The year is 2018 and girl power is in full swing. Thanks to movements like #METOO, there’s been an added emphasis on women’s rights. We all know that females are fierce, but it’s not just a 20th-century thing.
Women have been trailblazing since the dawn of time, even in eras where they were considered to be the weaker sex. Join us as we take a look at some of the baddest babes in history – you won’t want to miss these incredible warrior queens.
Tamar of Georgia
Photo via Vardzia Monastery/Wikipedia
You know a Queen is a true warrior when she’s appointed ruler while the King is still alive. Tamar the Great reigned as the Queen of Georgia from 1184 to 1213, making her the first female ruler of her people. Her father, King Giorgi III, had so much confidence in his daughter’s abilities that he declared her co-ruler and heir apparent to stop there from being any dispute after his death.
Not only was Tamar a fierce force to be reckoned with, but she was also actively involved in the military, acting as commander of her army. Under her watchful eye, her kingdom flourished in every way possible. The great leader passed away in her early fifties due to an unnamed, devastating disease. Needless to say, her legend lived on.
Nakano Takeko of China
Photo via mushotoku.it/Wikipedia
One of history’s only known female samurais, Takeko was a force to be reckoned with. Originally educated in literary and martial arts, she was one of few females who chose to fight in the Battle of Aizu in 1868.
Fearless in her attack, Takeko led the “Women’s Army” into battle armed with a Japanese polearm. Although her actions would make her a historical figure, she met her fate when she was shot in the chest during the charge against the Imperial Japanese Army of Ogaki. Her final wish was that her sister cut off her head and bury it to stop her enemies making a war trophy out of it. Her sister did as she was bid, and buried Takeko underneath a pine tree at the Hokai-Ji Temple in Fukushima. These days, girls come each year to honor her bravery.
Rani Lakshmibai of India
Photo via National Army Museum/Wikipedia
If you mess with a woman’s rightful ownership, then beware. She’s coming for you. Rani Lakshmibai was married to the ruler of Jhansi in Northern India in the 19th-century. Unable to have children, Rani and her husband adopted a son to take over the throne, but when the King died at an early age, the British advanced and tried to take over. The Queen wasn’t about to give up that easily, though.
At the tender age of 22, she gathered her forces to fight against the British, starting a war that carried on for over a year. The British forces heavily outweighed the Queen Regent’s army, and they were defeated. Lakshmibai managed to escape, going on to recover the fortress of Gwailor, but when she marched to confront the British army, she was killed.
Photo by Culture Club/Getty Images
It’s often said that there’s nothing sharper in this world than an Irishwoman’s tongue. Grace O’Malley was the 16th-century pirate queen that rose up through the ranks of seadogs. According to the tale, Grace wanted to go sailing with her father but her mother forbid it, saying that her long hair would get tangled in the ropes – so, the fiery teenager chopped it off.
After her father died, Grace became the ruler of the Ó Máille clan, using the ships she inherited for piracy. Any ship that wandered close to her shores would be taxed for safe passage. If they refused to pay, they’d be killed. This queen was so intimidating that even Queen Elizabeth I bent to her demands, releasing her captured brother and son and granting her permission to “fight in our quarrel with the rest of the world.” Grace did a great job of just that, right up until retirement circa 1603.
Fu Hao of China
Photo via Chrisy Gyford/Wikipedia
Fu Hao was one of the many wives of King Wu Ding of the Shang Dynasty, but she carried more weight than that. During her time, she also served as a military general and a high priestess – if you’ve ever seen Disney’s Mulan you’ll know that women were kept far away from these types of positions in 1200 BC.
Although she was one of the King’s 64 wives, Hao wasn’t about to just sit down and be idle. Instead, she led numerous military campaigns – many of them successful. The Tu-Fang had battled against the Shang for generations, but Fu Hao led a single, carefully executed strategy that defeated them in one fell swoop. Her importance to the King continued after her passing, as he used the site of her tomb for many sacrifices, hoping to gain some spiritual guidance from her to defeat the Gong.
Artemisia I of Caria
Photo via Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Artemisia I of Caria was a revered Greek queen, ruling over Halicarnassus, Kos, Nisyros, and Kalymnos. Most of what we know about this Mediterranean goddess comes from the writings of Herodotus, who praises her courage and the respect she commanded from powerful men.
Xerxes, King of Persia, held her in such high regard that after he watched her in battle, he exclaimed, “My men have turned into women and my women have turned into men!” Artemisia tried to council Xerxes in his exploits, but he often went against her advice and lost in battle due to his pig-headedness. Legend has it that Artemisia fell in love with a man who didn’t return her sentiment, so she blinded him in his sleep. Unable to live with what she had done to the man she adored, an oracle told her to jump from the top of the rock of Leucas to rid herself of her feelings. Unfortunately, she didn’t survive the jump.
