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  • Flann Sinna › Who Was
  • Kahina › Who Was
  • Chanakya › Who Was

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Flann Sinna › Who Was

Definition and Origins

by Joshua J. Mark
published on 16 March 2018
Flann Sinna (The Creative Assembly)
Flann Sinna (r. 879-916 CE) was a High King of Ireland from the Kingdom of Mide (Meath) and a member of the Clann Cholmain, a branch of the Southern Ui Neill dynasty. His name is pronounced “Flahn Shinna” and means “Flann of the Shannon”. He is best known as an effective high king of Ireland who consolidated the power of the Kingdom of Meath while honoring his obligations to other kingdoms, famous for his victory at the Battle of Ballaghmoon in 908 CE, and erecting monuments to commemorate his achievements; most notably the Cross of the Scriptures at the Abbey of Clonmacnoise.
He was an important patron of this religious community and is also responsible for the cathedral (also known as TempleMcDermot) and possibly the South Cross still extant at the site. This patronage seems at odds with accounts from the Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland (also known as The Annals of the Four Masters, c. 1616 CE) which report that Flann Sinna was responsible for the sack of a number of churches and monasteries throughout Ireland, and this has led to criticism of his reign by later writers.
His patronage of Clonmacnoise is no doubt due to his mother who retired to and was later buried there. Although the ancient sources provide a more or less favorable account of his reign, Flann Sinna clearly faced opposition and twice had to put down a rebellion by one of his sons, revolts by other kingdoms, and faced various other oppositions to his reign.


Flann Sinna ruled as a king of the Connachta Dynasty which claimed descent from the legendary Celtic hero Conn of the Hundred Battles. The Connachta Dynasty is synonymous with the Ui Neill Dynasty; the latter designation only becoming prominent in later usage once the Ui Neill had established themselves. The Connachta genealogy traces its ancestry from Conn to the historical or semi-historical king Niall Noigiallach (Niall of the Nine Hostages) from whom all the other Ui Neill kings descend.
According to legend, Niall and his brothers were out hunting one day when they encountered an old woman by a well. She refused to give them any water unless they each kissed her. Three of the brothers refused and one only gave her a quick peck on the cheek, but Niall kissed her fully on the lips and found her transformed into a beautiful goddess. She rewarded him by granting him kingship of Ireland which would be passed on to his descendants for generations.
Ireland c. 900 CE

Ireland c. 900 CE

While there is no doubt the Ui Neill who descended from Niall were a powerful dynasty, it is inaccurate to say that they ruled Ireland as traditional kings over the next few centuries. The Ui Neill divided the land between them as the Northern Ui Neill and the Southern Ui Neill, each branch taking turns sending a king to rule from Tara, but there were many smaller kingdoms throughout Ireland at this time which were autonomous or semi-autonomous states.
When a king came to power, he would demand hostages from other kingdoms – those in Ireland and abroad - to encourage compliance. A king who was able to command a large number of these hostages was considered far more powerful than one who was only able to have a few sent to him. Niall's name indicates he was among the most powerful because he held one hostage each from the five provinces of Ireland (Connacht, Leinster, Meath, Munster, and Ulster) and one each from the Britons, the Franks, the Saxons, and the Scots.
Whether Niall ever held such hostages – or if he even existed – is doubtful but the story, as related by later Ui Neill authors, is intended to make clear the dynasty's great legacy and power: just as Niall Noigiallach could command the compliance of so many others, so could his descendants.


The term 'hostages' should not be understood in the modern sense. A hostage in ancient times was an important member of a ruler's family or court who was sent to another monarch as a gesture in ratifying a treaty. A hostage would be well cared for, educated in the culture he or she was sent to, and would eventually be returned safely; unless that hostage's monarch broke the terms of peace or failed to comply with an agreement. Hostages were sent from the smaller kingdoms to those more powerful not only to conclude a peace but also when a new king came to the throne.


