6 Important People in Ancient African History

Het banket van Dido

Public Domain/Rijksmuseum

Most of the following ancient Africans became famous through contact with ancient Rome. The history of Rome's contact with ancient Africa begins before the period when history is considered reliable. It goes back to the days when the legendary founder of the Roman race, Aeneas, stayed with Dido in Carthage. At the other end of ancient history, more than a thousand years later, when the Vandals attacked northern Africa, the great Christian theologian Augustus lived there.​

St. Anthony

The temptation of saint Anthony

Public Domain/PICRYL

St. Anthony, called the Father of Monasticism, was born about A.D. 251 in Fayum, Egypt, and spent much of his adult life as a desert hermit (eremite)—fighting demons.


Aeneas Introducing Cupid Dressed as Ascanius to Dido

Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Dido was the legendary queen of Carthage (in northern Africa) who carved out a substantial niche along the southern Mediterranean coastline for her people—emigrants from Phoenicia—to live in, by outsmarting the local king. Later, she entertained the Trojan prince Aeneas who went on to become the pride of Rome, Italy, but not before he had created lasting enmity with the north African kingdom by abandoning the love-struck Dido.


Hanno the Navigant Route

GNUFDL/Wikimedia Commons

It may not show in their mapmaking, but the ancient Greeks had heard tales of the wonders and novelties of an Africa that lay far beyond Egypt and Nubia thanks to the travelogues of Hanno of Carthage. Hanno of Carthage (c. 5th century B.C.) left a bronze plaque in a temple to Baal as testimony to his voyage down the west coast of Africa to the land of the gorilla people.

Septimius Severus

Severan Dynasty showing Julia Domna, Septimius Severus, and Caracalla, but no Geta

Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Septimius Severus was born in ancient Africa, at Leptis Magna, on April 11, 145, and died in Britain, on February 4, 211, after reigning for 18 years as Emperor of Rome.

The Berlin tondo shows Septimius Severus, his wife Julia Domna and their son Caracalla. Septimius is noticeably darker skinned than his wife reflecting his African origins.


Nubel was a powerful Northern African, a Roman military officer, and a Christian. Upon his death in the early 370s, one of his sons, Firmus, killed his half-brother, Zammac, illegitimate heir to Nubel's estate. Firmus feared for his safety at the hands of the Roman administrator who had long mismanaged Roman properties in Africa. He revolted leading to the ​Goldonic War.



Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Macrinus, from Algeria, ruled as Roman emperor in the first half of the third century.

St. Augustine

St. Agustine

Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Augustine was an important figure in the history of Christianity. He wrote about topics like predestination and original sin. He was born on 13 November 354 at Tagaste, in North Africa, and died on 28 August 430, in Hippo, when the Arian Christian Vandals were besieging Hippo. The Vandals left Augustine's cathedral and library standing.

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Gill, N.S. "6 Important People in Ancient African History." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/important-people-in-ancient-african-history-116768. Gill, N.S. (2021, February 16). 6 Important People in Ancient African History. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/important-people-in-ancient-african-history-116768 Gill, N.S. "6 Important People in Ancient African History." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/important-people-in-ancient-african-history-116768 (accessed March 26, 2023).

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