For thousands of years, the Roman Empire was considered a world superpower. Civilisations around the world feared the Roman Empire due to their advanced knowledge and military resources. Eventually, the world power met its match when a warrior-queen decided to rebel against the late Roman rule. That brave woman was the Queen of Tanukh, Mavia. Read on to discover what caused her to rebel against the rule and the heroic legacy she left behind. Proudly brought to you by American BladesPro.
Marrying Into Royalty
Mavia, who went by her Arabic name, Mayiwwa, was born to a family of Tanukhids that migrated north to the Arab Peninsula. After spending her childhood in Tanukh, Mavia married the king of her homeland, al-Hawari near the end of the fourth century. Sadly for the couple, their marriage came to an abrupt ending after al-Hawari passed away during 375 A.D. At the time of al-Hawari's death, he was planning to rebel against the Roman Empire's rule and liberate the Tanukh tribe. Since the King died suddenly, he didn't leave an heir which lead to his wife Mavia claiming the throne.
As a tribute to Queen Mavia, an unknown artist created a stained glass mural of the heroic leader.
Leading the Revolt
The revolt was caused by the Roman Emperor Valens after he turned down the Tanukh's request to have an Orthodox Christian Bishop instead of an Arian one. Despite the Tanukh's growing frustrations, Valens demanded that they appoint an Arian Bishop due to his Arian heterodox beliefs.
An ancient imperial coin featuring former Roman Emperor, Valens.
Preparing for her tribe's revolt, Mavia decided to consult with neighbouring Arab tribes and convince them to become allies. The Queen's attempts were successful and she began orchestrating her plan of attack. After 3 years of planning, Mavia initiated the revolt in the spring of 378 A.D with the help of her ally forces. Leading her military on the front lines, the Tanukhids stormed into Palestine, Arabia and Egypt, slaughtering all the Roman armies in their path. While preparing for the attack, Mavia started to learn about guerilla warfare and raid tactics which lead to her army's success on the battlefield. Seeking retribution for the Queen's actions, the Roman's planned on attacking Aleppo only to realise the Tanukhids had fled to an undisclosed base in the desert.
Without a location to attack, the Roman's began taking further casualties as Mavia and her allies dominated their rivals in open battle. Due to a century of fighting alongside the Romans, many of the Tanukhids were familiar with Roman war tactics and remained two steps ahead of their opponents. After continuously defeating the Romans in battle, Mavia started gaining support from the surrounding tribes and cities. Her leadership and cause became so popular, it led to most of the Roman East breaking away from the empire and coming under the warrior queen's rule.
Cometh the Woman, Cometh the Hour
Angered by the embarrassment he and his forces had endured, Valens assembled a second battalion and led them to an open field battle against Mavia's army. Unphased by the emperor's attempts to intimidate her, the brave warrior-queen stood tall by using her advanced military knowledge in Roman and native combat tactics to wipe out the second wave.
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After the Roman's were beaten decisively by Mavia's forces, Valens ordered his soldiers to stand down from the battle and called for a truce. Mavia accepted the emperor's request and both leaders began discussing the terms of their new agreement. Finally, the Tanukhs were allowed to appoint the first orthodox Bishop of Arabs, Moses as long as they remained loyal to the Roman Empire. The deal worked out perfectly for each leader because the Roman's restored their relationship with an ally and the Tanukhs received the religious liberation they asked for.
Later Years and Death
Over time, the alliance grew and led to Mavia deploying soldiers to assist the Roman's against the Goth's. The ties between two only strengthened after Mavia's daughter, Princess Khasidat married Roman Nicene Commander, Victor. Despite creating a unique bond, the truce was quickly broken after the Tanukhids were heavily defeated by the Goth's and Emperor Valens was killed by enemy forces. Battered and bruised, the Tanukhids returned to their homeland only to find out the new Roman Emperor, Theodosius I, allied with the Goth's and began favouring them over the tribe.
A statue that was carved in honour of the late Roman Emperor, Theodosius I.
The Tanukhids started resenting the Roman's after they fell out of favour and decided to launch a second revolt in 383 A.D. Unfortunately for Mavia and her people, they were unable to follow up their previous success. Theodosius I rallied another Arab tribe called the Salihs and used their knowledge of the desert to outwit their rivals. Scholars do not know whether Mavia also led the second revolt because there was no mention of her in any of the historical recollections.
Years after the failed revolt, Mavia passed away in Anasartha, East Aleppo. An inscription from 420 A.D. was found confirming her death during that year. Mavia's story of courage, resilience and leadership is a great example of how one person's bravery can carry an entire tribe to victory.