The concept of a 'king' should also be understood somewhat differently than in the modern sense. There were many 'kings' throughout Ireland in the 9th century CE but most of them reigned over small areas and had limited power. There were no large cities, towns, or villages in early Ireland, and smaller rural communities were known as raths (wooden huts clustered around a central meeting house and surrounded by earthen walls) while larger fortified communities were called cashels (stone forts). The raths would submit to the lord of whatever kingdom they were in, who ruled from a cashel, and these kings would protect them, lead them in time of war, and participate in public religious rituals.
Scholars Peter and Fiona Somerset Fry elaborate:
Ireland was divided into numerous very small kingdoms which loosely belonged to one or other of the five larger provincial kingdoms of Connact, Leinster, Meath, Munster, and Ulster. Probably there were more than 100 smaller kingdoms in the earlier period and as many as 150 or so by the seventh century. They were known as Tuatha (Tuatha = tribe, or people, or clan) and each was ruled by a ri, or king, who might, if his tuath was very small, be an under-king to a greater ri…This vassalage would generally be marked by the giving of a hostage, or hostages, to the higher king and was often quite voluntary, for it afforded protection for the smaller tuath. (29-30)
The concept of a king evolved from tribal chiefs to lords of a region and then to a single overlord of those lesser kings and princes. This overlord, who is said to have presided over all of Ireland, was the High King. This king was the embodiment of the people, and his coronation is thought to have included a ritual mating with the goddess of the land to ensure fertility and prosperity.
The king of any region in Ireland was supposed to care for his people; the high king was supposed to care for all the people and command their unconditional allegiance. While this may have been true in theory or policy, it was not so in practice; the High King of Ireland only had control over his own territory and had to make the same kinds of treaties with other kingdoms as the lesser kings did with each other. The difference, it seems, is that the high king commanded greater respect owing to his coronation at the Hill of Tara.


Tara was the sacred site associated with the legend of the brothers Eber and Eremon of the Milesians who had divided the rule of Ireland between them peacefully in antiquity; Eber taking the south and Eremon the north. Peace prevailed until Eber's wife wanted the most beautiful three hills in Ireland for herself – and chief among these was the Hill of Tara which belonged to Eremon. Eremon's wife Tea became enraged at the request and the two brothers went to war. Eber was killed and Eremon was crowned king of all Ireland at Tara, thus initiating the tradition of the high king's coronation at that site.
Mound of the Hostages, Hill of Tara

Mound of the Hostages, Hill of Tara

Tara would be developed as a place of assembly for the enacting and reading of laws and for religious festivals under the reign of Cormac MacArt (c. 3rd century CE), considered the greatest of the Irish kings and author of the Brehon Law, but it is clear the site was an important religious and political center long before. The oldest monument at Tara is the Mound of the Hostages, a Neolithic passage tomb, dating from c. 3000 BCE and so named because it was where hostages would be exchanged between kings.


Flann Sinna was born c. 848 CE, the son of one of these kings, Mael Sechnaill mac Maele Ruanaid (rc 846-862 CE) of the Southern Ui Neill and the queen Land ingen Dungaile (d. 890 CE) of the Kingdom of Osraige. Mael Sechnaill (also known as Mael Sechnaill I) assassinated anyone who would have stood in his path to power and was crowned King of Tara in 846 CE.
He spent the greater part of his reign battling Viking raiders, while also allying himself to Norse chieftains in warring on other Irish kingdoms, and then using diplomacy and threats of further violence to consolidate his power. Mael Sechnaill's initiatives were so successful that, when he died, he was hailed as High King of All Ireland.
He was succeeded by Aed Findliath (r. 862-879 CE) who married Land ingen Dungaile in keeping with the tradition of a successor marrying the king's widow. Land ingen Dungaile chose to devote herself to a life of piety shortly afterwards and went to live at Clonmacnoise. Aed Findliath then married Mael Muire ingen Cinaeda (d. 913 CE), daughter of Kenneth MacAlpin, King of the Scots. Aed Findliath had opposed Mael Sechnaill and met him in battle while allied to the Norse kings of Dublin. It is possible that Flann took part in these wars but there is no proof, and nothing is known of Flann's youth until he takes the first steps to secure the kingship for himself.


