In podcast episode 6 Dr. Solange Ashby teaches us about the warrior queens of Meroe, Hollywood stereotypes about Egyptian women, and why you shouldn’t trust Wikipedia.
Meet the powerful, voluptuous queens of Meroe—Amanirenas, Amanitore, Amanishakheto. While Roman noblewomen were supposed to stay hidden at home, these queens were ruling and leading their troops into battle.
Hear how Nubian families tracked filiation through their mothers. Learn about color consciousness in the biblical story of Moses’ Kushite wife. And along the way, discover what Cleopatra and Wonder Woman have in common.
We should always be looking to the past to find what is valuable there, and bring it forward so that we can create a better future.Dr. Solange Ashby
Dr. Solange Ashby is President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in Egyptology and Nubian Religion at the University of California, Los Angeles in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. She is an Egyptologist, Nubiologist, and archaeologist.
Her recent book, Calling Out to Isis: The Enduring Nubian Presence at Philae (2020), studies Nubian worshippers of the goddess Isis. She earned a BA in Intercultural Studies at Simon’s Rock College and a PhD in Egyptology at the University of Chicago. She has researched at the temple of Philae in Egypt and excavated at the royal cemetery of El-Kurru in Sudan. In 2018, she featured in a documentary directed by Taaqiy Grant, which looked at the many aspects of Ancient Egyptian civilization, and in 2020 she featured in the film series Hapi, which focused on the role of economics in civilization. She previously taught at American University in Washington, DC and Barnard College.
[podcast theme music plays, an upbeat Mediterranean detective tune]
Emily Chesley: Welcome to Women Who Went Before, a gynocentric quest into the ancient world! I’m Emily Chesley…
Rebekah Haigh: …and I’m Rebekah Haigh…
Emily: …scholars, friends, and fellow text-raiders!
[podcast theme music continues]
Emily: In today’s episode, “Scepter and Sword: African Warrior Queens,” we talk to Solange Ashby about Nubian warrior queens, Hollywood stereotypes, and why you shouldn’t trust Wikipedia.
[podcast theme music]
Rebekah: Growing up, I adored watching the History Channel, especially if it involved anything with Egyptian queens – Cleopatra, Hatshepsut, Nefertiti. And when it was my turn to pick the movie for movie night, nothing beat Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra or Charlton Heston’s Ten Commandments. These are classics for a reason with their gripping drama, elaborate costumes, and grand stories. But what my ten-year-old self didn’t pick up on–
Emily: [Interrupting wryly] Amidst the bad acting? And the whitewashing? [laughs]
Rebekah: [laughing] Yes amidst that! – was that these movies depicted Egyptian women as exotic temptresses.
The seductive foreign temptress is one of the two stereotypes we’re exploring today. Cleopatra is the hallmark here. Famously she’s said to have seduced not one but two famous Romans: Julius Caesar and then Mark Anthony with her charms. This powerful foreign woman threatened social order with her sensuality. Or at least, that’s what her political opponents would have had us believe.
Emily: Even though Cleopatra’s dynasty was Greek, to Roman writers she was the symbol of Egypt, a lustful foreign queen who seduced their heroes. The historian and biographer Plutarch wrote of her scintillating influence on Marc Antony, “Such, then, was the nature of Antony, where now as a crowning evil his love for Cleopatra supervened, roused and drove to frenzy many of the passions that were still hidden and quiescent in him, and dissipated and destroyed whatever good and saving qualities still offered resistance. And he was taken captive in this manner” (Lives, Antony xxv.1, trans. Perrin, 1920). You hear the danger, passion, and lust Plutarch claims she stirred up in Marc Antony.
Rebekah: Equally threatening and equally foreign is the second stereotype – an Amazonian warrior woman. Marvel’s Wonder Woman has her roots in Greek mythology, stories of a race of warlike women who lived on the edges of the known world but hunted, rode, and fought as well as any man. Meroitic queens like Nawidemak and Amanirenas were sometimes viewed in this light by their opponents.
Emily: Speaking of movies, Hollywood’s sexualizing and othering of Egypt is far from over. In an April 2022 interview, Mohamed Diab, an Egyptian filmmaker and screenwriter who is directing the new Marvel series Moon Knight, said to SFX magazine, “In my pitch [to the studio] there was a big part about Egypt, and how inauthentically it has been portrayed throughout Hollywood’s history. It’s always exotic – we call it orientalism. It dehumanises us. We are always naked, we are always sexy, we are always bad, we are always over the top.”
Rebekah: These problematic cinematic stereotypes have old and deep roots – glimpses of which we saw as far back as Plutarch, writing in the first century CE. This episode we flip the script a bit on these stereotypes, traveling to the edges of the ancient Mediterranean world to the oft-overlooked ancient kingdom of Nubia, where we find out the real story of warrior queens and a matriarchal dynasty.
Emily: So let’s talk about Nubia, sometimes called Kush! Nubia sat in the Middle Nile Valley, in modern day southern Egypt and northern Sudan. There were three Nubian kingdoms: the kingdom of Kerma, from 2700-1500 BCE; Napata, which ran from roughly 800–300 BCE; and Meroe, from 300 BCE–300 CE. We’re going to focus mostly on this last kingdom today.
Rebekah: Royal Nubian women wielded a great deal of religious and political power that can be surprising to historians trained on the ancient Mediterranean! Nubian rulers relied on a matrilineal descent to confer legitimate political succession. And women wielded political and religious power.
And when Nubian queens were the sole rulers, as they began to be in the Meroitic period, they ruled as women. They didn’t wear the kilt or the beard of a Pharaoh, like the rare queens of Egypt had to do further north. In the Napatan kingdom, queens and mothers of kings sometimes held “parallel” titles as kings like “Mistress of the Two Lands” and “Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt.” Meroitic queens like Amanishakheto built multiple temples and huge palaces.
Emily: You might think you know nothing about Nubian women. But if you’ve ever read the Bible—as a Jew, a Christian, or someone taking a great books class in college—you’ve already met two! The first appears in the Torah. Despite what Charlton Heston implied in his film, Moses’s wife was not a white woman. She was dark-skinned, a “Kushite.” According to Numbers 12, Moses’ siblings used his marriage to this nameless woman as a reason to object to his leadership. It was not a positive alliance in this case.
