Kandake Amanitore ruled Nubia at the turning of an era. A powerful queen, feared by her enemies and beloved by her people, she was one of the last great builders of the Kingdom of Kush. Amanitore restored the Land of the Bow to its greatness following a period of turmoil. Her rule was long and her works lasting.
At least, that is what historians have pieced together. Two millennia and one dead language later, there is little surviving written record of Amanitore in the form of scrolls or other documents. What remains is carved into the very stone of the buildings she left behind.
The most nebulous aspect of Amanitore's life is who she was before she became queen. Indeed, her personality is a cypher. We can only interpret. One abstract depiction of the kandake shows her mercilessly slaying enemies she has already subjugated. Was it from an actual incident where she ordered the execution of rebels, or propaganda proclaiming her righteous vengeance against those who would be enemies of the state?
Even then, her actual role as queen is difficult to pin down. Conflicting accounts of her co-ruler Natakamani depict him as either her husband or her son, though thankfully never both. Furthermore, Amanitore succeeded Kandake Amanishakheto, who was either her mother-in-law (if Natakamani was Amanitore's husband), her actual mother (if Natakamani was Amanitore's son), or some other form of relation lost to time.
The fuzzy details of Amanitore's lineage are less important than the role she held. The title of kandake—or “candace,” as the Romans called it—roughly translates to “queen-mother,” but it did not equate to a regent ruling on behalf of an heir too young to hold power. Instead, the kandakes were independent queens who ruled alone with husband consorts or with kings in a form of co-rulership.
Amanitore's reign took the latter form, with Natakamani as her equal. There is scant information on any aspect of her life before she became queen (around 1 BCE). Still, monuments always depict both co-rulers as adults, so she was likely in her prime when her rule began. In fact, the depictions of Amanitore and Natakamani deliberately present the two as equivalent, particularly in religious buildings, which was uncommon for the time.
With Egypt a Roman vassal and Rome on amicable terms with Nubia, no regional conflicts threatened Amanitore's reign. The relatively peaceful time and the collaborative autonomy of co-rulership let Amanitore pursue what would become her legacy—an extended period of building that brought great prosperity to the Meroitic kingdom. Among her works were the construction of Nubian pyramids and tombs, restoration of Amun's temple in Meroe, and infrastructure projects, such as the reservoirs built near the capital.
Amanitore also rebuilt the temple of Amun at Napata—the same temple that Roman invaders had destroyed just two decades prior. As Amanitore’s name incorporated the name of the god Amun, it is reasonable to assume its restoration was a point of pride for the busy queen. Indeed, her efforts helped revive Jebel Barkal to at least a fraction of its former glory.
Although the queen enjoyed cordial relations with Rome, the decades-earlier reprisal raids into Egyptian (which is to say, "Roman") territory had recovered bronze statues of Augustus Caesar as spoils of war. An apocryphal tale describes Amanitore burying the decapitated head of one such statue beneath temple stairs in Meroe so Nubians would always walk over the Roman emperor responsible for razing Napata. (It was most likely Kandake Amanirenas, her predecessor, who actually did this.) Whether or not she was actually responsible for its burial, the "Meroe head" of Augustus Caesar was recovered in the early 20th Century—found beneath a flight of temple steps.
As with the confusion surrounding Amanitore's ascension, we know very little about the end of her reign. Some estimates put the date of her death at roughly 20 CE. Treasure hunters have long since plundered her tomb in Meroe.
Despite the many unknown aspects of Amanitore, the extensive building program she left behind inspired later kandakes to expand upon her work, which in turn led to a flourishing of Meroitic culture and fortunes through the Second Century. Archaeologists continue to uncover examples of her influence, including a set of recently unearthed Nubian pyramids built during her reign.