Flann married the princess Gormlaith ingen Flann mac Conaing, daughter of the king of Brega, c. 870 CE. The Kingdom of Brega was important as it held the Hill of Tara, and Gormlaith's father, Flann mac Conaing, was a powerful king. Having established himself in the royal house of Brega, Flann might have been content but his ambition was to reign as high king just as his father had.
As noted, the tradition at this time was for the Ui Neill to alternate the honor of high king between the northern and southern branches. After Aed Findliath of the north, a king would then be chosen from the south. The likely choice would have been Flann Sinna's second cousin Donnchad son of Aedacan, king of Mide, but Flann had other plans. He divorced Gormlaith and married the princess Eithne (d. 917 CE), the daughter of Aed Findliath, thus establishing himself in the house of the high king, and then assassinated Donnchad. When Aed Findliath died in 879 CE, Flann was chosen as High King of Ireland and crowned at Tara.


Flann's first step as high king was to divorce Eithne and marry his step-mother Mael Muire; his second was to demand hostages from the other kingdoms. When the demand was refused by some of these, he followed his father's example and allied himself with Norse-Gaels and other Norse chiefs and attacked the region of Armagh in a show of strength; the other kingdoms then complied and sent hostages to Tara.
Throughout the next 20 years of his reign, Flann would repeat this tactic a number of times as he supported one kingdom's claims against another with the help of Norse allies from Dublin. He also fought the Norse in Ireland, however, and was defeated by them under the leadership of Sichfrith son of Imair (brother and successor of Bardr mac Imair), King of Dublin (c. 883-888 CE), at the Battle of the Pilgrim c. 887 CE.


Although defeated, Flann's power as king is evident at this time as he was able to raise an army from a number of different kingdoms. Scholar NJ Higham notes how “the fact that Aed son of Conchobar, king of Connact and Lergus son of Cruinnen, Bishop of Kildare were numbered amongst the Irish dead at this battle indicates that [Flann's] over lordship was recognized far beyond the borders of Mide alone” (93). Flann was clearly ruling as high king of a united country but could not control his own house.
In 901 CE his son Donnchad Donn (from his marriage to Gormlaith) rebelled. Flann blamed this on his son's associates and tracked them to the abbey at Kells, where he slaughtered them. Donnchad was spared and seems to have returned to the role of a dutiful son. Flann's reign continued unchallenged, but it is interesting to note that the annual festival known as the Fair of Tailtiu, honoring the fertility goddess Tailtiu, was held only twice during his reign.
The significance of this is that the fair (also known as the Tailteann Games) was a celebration of unity, and the fact that it was not celebrated suggests strong objections to Flann's policies as high king which may have marginalized some kingdoms. Even when Flann seems to have done his best to keep the kingdoms at peace and in some degree of equality, however, they still found reason to fight amongst themselves.


In 908 CE, the king of Munster, Cormac mac Cuilennain (r. 902-908 CE) was encouraged to make war on the Kingdom of Leinster by his advisor Flaithbertach mac Inmainen (d. 944 CE). Flaithbertach claimed that Leinster owed Munster money for chief-rent as they occupied some of Munster's land. Leinster's king, Cerball mac Muirecain, was Flann Sinna's son-in-law and, after refusing any payment to Munster, he called on Flann for aid in defense.
Cormac mac Cuilennain was a highly respected king who was renowned as a scholar and man of piety. Flann had no desire to go to war against him, and Cormac himself did not want a war at all. It had been foretold by omens that, if he launched the attack against Leinster, he would die in battle, but that aside, it was simply not in his nature to be the aggressor. The instigator was Flaithbertach who seems to have sincerely believed that Cormac's honor as king was being slighted by Leinster.
Stone of Destiny, Hill of Tara

Stone of Destiny, Hill of Tara

The omens were bad for Munster from the beginning as Flaithbertach was thrown from his horse as the troops assembled.This was taken as a sign by a number of the men who refused to follow their king into battle. Once the two armies engaged, Cormac was thrown from his horse, breaking his neck, and died on the field.
A Leinster soldier found his body and cut off his head, presenting it later to Flann. Scholar Martin Haverty, citing the Annals of Ireland, writes that, far from being pleased, Flann “only bewailed the death of so good and learned a man and blamed the indignity with which his remains had been treated” (122). Over 6,000 men from Munster were killed at Ballaghmoon, but this did not deter other kingdoms from asserting claims which also had to be proven in battle.