Rebekah: The second woman appears in the New Testament in the book of Acts. There, the apostle Phillip meets an Ethiopian eunuch who’s traveling home from Jerusalem (Acts 8:26–40). We’re told he’s an official of Candace (Κανδάκη) Queen of the Ethiopians. Candace is actually the latinized version of the Kushite word for “Queen Mother.” The first centuries BCE and CE were a golden age for the Kushite kingdom. It was a moment in history when Nubian Queens wielded far, far more power than other royal women in the centuries prior. As we’ll discuss shortly, several kandakes were sole rulers and warrior queens (Plin., NH VI.186; Str., Geo. 17.1.54).
Emily: I love it! Women power! Why don’t we hear more about them in movies, Rebekah?
Rebekah: Well, maybe it’s just poor movie choices! [both laugh] No!
Well part of this is because Nubia tends to be associated with Africa, while Egypt is connected to the Mediterranean. And so Nubian kingdoms have often been relegated to the margins of Mediterranean scholarship. Egypt was conquered by Greece and eventually folded into the Roman Empire. It famously was the breadbasket of the empire, sending shiploads of grain to feed Rome and later Constantinople.
Emily: But also, we can’t talk about the history of women without talking about a strange duality: how male power was seen as a natural part of the cultural paradigm, but female power was seen as disruptive and counter-cultural.
Today we turn to Nubian women–too often been relegated to the peripheries, both of history and of biblical narratives. We explore how Kushite women were exoticized and racialized, what female power and influence looked like for the queens of Meroe, and how we can recover the lives of ordinary Nubian women.
Rebekah: To do that, we have with us Dr. Solange Ashby, President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in Egyptology and Nubian Religion at the University of California, Los Angeles in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. Solange is an Egyptologist, Nubiologist, and archaeologist.
Her recent book, Calling Out to Isis: The Enduring Nubian Presence at Philae (2020), studies Nubian worshippers of the goddess Isis. She earned a BA in Intercultural Studies at Simon’s Rock College and a PhD in Egyptology at the University of Chicago. She has conducted research in Egypt at the temple of Philae and excavated at the royal cemetery of El-Kurru in Sudan. In 2018, she featured in a documentary directed by Taaqiy Grant, which looked at the many aspects of Ancient Egyptian civilization, and in 2020 she featured in the film series Hapi, which focused on the role of economics in civilization. She previously taught at American University in Washington, DC and Barnard College.
Emily: So we’ve introduced our listeners briefly to two big stereotypes from pop culture and historiography about Egyptian women. And we’ll get to them in a moment. But before we do, could you tell us a little bit more about Ancient Nubia? Or should we call it Kush? And specifically, can you tell us about the Kingdom of Meroe?
Solange Ashby: Yeah, so the better term is Kush because that is the one that the Egyptians used to talk about the land to their south. And in fact in the Nubian inscriptions that I looked at when Nubians are writing in the Egyptian script they also called their land Kush, perhaps a nod to the language of the Egyptians.
So you did a really nice introduction to the three kingdoms: Kerma, Napata, and then Meroe. And we will be focusing on Meroe this discussion. And I think for our purposes it’s most important to stress that it was contemporary with first Ptolemaic Greek and then Roman colonial rule in Egypt. And so this provides a lot of outsider commentary, as you shared with your listeners, about who these Meroitic people were. And in this case specifically the queens.
Rebekah: So Solange, how did first Egypt and then you know the Ptolemaic period and then you know the Roman period influence culturally what’s happening in Kush? Or didn’t it? Or was it complicated?
Solange: It was complicated, as always. Right? With a contemporary and entwined history of 3000 years, I should say, of Pharaonic Egypt and then Kush in the south. They’re very much present throughout 3000 years together.
Generally, Egypt was often the stronger military power. And so we see initially in the Old Kingdom trade expeditions being sent up into Nubia into the south to bring back primarily ritual goods. So incense, ebony, ivory, gold. And then people who know the gods’ dances.
But then this morphs in the Middle Kingdom, and then again in the New Kingdom. Egypt becomes very militarily dominant. And so we have attacks into Nubia, the creation of fortresses, the establishment of a colonial power Egypt in Nubia with the intention, really to protect Egypt’s southern flank from potential military attack. But also to extract wealth. Primarily, in this case, gold and precious minerals. And so during this period—I’m thinking of the New Kingdom—Egypt is a colonial power in Nubia for 500 years.
And it’s during this period that Nubians begin to be exposed to Egyptian worship, but also their script. The hieroglyphic script, and then later the Demotic script. And so we see in the Napatan period—so about 900 to 300 BCE—the Napatan rulers using Egyptian hieroglyphic script to decorate their royal monuments. Funerary spaces or palaces or stele, which are just stone slabs with text on them. And so that influence is very profound because the Nubian culture is not one that had prioritized writing. In Kerma we have 1000 years of no writing and no depictions of the rulers. So it’s very, very different from Egypt in this way.
But in the Napatan period then we have the adoption of Egyptian gods and goddesses. The adoption of Egyptian writing of burial forms. So using pyramids instead of these mound burials called tumuli, which are much more indigenous.
Yeah, so the influence of Egypt in Nubia was profound.
Rebekah: So how did that factor into the royal power of women, the way royal women were depicted and the roles that they could have? And also religion, right? Like how was Egyptian religion made Kushite? Or wasn’t it or adopted in some way?
Yeah, so as always it changes over time, right. During the New Kingdom period, we’re not talking about Nubian royal anything, right. They’re a subject colony of Egypt, and so there is no Nubian royal.
But then in the subsequent Napatan period, when we do have royal families arising initially at the Fourth Cataract where the city of Napata was located and that cemetery El-Kurru where I excavated, then we start seeing forms that are very hybrid. So they start off having tumulus burials, but very quickly go to more Egyptian-style pyramid burials.
But we see a very different role for these Napatan queens. They are very much, they’re never actually sitting the throne as sole rulers in this second phase of the Nubian kingdoms. But they are quite important in designating which of the royal sons now would be considered eligible to be promoted to be the king. And it doesn’t seem to be an obvious father-to-son line of descent always. So we can’t call it quite matriarchal, but the queen mothers are eminently important in determining who of these royal children even has access to attempt to sit the throne of Napata.
And then it changes again completely in the Meroitic period, right. And this is when we see a burgeoning of indigenous traditions. And so while the Napatan period had adopted the worship of gods like Isis and Osiris and the god Amun—although they put their own Nubian spin on the God Amun, who’s probably being assimilated to their own indigenous ram god. So we see an Amun, a ram-headed Amun, Amun of Napata. And then the Amun of Thebes, the Egyptian Amun is shown with a human head. And so they’re sharing deities in this Napatan period.
