To The Glory of Aethiopis

The sequel to the Iliad known as Aethiopis was composed by an author named Arctinus nearly a century after Homer. Much of the original was lost, some scholars claiming that the oral tale is even older than the written Iliad itself. Yet so popular and important was this tale in the Iliad cycle that it was again compiled in written form by Quintus of Smyrna under the title The Fall Of Troy in the 4th century CE. An army from Africa, together with a contingent of fierce female Amazons led by the famous Penthesilea, comes to the aid of the besieged Trojans. The army of Aethiopia is led by King Memnon of whom Achilles claims to have been one of the greatest warriors he ever faced in one on one combat. Both Achilles and Memnon wear armor fashioned for them by the god of metallurgists himself, Hephaistos. So important is the duel between these two great champions that the gods make them seem as giants so all can bear witness to the great battle of the age. It is also interesting to note that it is only after Memnon and the army from Aethiopia is defeated are the Greeks able to penetrate the city of Troy and conquer it once and for all.

While the continent and it's people was viewed as exotic and strange by the ancient Greeks, there was according to ancient historical accounts and legends an established contact that belies the idea that Africa was an unknown, dark and mysterious continent, which became the popular notion of Africa in later European views. The exploits of great 'Aethiopian' warrior kings and queens abound in a number of stories from Greek and other mythologies, which tell us of great civilizations, mighty cities and empires and a well respected military and heroic tradition replete with notable warriors and legendary heroes.

There far off, beyond Saharan sand Beyond Ramses’ pyramids, in a most unfamiliar land

Mighty nations did rise and wane

Amid trial and effort, blood and pain

Armies of heroes and warriors ride

Their steeds to glory, never to hide

From any who would dare invade

Be your own blood will ye wade!

For men and women of Aethiopia wear

Their swords and daggers 'pon muscled torsos, fit and fair

Perfect are they in feature and height

As gods they strut, in all their might

And when a babe is born the child is blessed

With the cold feel of a blade, pressed

Upon blue-black skin so as to know

In the warrior's path they must grow

To make a name through deeds, to recall

To be remembered by one and all

So long ago were such legends made

By warriors known, though memory may fade Rising and falling, all the while Like the rising and falling of the river Nile

Sing ye, bard, the song of Kandake Mighty queen, awaiting the threats of Alexander To the Siwa oasis the Macedonian phalanx marched

The throats of his soldiers, dry and parched “We’ll go no further to test Nubian might!” For they saw her, in the morning light Sat she royally upon the back of an elephant of war Surrounded by her spearmen, archers Slingers and more Their golden armor shining bright in the Sun… The battle was won So turned he, Alexander the king And flew he East, as a bird taking wing For no nation dare oppose the ruler of Meroe Only to leave their bones in the desert As if they were but seeds to sow Recite the tale of Memnon, who did march to Troy With an army ten thousand strong, in his employ All his life he dreamed of the day To challenge in combat the swift Achilles, who’d say That never did he, hero of the Greeks Cross sword or spear with another who doth wreaks Such fearsome blows with precision and skill Before making the inevitable kill But alas, Memnon paid the price for fame For immortality is itself to blame Sacrificed he half his force, and self upon that day ‘Pon Trojan field, brave daughters and sons doth lay… In heaps and mounds, a lifeless utopia Many tears would yet be shed, in far off Aethiopia

The great Myrina of Atlantean fame Did beat the Gorgons in their own game Conqueror of Arabia, Syria and more She settled upon the Aegean’s shore In battle did Mopsus, the king of Thrace Deliver her the final grace Slew he the conqueror, his sword stained crimson red The Libyan queen was now dead According to Plato, Myrina is not legend, but history Sadly, the details of her deeds are lost in mystery

From lions do they they learn to fight Elephants, wisdom, the water buffalo, might From the giraffe they gain their demeanor and bearing Noble, proud under the colorful tunics they are wearing Surely the ancients thought them close to heaven Where the gods did prepare bread to leaven There on Kilamanjaro, Solomon it is said Buried his treasure behind walls of lead Protected by legions of blue-green jinn Untouched by man, ne’er to be seen What secrets lie buried in Aethiopia’s past? Will we come to know the truth, at last?

The griot bards pluck their kora harps at night

And flautists play until first light

And as workers start their day anew

They labor with energy kindled through

Those legends told and epics recited

Of brave men and women in whose deeds they delighted

To hear again and again the glorious story

Of those brave heroes of Aethiopia, in all her ancient glory Ismail Butera, 2018

Photos, Jay Richards Above, Cece Carriker as a Nubian warrior Below, Kwaanza Barnes as King Memnon of Aethiopia