The Kingdom of Breifne rebelled in 910 CE and was defeated. Flann's old home of the Kingdom of Brega revolted in 913 CE, and he responded by razing a number of communities. It is from this period that he gets his reputation as a destroyer of churches. It is unclear whether these churches and abbeys were destroyed as part of a wider campaign or were chosen for particular resonance in the community or were instigators in the revolt.
In 915 CE Donnchad Donn rebelled again, this time in concert with his brother Conchobar. They were defeated, not by Flann, but by his vassal Niall Glundub (r. 916-919 CE), son of Mael Muire and Aed Findlaith of the northern Ui Neill. Flann had defeated Niall in battle at Crossakiel years before and the two had formed an alliance through the marriage of Flann's daughter Gormlaith ingen Flann Sinna to Niall.
In 914 CE, Niall had killed Flann's son Oengus in a battle which may have been a part of the other brothers' rebellion of 915 CE. Flann was certainly an older man at this time but still seems to have been able to effectively put down the rebellions of Breifne and Brega. It is likely he was unable to cope with the rebellion of his own sons and left it to Niall Glundub.
Flann Sinna died of natural causes in May of 916 CE and was succeeded by Niall Glundub as high king. Niall would continue Flann's policies but not nearly as successfully. He marched his armies against the Norse of Dublin in 919 CE and was killed in battle. He was succeeded by Donnchad Donn who was nowhere near the king his father had been. For all his faults, Flann Sinna is remembered as an effective ruler who tried to do his best for his people, and when he died, he was mourned as the High King of a united Ireland.

Kahina › Who Was

Definition and Origins

by Joshua J. Mark
published on 16 March 2018
Statue of Kahina (Numide05)
Kahina (7th century CE) was a Berber (Imazighen) warrior-queen and seer who led her people against the Arab Invasion of North Africa in the 7th century CE. She is also known as al-Kahina, Dihya al-Kahina, Dahlia, Daya, and Dahia-al-Kahina. Her birth name was Dihya, or some variant thereof (“the beautiful gazelle” in the Tamazight language of the Imazighen) while “Kahina” is an Arabic title meaning “prophetess” or “seer” or “witch”. She is said to have had supernatural powers which enabled her to foretell the future. Although she is a champion of the native North African Imazighen people, she is best known by the title given her by her Arab enemies: al-Kahina.
She was the daughter (or niece) of the Berber king Aksel (died c. 688 CE, also known as Kusaila, Caecilius, Kusiela) who was a famous freedom fighter of the Imazighen people (also known as the Amazigh, “the Free People”, the indigenous name of the Berbers ). Little is known of her life outside of her conflict with the Muslim Arab leader Hasan ibn al Nu'man (died c. 710 CE) whose Umayyad armies campaigned across North Africa.
Kahina defeated Hasan more than once and drove him from the region. Legend then claims that she engaged in a scorched earth policy to deprive the invading Muslims of any profitable goods and that this course led to a loss of support from her people. It may be, however, that the Arab armies themselves used the scorched earth tactic and later Arab writers attributed the destruction of the land to Kahina.
In her last engagement with Hasan, a significant number of her former allies fought against her. Commanding a greatly diminished force against overwhelming numbers, Kahina was defeated. She either died in battle, took poison to avoid capture, or was taken and later executed. Dates given for her death vary between 698, 702, and 705 CE, although the historical evidence suggests that the date of 698 CE is too early and her final battle was in either 702 or 705 CE.



