“Western Sudan is the name given to west Africa not the western part of Sudan. Africaland was once called Sudan”

By Ojealaro Friday
Capital= Benin City (then called Edo)
Languages = Edo ( today fragmented into Edoid sub-dialects)
Government Monarchy = King/Emperor (Oba)
-40BC – 1150 AD – Ogiso (Oba) period
– 1180–1242 EWEKA 1
– 1440–1473 Ewuare (1440–1473) expanded the city-state to an empire
Ovonramwen (exile 1897) = Last absolute Ruler
– 1914 – 1933 – Eweka II  (post-imperial)
– 1933 – 1978 – Akenzua II
– 1979– Erediauwa I
Historical era/Early Modern era
– Established 40 BC – First ruled by Ogiso
– Annexed by the United Kingdom(Britain) 1897
Area – 1625 90,000 km² (34,749 sq mi)
ROOTS OF IZODUWA ( Prince Ekalarderhan) corruptly called ODUDUWA by the Yorubas.
The Benin Empire was a pre-colonial African empire, with its capital Benin City (located in what is now Edo State in Nigeria). It should not be confused with the modern-day country called Benin, formerly called Dahomey. The Benin Empire was “one of the oldest and most highly developed states in the coastal hinterland of West Africa, dating perhaps to the Eleventh century C.E”, until it was annexed by the British Empire, in 1897.
The original people and founders of the Benin Empire, the Edo people, were initially ruled by the Ogiso (Kings of the Sky) dynasty who called their land Igodomigodo. The rulers or kings were commonly known as Ogiso. Igodo, the first Ogiso, wielded much influence and gained popularity as a good ruler. He died after a long reign and was succeeded by Ere, his eldest son. In the 12th century, a great palace intrigue and battle for power erupted between the warrior crown prince Ekaladerhan son of the last Ogiso ( Ogiso Owodo) and his young paternal uncle – Evian the field Marshall of his father’s army. In anger over an oracle, Prince Ekaladerhan left the royal court with his warriors. When his old father the Ogiso died, the Ogiso dynasty was ended as the people and royal kingmakers preferred their king’s son as natural next in line to rule.
The exiled Prince Ekaladerhan who was not known in Yoruba land, somehow earned the title of Oni Ile-fe Izoduwa which is now corrupt to yoruba language as Ooni (Oghene) of Ile-Ife Oduduwa and refused to return, then sent his son Oranmiyan to become king. Prince Oranmiyan took up his abode in the palace built for him at Usama by the elders (now a coronation shrine). Soon after his arrival he married a beautiful lady, Erinmwinde, daughter of Osa-nego, was the ninth Enogie (Duke) of Ego, by whom he had a son. After some years residence here he called a meeting of the people and renounced his office, remarking that the country was a land of vexation, Ile-Ibinu (by which name the country was afterward known) and that only a child born, trained and educated in the arts and mysteries of the land could reign over the people. He caused his son born to him by Erinmwinde to be made King in his place, and returned to Yoruba land Ile-Ife.

After some years in Ife, he left for Oyo, where he also left a son behind on leaving the place, and his son Ajaka ultimately became the first Alafin of Oyo of the present line, while Oranmiyan himself was reigning as Oni of Ife. Therefore, Oranmiyan of Ife, the father of Eweka I, the Oba of Benin, was also the father of Ajaka, the first Alafin of Oyo. Note that,Oni of Uhe and Alafe of Oyo were Bini terms in Benin spoken language. Also note that, almost all the Kings titles in Southerner Nigeria are in old Edo Language. In Nigeria Edo has the greatest and rich culture and most influence in West Africa and powerful King in Nigeria before the whiteman arrived.

By the 4th century, Edo as a system of protected settlements expanded into a thriving city-state. In the 14th century, the twelfth Oba in line, Oba Ewuare the Great (1440–1473) would expand the city-state to an empire.

It was not until the 14th century during the reign of Oba Ewuare the Great that the kingdom’s administrative centre, the city Ubinu, began to be known as Benin City by the Portuguese, and would later be adopted by the locals as well. Before then, due to the pronounced ethnic diversity at the kingdom’s headquarters during the 14th century from the successes of Oba Ewuare, the earlier name (‘Ubinu’) by a tribe of the Edos was colloquially spoken as “Benin” by the mix of Itsekhiri, Esan, Ika, Ijaw Edo, Urhobo living together in the royal administrative centre of the kingdom. The Portuguese would write this down as Benin City. Though, farther Edo clans, such as the Itsekiris and the Urhobos still referred to the city as Ubini up till the late 19th century, as evidence implies.

