The Sudan is a vast region of Africa below the Sahara, the gateway into sub-Saharan Africa for many North African empires. It stretches across the continent -- this range covers the empires that rose and fell in the western half of the Sudan in the middle ages and renaissance. These were great and sophisticated societies which made war on each other, on the tribes to the south, with the Arabs and North Africans to the north, and, later, the colonizing Europeans, first the Portuguese. They included the Mali, Gao, and Songhai Empires, as well as the Kanem and Bornu Empires.|
The armies were composed largely of infantry archers using shortbows and often poisoned arrows, although some states largely replaced these with massed close order spearmen. These archers (or spearmen) were supplemented by smaller numbers of javelinmen and swordsmen. Very large numbers of cavalry could also be used, some tribes specialising in skirmish warfare, others launching controlled charges. Elites were slave soldiers and included cavalry with both man and horse completely protected by quilt armour (perhaps with chainmail underneath for the rider), spearmen with heavy all-steel spears, and very small numbers of handgunners.