Kushite Empire

Kushite Empire (806-350 CE) was a Nubian empire, at its peak, included northern Sudan, Egypt, and the Levant.


Kushite Pyramids

The Kushite Empire had its beginning with Kashta (c. 760-747). In 760 BCE, Kashta took over the Egyptian city of Thebes, establishing himself as Pharaoh. He intimidated the Priestess of Amun to accept his daughter as heir, thereby acquiring the mandate to rule all of Egypt. Kashta worshipped Amun at Jabal Barkal in Nubia, to further his claim as Pharaoh. Piye(c. 747-716),  Kashta's successor, conquered all of upper Egypt. Shabaqo(c. 716-702), Piye's successor conquered all of Egypt. The empire extended 2,000 miles from the fourth cataract in Nubia to the Levant. The capital was moved to Thebes. Shabaqo is considered the founder of the 25th Dynasty of Egypt. The Kushite emperors had the title King of the Upper and Lower Egypt.

Taharqa was the greatest of the Nubian emperors. He was mentioned in the bible-- Isaiah 37:8-9, & 2 Kings 19:8-9 and was listed by Greek geographer historian Strabo as among the greatest conquerors. Taharqa lead an army into Palestine to aid king Hezekiah against the Assyrians.

In 671 BCE, the Assyrian King Esarhaddon invaded Egypt and defeated Nubian forces under Taharqa(c. 690-664 BCE), using iron weapons.  Memphis was captured. Lower Egypt fell to the Assyrians. In 669 BCE, Taharqa rallied his force at the Delta. The Nubians were unable to defeat the Assyrians. In 663 BCE, the Assyrians retook Memphis and proceeded south to Thebes and Karnak, which they sacked. Tanwetamani (c. 664-656 BCE), the last Nubian emperor gave-up on re-conquering Egypt and moved the capital to Napata at Jebal Barkal.

Kushite Temple

The Nubians remained a significant power player in Mediterranean geopolitics. The Romans who conquered most nations along the Mediterranean, never conquered Nubia. The Kushites became a thorn in Rome's side, in 25 BC they took over the Egyptian cities of Syene, Elephantine, Thebes ,and Philae. Rome regained those cities, but became acutely aware of the Nubian threat. Rome sent troops three more times, but was unable to sub-due the Kushites or make Nubia a Roman province.


The Kushite Empire was divided into provinces run by a pesto (governor). The pesto had subordinates who served specialized functions. Nubian queens were co-rulers with pharaohs. In some cases, they ruled alone.


Kushite soldiers fought with bow and arrow. Nubia was known as the land of the bow. Kushite soldiers were expert archers. Nubian bows were about six feet in length. Arrows were short with poisonous tips. They also fought with clubs, swords, pikes, and hatchets. Kushite military also fought with elephants. They were probably the first to use elephants in warfare in the ancient world. They trained war elephants for export to Egypt. Nubians were expert horsemen. They developed a reputation for horse training. Nubians revered their horse. Some were burried with their horses.


The Kushite Empire controlled the trade route emanating from central Africa to the Mediterranean. The empire served as a middleman between the two regions. After the Assyrian defeat, Kush became a center of iron production. Cotton was domesticated in the Sudanic region. Nubia manufactured cotton cloth and exported Kushite cloth throughout the Mediterranean.


Kushite kings worshipped Amun, who they adopted from Egyptians. Jebel Barkal ("pure mountain") in Napata was a sacred site. The site had remains of numerous temples, palaces, and massive store rooms. The cemetery of  Sanam Abu Dom was also located in the area. Kushite temples for Amun were similiar to Egyptian temples, but temples for local gods were constructed differently. Downstream were burial grounds of El Kurru and Nuri. By the 4th century, Nuri burial sites were abandon for burial at Meroe.

Works Cited

Collins, Robert O.; Burns, James M. (2007). A History of Sub-Saharan Africa. New York City: Cambridge University Press.  ISBN 978-0-521-68708-9

Davidson, Basil (1991). Africa In History, Themes and Outlines. Revised and expanded ed. New York City: Simon & Schuster, pp. 32-33. ISBN 0-684-82667-4

Poe, Richard(1999). Black Spark White Fire, Did African Explorers Civilize Ancient Europe? Prima Publishing: Roseville, California. ISBN 0-7615-2163-1

Török,László(1997). The kingdom of Kush: handbook of the Napatan-Meriotic civilization, Part 1, Volume 31. Brill, ISBN 9004104488, 9789004104488.

Tags: kush nubia sudan  meroe napatan