Aside from Benin City, the system of rule of the Oba in his kingdom, even through the golden age of the kingdom, was still loosely based after the Ogiso dynasty, which was military and royal protection in exchange of use of resources and implementation of taxes paid to the royal administrative centre. Language and culture was not enforced but remained heterogeneous and localized according to each group within the kingdom, though a local “Enogie” (duke) was often appointed by the Oba for specified ethnic areas.

31 Ogiso are accounted for as rulers of this first form of the state. According to the Edo oral tradition, during the reign of the last Ogiso, his son and heir apparent, Ekaladerhan, was banished from Igodomigodo as a result of one of the Queens having deliberately changed an oracle message to the Ogiso. Prince Ekaladerhan was a powerful warrior and well loved. On leaving Benin he travelled westernly to the land of the Yoruba where he became king and renamed himself Izoduwa, which is now corrupt to Oduduwa by Yorubas. Most Edo cultures and festival ethnics are now practiced by Yorubas such as Ishango, Ogun, Festac of Idia Mother of Oba Esigie of Benin. Also most foods of the Edo are now consumed by the Yorubas, such as Iyan, Eman, Usi, Ighiawo and Ogi. Most current cities in West Nigeria are a mix of Edo and Yoruba, such as Ekiti, Kogi, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo and Lagos itself.

On the death of his father, the last Ogiso Owodo, a group of Benin Chiefs led by Chief Oliha came to Ife, pleading with Oduduwa (the Ooni) to return to Igodomigodo (later known as Benin City in the 14th century during Oba Ewuare) to ascend the throne. Oduduwa’s reply was that a ruler cannot leave his domain but he had seven sons and would ask one of them to go back to become the next king there.
Eweka I was the first ‘Oba’ or king of the new dynasty in the second milenium, after the end of the era of Ogiso.

Centuries later, in 1440, Oba Ewuare, also known as Ewuare the Great, came to power and turned the city-state into an empire. It was only at this time that the administrative centre of the kingdom began to be referred to as Benin (Ubini) as named by the portugues explorers and traders. Ewuare  changed the ancient name of Igodomigodo to Edo.

The Ancient Benin Empire,  which eventually gained political ascendancy over Ile-Ife, gained political strength and ascendancy over much of what is now Mid-Western and Western Nigeria. boardaring with oyo in the west, the Niger river on the east, and the northerly lands succumbing to Fulani Muslim invasion in the North. Interestingly, much of what is now known as Western Iboland and even Yorubaland was ruled by the Benin Kingdom upto  the late 19th century – Agbor (Ika), Akure, Owo and even the present day Lagos Island, which was named “Eko” meaning “War Camp” by the Benins were all part of the Benin Kingdom.
The present day Monarchy of Lagos Island did not come directly from Ile-Ife, but from Benin, and this can be seen up till in the attire of the Oba and High Chiefs of Lagos, and in the street and area names of Lagos Island which are Yoruba corruptions of Benin names (Idumagbo, Idumota, Igbosere etc.). Other parts of the present day Lagos State were under Ijebu, and later Edo now conquer Ijebu and enlarge is domain to Dahomey (tossed between the Dahomey Kingdom, with its seat in present day Republic of Benin, and the Benin Kingdom).
THE EUROPEAN CONTACT: Benin City in the 14th Century:
The Oba had become the paramount power within the region. Oba Ewuare, the first Golden Age Oba, is credited with turning Benin City into City States from a military fortress built by Ogiso, protected by moats and walls. It was from this bastion that he launched his military campaigns and began the expansion of the kingdom from the Edo-speaking heartlands.
Oba Ewuare was a direct descendant of Eweka I great grandson of Ekaladerhan Izoduwa.
A series of walls marked the incremental growth of the sacred city from 800 AD.  In the 14th century Benin became the greatest city in the sub-sahara Africa. Ewaure to enclose his palace, commanded the expansion of Benin’s inner wall, and moat. 