During the Meroitic period that changes. Isis and Osiris continue to be important. But then we see the emergence of local gods and goddesses. So the lion-headed god Apedemak is a creator god, a god of war. Very powerful.
There’s imagery of elephants, although we don’t have a designated elephant god. But they do seem to be very much involved and present at the temple sites in the Meroitic heartland.
And the goddess called Amesemi who is shown in a fully human form but with a crescent moon on her head and the falcon sitting in the center of this upturned crescent. Very beautiful. And these are deities along with Arensnuphis and Sebiumeker who we don’t know about in Egypt. They’re quite different. And so very much Meroitic .
Emily: It almost sounds like you’re saying that as Meroitic society or Kushite society became more and more separated from Egypt we see not just unique indigenous deities, but maybe increasing roles for queens in politics. Is that correct? Is that what I’m hearing?
Solange: Absolutely, this is a very big change, although growing out of the earlier Napatan tradition.
So I want to emphasize that the queen mothers were essential for the coronation rite of their sons. She addresses the god Amun on behalf of her son, that he may ascend to the throne of Napata.
But then something profound happens when we come to the Meroitic period. And something shifts where women are understood to be eligible to be sole rulers. And it may just be that we had a particularly charismatic, intelligent, forceful woman who became that first female ruler, kind of along the lines of Hatshepsut, right, mold-breaking.
But very quickly in sequence we have five women, four of whom rule on their own, sitting the throne and the other of whom shares rule with her husband. That’s Amanitore and Natakamani, and it all happens between the 1st century BCE and the 1st century CE. And so it seems to be a trend.
And I especially love to emphasize that this is also the Golden age of the Meroitic Kingdom. And so these women were ruling well. And they brought their kingdom to a period of wealth, of international influence, of development, of funerary traditions, and of even the indigenous script. The Meroitic hieroglyphs and the cursive script I think we initially said were developed under a king Tanyideamani in about the 2nd century BCE, but now scholars are saying perhaps that script was developed under the rule of his mother. Still being heavily debated.
And I should add that our chronology of the rulers in Nubia is nowhere near as clear as it is in Egypt. The Egyptians were compulsive with making king lists and writing everything down. And it’s a very different culture and tradition in Nubia.
Rebekah: It’s really interesting that you have that confluence of things which you see in other moments in other places. So for instance, Judea, right, the rise of Hebrew over Aramaic some scholars think is part of this national project. Like this is what it means to be a nation. But of course it’s mostly male rulers. And what’s shocking to me is that we have this moment of religion shifts and we have more of an indigenous way around religion. And we have a national script now. And we also have women who are heavily involved in this period in this project. It’s just really fascinating.
Solange: You know, initially in your introduction you were talking about sort of the larger public understanding of Nubia as African, as opposed to Egypt being somehow Mediterranean. And oftentimes that is spun as a bad thing. But in this context we can see that as this ability of women to come forward as powerful rulers as being a more widespread African tradition.
So I was just writing a paper on pre-Christian Ethiopia, a kingdom called Daʿamat from about 800 BC. And so happy to see like these— All male rulers, but they’re very scrupulous about naming their mothers and their grandmothers. And she even has a very specific title which I can’t help but think “ooh is that like a kandake?” [Emily chuckles]
But then we see it even in later West African areas like of the powerful women of the Yoruba dynasties or queen Nzinga from the Kongo. I just learned of another powerful queen from Mali whose name I’m blanking on right now but who was very important in trying to fight against European colonial rule there in the late 19th century.
So in this case it seems to be an expression of a larger—and I don’t want to sort of universalize this—but a larger African cultural willingness to understand women as central players in society, as important in religious practices, and even as acceptable sole rulers.
Emily: I think this difference between in how women were seen from the inside versus the outside is really important.
I wonder if maybe this would be a good moment to kind of circle back to those external stereotypes we talked about a little bit at the beginning. We talked about the stereotype of the seductive foreign temptress like Cleopatra or the Amazonian warrior woman wielding power and strength in battle. Equally threatening and equally foreign. Is there any basis in history where these ideas come from, or are they complete fictions that come out of human prejudices and biases wanting to other?
Solange: I would say both. Because we know Cleopatra had children with those various Roman men, that she was in a romantic, well or maybe political, relationship with, right? So she certainly was sleeping with Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony.
But I think it’s also just negative political propaganda. I just sort of wrote down in my notes “It’s slut-shaming in the ancient world,” right? [Rebekah and Emily laugh wryly.] They’re threatened by this very powerful woman. And now she’s having children who are descendants of their own Roman emperors. And so this is profoundly threatening to Octavian who’s trying to sort of make his own move for power. And so the best that they can do is talk about Cleopatra as loose sexually and willing to use her body to get what she wants, yadda yadda, right?
It’s a very patriarchal culture the Roman culture, where elite women couldn’t even really leave the house unattended, from what I understand. Let alone rule an entire nation on her own. Or God forbid, in the Meroitic style lead her troops into battle. Right?
And so it’s a very different cultural context of the Romans. Looking at first the Egyptians, where there’s Cleopatra. And she is able to rule on her own but seems to need to sleep with these powerful men in order to hold power.
As opposed to—and now we’re into the warrior queens—in Meroe, where those women were not even considering sleeping with Roman emperors. They were at the head of their troops, clashing with the Roman invaders in battle. And it’s a whole different level of female power.
Rebekah: Do we have any sense of the way that the western world looked from the outside at women who were violent or even looked at their own women who maybe weren’t staying home in the city safe during battle? And were you know, infringing on that stereotype or the gender role prescribed to them?
Solange: So you’re taking me out of my area of expertise. [They laugh.]
I do know like this idea of Amazons is sort of a Greek or maybe a Roman projection onto sort of the wild women of the steppe right. The Scythian women who were riding horseback and engaging in battle. (I saw a beautiful artifact from the burial of a Scythian princess at the Penn Museum. Man!)
But this seemed to just blow the lid off the Greeks and the Romans, both of whom just did not want their women doing much of anything but staying home and being housewives and procreating, right. And so from this kind of a mindset, any other kind of woman is gonna be a “nasty woman,” as someone so famously said.
