Rozwi Empire

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Rozvi Empire
Capital Danamombe
Languages Kalanga-Rozwi
Religion Belief in Mwari
Government Monarchy
 •  c. 1660 – c. 1695 Changamire Dombo(first)
 •  1831–1866 Changamire Tohwechipi (last)
 •  Rozvi conquest of Butua 1660
 •  Ndebele conquest of Rozvi 1866
 •  1700[1] 624,000 km2 (241,000 sq mi)
 •  1700[1] est. 1,000,000 
     Density 2/km2 (4/sq mi)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kingdom of Butua
Mutapa Empire
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The Rozvi Empire (1684–1834) was established on the Zimbabwean Plateau by Changamire Dombo. After the death of Changamire Dombo. His successor adopted title Mambo.


In 1693, Portuguese militia tried to take control of the gold trade in the interior of Africa by invading the Rozvi empire. The Rozvi were able to successfully defeat these attacks and maintain their control of the gold mines until their empire collapsed. The Rozvi were led by Changamire Dombo, and his son Kambgun Dombo, armed with sharpened stones[2] whose power was based in Butua in the southwest of Africa. The Rozvi were formed from several Shona states that dominated the plateau of present-day Zimbabwe at the time. They drove the Portuguese off the central plateau, and the Europeans retained only a nominal presence at one of the fairs in the eastern highlands.

Changamire brought the whole of present-day Zimbabwe under his control, forming a polity that became known as the Rozvi Empire. This powerful kingdom of warriors was to be known as the Rozvi or baLozwi people.[3] They established their capital at Danamombe, also known as Dhlo-Dhlo (the Ndebele name).

Many sources see the Rozvi not as a recovering segment of the Mutapa people, but in fact a people in its own right emerging under the wing of the Mutapa (compare the rise of the Khumalo from under the Zulu nation). The administrative power of the Mutapa began to fall to control the whole empire, and tributaries began to exert more independence.[citation needed]

A leader of the people of guruuswa, given the title Changamire and known as Dombo, became independent from the Mutapa. When the Portuguese tried to colonize, Changamire Dombo led rebellions against their rule. The area of the Rozvi empire fluctuated. Its influence extended over much of present-day Zimbabwe, westward into Botswana, and southward into northeastern South Africa.The Rozvi leader Changamire Dombo was a herdsmen in the Mutapa state and managed to drive away the Portugueese earning himself support and followers thereby breaking away from the legendary Mutapa empire. Changamire Dombo according to oral tradition is believed to have been possessing supernatural powers turn a white cattle to a red one and even more that even made him feared by people and earned respect and even more followers. The name Changamire became the honour name of all the kings who followed after him. The Rozvi's political system was hierarchical. Kingship followed a male line and the king was the highest political, religious,military, economic, judicial,social,main distributor of land. The King was helped to rule by an advisory council made up of state officials appointed by him like his most senior wives, crown prince, tumbare (regent), religious leaders, military commanders and also vassal chiefs.Changamire Dombo extended his state east to some parts of Botswana and south to also South Africa. The Rozvi empire eventually became the most powerful empire in present day Zimbabwe.[citation needed]

Many tales identify Dombo ('Rock') as Chikura Wadyembeu. Modern scholars agree that this was a confusion with another leader of a different people.[citation needed] Rulers of Rozvi State. Chirisa Mhuru and Chikuyo Chisamarenga without forgetting Dombo.

Technology and economy[edit]

The Rozvi chiefs revived the tradition of building in stone and constructed impressive cities throughout the southwest. Polychrome pottery was also emblematic of its culture. The Rozvi had many economic branches but agriculture was the backbone of it all. They planted crops like sorghum and millet. The state depended on subsistence farming.Livestock productions was also another important branch. They kept animals like sheep, goats, cattle, chicken etc and those with many livestock were considered rich and had a very high economic status in the society. Trade was another important economic activity and they practiced both internal and external trade.They obtained goods like guns, salt, beads, and sea shells etc and they gave away items like ivory and gold. Mining was another major branch and was done by males. The warriors used tools like spears, bows and arrows when they raided and defended the state.

Its warriors were known to be violent and it was that which earned them the name 'ROZVI" meaning plunders or destroyers. They became the most powerful fighting machine in the whole of Zimbabwe.[3]

The economic power of the Rozvi Empire was based on cattle wealth and farming, with significant gold mining. They established trade with Arab traders, in which materials such as gold, copper, and ivory were exchanged for luxury goods.[citation needed]

Records from the Portuguese have shown that the Rozvi were sophisticated military strategists. They were noted for using the cow-horn formation years before the great Zulu leader Shaka did in the 19th century. With spears, bows, and arrows, the aggressive Rozvi took over the plateau.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cornell, James. Lost Lands and Forgotten People Sterling Publishing Company, Incorporated, 1978, ISBN 978-0806939261 page 24
  2. ^ Isichei, Elizabeth Allo, A History of African Societies to 1870 Cambridge University Press, 1997, ISBN 978-0521455992 page 435
  3. ^ a b c "Rozvi". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2007-05-09.