Nepata, but it also descends into obscurity for over a century, perhaps suggesting a loss of central control and a retreat to a more defendable location.

785 BC

Political control of Egypt has become highly fractured by this time, and the process is continuing. The kingdom is already divided into at least three powerbases, those of the Twenty-Second dynasty, the Twenty-Third dynasty, and the Libu. As a result Egypt's traditional domination of Nubia has faded, allowing it to regain control of its own affairs. At this time King Alara reunites the Nubian region and founds a new kingdom (or re-founds the existing kingdom), now known as Kush, which is centred on Napata.

Kingdom of Kush (Nepata / Meroë)
785 BC - c.AD 350

The Nubian city of Napata was situated on the west bank of the Nile, about 400km north of Khartoum (the modern capital of Sudan). It was built by the Egyptians around 1450 BC. Since the early dynastic period the Egyptians had been interested in Nubia and its rich gold reserves, and they soon controlled trade there. As a result of this contact, Nubia became very heavily influenced by Egyptian culture. The area achieved independence during the breakdown of power in Egypt's Third Intermediate Period.

(Additional information from The Persian Empire, J M Cook (1983), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), from History of the Ptolemaic Empire, Günther Hölbl (Routledge, 2000), from Timbuktu and the Songhay Empire: Al-Sadi's Tarikh al-Sudan down to 1613 and other contemporary documents, John O Hunwick (Brill, 2003), and from Genealogical considerations regarding the kings of the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty in Egypt, Gerard P F Broekman (Göttinger Miszellen No 251, Seminar für Ägyptologie und Koptologie, 2017).)

c.795 - 760 BC


Kingdom's (re-)founder at Napata.

c.760 - 747 BC


Attacked Upper Egypt.

747 - 721 BC

Piye / Piankhi

Son. Founder 25th Dynasty of Egypt. Pharaoh (732-721 BC).

732 BC

While the shot-lived Twenty-Fourth dynasty of pharaohs attempts to rule Egypt from Sais close to the Mediterranean, Piye (spelt Piankhi in older works) and his Nubians choose this moment to invade Upper Egypt from the south. They swiftly begin to take over all of Egypt.

721 - 707 BC


Brother. 25th Dynasty pharaoh (721-707 BC).

721 BC

It is Shebitku as the second of Egypt's Twenty-Fifth dynasty Nubian pharaohs (and not the third as was previously thought) who clears the way for their complete rule of the country. That control is probably indirect, with local Egyptians in charge of administration.

707 - 690 BC


Son of Piye. 25th Dynasty pharaoh (707-690 BC).

690 - 664 BC


Younger brother. 25th Dynasty pharaoh (690-664 BC).

677 BC

Esarhaddon, the Assyrian king and Egypt's enemy, leads several campaigns against Taharqa. From this point onwards the Numbian kings are driven back into Nubia, at first by the Assyrians, then by the pharaohs of the Twenty-Sixth dynasty. Their successors refocus on re-establishing their Kushite kingdom at Napata.

673 - 670 BC

Assyria invades Egypt and conquers Lower Egypt. Upper Egypt's kingdoms are allowed to remain, as the Assyrians hope to use them as allies against the Ethiopians.

664 - 653 BC


Son of Shabaka. 25th Dynasty pharaoh (664-663 BC).

663/653 BC

The Nubians revolt against the Assyrians but are overpowered, and Tantamani and other leaders are deported to Ninevah. Once the Assyrians appoint Necho as a vassal with special prominence in Egypt (and father of the first pharaoh of the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty), they leave Egypt, Tantamani marches down the Nile from Nubia and reoccupies all of Egypt including Memphis. Necho is killed in Tantamani's campaign but Assyrian reinforcement of Necho's successor forces Tantamani to give up Egypt entirely and return to Napata.

Ancient Meroë
The ruins of ancient Meroë lie in Upper Nubia, now within Sudan - in its day it was a wealthy metropolis that stretched along the east bank of the Nile

653 - 643 BC


643 - 623 BC


620 - 593 BC


Great-grandson of Taharqa?