Kahina's life is only known through later Arab historians writing on the Muslim conquest of Africa. These historians, as well as other legends, claim that she was a Jewish sorceress who descended from the Beta Israel community of Ethiopian Jews. She is said to have been a royal member of the Jarawa tribe within the larger confederacy known as the Zenata Tribe of Mauretania; a princess, who then became queen and ruled over an autonomous state in the area of the Aures Mountains in modern-day northeastern Algeria.
Some sources claim that Kahina was a Christian, however, and that she derived her power from a Christian icon. At the same time, it has been argued that she practiced the indigenous religion of Numidia which included worship of the sun, moon, and veneration of one's ancestors. The claim regarding her power of prophecy is in keeping with this ancient belief in which the gods, or the spirits of the dead, could communicate with certain members of the tribe who had the gift of prophecy.
Legends suggest she could communicate with birds who were able to warn her of advancing armies. This story may have originated to explain her alleged prophetic gifts. Legends also claim she once married a tyrant who was persecuting her people and then murdered him on their wedding night.
Although she is commonly referred to as a “Berber Queen”, the indigenous people of the region know her as an Imazighen, which is the more accurate term. Scholar Ethan Malveaux comments:
The word Berber was a derivative of the Greek word Kapes Bap Bapo`owoi, which meant savage (later the English would compact it into Barbary); the Arab adopted the name for these African tribes who were once subjected by the Ancient Romans and who had (before the Muslim Conquest) wrested semi-autonomy from the Byzantine Empire. (171-172)
One of these semi-autonomous states was the kingdom of the Zenata tribe which may have once been part of larger coalitions of Imazighens in the region.
Kahina is usually described as tall and “great of hair”, which is usually interpreted to mean she wore her hair long and bunched in dreadlocks. Although later artists have depicted her as fair-skinned or even white, she was a black, African queen and would have dressed in the attire of the royalty of ancient Numidia: a loose-fitting tunic or robe worn with sandals and sometimes belted.



Numidia as a unified kingdom flourished between 202-40 BCE, though the history and culture of the region are much older. It is considered the first Imazighen state established in North Africa and was founded by the king Masinissa (rc 202-148 BCE) following the Second Punic War (218-202 BCE) between Rome and Carthage.
The two main tribes in the region were known as the Masaesyli, to the west, and the Massylii to the east. Although these people are commonly referred to as “tribes”, they may have been a coalition of different tribes under the leadership of respective chiefs. Masinissa united these tribes as the Kingdom of Numidia which was later divided between Mauretania and Rome following the so-called Jugurthine War (112-105 BCE) initiated by Masinissa's grandson Jugurtha (r. 118-105 BCE) against Rome.
As a province of Rome, the Imazighen became involved in the Roman Civil War between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great in 46 BCE, and the region was subsequently controlled by Augustus Caesar (r. 27 BCE-14 CE) after 31 BCE. Numidia continued as a Roman province after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 CE. It became the Praetorian Prefecture of Africa, under the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, following the defeat of the Vandals in North Africa in c. 534 CE and was then known as the Exarchate of Africa, remaining under Byzantine control.


The Numidians under Rome became a diverse culture of religious traditions. Judaism, Christianity, and the indigenous religion of the ancient Imazighen seem to have coexisted harmoniously or, at least, there is no evidence of religious turmoil in the region during this time. As part of “Rome's bread basket”, supplying the empire with grain and its army with mercenary cavalry, the region of the Maghreb (the Berber world) prospered.


In the 7th century CE, the Arabian armies began campaigns of conquest following the establishment of the new religion of Islam. While scholars today continually debate whether these campaigns could be called jihads (“holy wars”), intended to convert large populations by force, there is no doubt that was the end result.
The contention that the Arabs were not interested in forced conversion comes from certain verses of the Quran which discourage it (2:62; 2:256; 4:93; 16:125, among others) but there are other passages which support and encourage the practice (4:76; 9:5; 9:29; 9:38-39, to cite only a few). It has also been claimed that the Muslim Arabs had no motive for forced conversion because non-believers were forced to pay a tax (the jizya ) to live among Muslims and this was more profitable than forced conversion. At the same time, however, control over the resources and population of a region could prove far more profitable than a tax on unbelievers.
Arab forces had already conquered Mesopotamia and Egypt by 647 CE, converting the populace to Islam, when they moved toward the Maghreb. The Byzantine Empire was still in control of Carthage and the Maghreb at this time and the Byzantine Governor Count Gregory the Patrician mounted a defense against the invasion. Gregory was killed at the Battle of Sufetula in 647 CE, south of Carthage, and his successor paid the Arab forces a sizeable tribute to return to Egypt.
Umayyad Conquest, 7th & 8th Centuries CE

Umayyad Conquest, 7th & 8th Centuries CE

In-fighting among Arab factions prevented any further campaigns until c. 665 CE. The city of Kairouan (in modern-day Tunisia) was established as a base of Arab military operations in c. 670 CE and from there the general Uqba ibn Nafi (died 683 CE) launched his campaigns toward Mauretania in the west. The site was chosen for its relative safety from attacks by the Imazighen who had already mobilized to resist the Arabs through guerilla tactics. The resistance would soon shift their strategy to open war, however, under the leadership of Aksel of Mauretania.