The Walls of Benin were a combination of ramparts and moats, called Iya in the Edo language, used as a defense of the historical Benin City, It was considered the largest man-made structure lengthwise and was hailed as the largest earthwork in the world. It is larger than Sungbo’s Eredo. It enclosed 6,500 km² of community lands. Its length was over 16,000 km of earth boundaries. It was estimated that earliest construction began in 800 AD and continued into the mid-1400s by Ewuare  Nogidigan. Ewuare also added great thoroughfares and erected nine fortified gateways.This was also excavated in the early 1960s by Graham Connah. Connah estimated that its construction, if spread out over five dry seasons, would have required a workforce of 1,000 laborers working ten hours a day seven days a week.

The Benin moat, also known traditionally as Iya,is the largest man-made earthworks in the world. One of the wonders of the world. It predates the use of modern earth-moving equipment or technology in these parts. The moat encircles the old perimeter precincts of the City and was constructed as a defensive barrier in times of war. A great defence wall ever build by African civilization. {5th} Oba Oguola {about 1280-1295} dug the first and second moats to fortify the City from invaders, including the Imperial European invaders, who at the time were hunting for African slaves labourers, Oba Oguola further decreed that important towns and Villages should build similar moats as defence systems around their communities.This gave rise to twenty of such moats around Benin City and its environs. An extension of the moat was constructed in the 15th century during the reign of {12th} Oba Ewuare the Great (1440-1473 CE). The Benin moat is over 3200 kilometers long. .
Defensive Fortification of Ancient Benin City: The Benin Moat

Edo, the people of Igodomigodo famously known for almost a millennium as Benin, had built a moat complex to protect themselves in the wars they fought. The defensive fortification of Benin City, the capital,
consisted of ramparts and moats, call iya, enclosing a 4000 square kilometer (2485.5 miles) of community lands. In total, the Benin wall system encompasses over 10,000 kilometers (6213.7 miles) of earth boundaries. Patrick Darling, an archaeologist, estimates that the complex was built between 800 and 1000 up to the late fifteenth century (Keys 1994: 16). Advantageously situated, the moats were duged in such a manner that earthen banks provided outer walls that complemented deep ditches. According to Graham Connah, the ditch formed an integral part of the intended barrier but was also a quarry for the material to construct the wall or bank (Keys 1994: 594). The ramparts range in size from shallow traces to the immense 20-meter-high (66 feet) around Benin City (Wesler 1998: 144). The Guinness Book of World Records describes the walls of Benin City as the world’s second largest man-made structure after China’s Great Wall, in terms of length, and the series of earthen ramparts as the most extensive earthwork in the world.

During the second half of the 14th century, Oba Ewuare the Great (ruled 1440-1473 AD) ordered a moat to be dug in the heart of the city. The earthworks served as a bastion and also afforded control of access to
the capital which had nine gates that were shut at night. Travel notes of European visitors also described the Benin walls (e.g. Pacheco Pereira 1956: 130-147; Dapper 1668). It was finalized around 1460, at that time being the world’s largest earthwork. (See historical photos of Benin City).

Early European visitors never failed to be impressed with the Benin City’s grandeur and level of organization. Benin as it appears in documents of the seventeenth century the natural reflection of centralized wealth was its magnificent capital city Benin. Reports from the anonymous. Dutchman D.R. (c. 1600) and David van Nyendael (some fifty years later) described Benin City as an extraordinarily extensive and flourishing city which easily matched the European metropolis of it time (Hodgkin 1960: 119-120;Ben-Amos 1995: 42ff).

The Portuguese compared it with Lisbon, the Dutch with Amsterdam or Antwerp, the Italians with Florence, and the Spaniards with Madrid (Kea 1971: 187). Its size was matched by dense habitation; houses built close to each other along long, straight streets. The royal palace, a city within the city, was also impressive, with countless squares and patios and innumerable doors and passageways, all richly decorated with the art that has made Benin famous. The city was orderly, well laid out, and sparkling clean so that the walls of the houses appeared polished (Dapper 1693: 122). The people clothes; some are dressed in white, others in yellow, others in blue or green; and the city captains are regular judges who resolve lawsuits, debates