593 - 568 BC



591 - 590 BC

FeatureFollowing a powerful raid by the Persian empire and Egyptian forces which seriously affects Napata, the capital is moved further south to Meroë. The Island of Meroë, the peninsula formed by the Nile and the Atbara courses, is an area rich in iron, which quickly becomes an essential source of wealth. It seems that the reason for the raid had been due to Aspelta's own plans for a re-invasion of Egypt.

From this point the list is incomplete, with dates being rough estimates. These are based on estimates made by Fritz Hintze, calculated on the average length of reigns, and shortened or lengthened based on the size and splendour of the monarch's tomb, the assumption being that monarchs who reigned longer had more time and resources to build their burial sites. An added complication is that in recent years there have been disputes about which monarch belongs to which tomb.

568 - 555 BC


555 - 542 BC


542 - 538 BC


538 - 519 BC


521 BC

Darius kills the usurper Gaumata (Smerdis) and seizes control of the Persian empire. He takes great pains to legitimise his rule by installing an inscription at Pasargadae to record his 'descent' from the legendary founder of the Persian dynasty. He also extends the satrapy of Egypt to include Cyrene, 'Put' (probably Punt, which is usually equated with Nubia), and Kush (also Nubia, but sometimes equated with Ethiopia, suggesting Nubia's southern regions which were centred around Meroë). Persian control is unlikely to extend to Meroë in anything other than as a vassal state.

519 - 510 BC


Persian vassal?

510 - 487 BC


Persian vassal?

486 BC

Any potential vassal status for Meroë probably fades or is thrown off, if not before then upon the death of Darius in 486 BC. His son and successor on the Persian throne, Xerxes shows no sign of campaigning in this direction even when putting down a revolt in Egypt, so the loss is either an unimportant one or it is a situation which cannot be reversed.

487 - 469 BC


468 - 463 BC


463 - 435 BC


435 - 431 BC


431 - 405 BC


405 - 404 BC


404 - 369 BC


369 - 350 BC


Name unknown.

350 - 335 BC


350 - 335 BC

Candace of Meroë

Queen. Unknown apart from her name.

335 - 310/05 BC


Nastasen records on an inscription the fact that he has defeated one 'Kmbswdn' somewhere north of Meroë. This has occasionally been equated with the Persian king, Cambyses II, but his death in 522 BC makes this impossible. Nastasen speaks as if his opponent's territory could be overrun, which would hardly be true of lands within the Achaemenid empire. However, there is a Khabbabash who leads a Nubian revolt in Egypt between 338-335 BC which claims Upper Egypt for a time.

310/05 - 279 BC


310/05 - 279 BC



c.300 BC

Anti-Egyptian feeling incites the people of Kush to make their culture distinct from that of the Egyptians. The capital is suffering politically and economically. Napata has lost its economic influence since Egypt lost its autonomy, and the Napatan region itself has been desiccating for some time, leading to less cattle and agriculture. Napata is finally abandoned in favour of Meroë, although there is a short list of names that are said to originate in Napata, suggesting that when the royal court moves to Meroë, some elements remain behind and attempt to continue in increasingly poor conditions. These names are shown in light grey.

270 - 260 BC

Arrakkamani / Ergamenês

First ruler to be buried at Meroë.

c.270 - ? BC


At Napata.

260 - 250 BC


At Meroë.


At Napata.

250 - 235 BC


Imen Barkal

At Napata.


At Napata.


At Napata.

235 - 218 BC


218 - 200 BC


205 BC

The arming of native Egyptians by Ptolemy IV of Egypt for his Syrian campaign has had an alarming and unforeseen effect. Suddenly (although probably after a few years of increasing rebellion from around 207 BC) Upper Egypt founds its own independent pharaonic kingdom. Two pharaohs command the breakaway region for around two decades. The first is Hugronaphor, known by an astonishing number of variations, including Harmachis, Haronnophris, Herwennefer, Horwennefer, Hurganophor, and Hyrgonaphor - the latter being Greek). He may be of Nubian origin.

200 - 190 BC

Tabriqo (Adikhalmani?)

190 - 185 BC


Name incomplete.

185 - 170s BC


Name unknown.

177 - 155 BC

Kandake Shanakdakhete

150s - 130 BC


Name unknown.

