When it comes to historical female warriors, characters have been scattered around here and there in video games, comics, and TV. We’ve had Lagertha on Vikings and the pirate Anne Bonny on Black Sails. We’ve seen Joan of Arc films, and Artemisia (though in a very fictionalized form) appeared in 300: Rise of an Empire. The thing is, there are tons of actual women who’s fighting prowess changed history, and they should be the ones leading an actual series instead of just appearing in it. Here is a list of some of our favorite historical warrior women that we’d like to see on the small screen.
Also known as Gráinne O’Malley or Gráinne Ní Mháille, she was an Irish pirate and the lord of the Ó Máille dynasty in Ireland. Grace was active in sea battles alongside her husband and sons. When her kids got captured by Sir Richard Bingham, the English Governor of Connacht, she actually sailed to England to meet with Elizabeth I in Greenwich Palace. Imagine the dramatic impact of that meeting! She even refused to bow to Elizabeth because she didn’t recognize her as the Queen of Ireland. You could actually do a younger version of her in flashbacks where you see where she got one of her nicknames, "Gráinne Mhaol.” It means one with a bald head or short hair. She got it because she was hoping to join her father on a trip to Spain, and when he told her that her long hair would catch on the ropes, she cut it all off. After her husband died, she reportedly took a lover, who was then murdered. She tracked the murderers down and killed them all. This woman was fierce.
Tomyris, also known as Queen Tomiri, was the ruler of the Iranian Massagetae people around 530 BCE. Scholars like Herodotus, Strabo, and Cassiodorus mention her name and deeds, particularly leading her army to defeat and kill Cyrus the Great of the Achaemenid Empire. Not only that, but she called his treachery out with a message before she killed him. When she did, she shoved his head into a wineskin full of human blood. Well, that’s what Herodotus said, anyway. Even Shakespeare mentions her in King Henry VI. She’s been painted by famous artists and even has a minor planet named after her: 590 Tomyris.
Boudica was the Queen of the British Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying Roman forces in either CE 60 or 61. You may have seen her in video games or in a recent film, but she deserves far more screen time. Her husband was a sort of ally to Rome, and when he died, he left his kingdom to his daughters and wife. Rome wasn’t so happy about this, and not only took the kingdom, but flogged Boudica and raped her daughters. Boudica didn’t take this lightly and led a revolt. It was insanely successful until it wasn't. Boudica's army destroyed modern-day Colchester and took down thousands of troops. One estimate claims 70,000 to 80,000. Nero even considered taking the Roman troops out of Britain because of her. Though they didn’t win, Boudica’s forces came close. She almost changed the course of history. She’s remembered with a statue in Britain, but she really needs her own series.
Fu Hao lived in the Shang dynasty and died around 1200 BCE. She was one of the wives of King Wu Ding, but her claim to fame was that she was a military general. She rose through the ranks and led military campaigns, including one of the earliest recorded large-scale battles in Chinese history. We know that she was a general because of what was found in her tomb and because of inscriptions on bone oracle artifacts found at Yinxu. She was also a high priestess, which was very unusual for the time. She was honored with the aforementioned tomb and a statue, which can still be seen in China.
Zenobia was the Queen of the Palmyrene Empire (in modern day Syria). After her husband died, she ruled the country and became regent for her son. In 270 CE, Zenobia took on the East Rome and took over Egypt. She declared herself Empress. Zenobia’s kingdom was favorable to scholars and those of religions other than hers. There are a ton of myths about her. She has been said to be a descendant of Cleopatra, among other things, though that likely isn’t true. Since there is so much in question about her, she'd make a perfect subject for a series. Think of the money HBO or Netflix could spend on this one. Even her death is up in the air. Some say she killed herself. Some say she married a Roman and lived a lovely life. Some say she was a prisoner. There is so much here to play with.
Yennenga was a princess of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso. She lived in the early 12th century and was handy with the javelin, spear, and bow. She was also a pretty great horsewoman and commanded her own battalion. She was so good, in fact, that her dad, the king of the Dagomba Kingdom in modern-day Ghana, wasn’t ready to part with his prize warrior, and wouldn't let her marry. She made a grand gesture of letting wheat rot in a field to prove a point, but dear old dad wasn’t easily convinced. So, she dressed up like a man and took off on a stallion. While escaping, she found a love story on her own. There are statues of her all over the capital city of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, and the national football team is called "Les Étalons” after the stallion she escaped on.
Princess Pingyang lived during the Tang dynasty, founded by her father Li Yuan. She organized the Army of the Lady and commanded it, capturing the Sui capital Chang’an. She convinced a number of men to support her army—70,000 in fact—with gifts of food and money and took the enemy down. When she died, she was given the funeral for a high general, despite the protestation of some officials who believed that women shouldn’t get that sort of honor. They even named a pass Niangziguan in Pingding country, which translates to “Young Lady’s Pass,” honoring her fight to defend it.
Nzinga Mbande lived in modern-day Angola and is considered its "Mother." She lived from 1583-1663 and managed to fight off an invasion from Portugal. When they put her brother in jail, she went to them to demand his release. They refused her a chair, so she just asked one of her servants to get on all fours and she sat there. (There are some pretty gruesome stories about what she did next, but considering what we’ve seen in Game of Thrones, that’s hardly going to keep it off the air.) Nzinga had some pretty dark tactics (much like some of the stories we hear about Cleopatra) to keep the throne. She also took in runaway slaves and soldiers that left the army. She was known for being a brilliant military tactician. There is a street named after her in Luanda and a statue in Kinaxixi. As with some of the other women on this list, there are many stories about her that we can’t verify, but isn’t that the best kind of tale?
Are there historical warrior women that you'd like to see get their own series? Let us know in the comments!