Aksel mounted a defense and held his kingdom against the invaders but then went on the offensive, driving them back from his borders. Aksel had been a Christian who converted to Islam voluntarily sometime earlier because it seemed more profitable. As the Arab Invasion spread and threatened his autonomy, however, he abandoned the faith and returned to the indigenous religion of the Imazighen.
Using the native religion as a rallying point, he was able to attract more recruits to his army. He was captured by the Arab forces but was allowed to live, perhaps because of his knowledge of their religion or perhaps he pretended to still be Muslim.His life was spared but he was ordered to disband his troops and convert them to Islam. Aksel agreed, was released (or escaped), and then threw his army at the Arabs, defeating Uqba ibn Nafi's forces and killing him in 683 CE.


Aksel capitalized on his victory by expanding his territory and gaining more recruits but was killed in battle with the Muslim Arab leader Hasan ibn al Nu'man in either 686 CE or 688 CE. At this time, he may have been succeeded by his wife (or another female relative) named Koceila who reigned as queen. If Koceila did succeed Aksel, it was not for long as Kahina was in command of the army by c. 690 CE.


Kahina is thought to have fought alongside Aksel in the 680's CE and proven herself in battle. This claim is supported through the acceptance by her troops as a competent military commander. She won an early victory against Hasan (date unknown) and forced his retreat. Hasan remobilized his troops and furiously took the city of Carthage in 698 CE. Now holding the northeast regions, he again attacked Kahina and was so badly defeated that he retreated either to Libya or Egypt.
Kahina's alleged gift of prophecy is said to have enabled her to foreknow how her opponent would form troops, how they would be reinforced, and what direction they would come from. Her perceived spiritual power has led to comparisons with the French heroine Joan of Arc (1412-1431 CE) and she also shares similarities with the Native American Apache seer and female warrior Lozen (c. 1840-1889 CE) who was able to anticipate and defeat US Cavalry troops through precognition. It is said that by using her powers, Kahina may have won a third victory against Hasan, or perhaps an army under another leader while Hasan was in Egypt or Libya.
According to legend, during this engagement she was outnumbered by the Arab forces and fell back in retreat. Recognizing the direction of the wind, however, she ordered her army to set fires which the wind then carried to the enemy. The Arab army was forced to retreat and the land was so badly burned that any future campaigns would have to cross an arid wasteland without resources.
At this point in her story, there are two possible narratives. According to the Arab historians and legends, her victory by fire gave Kahina the idea to initiate a scorched-earth policy on a large scale. She is claimed to have believed that the Arabs were only interested in the riches of the land and that, if she removed these, they would leave her people alone. She therefore commanded her army to tear down the fortifications, destroy the cities and towns, and melt down the gold and silver. She further ordered orchards cut down, fields burned, and even private gardens destroyed.
Kairouan Mosque Courtyard

Kairouan Mosque Courtyard

She allegedly engaged in this tactic to save her people but, to those who lived in the towns and cities and relied on the fields and orchards, Kahina's policy was disastrous. Their homes and businesses were destroyed and the only option given them was a nomadic wandering in a region which had been largely destroyed by war even before Kahina set it on fire. Resentment toward the queen replaced the earlier admiration and many of her people turned against her.
The other possible narrative is that the Arab historians are attributing to Kahina a tactic known to have been used by invading Arab armies elsewhere. In Egypt, Libya, and Mesopotamia the invading Muslim Arabs routinely used scorched-earth tactics to subdue the populace. It is likely, therefore, that they did the same in North Africa with later writers then blaming the widespread destruction on the queen who had led the resistance against them.
It is possible, then, that Hasan, or another commander, initiated the scorched-earth policy in North Africa to demoralize the people – just as they had elsewhere – and it worked to break the resistance. Those who had formerly supported Kahina openly may no longer have been able to afford to with their crops and homes destroyed. It is also possible that, by this time, the people simply saw a Muslim Arab victory as inevitable; Kahina herself may have felt this same way as evidenced by the later surrender of her sons to Hasan.


