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Ancient Africa

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"Princes shall come of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God."
Psalms 68:31.

Back when Ancient Egypt's military and engineering achievements left the rest of the world in awe. But Africa has always been diverse, and Ancient Africa was no different. Other sophisticated and literate empires on the continent, such as Kush, Axum and Meroë, were also flourishing. In fact, Kush actually spread beyond the Sudanese Nile and conquered and ruled Egypt for about a century (ca. 734-664 B.C.).

How have others seen Ancient Africa? When the Ancient Greeks referred to Africa they tended to focus on Egypt or Ethiopia as mystical, exotic civilisations. In Ethiopia, Axum quickly rose from city-state to empire. In third century Persia, Axum was named as one of the great four empires that dominated ancient Eurasia and Africa.note  More modern depictions in Western fiction may not differentiate between modern and ancient tribal Africa. Depictions may also reference African mythology.

In reality, Africa has a history as stocked full of rising and falling empires, artists, intrepid merchants, heroes, power-mad lunatics and wars as anywhere else in the world.

See also Darkest Africa and UsefulNotes.Africa.

Works set in this time period are:

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     Comic Books  
  • One Hellboy story features a retelling of the story of ancient West-African Culture Hero Makoma, a superhuman guy with a hammer who perishes after a Double KO with a 7-headed monster. May or may not be the forerunner to African-American Culture Hero John Henry who also used a hammer and perished in a similar, though less fantastic manner.


  • One of the The Royal Diaries was set in Angola; supposed to be a diary of a young Queen Nzingha (of Ndongo and Matamba), it is truly quite lacking in stereotypes about Africa and presents an interesting picture of the continent during the 1500's (colonization and the slave trade), particularly for a book written for a YA audience.
  • Lots of Robert E. Howard stories are set here, with visits by characters such as Conan the Barbarian or Solomon Kane typically involving Eldritch Abominations terrorizing the countryside.
  • In the middle of the futuristic Zimbabwe of The Ear, the Eye and the Arm is Resthaven, a sacred country where the old ways note  are preserved — "the spiritual heart of Africa." Even airplanes aren't allowed to fly overhead, and the people who live inside of it have only the vaguest notion of the outside world — most of them.
  • Axum in Belisarius Series is a subversion. While it's warriors bear a resemblance to the ones in Zulu they are also capable of building palaces, ships, and cities, forming an elaborate system of political checks and balances, dominating the trade in the Indian Ocean, and negotiating as equals with great empires.
  • Wilbur Smith's The Sunbird is partially set in a lost kingdom in the area of modern Botswana, and partially set in the present day, following the archaeologists who are beginning to uncover its remains.
  • The kingdom of Great Olorum, City and Nation, in the novellas The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps and A Taste of Honey sounds a lot like a fantasy mix of ancient African kingdoms such as Kush.

     Live Action TV  
  • Shaka Zulu
  • Roots (1977) chronicles the author's family line, beginning with his ancestor Kunta Kinte who was taken from his village and made a slave.
  • On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The first Vampire Slayer was an ancient African girl with face-paint and dreadlocks, given powers by a group of misogynist shamans.

     Tabletop Games  
  • The Third Party D20 setting Nyambe is based on ancient and pre-colonial Africa, and is clearly designed to be easily importable into your Forgotten Realms campaign alongside that setting's other Fantasy Counterpart Cultures.

     Video Games  
  • Europa Universalis and its sequels, which let you play as an African empire even if your usual fate is to get invaded.
    • On the other hand, a HUGE part of inland Africa is inaccessible to anyone.
  • The Settlers II had Nubians as one of the four playable civilizations. Of course, since the game has Cosmetically Different Sides (and that only for the buildings. The workers all have the same (Caucasian) sprite no matter the civilization), the Nubians civilization is exactly as developed and complex as the Roman, Viking or Japanese — up to and including sophisticated ship-building and ironworking techniques.
  • Guild Wars Nightfall features Elona, a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to Africa (especially the North).
  • Empire Earth II's expansion featured the Zulu and Maasai civilizations, though they only appeared as enemy African mercenaries in the Egyptian campaign. The Maasai do have a campaign, but it's set in the 21st century as a Wakanda expy.
  • Wizard 101 does this with the world of Zafaria. However, instead of a Bulungi, certain specific cultures are represented by the different species of Petting Zoo People.