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|Ancient||+1 Warrior movement|
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Shaka (1787 - 1828 AD) was a Zulu chieftain who is credited with transforming his tribe from one of many insignificant entities into the terror of southern Africa. Many historians consider him to be a military genius. During his tumultuous lifetime Shaka caused revolutionary changes to Zulu society and profoundly altered the history of his tribe forever.
Shaka was born sometime around 1787 to Chief Senzangakona of the Zulus. When Shaka's father died around 1816, Shaka claimed the chiefdom of the Zulus for himself. Once Shaka had control over the Zulu, he began a series of reforms that would transform the Zulu military into the region's most powerful fighting force. First, Shaka replaced the traditional "assegai" (a javelin-like throwing spear) with the "lklwa," a short spear intended for stabbing. He also equipped his men with larger and heavier shields. This new weaponry allowed Shaka to dramatically alter his army's battle tactics, changing the very nature of warfare in the region.
Before Shaka, among the tribes of southern Africa, combat was in large ritualized. The two forces would stand apart from one-another, chanting loudly and clashing their shields while hurling their spears at each other. Eventually one side's resolve would falter and they'd retreat, leaving the other side in possession of the field. Few warriors on either side were killed, and the battles rarely provided decisive results.
Shaka was to change all that. Shaka taught his army to close with the opponents' forces, fighting in hand-to-hand combat, where the new weaponry and shields provided Shaka's forces with a decisive advantage over their foes. Shaka invented a tactical formation called the "buffalo horns," under which his army had large wings (or horns) extending to the right and left of the main force. The main force would engage the enemy directly, while the horns outflanked the foe on left and right. Surrounded on three sides and facing a foe armed with better weaponry and shields, few armies could stand up to the Zulu attack.
With the most powerful army in the region, Shaka unleashed a reign of terror upon the unsuspecting neighboring tribes of southern Africa. Through skilled diplomacy and the judicious use of assassination, he rapidly set up a system of alliances and vassal rulers to extend his control over a wide range of territory, rapidly increasing the forces under his command. Within a decade tribes began migrating out of the area, fleeing the Zulus in all directions. This movement of peoples has become known as Mfecane, or "the scattering."
Although a great conqueror, Shaka was not an effective domestic ruler. His brutal regime was quite unpopular, and several assassinations and coups were attempted. Eventually, one of them succeeded, and in 1828 Shaka was mortally wounded by his two half-brothers. As he lay dying, Shaka is said to have told his half-brothers that they would not rule long, and that the white men would soon take the Zulu lands. Unfortunately for the Zulus, Shaka spoke truthfully, and within seventy years the Zulu would be conquered by the British.
September 22nd is a holiday known as Heritage Day among Zulu tribes. It marks the day of Shaka Zulu's death and commemorates his successes in creating a unified Zulu people.
Among Shaka's many reforms for the Zulu army was a ban on sandals. Shaka demanded his soldiers fight barefoot or not at all.