Sources differ on whether the Arab general who defeated Kahina was Hasan or Musa bin Nusayr (died c. 716 CE). Musa replaced Hasan as governor in North Africa but it is unclear when. Further, Musa is traditionally credited with completing the conquest of North Africa which Hasan had begun and also with recruiting Imazighen warriors for his conquest of Iberia and this came after Kahina's death.
Libyan Figure Statue

Libyan Figure Statue

It seems it was Hasan, then, who after reforming his army following Kahina's victory returned to meet her a final time. He was now facing a very different opponent than the one who had driven him from North Africa, however. Many of Kahina's former allies had gone over to Hasan whether due to the scorched-earth tactics which demoralized them or bribery. One of Kahina's sons either defected or was captured and is said to have informed on his mother's battle plans.
In either 702 or 705 CE Kahina met Hasan in battle. Before the armies engaged, she is said to have sent her two other sons to the enemy camp to be raised by Hasan as Muslim warriors. The battle went against Kahina from the beginning as she was badly outnumbered but her army fought valiantly and won the admiration of the enemy.
Accounts vary concerning her death; she may have been captured and later executed or may have poisoned herself, but the most commonly accepted account is that she died in battle with her troops, still clutching her sword. Her head was then cut off and brought to Hasan as a trophy.
By all accounts, Hasan respected Kahina as an opponent and her sons, who converted to Islam, were well cared for and would later lead their own armies against others who resisted Arab aggression. Kahina's people, on the other hand, did not fare so well as 30,000 – 60,000 of them were sold into slavery by the conquerors and shipped out of their native land. Small pockets of resistance still held out - and many of the wives of Numidian chiefs are said to have killed themselves rather than be taken by the Arabs - but between c. 705-750 CE North Africa was fully conquered and the people converted to Islam.


Kahina herself would live on through the works of Arab historians, most notably the great Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406 CE), working from earlier sources. Her reputation as a “Jewish Sorceress” comes primarily from Ibn Khaldun. She remained an obscure figure until she was seized upon by the French in the 19th century CE to support their military initiative in Algeria: a freedom fighter battling Arab aggression. At that same time, the Imazighen reasserted their claim to her as their heroine while Arab Nationalists in the region somehow managed to argue she was theirs.
Professor Cynthia Becker of Boston University comments:
Since the ninth century, accounts of [Kahina] have been adopted, transformed, and rewritten by various social and political groups in order to advance such diverse causes as Arab nationalism, Berber ethnic rights, Zionism, and feminism. Throughout history, Arabs, Berbers, Muslims, Jews, and French colonial writers, from the medieval historian Ibn Khaldūn to the modern Algerian writer Kateb Yacine, rewrote the legend of the Kahina, and, in the process, voiced their own vision of North Africa's history. (1)
In 2001 CE a statue of Kahina was raised in the Parc de Bercy, Paris as one of a number in an exhibit called “Children of the World” (Les Enfants du Monde). The exhibit celebrates world diversity and the unity of the human experience and the statue was designed by artist Rachid Khimoune to represent Algeria. In Algeria itself, a statue was erected in 2003 CE, possibly in response to the Parisian work, in the town of Baghai, Khenchela Province, honoring Kahina. As her name becomes more widely known, Dihya al-Kahina of the Imazighen inspires not only her own people but those everywhere who honor her memory and sacrifice for the cause of freedom.

Chanakya › Who Was

Definition and Origins

by Cristian Violatti
published on 03 November 2013
Kautilya (Unknown)
Kautilya (also known as Chanakya, c. 350-275 BCE) was an Indian statesman and philosopher, chief advisor and Prime Minister of the Indian Emperor Chandragupta, the first ruler of the Mauryan Empire. Kautilya belonged to the Brahmin caste (the priestly class), he was originally from Northern India and a professor of political science and economics at the University of Taxila. He was fully knowledgeable concerning the Vedas literature and it is also believed that he might have had some knowledge of Zoroastrianism.


