Around 700 BC, two empires ruled the earth – the Assyrian Empire and the Kingdom of Kush. The Kingdom of Kush, also known as the Kingdom of Napata, the Kingdom of Kerma, the Meroitic Kingdom or sometimes called Nubia by some people, was a vast, powerful empire which dominated global affairs such that militarily, politically and economically, it was only rivalled by Assyria. No other power matched these two powers at the period.
Interestingly, at the height of her powers, the kingdom of Kush was ruled by Taharqa, a black African who inherited and consolidated a vast Kushite empire stretching from central Sudan to the Mediterranean, bordering Libya and Palestine –the largest Nile state in ancient times.
Taharqa was so powerful that he named himself “the Lord of the Four Quarters of the World.” Indeed, for some periods, Taharqa was the most powerful ruler, at least of all the ancient African kingdoms.
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Like the United States or the Soviet Union in the Cold War, the kingdom of Kush was a superpower. Yet, this ancient state has not been accorded the honour she deserves in history. Lewis Peake mentioned four major problems that hindered a full and accurate exposition of the Kushite civilization: “remoteness and inhospitable terrain of the study area; a paucity of known material remains and textual references; a legacy of overly racists’ theories and interpretations of the evidence and a historiographic persistence and inertia-the hegemony of the status quo.”
The Kingdom of Kush, now disintegrated as a result of an internal rebellion in the 4th century AD, was located on the Southern Nile Valley in modern-day Sudan and South Sudan. It was Egypt’s ferocious southern neighbour in those days and some have confused its location with the modern day country of Ethiopia. It is safe to say however that the Kushite Empire and Egypt had strong historical, political, religious and cultural linkage such that it would be difficult to discuss one without referring to the other.
In the ancient times, Kush was a major centre of power and as opined by researcher and photographer Malcolm Kwadwo Kwarte, “the Kushite deserts and armies formed the southern frontier of many classical civilizations.” Its gold and ivory were prized throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The Kushites were many things: craftsmen, ironworkers, mercenaries, goldsmiths, warriors, bowmen, etc. But most importantly, they were excellent builders of pyramids. They built many iconic pyramids in Napata, Meroe, Nuri and several other places which were cynosure of eyes on those days.
The 25th Dynasty which ushered in the Kushite royal dynasty in Egypt was started by Alara who founded the Napatan dynasty and then his brother-Kashta continued from where he stopped. But the Kushite dynasty was more popular with Piye at the helm as he was the one who completed the Egyptian conquest by seizing control of Lower Egypt and creating the 25th Dynasty. Piye was a famous warrior whose words “I shall cause Egypt to taste the taste of my fingers” remain eternal.
Piye and his successors Shabaka, Shebitku, and later Taharqa were dubbed the Black Pharaohs who all ruled Egypt in succession. Piye and his successors literally paved the way for Taharqa. They ruled the largest empire the Nile Valley had ever seen.
The ascendancy of the 25th Dynasty reached the zenith under Taharqa who actually was the son of Piye. He became the most powerful of the Black Pharaohs. During his time, it was largely prosperous because the era ushered in the most peaceful moment witnessed during the 25th dynasty. There were enormous harvests and abundant rainfall.
He also built several exotic pyramids and temples and indeed constructed the largest pyramid in the Napatan region while he also restored several others. He erected monuments at Thebes, Tanis, Karnak among other glittering architectural projects. However, his reign was dotted by running battles with the Assyrians. He fought several wars such that some historians recorded that his armies advanced as far as Spain in Europe.
Although the kingdom was later conquered as a result of endless warfare, it managed to rule Egypt for about 75 years and survived for close to a millennium before her final disintegration.