The Trung Sisters of Vietnam
Photo via Amore Mio/Wikipedia
The Trung Sisters were Vietnamese military leaders who got the job done better than any man on the team. The pair repelled Chinese invasions for more than three years, cementing their place in history as national heroines.
Born during the thousand-year Chinese occupation, the siblings held off the Chinese from their village by assembling an army of tough females. They were named Queens of Vietnam and continued to fight the good fight against the Chinese for two more years. According to legend, the Chinese marched into battle naked to try and shame the female fighters and ended up winning in 43 AD. Although accounts of the story vary, some state that the pair drowned themselves in the Hat Giang river after defeat, along with Phung Thi Chinh, a pregnant captain who gave birth on the front line and killed her baby to continue fighting.
Boudicca of Norfolk
Photo via Culture Club/Getty Images
Boudicca is one of the most famous warrior queens ever to have lived. Ruling over the British Celtic Iceni tribe, she was the wife of Prasutagus. Prasutagus ruled over his land as an ally of Rome and left his kingdom to be overseen jointly by his daughters and the Roman emperor. However, Rome rushed in and assumed total control. Boudicca was flogged and her daughters were taken advantage of.
Her people backed her as she led the uprising against the Romans, and they had no mercy. Her military attacks were so violent that they completely demolished Camulodunum (modern-day Colchester). Some pieces of literature claim that all Roman noblewomen were beheaded, their breasts chopped off and sewn onto their mouths. Eventually, Boudicca was defeated, with reports suggesting she took her own life to avoid capture.
Trieu Thi Trinh
Photo via NHAC NGUYEN/AFP/Getty Images
When it comes to warriors, Vietnam knows how to make ‘em. Trieu Thi Trinh was a 3rd-century fighter who managed to keep occupying forces of the Wu Kingdom out of power. Trinh was orphaned at a young age. Her brother and his wife raised her as a slave, keeping her in appalling conditions.
At the age of 20, Trinh escaped into the jungle and used her pent-up anger to form an army of more than a 1,000 men and women. After liberating an area of the country, she claimed it as her own. It’s often said that by the age of 23, the young warrior had won over 30 battles, riding into the war on the back of an elephant, wearing golden armor and carrying a sword in each hand. She once said, “I’d like to ride storms, kill sharks in the open sea, drive out the aggressors, reconquer the country, undo the ties of serfdom, and never bend my back to be the concubine of whatever man.”
Ahhotep I of Egypt
Photo via Hans Ollermann/Flickr/Wikipedia
Ahhotep I was one of the greatest queens to ever reign over Egypt. Ruling at some point toward the end of the Seventeenth Dynasty of Egypt, the daughter of Queen Tetisheri had a long and meaningful life. As with most things relating to ancient Egypt, not much is known about Ahhotep, but there’s enough evidence to suggest that she kept her house in order.
Her steward, Luf, mentions her in documents found. “She is the one who has accomplished the rites and taken care of Egypt. She has looked after her soldiers, she has guarded her, she has brought back her fugitives and collected together her deserters, she has pacified Upper Egypt and expelled her rebels.” What more could you want?
Gudit of Ethiopia
Photo by Bildagentur-online/UIG via Getty Images
Gudit of Ethiopia is perhaps history’s most savage queen. Flourishing sometime around 960, Gudit laid waste to Axum and its land, destroying everything in her wake. While she is mentioned occasionally in historical accounts, most of what we know about Gudit has been passed down through oral tradition.
One historian, Paul B. Henze wrote, “She is said to have killed the emperor, ascended the throne herself and reigned for 40 years. Accounts of her violent misdeeds are still related among peasants in the north Ethiopian countryside. On my first visit to the rock church of Abreha and Atsbeha in eastern Tigray in 1970, I noticed that its intricately carved ceiling was covered in black soot. The priest said it was the work of Gudit, who had piled the church full of hay and set it ablaze nine centuries before.”
Amanitore of Meroe
Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images
2,000 years ago the ancient realm of Meroe in Nubia (modern-day Sudan) was home to some awesome queens, called kandakes. Amanitore was one of the best, reigning alongside her son in the 1st century BCE. What we know about Amanitore is limited, but one of the Romans, Strabo, recorded an encounter with a one-eyed Nubian queen who fought fiercely.
Amanitore was as brave as any man, if not braver, marching into battle to oppose the Roman forces. Although Rome would triumph through sheer numbers and force, they would later come to a treaty which put Meroe in good stead.
Nzinga of Ndongo
Photo via Francois Villain/Wikipedia
Cast your mind all the way back to 1624, when African nations were trying to ward off trouble from slave traders. Nzinga, the Queen of Ndongo wasn’t about to sit back and do nothing as her subjects were picked off like lemons. In a strategic move, the tactical ruler forged an alliance with the Portuguese, which put an end to their involvement in the slave trade. She even agreed to be baptized in the Catholic faith.