Emily: So what about from the inside? How were the queens who led their troops into battle like Amanirenas,how were they seen from the perspective of their own people?
Solange: They were portrayed as larger than life, which they may in fact have been. I love the body positivity of Meroitic queens. They are voluptuous. They’re large. They have big hips. They’re often shown with their chest bared, and I understand this as a position of power. They are ultra female.
And they are [laughs] draped in gold jewelry. So this is the land of gold. They just have amazing rings, necklaces, often with the ram head hanging down to indicate that they are the ruler. This is the symbol of the ram-headed Amun. They’re shown with these fabulous long, pointed fingernails. So like, I’m thinking, is this fashion or ferocity? Or maybe both?
Our listeners can Google the Temple of Naqa. And this is a temple in the vicinity of the capital city of Meroe. And there’s a pylon—so a monumental gate—and on the left side we see the king Nakatamani, who’s grasping prisoners by the head, and he’s getting ready to bash their heads in with a mace. Which is typical of a ruling king of an empire which is fighting off its enemies or seeking to dominate its enemies.
What is unusual is that on the right side of this monumental gate we have a larger-than-life image at the same scale as King Natakamani is Queen Amanitore who’s doing exactly the same thing in mirror image. She has enemies grasped by the hair. And she has raised behind her her mace. And getting ready to smash their heads in. While below each of them are lions that are devouring the fallen enemy.
And so they were very much all right with— I won’t say women. So I want to differentiate between, the average woman is not engaging in bashing enemies over the head. It is unique to the ruling queen, whether she be ruling with her spouse as Amanitore did, or one of those other sole ruling queens. This is perfectly acceptable for a Meroitic queen to be depicted engaging in this type of violence on behalf of the Kingdom of Meroe.
Emily: I just love that beautiful image in contrast to the writings of the Roman historians. I mean, I think of Strabo, who described Amanirenas famously as “a masculine sort of woman, and blind in one eye” in this very negative moment (Geography, 17.1.54, trans. Jones, 1932). But then you see from within, strong portraits that were admired and lifted up. That’s beautiful.
Solange: It is.
Rebekah: Could you tell us a little bit more about Amanirenas? Because she is just so fascinating and we kind of get glimpses of her from the outside (e.g., Dio Cassius, Ep. LIV.5). And such a fascinating character.
Solange: She really is. She is a bit more mysterious. We don’t unfortunately have any depictions of her. She is attested textually, which is one of the texts that I looked at.
So she together with her husband Teriteqas and their heir, probably their son Akinidad, have left an inscription in the monumental gate of a temple called Dakka, which is very far north. It’s still in Nubia. It’s currently in the modern nation of Egypt, but it’s very close to what was considered the traditional southern border of Egypt. So there the three of them together are pushing up into what is generally considered Egyptian territory. And if you will, tagging up on the pylon. So. And in a cartouche, which is what typically surrounds the royal name. So they are putting their royal mark on this temple to say “This is our space now.”
And so in that inscription—which is in the Meroitic script, the Meroitic cursive script—we are given the name Teriteqas. He has the title qore, which means that he is the ruler. Amanirenas, where her name is just written renas because amani is the Meroitic version of Amun. I don’t think I mentioned that earlier. So a lot of these queens with amani this, amani that, it’s okay just to write renas and we know who they’re talking about. She holds there the title kandake. And then their son we’re gonna assume, Akinidad holds a title called pekar, which is the title for the crown prince and then morphs into the administrator of this northern territory that becomes conquered territory for Meroe.
So unfortunately, no image of her. But the very powerful statement that “this is ours now” of this particular temple. Right there. It’s an Egyptian built temple originally, but these Meroitic rulers are coming up and laying claim to this space.
Rebekah: Incidentally, this might be a good moment [Rebekah and Emily laugh] to provide our listeners with an example of why you shouldn’t trust everything you read on the internet [both continue laughing] or even in some books!
So as I was Googling, right, to find more out about Amanirenas. If you Google you will find popular pieces that tell this marvelous story where she apparently sends a bunch of golden arrows to Augustus along with a message threatening that he’ll need them should he choose war over peace.
But to cut a really long story short, the quote doesn’t appear anywhere in ancient literature. We went down this whole rabbit hole trying to find evidence for this quote, cause it’s such a good one, right? But each secondary author pointed to another secondary author. And the best we could find was, “according to legend.” It’s turtles all the way down! [laughs] And you confirmed, Solange, that this doesn’t exist anywhere that you could find.
Solange: I have never read it anywhere as an inscription or even in like official Egyptological publication. I think it seems to have been, maybe, originally told in a book that was written by a journalist with no Egyptological training at all. [Rebekah laughs] So it seems like good journalism that is not necessarily correct history.
Emily: Yeah, we did find that book, and yeah, there was no footnote. [laughs in agreement] No.
Solange: It’s a great story! I mean, she was a badass, right.
Solange: Amnirenas was. And it seems like the kind of thing that she might have done. And she is like, possessor of all of these gold mines. So you know, there’s that little added extra local flavor [in the supposed legend] that the arrows are in gold. And I should add that the Nubians throughout all of Egyptian history were understood to be amazing archers. And so one of the many Egyptian names for the various areas that we now call Nubia was Ta-Seti, “the land of the bow.”
So this very much sort of pieces together bits of historical truth into what is like a Hollywood kind of rendition. This would just make a good script for a movie about Amanirenas, right. [All lauh] Not a historical publication.
Rebekah: I’m all for it! [laughs]
Emily: I really think that the truth is more interesting than the fiction. What you’ve told us about these queens, Amanirenas included, is so much more in depth and more fascinating than this one line that came from some legend somewhere.
Solange: I agree.
Emily: Something you briefly mentioned earlier was that the iconographic portrayals of queens were understood to be not necessarily representative of all women. Could you talk a little bit about how you go about recovering the lives of the non-elite women? We don’t have the same kind of literary corpus as we do for Latin works, which you’ve just explained to us. And I would imagine that this then becomes doubly true for recovering the lives of non-elite women.
It’s the royals who make it into the art, into the inscriptions, the elaborate tombs. So could you share a little bit of your detective methods for figuring out the lives of the non-elites?
Solange: So that’s very much what I am trying to incorporate into this book that I’m researching and writing about Nubian women. And I very much didn’t want it only to be about big-hipped women smashing the heads of enemies as sole ruling queens. You know, I wanted also to have representation of different classes of people.
