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Who was Mavia?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 August 2014
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Mavia was a Syrian warrior queen who managed to organize a scattered group of Arab tribes to oppose Roman rule of the Arabian peninsula. Her campaign was ultimately successful, and she came to be a revered authority figure who is often compared to Zenobia, another notable Arab warrior queen. Zenobia and Mavia belie the misconception that woman are incapable of rule and cleverly orchestrated military campaigns.

You may also see Mavia's name transliterated as Mawia or Mania. The exact date of Mavia's birth is not known, but given that she led her campaign in the later part of the fourth century, it is safe to assume that it was probably around the middle of the fourth century. Mavia was born into the Tanukhids, a group of Saracen tribes which lived semi-nomadic lifestyles. In 378, Mavia led the tribes to revolt against the Romans, pushing Rome out of Palestine and Phoenicia and expertly repelling any Roman attempts to take these regions back.

Mavia was undoubtedly inspired by the revolt of Zenobia a century earlier, and she had the advantage of using troops who had fought alongside the Romans. As a result, her army was well aware of Roman military tactics, and was able to use these tactics with brutal effectiveness. She even breached the border of Egypt, at which point the Romans signed a pact with her, rather than attempting to oppose her.

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Ultimately, Mavia even offered military assistance to the Romans, sending mounted troops to help the Romans fight the Goths. After this period, some of the tribes grew restless, feeling that they were mistreated by Rome, and another revolt occurred in 383. This revolt was not as fruitful as the first, being brutally extinguished by the Romans, and the extent of Mavia's involvement in the revolt is not known. As a military figure, Mavia was remarkably accomplished, personally leading her troops into battle and using innovative tactics to deal with the Romans.

Records indicate that Mavia died in 425 CE. This strong, powerful woman is not nearly as widely known as she should be, as she is a rather inspiring historical figure.

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