Ndinga lived to the ripe old age of 80 and saw her fair share of ups and downs. When her partnership with the Portuguese ended, she allied her country with whoever was useful and continued to fight anyone who dared take a shot at Ndongo.
Mother Lu of China
Photo via Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images
Wang Mang forcibly took the throne in the 1st century, CE. The Chinese emperor wasn’t liked by his subjects. According to sources, Mother Lu was a woman from an extremely wealthy family who started an uprising when her son was executed by Mang’s men.
Gathering a dedicated following of subjects that wanted “traditional” values such as slavery reinstated, Lu managed to get Mang off the throne and restore the old Han Dynasty. Dubbing themselves the Red Eyebrow Rebellion, her armies painted their brows crimson to represent demons. She might have had some questionable beliefs, but Mother Lu got the job done.
Æthelflæd Of Mercia
Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Alfred the Great is up there with the most prolific of England’s ancient leaders, ruling during the Anglo-Saxon era. As it turns out, his kids didn’t fall far from the tree. His daughter Æthelflæd went on to marry the ruler of Mercia. Luckily for the new Queen, her husband was much older, giving her the scope to make most of the decisions.
Æthelflæd wasn’t scared to get her hands dirty, working tirelessly to protect her land from Viking invaders by building several strongholds. As well as this, she successfully fended off the Danish, Welsh, and Irish, at one point taking the Welsh King’s wife hostage to subdue him.
Tomyris of the Massagetae
Photo via DEA/Biblioteca Ambrosiana/Getty Images
Cyrus the Great, the King of Persia circa 529 CE, has a lot of stories to his name – but his enemy Queen Tomyris of the Massagetae blew him out of the water. The two were embroiled in a mutual obsession, never quite able to leave each other alone.
Cyrus tried to stomp out Tomyris and her army by pretending he wanted to marry her. Tomyris didn’t fall for it, causing Cyrus to build a bridge to try and get to her. It failed. Next, he staged an elaborate banquet. When the Massagetae saw it, they ate their fill and passed out drunk. Cyrus’ soldiers returned and slaughtered many of them, including Tomyris’ child. The grieving mother trapped the Persian soldiers in a narrow pass and slaughtered them in retaliation, taking the King’s head in revenge.
Samsi of Arabia
Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images
In the 8th century, BC Samsi reigned over the ancient Near East for more than 20 years. According to the Assyrian chronicles, Queen Samsi was a powerful ruler who faced the Assyrian kings without fear. Although Samsi was later defeated in battle, her enemies actually restored her to power – something you don’t come across in history too often.
It’s thought that the opposition knew how much they needed a respected ruler in charge in order to continue lucrative trade deals. Samsi maintained a peaceful partnership with her foes for the rest of her reign, proving that compromise can be just as meaningful as a victory.
Septima Zenobia of Syria
Photo via Classical Numismatic Group Inc./Wikipedia
When it comes to playing the long game, Septima Zenobia of Syria had it down pat. Zenobia ruled over Syria from 250 to 275 AD, leading her armies into battle wearing full armor. She even managed to defeat the Roman legions under Claudius’ reign, pushing them out of her country. When the Romans struck back, it took them 4 years to defeat this bodacious babe and her allies – and even in defeat, Zenobia found success.
Despite being exiled to Tubir, her daughters married into important Roman families. The continuation of her line carried great weight in Roman politics for almost 300 years after her passing.
Joan of Arc
Photo via PHAS/UIG via Getty Images
Although not technically royalty, Joan of Arc was – and continues to be – an incredibly important historical figure. The teenager appeared in front of the Crown Prince of France claiming she had instructions from God. The Almighty appeared to her in a series of visions, she said, telling her to fight for France and take it back from the English. The uncrowned King Charles VII took a liking to the passionate youngster and sent her to the siege at Orleans. Within nine days, the siege was over.
Despite her victories, Joan met a grisly end. Captured as a prisoner of war, she was transferred into the custody of the English who conjured up a way to get rid of her for good. The 19-year-old was falsely tried for heresy and cross-dressing and was burned at the stake. The executioner later said he believed he was damned because of the killing.
Lozen of the Apache
Photo via ancient-origins.net/Wikipedia
A more recent female warrior, Lozen was in her 30’s when she and her brother, Victorio, were forced into the San Carlos Reservation in the 1870s. Everyone that lived on the land dubbed it “Hell’s Forty Acres” – hardly somewhere you’d want to vacation.
Lozen and Victorio hatched an escape plan and raided nearby towns, causing havoc wherever they went as they desperately tried to claim back the Apache land from settlers. As bold as she was kind, Lozen often aided the women and children during raids, ensuring their route to safety. When her brother was killed during a battle, the Apache warrior embarked on a vengeful spree across New Mexico, fighting beside the infamous Geronimo. Legend has it she died of tuberculosis as a prisoner of war, her body later being returned to the Apache.