It’s so much harder. And as a language person I’m really trained to look for texts. And so Nubia is very challenging in that they just mostly couldn’t be bothered with it. Even though those priests that I studied were able to read and write and compose texts in three languages. Three different scripts. Egyptian, Demotic, Meroitic, and Greek!
So it’s not that they couldn’t. They just, it wasn’t culturally important.
So the “regular women” quote-un-quote. They’re still elite women from northern Nubia.
I will include a chapter about a woman called Taese. This is an Egyptian name; she probably had a different Nubian name. But this name means “the female one of Isis.” And so she’s very much including herself in amongst these priests who were journeying to the temple of Philae to conduct rites for the goddess Isis.
But she, it’s interesting. We have a lot of, from this family called the Wayekiye family—they’re a noble family from northern Nubia—a lot of funerary texts. Not just from them, but from general elite families from this area of northern Nubia. And what is so interesting about the way that people are described on their funerary epitaphs is they will give their name, and then do what we call a filiation. So a filiation, I should say. So naming parentage.
And what I love is that amongst these people in northern Nubia, the mother’s name 90-some percent of the time comes first. I would say “I am Solange, born of Carlin in my mother’s name sired by Ormond.” And sometimes the father’s name is even omitted. But the important thing is that we know who is your mother.
And so I’m gonna use Taese as an example of these revered mothers. How these kinship relationships are structured around descent from a lineage of women. And we saw something similar in the royal family further south, where the kandakes, the queen mothers, are the ones the only ones whose children can be eligible to ascend the throne.
But in the north we have something similar in a non-royal context where society is organized around kinship relationships. And these relationships prioritize descent from the mother. And so that’s how I will look at it.
And then it’s gonna be a lot of digging in museum basements to find these engraved offering tables that have Meroitic texts around them, or funerary stele. So there’s a lot of material culture that I can use to get at this.
It’s just, it’s gonna be working to acquire a new skill set. Because originally it was all about conjugating verbs and memorizing nouns and being able to read this crazy, ugly Demotic script. [Rebekah and Emily laugh]
Rebekah: Our favorite thing to do, right conjugate verbs! [All laugh]
Rebekah: I also have another question, kind of a follow up on that, thinking about this idea of tracing yourself back through a line of mothers. There are a couple of other societies that maybe did that at one point, and there’s debate over why switch to a male model, right? Because with the mother you kind of know “oh, this is definitely my child.” But the question with the father is, “is it?” And you have all these laws and rules around, you know, marriage and sexuality because they’re using the other lineage model.
Solange: It’s a very different way to do it. But I haven’t read a lot of descriptions about that. I think people are still arguing back and forth about whether we can call this something resembling a matrilineal society.
What I will say is it seems just to have been the way that things were done in many societies on the continent of Africa. And outside conquest and imposition of different cultures changes that. So that’s what I was trying to allude to in my pre-Christian Ethiopia article about how things changed when Christianity was adopted.
In West Africa among the Yoruba, scholars have written about how when European domination started, it changed the gender balance in those societies against women, who had been in better positions but under European colonial domination lost that status.
And I would venture to say that something similar happens in Nubia, first with Christianity—although we do see these powerful women continuing on in Christian Nubia, which is almost 1000 years again. So maybe like 450 or 500 CE to about 1450 CE we have these powerful queen mothers.
And there’s an image that I love, beautiful paintings from the Nubian cathedrals. One of Queen Mother Martha who is sitting next to the Virgin Mary. That is different but similar to a stele that I love of a Meroitic queen Amanishakheto receiving the breath of life from Amesemi, that Meroitic goddess. So the pairing of a powerful woman with a goddess, or a divine female figure I’ll say for the Virgin Mary. So this powerful role for women can seems to continue in the Nubian Christian period, but then is eroded during the following period of Islamic rule.
Which you know, it still is a Muslim culture in Egypt and Sudan. And yet my Nubian friend, I love that she told me, yes she’s married to an Egyptian man. When they’re with her family their child is referred to by husband’s last name. But when they go home to her Nubian village—and she’s said this on a number of occasions—her daughter is called Her Name and then “daughter of Menna.”
And so I love that these traditions seem not to want to die, and that despite all of the overlay of colonial impositions or religious change, that there is still a power and a central role and a just a respect for women in this culture.
Rebekah: So I spent too many years knowing very little about the Kushites other than that Moses may or may not have been married to one. Cindie White Crawford has pointed out that some scholars read color consciousness or an awareness of difference between ethnic groups in that infamous sibling rivalry story in Numbers. And so this might explain perhaps why Miriam gets sentenced with this divine punishment of leprosy, or this, “snow” disease.
So can we speak of color consciousness in texts like these or in the Mediterranean world in general in art and archaeology? Or is this something that’s really particular to our moment time now?
Solange: I think choosing the term color consciousness allows us to say yes, we can see that there. It is certainly clear in that statement at Numbers 12 that they are othering this wife of Moses, right. “She’s not one of us, you know. Why did you have to go and marry this Kushite woman?”
And I, when I went back to reread that, I find it very interesting that the punishment for Miriam is that she gets the skin disease that turns her ultra white. [laughs] I feel like that is like, a sort of an additional dig. Like, “Oh, you want to like disrespect this black woman? Look, you’re gonna just become as white, whiter than you’ve ever been before.” [All three laugh] I think God wasn’t messing around, and there was a subtle message in there!
Certainly we all see skin color differences, despite what some people may say, right. And so it would have been obvious to everyone in this very multicultural world on either side of the Red Sea there, right? We’re told that I think he has married a daughter of a Midianite right, and so that’s just the west coast of the Arabian Peninsula.
Certainly, African people have been trading with the Arabian Peninsula for—well, who knows when Moses actually lived— But that kingdom of Daʿamat and the, with the capital at Yeha that I was talking about, they’re trading already over to Yemen, right, the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula. Certainly they were seeing African people in this area probably for as long as people have been around.
But there does seem to be a disrespect of this woman precisely because she is a Kushite. Which really is quite different than what we see elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible. When they’re talking about the Kushite king Tirhakah, who’s Taharqa, who is valorized because he comes with his Kushite army as now the ruler of Egypt, Egypt’s 25th dynasty, to save the kingdom of Judah, right, when the Assyrians were menacing. It’s not a uniform “We don’t like the Kushites.”