Pendant ivory mask of Queen Idia, court of Benin, 15th century, (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Excavations also uncovered a rural network of earthen walls 4 to 8 thousand miles long that would have taken an estimated 150 million man hours to build and must have taken hundreds of years to build. These were apparently raised to mark out territories for towns and cities. Thirteen years after Ewuare’s death tales of Benin’s splendors lured more Portuguese traders to the city gates.
At its maximum extent, the empire extended from the western Ibo tribes on the shores of the Niger river, through parts of the southwestern region of Nigeria (much of present day Ondo State, and the isolated islands (current Lagos Island and Obalende) in the coastal region of present day Lagos State). The Oyo Kingdom, which extended through most of SouthWestern Nigeria to parts of present day Republic of Benin was to the West.
The state developed an advanced artistic culture, especially in its famous artifacts of bronze, iron and ivory. These include bronze wall plaques and life-sized bronze heads depicting the Obas of Benin. The most common artifact is based on Queen Idia, now best known as the FESTAC Mask after its use in 1977 in the logo of the Nigeria-financed and hosted Second Festival of Black & African Arts and Culture (FESTAC 77).
Drawing of Benin City made by an English officer, 1897
The first European travelers to reach Benin were Portuguese explorers in about 1485. A strong mercantile relationship developed, with the Edo trading tropical products such as ivory, pepper and palm oil with the Portuguese for European goods such as manila and guns. In the early 16th century, the Oba sent an ambassador to Lisbon, and the king of Portugal sent Christian missionaries to Benin City. Some residents of Benin City could still speak a pidgin Portuguese in the late 14th century.

The first English expedition to Benin was in 1553, and significant trading developed between England and Benin based on the export of ivory, palm oil and pepper. Visitors in the 16th and 17th centuries brought back to Europe tales of “the Great Benin”, a fabulous city of noble buildings, ruled over by a powerful king. However, the Oba began to suspect Britain of larger colonial designs and ceased communications with the British until the British Expedition in 1896-97 when British troops captured, burned, and looted Benin City, which brought the Benin Empire to an end.
A 16th-century Dutch engraving from Olfert Dapper’s Nauwkeurige Beschrijvinge der Afrikaansche Gewesten, published in Amsterdam in 1668 wrote:
The king’s palace or court is a square, and is as large as the town of Haarlem and entirely surrounded by a special wall, like that which encircles the town. It is divided into many magnificent palaces, houses, and apartments of the courtiers, and comprises beautiful and long square galleries, about as large as the Exchange at Amsterdam, but one larger than another, resting on wooden pillars, from top to bottom covered with cast copper, on which are engraved the pictures of their war exploits and battles…”
—Olfert Dapper, Nauwkeurige Beschrijvinge der Afrikaansche Gewesten
Another Dutch traveller was David van Nyendael who in 1699 gave an eye-witness account.
Copper sculpture from Benin showing the mix of weapons that co-existed side by side during the colonial era. Note firearms in the right hand of one figure, and traditional swords held by others.
“The King of Benin can in a single day make 20,000 men ready for war, and, if need be, 180,000, and because of this he has great influence among all the surrounding peoples. . . . His authority stretches over many cities, towns and villages. There is no King thereabouts who, in the possession of so many beautiful cities and towns, is his equal.”
—Olfert Dapper, Nauwkeurige Beschrijvinge der Afrikaansche Gewesten (Description of Africa), 1668
The kingdom of Benin offers a snapshot of a relatively well-organized and sophisticated African polity in operation before the major European colonial interlude.[6] Military operations relied on a well trained disciplined force. At the head of the host stood the Oba of Benin. The monarch of the realm served as supreme military commander. Beneath him were subordinate generalissimos, the Ezomo, the Iyase, and others who supervised a Metropolitan Regiment based in the capital, and a Royal Regiment made up of hand-picked warriors that also served as bodyguards. Benin’s Queen Mother also retained her own regiment, the “Queen’s Own.” The Metropolitan and Royal regiments were relatively stable semi-permanent or permanent formations. The Village Regiments provided the bulk of the fighting force and were mobilized as needed, sending contingents of warriors upon the command of the king and his generals. Formations were broken down into sub-units under designated commanders. Foreign observers often commented favorably on Benin’s discipline and organization as “better disciplined than any other Guinea nation”, contrasting them with the slacker troops from the Gold Coast.
Until the introduction of guns in the 14th century, traditional weapons like the spear, short sword, and bow held sway. Efforts were made to reorganize a local guild of blacksmiths in the 18th century to manufacture light firearms, but dependence on imports was still heavy. Before the coming of the gun, guilds of blacksmiths were charged with war production—–particularly swords and iron spearheads.
Benin’s tactics were well organized, with preliminary plans weighed by the Oba and his sub-commanders. Logistics were organized to support missions from the usual porter forces, water transport via canoe, and requisitioning from localities the army passed through. Movement of troops via canoes was critically important in the lagoons, creeks and rivers of the Niger Delta, a key area of Benin’s domination. Tactics in the field seem to have evolved over time. While the head-on clash was well known, documentation from the 18th century shows greater emphasis on avoiding continuous battle lines, and more effort to encircle an enemy (ifianyako).
Fortifications were important in the region and numerous military campaigns fought by Benin’s soldiers revolved around sieges. As noted above, Benin’s military earthworks are the largest of such structures in the world, and Benin’s rivals also built extensively. Barring a successful assault, most sieges were resolved by a strategy of attrition, slowly cutting off and starving out the enemy fortification until it capitulated. On occasion however, European mercenaries were called on to aid with these sieges. In 1603–04 for example, European cannon helped batter and destroy the gates of a town near present-day Lagos, allowing 10,000 warriors of Benin to enter and conquer it. As payment the Europeans received items, such as palm oil and bundles of pepper.[8] The example of Benin shows the power of indigenous military systems, but also the role outside influences and new technologies brought to bear. This is a normal pattern among many nations and was to be reflected across Africa as the 19th century dawned.

