Ghana and Mali Empires

Apr 2016
61
USA
How powerful were the Ghana and Mali empires? Were they more powerful than the European kingdoms?

Also, what time did agriculture reach west africa?
 
May 2015
1,301
Germany
May 2016
143
London
Al-Bakri said that 'the army of Ghana consisted of two hundred thousand warriors of whom forty thousand were archers'

- Book of Highways and of Kingdoms

I have no idea what armor, weapons or military tactics they used so I wouldn't be able to compare them to Europe.
 
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May 2015
1,301
Germany
Well, it seems likely that Ghana and Mali had a bigger army than the average European kingdom, though the numbers per se are of course totaly exaggerated.

Basic equipment was probably a spear and a large shield for infantry (doing guesswork here based on later African kingdoms) and self bows with poinsoned arrows for the archers. Indigenous cavalry regiments seems to played a bigger role only from the Malian era onwards (Sadly dont remember the concret source I got that from). During Malian and Songhai times, horsemen appear frequently in terracotta art:



Looks like no torso armour and in some cases a simple cervelliere with chinstraps for the head. Maybe the high end nobility imported chainmail, but I dont know anything concrete.

If either during Ghanese and Malian times, its doubtful that they would have had a chance against the heavily armoured European knights, especially from 1250 onwards (Great helmets, chainmail for every part of the body, first experiments with plate armour).
 
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AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,000
Italy, Lago Maggiore
How powerful were the Ghana and Mali empires? Were they more powerful than the European kingdoms?

Also, what time did agriculture reach west africa?
Regarding the Empire of Ghana, it's useful to remind that it wasn't in modern Ghana [so the name it's not correlated with present geographical references].

The real name sounded like "Wagadou", but since its Emperor was the "Ghana", the warrior king, Western and Arab observers called it "Empire of Ghana". The real local name meant something like "land of the herds".

This said, it's golden age was connected with the Arab introduction of the camels in the region. The camels made it possible to trade through the desert and this increased a lot the economy of the Empire. It was a quite strong empire [it was able to conquer the Manden, the land of the Mandinka people who would have created the Empire of Mali.
 

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,672
Cornwall
Al-Bakri said that 'the army of Ghana consisted of two hundred thousand warriors of whom forty thousand were archers'

- Book of Highways and of Kingdoms

I have no idea what armor, weapons or military tactics they used so I wouldn't be able to compare them to Europe.
He lies
 

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,672
Cornwall
Really? Can you explain?
The figures are plainly ridiculous my friend. There are quite a few threads on the size of medieval armies etc, so I don't want to go through all the arguments again. But people had no way of counting and were vastly prone to exaggeration for a number of reasons, most especially, but not exclusively, arabic writers it seems.

If there is any shred of accuracy to it, he may have been able to call on tens of thousands of troops, but that's it. To have them in the same place as an army is not hygenic or 'supplyable'! To say the least.
 
Jan 2016
1,637
India
You see a number in Arabic sources, divide it by ten. 20,000 with 4,000 archers is a reasonable number for a West African empire like Ghana in my opinion.
 
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May 2016
143
London
The figures are plainly ridiculous my friend. There are quite a few threads on the size of medieval armies etc, so I don't want to go through all the arguments again. But people had no way of counting and were vastly prone to exaggeration for a number of reasons, most especially, but not exclusively, arabic writers it seems.

If there is any shred of accuracy to it, he may have been able to call on tens of thousands of troops, but that's it. To have them in the same place as an army is not hygenic or 'supplyable'! To say the least.
I see, I thought you meant Al-Bakri has a told multiple lies before