But I will just add that I think Kushite appears 26 times in the Hebrew Bible, and then the toponym Kush itself appears another 30 times. So the people who are writing down this scripture are very familiar with these people. And some interactions are presented as positive and some as not so positive.
Although I really feel like, as I said, God has the final say. And maybe the folks recording this story are kind of getting in that final dig like, “Oh, you don’t like the Kushites? Let’s see what you’re gonna look like with leprosy!” [All laugh] That’s just my take!
Rebekah: So what about your personal origin moment or story? How did you begin to study Nubian women? Like, what drew you to that space, the particular era that you focused on?
Solange: This is where I get to give the flowers like I always want to to my dissertation chair, Dr. Janet H. Johnson from the University of Chicago who is an amazing scholar of Demotic. She’s the head of the Chicago Demotic Dictionary Project and has written so much about women in antiquity. And she, when I went to her and I said, “I want to talk about this period when Egyptians stopped practicing their traditional temple religion and adopted Christianity. How will I do that? How can I write a dissertation about that?” And she said, “Go look at the graffiti, the prayer inscriptions inscribed into the wall of the temples of Philae and Dakka and those other temples in Nubia.” And so that’s what I did.
And then really more to your question, at some point I wrote in a chapter I was turning in to her, “And these men yadda yadda yadda. The authors of the graffiti…” And she writes in the margin “Only men? No women?” And I thought “That’s right. There were no women.”
Although these men say, they often refer to performing a rite in front of my daughter, or saying a prayer for my mother who is journeying to Meroe. Or I’m here with all of the people, all of my people. So this is very much a communal process of Nubians coming north to these temples to engage in rites. And so women were there.
I wanted to know well what were the women doing? You know the women weren’t just sitting there with their hands crossed waiting for the men to be done with their rites and their priestly roles. [laughs] So then I started looking into more specifically what were women doing.
And it turns out in this particular instance, in the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE, the women were probably engaging in music and dance and rites performed communally in the forecourt of the temple of Philae. Very much more in honor of the goddess Hathor than the goddess Isis that their husbands, fathers, and brothers were performing priestly rites for.
Emily: We smiled when you said “women were there,” because that’s the tagline of this podcast. So thanks for promoing—unknowingly! [laughs]
Solange: Oh! Unintentionally! Of course they were there! We’re everywhere!
Rebekah: Who’s your favorite woman that you wish got more airtime on let’s say The History Channel?
Solange: I keep getting asked this and man, it’s like who’s your favorite child, right? It’s hard to choose!
I think before I’ve said Amanirenas [Editor: Amenirdis I], who is a Kushite princess during Egypt’s 25th Dynasty who served in the really powerful priestly but also administrative role as a god’s wife of Amun. In an earlier period before the Meroitic period.
But I think today I’m gonna pick Amanishakheto because she’s just so fabulous in all the ways. I was referring to that stela from a temple of hers at Naqa where she’s shown receiving the breath of life depicted as ankh signs. So the Egyptian sign for life coming out of the mouth of the goddess Amesemi and into the nostrils of Queen Amanishakheto. She is large, voluptuous. She has rolls of fat around her waist. Her breasts are bare. She has temple tribal scarification on her face. And apparently she was buried with a whole cache of gold jewelry.
But she was a fabulous woman. There’s no sign of a husband to be seen anywhere. She’s depicted with a younger man who might have been her son in her funerary chapel and elsewhere. But just a true queen.
And may also have met the Romans in battle. We’re not quite 100% sure who this kandake is that Strabo and others tell us about. Probably Amanirenas, but I don’t think the Romans gave up so easily. So maybe Amanishakheto also had to meet them in battle.
Emily: As we kind of draw to a close, what would you hope that folks today might take away from learning about Meroe and what matriarchal power looked like in that world?
Solange: To really get a view into a society where women are equal and important players. Even non-royal women are really esteemed and the whole society is built around her role as mother. The center of a family, that one who produces the next generation and for that reason is to be revered.
A society that has goddesses who are prominent, although not the only deities. There’re also male gods. This is part of this balancing of the male and female, right. I’m not talking about a world where there’s only powerful female beings, but that both genders are to be balanced, to be in communion with each other.
And by looking at such a society, then to turn and gaze at our own and the sort of foolishness, frankly, that we as women live with day in and day out. The violence. The disrespect. The lower income. The lack of reverence in general society for mothers so much. And think to ourselves, “We could do better.”
You know we can look at this model of this ancient African society and think about how can we bring some of that back. When I’m describing my book, I often like to refer to the Akan concept of sankofa. That is a bird that’s looking back to pluck a seed from its back. And the idea is that we should always be looking to the past to find what is valuable there and bring it forward so that we can create a better future with this. And for me, that’s what this, for people learning about these Nubian women, who are still here with us today.
I just want to say that we still have powerful Nubian women amongst us today in Egypt and Sudan. I live in Washington, DC. There’s a large expat community here. But we need to try to revive this way of understanding what a woman is, what she can be, and how she should be treated. That is, revered.
[podcast theme music plays]
Emily: When we move outside the confines of the Roman empire and the dominance of Greco-Roman thought, just as we encounter other languages and cultures, we also encounter other ways of understanding women and find different leadership roles open to women in those societies. It’s not that there weren’t powerful women within the Greco-Roman world, but the women who were political and military leaders seem to have lived outside its orbit. We saw the kandakeshere in Nubia. But there were more!
Rebekah: Artemisia I was a Persian ruler of Halicarnassus [Ἁλικαρνᾱσσός] in the early 5th century BCE. She was a naval commander, successfully leading ships against the Greeks at Salamis.
Boudicca was queen of the Iceni tribe in Britain and led her troops into battle against the Roman legions in 62 CE.
Zenobia was queen of Palmyra around 267–72 CE; she conquered Egypt and parts of Asia Minor before being defeated by Rome.
The Hasmonean queen Salome Alexandra was the first and only queen in Jewish history to rule without a husband. And according to Josephus, her granddaughter rallied her own Judean warriors and even ruled a small desert kingdom.
Amalasuntha was a 6th-century Ostrogothic queen who ruled Italy from 526–534 CE, first as regent for her son and then as co-ruler until he overthrew her and banished her to an island.
Rome didn’t have these ruling warrior queens, probably due in part to its legal and cultural patriarchy. Roman law had enshrined a doctrine of paterfamilias that essentially made men the legal tyrants over their households. It traced back to Aristotle, who decreed strict household hierarchies that were meant to stabilize families and keep the state orderly and strong. Husbands were supposed to rule over their wives, who by “nature” of being women supposedly lacked full reasoning capabilities (Aristotle, Politics, I.12–13).
