Which female heads of state were present on the battlefield


Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
Mandukhai Khatun (c. 1449-1510) was the wife of two Kakhans of the Mongols.

Mandukhai - Wikipedia

I remember reading a story that she was at least present at a battle when she was pregnant. I don't know if she was just watching and cheering on her husband's troops, or commanding, or actually shooting a bow, or whatever. Embarrassingly, she fell off her horse - oops! She was helped back onto her horse and later gave birth to two healthy sons - her many children were mostly twin sons.
A point of caution regarding Zenobia. It is indeed true that the Historia Augusta claims that Zenobia wore masculine clothes and traveled with her army, but this source, written in the late fourth or early fifth century, is a notoriously unreliable text. In fact, it is the least reliable text that claims to be history or biography among extant Greek and Roman texts. In the case of Zenobia's masculinity, she appears to have been presented this way as part of the anonymous author's invective against the emperor Gallienus. According to the author, Gallienus was so feminine, indolent and weak an emperor that he was easily outshone by a woman. The author presents a (for the Romans) disturbing world in which a Syrian woman (Syrians were considered lazya and luxurious, and women soft) was a better leader than the emperor in Rome. In reality, Gallienus was a competent emperor who was unfairly maligned by fourth-century writers for the disasters that happened during his reign, and as a foil for his successor Claudius Gothicus, whom Constantine falsely claimed as an ancestor. For more on this, see e.g. Zenobia: Shooting Star of Palmyra by Andrade.

With all that being said, it is notable that, in the more reliable account of Zosimus (who used the fourth-century historian Eunapius), she was in the vicinity of her army when it fought Aurelian at the battles of Immae and then Emesa. She was not necessarily actually on the battlefield (as opposed to remaining in the cities of Antioch and Emesa), but she may have been.
Last edited:
Jun 2012
Now, this could be just me, but I have also noticed that Syrian female singers seem to me to have a bit more than their fair share of stunningly powerful voiced ones from among them. Like Sarah Farah & Rouwaida Attieh, to name just a couple. Could be to do with descent from some Zenobia-type female ancestor. Who knows.:cool:

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