Kandake, kadake or kentake (Meroitic: 𐦲𐦷𐦲𐦡 kdke or 𐦲𐦴𐦲𐦡 ktke), often Latinised as Candace (Ancient Greek: Κανδάκη), was the Meroitic term for the sister of the king of Kush who, due to the matrilineal succession, would bear the next heir, making her a queen mother. She had her own court, probably acted as a landholder and held a prominent secular role as regent. Contemporary Greek and Roman sources treat it, incorrectly, as a name. The name Candace is derived from the way the word is used in the New Testament (Acts 8:27).
Bas-reliefs dated to about 170 B.C. reveal the kentake Shanakdakheto, dressed in armor and wielding a spear in battle. She did not rule as queen regent or queen mother, but as a fully independent ruler. Her husband was her consort. In bas-reliefs found in the ruins of building projects she commissioned, Shanakdakheto is portrayed both alone as well as with her husband and son, who would inherit the throne by her death.
In 25 BC the Kush kandake Amanirenas, as reported by Strabo, attacked the city of Syene, today's Aswan, in territory of the Roman Empire; Emperor Augustus destroyed the city of Napata in retaliation.
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship
The queen concerned may have been Amantitere (AD 22–41).
He discussed with Philip the meaning of a perplexing passage from the Book of Isaiah. Philip explained the scripture to him and he was promptly baptised in some nearby water. The eunuch 'went on his way, rejoicing', and presumably therefore reported back on his conversion to the Kandake.
A legend in the Alexander romance claims that "Candace of Meroë" fought Alexander the Great. In fact, Alexander never attacked Nubia and never attempted to move further south than the oasis of Siwa in Egypt. The story is that when Alexander attempted to conquer her lands in 332 BC, she arranged her armies strategically to meet him and was present on a war elephant when he approached. Having assessed the strength of her armies, Alexander decided to withdraw from Nubia, heading to Egypt instead. Another story claims that Alexander and Candace had a romantic encounter.
These accounts originate from "The Alexander Romance" by an unknown writer called Pseudo-Callisthenes, and the work is largely a fictionalized and grandiose account of Alexander's life. It is commonly quoted, but there seems to be no historical reference to this event from Alexander's time. The whole story of Alexander and Candace's encounter appears to be legendary.
Kandakes of Kush
- Shanakdakhete (177 BCE–155 BCE) (earliest known ruling queen)
- Amanirenas (40 BCE–10 BCE)
- Amanishakheto (c. 10 BCE–1 CE)
- Amanitore (1–20 CE)
- Amantitere (22–41 CE)
- Amanikhatashan (62–85 CE)
- Maleqorobar (266–283 CE)
- Lahideamani (306–314 CE)
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- Budge, Sir Ernest Alfred Wallis (1911). Cook's handbook for Egypt and the Egyptian Sûdân. T. Cook & Son. p. 737.
- Harris 2014, p. 29.
- Acts 8:26-27
- Isaiah 53:7-8
- Acts 8:39
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- Harris, G.L.A. (2014). Living Legends and Full Agency: Implications of Repealing the Combat Exclusion Policy. CRC Press. ISBN 978-1-4665-1378-5.