It’s also possible that women’s ability to rise up to political leadership was limited, given that most Roman emperors were also military commanders. Clearly women had the ability to ride to war, as we’ve seen, but the Romans didn’t permit women soldiers – so they couldn’t rise through the ranks in the same way. Culture is complex, so many more reasons would need to be factored in as to why. But this divide between Rome and the kingdoms surrounding it seems to remain.
Emily: We’ve alluded to on the podcast how later Europeans and Americans invented fictive Greek and Roman “ancestry” for their societies. Charlemagne named himself “Holy Roman Emperor” even though he had no Roman ancestry; he was Frankish! The newly formed nineteenth-century nation-state, Germany, claimed Greece and Rome as its forebears; that supposed “Greco-Roman” heritage prompted Hitler to invade Greece.
When Pierre L’Enfant planned Washington, DC, he intentionally designed its government buildings after the Roman monumental style. In December 2020, then-president Trump signed an executive order decreeing all government buildings must be built on a Classical style. Now, Americans aren’t biologically descended from Rome anymore than we are descended from Carthage. But through history, law, and culture, it’s come down as a fictive, national ancestry.
So, I wonder—and this is pure speculation, pure dreaming—if cultural attitudes towards women today would be different if we had decided that Nubia or Palmyra or the tribes of pre-Roman Britain would be our fictive forebears. If we celebrated as our inspiration not a society that legally enshrined tyrannical patriarchy, but one that followed women into battle and bowed before them in the throne room.
And I wonder even more if we could create a more equal future by collectively imagining different lineages for today. They’re fictive anyway, so why not choose a different past on which to build our future?
[podcast theme music]
Rebekah: If you enjoyed our show, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Audible, or wherever you get your podcasts. Check out our website, womenwhowentbefore.com or find us on Twitter @womenbefore.
This podcast is written and produced and edited by us, Rebekah Haigh and Emily Chesley. Our music is composed and produced by Moses Sun. This podcast is sponsored by the Center for Culture, Society and Religion, the Program in Judaic Studies, and the Stanley J. Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies all at Princeton University.
Emily: Thanks for listening to Women Who Went Before. And don’t forget: women were there![podcast theme music concludes]
 Plutarch, Lives, Antony xxv.1, in Plutarch, Lives, Volume IX: Demetrius and Antony. Pyrrhus and Gaius Marius, trans. Bernadotte Perrin, Loeb Classical Library 101 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1920), 191.
 Mark Cartwright, “Amazon Women,” World History Encyclopedia, November 14, 2019.
 Nick Setchfield, “Lunar Landing: Get Set to Meet Moon Knight, Marvel’s Hero with an Identity Crisis,” SFX, April 2022, 47. On Orientalism, see of course, Edward W. Said, Orientalism, 25th anniversary edition (New York: Vintage Books, 1994).
 On the history of Nubia, see Marjorie M. Fisher, “The History of Nubia,” in Ancient Nubia: African Kingdoms on the Nile, eds. Marjorie M. Fisher et. al. (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press 2012), 10–44, esp. 33–39. For images of the UNESCO world heritage archaeological site of the Meroitic kings, see “Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe,” UNESCO World Heritage Conservation, inscripted 2011. On Meroitic women, see Solange Ashby, “Priestess, queen, goddess: The divine feminine in the kingdom of Kush,” in The Routledge Companion to Black Women’s Cultural Histories (London: Routledge, 2021), 23–34.
 Joyce Haynes and Mimi Santini-Ritt, “Women in Ancient Nubia,” in Ancient Nubia: African Kingdoms on the Nile, eds. Marjorie M. Fisher et. al. (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2012), 173.
 Haynes and Santini-Ritt, “Women in Ancient Nubia,” 180–184. See also Michael Zach, “Meroe: Mythos und Realität einer Frauenherrschaft im antiken Afrika,” in Nachrichten aus der Zeit, ed. Edith Specht (Vienna: Weiner Frauenverlag, 1992), 73–114. The Bible mentions “Kush,” typically referring broadly to Africa or more narrowly to Southern Egypt. It often portrays the Kushites as warriors. Kush is the father of the mighty hunter Nimrod in Genesis 10, and David counts a Kushite among his warriors. But of course, it’s not the Kushite men who get our attention today, but Kushite women.
 On the ancient Greeks’ stereotypes and misinformation about Nubia, see Stanley M. Burstein, “Greek and Roman Views of Ancient Nubia,” in The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Nubia, eds. Geoff Emberling and Bruce Beyer Williams (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021), 699–705, esp. at 704. 697–711.
 Editor’s Note: Nzinga (c. 1583-1663) was queen of Ndongo and Matamba in modern-day Angola, kingdoms south of the Kongo.
 On contrasting Kushite and Roman accounts of Augustus’ retreat before Amanirenas, see Burstein, “Greek and Roman Views,” 706–707.
 Strabo, Geography, Volume VIII: Book 17. General Index, trans. Horace Leonard Jones, Loeb Classical Library 267 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1932), 139. Writing from Rome, the historian Josephus tells us that Moses met and married an Ethiopian princess while campaigning as an Egyptian prince (Ant. 2.252–253).
 See, for example, Adhiambo Edith Magak, “The One-Eyed African Queen Who Defeated the Roman Empire,” Narratively, September 23, 2021.
 Selina O’Grady, And Man Created God: A History of the World at the Time of Jesus (New York: Atlantic Books, 2012), 84.
 Solange Ashby, “Milk Libations for Osiris: Nubian Piety at Philae,” Near Eastern Archaeology 82, no. 4 (2019): 200–209; Solange Ashby, “Dancing for Hathor: Nubian Women in Egyptian Cultic Life,” Dotawo: A Journal of Nubian Studies 5, no. 1 (2018): 67f; and Haynes and Santini-Ritt, “Women in Ancient Nubia,” 170–185. For a description of Queen Amanishakheto’s lavish tomb, see Peter Lacovara and Yvonne J. Markowitz, “The Treasure of a Nubian Queen,” in Ancient Nubia: African Kingdoms on the Nile, eds. Marjorie M. Fisher et. al. (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press 2012), 48–51.