At the time of Kautilya, India was mostly composed of a number of small independent states, with the exception of the Magadha kingdom, a realm that controlled most of Northern India, which was ruled by the Nanda dynasty. The fame of Kautilya is owed to the important role he played in the fall of the Magadha kingdom and the rise to power of the Mauryan dynasty. In order to accomplish this, he became an ally and loyal servant of Chandragupta, a noble member of the Kshatriya caste (the warrior rulers caste) who was related to the Nanda family, but he was an exile. Before he became Chandragupta's ally, Kautilya was introduced to the Nanda king, who insulted him. Kautilya untied his sikha (lock of hair on male Hindus), and swore he would only tie it back once the Nanda dynasty was destroyed.


Kautilya and Chandragupta raised a small army that lacked sufficient military strength to take the Magadha throne directly.Therefore, Kautilya's cunning strategies became useful: Chandragupta entered the capital of the Magadha kingdom, Pataliputra, where he triggered a civil war using Kautilya Chanakya's intelligence network. In 322 BCE Chandragupta finally seized the throne putting an end to the Nanda dynasty and he established the Mauryan dynasty which would rule India until 185 BCE. After this victory, Chandragupta fought and defeated the generals of Alexander the Great located in Gandhara, present day Afghanistan. Following these successful campaigns, Chandragupta was seen as a brave leader who defeated part of the Greek invaders and ended the corrupt Nanda government and thus gained wide public support.
There are a number of accounts concerning Kautilya which describe him as both intelligent and ruthless. One of these accounts tells us that once the last Nanda was defeated and the imperial palace was occupied by the new Mauryan dynasty, Kautilya noticed a group of ants carrying grain out of a crack in the palace floor. After examining the crack he discovered hordes of Nanda soldiers in a basement below, ready for a surprise attack. Emotionless, Kautilya emptied the building leaving the Nanda soldiers locked up, and burnt the palace to the ground. It is also said that when the Nanda king was killed, Kautilya personally went to see the body and, just before tying up his hair, he ordered the body to remain uncremated, to discard it and turn it into carrion. This was a truly barbaric end and contrary to Indian tradition for any deceased and the highest insult for a man's immortal soul.
Kautilya helped Chandragupta to turn the Mauryan Empire into one of the most powerful governments at that time. Pataliputra remained as the imperial capital and the initial territory controlled by Chandragupta extended all across Northern India from the Indus river in the west to the Bay of Bengal in the East. Later on in 305 BCE, the Mauryan Empire gained control of the Punjab, what today is part of Northern India and Eastern Pakistan, an area that had been controlled by the Macedonians.
Mauryan Ringstone

Mauryan Ringstone

The political thoughts of Kautilya are summarized in a book he wrote known as the Arthashastra, a Sanskrit name which is translated as “The Science of Material Gain”. This book was lost for many centuries and a copy of it written on palm leaves was rediscovered in India in 1904 CE. The Arthashastra is a handbook for running an empire effectively and it contains detailed information about specific topics. Diplomacy and war are the two points treated in greater detail than any other and it also includes recommendations on law, prisons, taxation, fortifications, coinage, manufacturing, trade, administrations, and spies.
The ideas expressed by Kautilya in the Arthashastra are totally practical and unsentimental. Kautliya openly writes about controversial topics such as assassinations, when to kill family members, how to manage secret agents, when it is useful to violate treaties and when to spy on ministers. Because of this, Kautilya is often compared to Machiavelli. It is fair to mention that Kautilya is not merciless all the time and he also writes about the moral duty of the king: he summarizes the duty of the king by saying “The happiness of the subjects is the happiness of the king; their welfare is his. His own pleasure is not his good but the pleasure of his subjects is his good”. Some scholars have seen in the ideas of Kautilya a combination of Chinese Confucianism and Legalism.
Chandragupta Maurya's Empire

Chandragupta Maurya's Empire


How Kautilya died is not entirely clear. Some accounts say he starved himself to death, a common practice in Jainism. Other versions say he died as a result of a court conspiracy. What we know for sure is that his death took place when Bindusara, the second Mauryan ruler, was on the throne.
Kautilya was a pioneer in diplomacy and government administration. His merit was not only to come up with very important practical advice for government, but also to organize them in a systematic and logical fashion. Even today, the Arthashastra is the number one classic of diplomacy in India. His vision of a unified India would become a reality during the time of Ashoka, the third ruler of the Mauryan dynasty.


Article based on information obtained from these sources:
with permission from the Website Ancient History Encyclopedia
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