130 - 110 BC


110 - 90 BC


90 - 50 BC


Name incomplete.

90 - 50 BC


Queen. Name incomplete.

50s BC


50 - 40 BC

Kandake Amanikhabale

40 - 10 BC


At Meroë.

40 - 10 BC

Kandake Amanirenas

At Napata. Female. Ruled as a sub-kingdom or province?

23 - 22 BC

The Roman governor of Egypt, Petronius, invades Nubia in response to a Nubian attack on southern Egypt, pillaging the north of the region and sacking Napata in 22 BC before returning north.

10 BC - AD 1

Kandake Amanishakheto


AD 1 - 12

Kandake Amanitore


12 - 20


Kush continues for several centuries but little information exists on it. While earlier Kush had used Egyptian hieroglyphics, The inhabitants of Meroë develop a new script and begin to write in the Meroitic language, which has yet to be fully deciphered. The state seems to prosper, trading with its neighbours and continuing to build monuments and tombs.

Meroë pyramids
Never quite as grandiose as the pyramids of Giza, the pyramids of Meroë contain the bodies of a large number of kings, although sadly most of the structures are in ruins



c.20 - 30


c.30 - 40


c.40 - 50


c.50 - 62


62 - 85

Kandake Amanikhatashan

c.85 - 90


c.90 - 114

Teqerideamani I

114 - 134


134 - 140


c.140 - 155


c.155 - 170


c.170 - 175


c.175 - 190


c.190 - 200


c.200 - 215


c.200 - 350

The kingdom goes into decline. Gaps in the known names of rulers begin to appear.

215 - 225


225 - 246


Name unknown.



Name unknown.

246 - 266?

Teqerideamani II

266 - 283

Kandake Maleqorobar

283 - 306



Roman Emperor Diocletian calls in a people known as the Nobate from the oases of the western Egyptian desert, to defend the southern frontier of the empire at Aswan from raids by the Blemmyes, who are probably the Beja of the Red Sea Hills. These Noba and Nobatae settle along the river, and soon intermarry with the native population and replace the local language with their own. The Blemmyes are defeated, as is known by the Silko Greek inscription at Kalabsha which may be dated to around AD 530. Here Silko, who calls himself 'Basiliskos' or kinglet of the Nobatae, describes fighting the Blemmyes from Ibrim to Shellal and extracting an oath of submission from them.

306 - 314

Kandake Lahideamani


314 - 329


329 - 340


340 - 355


Name unknown.


The traditional theory is that the kingdom is destroyed during an invasion by Ezana of the Ethiopian kingdom of Axum. To contradict this, the Ethiopian account seems to describe the quelling of a rebellion in lands they already control. It also refers only to the Nuba, and makes no mention of the rulers of Meroë. However, no details of rulers are known after this date, making their survival unlikely.

There is a possibility that the kings, or at least something of the royal family, move to Pachoras and re-found the kingdom as Nobatia. There is also the possibility that the Akan people who have - according to tradition - migrated into the region from West Africa now migrate west again, eventually to form small tribal states in what is now Ghana, and possibly even the empire of Old Ghana.

c.350 - c.590

Details of the two hundred years from the fall of Kush to the middle of the sixth century are unknown. Nubia is inhabited by a people whom ancient geographers call the Nobatae (and have been labelled the X-Group by modern archaeologists, who are still at a loss to explain their origins). The Nobatae are clearly the heirs of Kush, as their whole cultural life is dominated by Meroitic crafts and customs, and occasionally they even feel themselves sufficiently strong, in alliance with the nomadic Blemmyes (the Beja of eastern modern Sudan), to attack the Romans in Upper Egypt. When this happens, the Romans retaliate, defeating the Nobatae and Blemmyes and driving them into obscurity once again.

When Sudan is once more brought into the orbit of the Mediterranean world by the arrival of Christian missionaries in the sixth century, the middle course of the Nile is divided into three kingdoms: Nobatia, with its capital at Pachoras (modern Faras); Makuria, with its capital at Dunqulah (Old Dongola); and the kingdom of Alodia in the south, with its capital at Subah (Soba) near what is now Khartoum.

Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.