African Kings That Ruled Empires

Published on: August 24, 2021 (Updated on: April 22, 2024)

African kings that ruled empires

When talking about the history of African kingdoms, what comes to the mind of many people is Ancient Egypt over four thousand years ago. However, there is so much more to the history of African kings and their kingdoms. In this article, we would be taking a look at notable African kings that ruled empires.

Africa is home to diverse kinds of people from so many different ethnicities. The continent is rich in tradition, culture, and also history. Many people are familiar with African history, but with no extensive knowledge of African royalty, kingdoms and empires.

Notable African kings that ruled empires:

1. Endubis

Endubis was a king of the kingdom of Aksum in East Africa. The great empire of Aksum rose to power after the fall of Ancient Egypt and Nubia. The North Eastern Empire spanned across Ethiopia, Egypt, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. The empire lasted between 100 CE to 960 CE. Endubis' reign was between 270CE to 300 CE. The Aksum empire was also credited for bringing the Nubian kingdom to an end.

Endubis was the first ruler in Ancient Africa to ever mint coinage, and every other Aksum ruler did the same afterward in gold, silver and bronze, with their faces and motto on it. Aksum is one of the oldest African Empires and is spread across modern-day Ethiopia and Eritrea.

2. Sundiata Keita

Sundiata was the founder of the Mali Empire which spread across Gambia, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Niger, Mauritania, and Mali. His rule lasted between 1210 to 1255. The Mali empire rose to power following the destruction of the Ghana Empire by the kings of Morocco.

Sundiata's rule and rise to power were chronicled by a poem by "Griots" titled "The Epic of Sundiata". His conquest began with a victorious battle at Kirina on the Niger River. He then went on to conquer the territories in Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, and Gambia. His empire was known to be one of the wealthiest and most powerful West African Empires.

3. Mansa Musa

Mansa Musa, meaning "Emperor" or "King of kings" in ancient Mali, was the 10th Musa of the Keita Dynasty. He was a great king and his rule brought great wealth to Mali, making the nation one of the wealthiest in the world at the time.
During his rule, Mali flourished in agriculture, gold, and salt production. His wealth was so great, Forbes named him the richest man of all time.

He was known to have enriched the trading city of Timbuktu, establishing Islamic universities. His legendary pilgrimage to Mecca also drew lots of attention to him, and he had over 60,000 people in attendance. He was incredibly wealthy and lavishly gave out to the poor. His generous giving of gold across Egypt, the Middle East, and the Sahel region is suspected to have been what had initially drawn the attention of the Europeans to West Africa.

4. Sonni

Sonni was a genius military mind. He led the largest imperialist mission in West Africa. Sonni's empire was known as the Songahi empire which reigned between the 15th to 16th centuries. The Songhai empire spanned over Senegal, Nigeria, Mauritania, Niger, Gambia, and Guinea. His empire became the biggest Muslim West African empire ever recorded.

Sonni was a brilliant strategist, and his army could fight both on land and on water. At the peak of the Songhai empire, it was said to have surpassed the great Mali empire. They conquered even the great trading city of Timbuktu, spreading Islam throughout both rural and urban centers.

5. Osei Kofi Tutu

Ashanti was a very wealthy and political kingdom known for its gold. They were amongst the first Sub-Saharan forces to use firearms in their military. The wealth of the Ashanti kingdom came from their gold deposits and large salt production.

Osei Kofi Tutu was the chief of the small Akan city-state of Kumasi. He formed the Ashanti empire by unifying the Akan groups under the Golden Stool which was the Ashanti seat of power. Osei Kofi Tutu influenced the other Akan to overthrow the Akan group that was dominating at the time, conquering neighboring states as well.

The unified Akan group spread their wealth and territories by absorbing other Akan territories. The Ashanti retained the Golden Stool until the British imperial Government demanded that it be turned over. Because of this, the "War of the Golden Stool" broke out as the Ashanti people resisted the British.

6. Last but not the least of notable African kings that ruled empires is 'Alaafin Orompoto'

Alaafin (Kingship title meaning owner of the palace) Orompoto was a descendant of Oduduwa and the first female king of Oyo.

Oduduwa is known to be the forebearer of Yoruba land and also the Yoruba dynasty. He was the progenitor of the Oyo empire. There are Yoruba folktales about him, and he is considered a god in Yoruba land. It is largely unknown where he came from, or when he established the Yoruba land and language.

However, records tell that he descended to ancient Nigeria and defeated the many settlements in existence at the time to establish Yoruba land. Legend has it that he had 16 children, and before his death, he sent them to each of the territories that he conquered. He sent them to rule, and they established kingdoms such as Owu, Ila Orangun, Ketu, Sabe, Oyo and Popo.

Orompoto had a powerful calvary and subjugated the kingdom of Dahomey (modern-day Benin) in the 18th century. The Oyo empire was one of the most powerful empires in West Africa and also received tributes from many Yoruba States.