 The phrase is that of Cain Hope Felder, “Race, Racism and the Biblical Narratives,” in Cain Hope Felder, ed., Stony the Road We Trod: African American Biblical Interpretation (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991), 127. Moses’ Cushite wife sits “at one of the primary intersections of gender and ethnicity in the book of Numbers” (Ron M. Serino, “A Sign in the Dark: Moses’ Cushite Wife and Boundary Setting in the Book of Numbers,” Biblical Interpretation 24 (2016): 153–177 [p. 154]. But as Sidnie White Crawford warns, we need to avoid importing our own “race-consciousness” into the biblical world (“Moses’ Black-Skinned Wife: What Does the Torah Think of Her?” TheTorah.com, ?” June 2, 2021, last updated October 25, 2022). C.f., David T. Adamo, “A Silent Unheard Voice in the Old Testament: The Cushite Woman whom Moses Marries in Numbers 12:1-10,” In die Skriflig 52 (2018).
 Violaine Sebillotte Cuchet, “Hérodote et Artémisia d’Halicarnasse: Deux métis face à l’ordre des gens athénien,” Clio. Histoire‚ femmes et sociétés 27 (2008), 2.
 Natalie B. Kampen, “Boudicca,” Oxford Encyclopedia Women in World History, ed. Bonnie G. Smith (2008), online edition; and Richard Hingley and Christina Unwin, Boudica: Iron Age Warrior Queen (Bloomsbury, 2006), esp. 8–12.
 Shane Brennan, “Zenobia (Palymrene Bath Zabbai),” Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity, 2018, online edition; and Margaret Steyn, “Zenobia of Palmyra: Reality or Legend?” Journal for Semitics 26 no. 2 (2017): 717–744.
 Kenneth Atkinson, The Hasmoneans and Their Neighbors (Bloomsbury, 2018), 154–155.
 Gillian Clark, Late Antiquity: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 124; and A. David Frankforter, “Amalasuntha, Procopius, and a Woman’s Place,” Journal of Women’s History 8, no. 2 (1996): 41–57.
 Neda Ulaby and Elizabeth Blair, “Keep It Classical, Says Trump Order On Federal Architecture,” NPR, December 21, 2020.
- David T. Adamo. “A Silent Unheard Voice in the Old Testament: The Cushite Woman whom Moses Marries in Numbers 12:1–10.” In die Skriflig 52 (2018).
- “Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe.” UNESCO World Heritage Conservation. Inscripted 2011.
- Solange Ashby. “Dancing for Hathor: Nubian Women in Egyptian Cultic Life.” Dotawo: A Journal of Nubian Studies 5, no. 1 (2018): 63–90.
- ———. “Milk Libations for Osiris: Nubian Piety at Philae.” Near Eastern Archaeology 82, no. 4 (2019): 200–209.
- ———. “Priestess, queen, goddess: The divine feminine in the kingdom of Kush.” Pp. 23–34 in The Routledge Companion to Black Women’s Cultural Histories. London: Routledge, 2021.
- Kenneth Atkinson. The Hasmoneans and Their Neighbors. Bloomsbury, 2018.
- Shane Brennan. “Zenobia (Palymrene Bath Zabbai).” Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.
- Stanley M. Burstein. “Greek and Roman Views of Ancient Nubia.” Pp. 699–705 in The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Nubia. Edited by Geoff Emberling and Bruce Beyer Williams. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021.
- Mark Cartwright. “Amazon Women.” World History Encyclopedia. November 14, 2019.
- Gillian Clark. Late Antiquity: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.
- Sidnie White Crawford. “Moses’ Black-Skinned Wife: What Does the Torah Think of Her?” TheTorah.com, June 2, 2021, last updated October 25, 2022.
- Violaine Sebillotte Cuchet. “Hérodote et Artémisia d’Halicarnasse: Deux métis face à l’ordre des gens athénien.” Clio. Histoire‚ femmes et sociétés 27 (2008): 1–15.
- Cain Hope Felder. “Race, Racism and the Biblical Narratives.” Pp. 127–145 in Cain Hope Felder, ed. Stony the Road We Trod: African American Biblical Interpretation. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991.
- Marjorie M. Fisher. “The History of Nubia.” Pp. 10–44 in Ancient Nubia: African Kingdoms on the Nile. Edited by Marjorie M. Fisher et. al. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press 2012.
- A. David Frankforter. “Amalasuntha, Procopius, and a Woman’s Place.” Journal of Women’s History 8, no. 2 (1996): 41–57.
- Joyce Haynes and Mimi Santini-Ritt. “Women in Ancient Nubia.” Pp. 170–185 in Ancient Nubia: African Kingdoms on the Nile. Edited by Marjorie M. Fisher et. al. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2012.
- Richard Hingley and Christina Unwin. Boudica: Iron Age Warrior Queen. Bloomsbury, 2006.
- Natalie B. Kampen. “Boudicca.” Oxford Encyclopedia Women in World History. Edited by Bonnie G. Smith. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
- Peter Lacovara and Yvonne J. Markowitz, “The Treasure of a Nubian Queen.” In Ancient Nubia: African Kingdoms on the Nile. Edited by Marjorie M. Fisher et. al. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press 2012.
- Plutarch. Lives, Volume IX: Demetrius and Antony. Pyrrhus and Gaius Marius. Translated by Bernadotte Perrin. Loeb Classical Library 101. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1920.
- Edward W. Said. Orientalism, 25th anniversary edition. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.
- Ron M. Serino. “A Sign in the Dark: Moses’ Cushite Wife and Boundary Setting in the Book of Numbers.” Biblical Interpretation 24 (2016): 153–177.
- Nick Setchfield. “Lunar Landing: Get Set to Meet Moon Knight, Marvel’s Hero with an Identity Crisis.” SFX. April 2022.
- Margaret Steyn. “Zenobia of Palmyra: Reality or Legend?” Journal for Semitics 26 no. 2 (2017): 717–744.
- Strabo. Geography, Volume VIII: Book 17. General Index. Translated by Horace Leonard Jones. Loeb Classical Library 267. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1932.
- Neda Ulaby and Elizabeth Blair. “Keep It Classical, Says Trump Order On Federal Architecture.” NPR. December 21, 2020.
- Michael Zach. “Meroe: Mythos und Realität einer Frauenherrschaft im antiken Afrika.” Pp. 73–114 in Nachrichten aus der Zeit. Edited by Edith Specht. Vienna: Weiner Frauenverlag, 1992.