Benin City, the ancient Edo capital of the Great Benin Kingdom, is still surrounded by a huge mound of earth known as the inner wall. As high and as wide as a two-storey building and ten kilometres long, it surrounds the most important part of Benin. Outside this wall is a ditch as deep and as wide as the wall. The wall and the ditch had only recently been completed when the Portuguese first came in 1472 AD. A massive fortified earthwork entrance gateway guarded travellers’ way in. It was supported by timber and guarded by soldiers with swords slung under their left armpits. A heavy wooden door blocked the gateway.

A traveller bringing goods into the city would usually have to pay a toll before the gate was opened. Ahead of the travellers, as far as they could see, ran a long street, forty metres wide, full of people, and among them the occasional goat or hen, domestic animals. About a kilometre ahead, they would notice a huge tree standing by itself, and beyond that the road running into the distance.

There were high earthen walls, dull red in colour, carefully smoothed into a series of horizontal ripples. The tops of these walls were roofed to prevent them being washed away by the rain. A great thatched gate was guarded by more soldiers and beyond this was a glimpse of steeply sloping roofs and pointed towers. At the top of each of these towers, the evening sunlight gleamed on bronze eagles.

From the main highway ran a number of broad streets, dividing the city into quarters or wards. The streets were clean and free from rubbish. The ward chiefs were responsible for the cleanliness. Each householder was expected to keep his section of the street clean, and the red mud surface of the house walls neat and polished, until, as one European was to say, “it shone like a looking glass”.

The road to Ughoton, Benin City’s port, was a conduit for overseas trade, leading over many centuries to the prosperity and enlightenment that goes with international connections, and had the main gate leading to Benin City on the Oroghotodin Road at the inner moat before Uzebu. The four blacksmith guilds of the city – the Igun Nekhua, the Eyaen-Nugie, the Igun n’ Iwegie and the Igun n’ Ugboha – had endured a permanent metal shortage, working with the small amounts of iron ore which came down from Uneme and Agbede lands. But with new and plentiful supplies of purified metal arriving as rods from the foundries of Europe through the Ughoton gateway, the Edo city guilds were able to embark on accelerated production of agricultural and domestic implements, which were used to sustain the wealth of the Benin Empire.

The arrival of guns, gun powder, cannon and lead through the Ughoton gateway also facilitated the extension and maintenance of the Great Benin Empire. The flow of foreign ideas that came with them helped to enrich society. Christianity arrived through the town of Oroghotodin, making Benin the first place where Christianity was preached and made a state religion.

Another gate was situated at the moat near Oguola Avenue, a trade route from Ikpokpan Ugbor and Iyokeogba districts. More gateways in the city walls controlled the access of goods and people from the many other towns and districts in all directions which did business with Benin. Among these were Nana and Warri, Ugu Iyekeorhionmwon, Ugo n’eki, Ika, Urhonigbe, Ukwani and Aniocha. The Oloton gateway controlled the route from Isiuloko, Ogbese and other riverine areas such as Atigiere.
Trade and a lot more besides

In addition to the local tributes passing through the nine gateways into Benin City, the arrival of the Portuguese heralded a period of great political and artistic development. Their impact had many aspects – military, economic, cultural, artistic and even linguistic.

Traders supplied the important luxury items Benin so desired – coral beads, cloth for ceremonial attire and great quantities of brass manillas, which enabled the technology of bronze-casting (for which Benin became famous) to be developed to its fullest extent.

In return for these goods, Benin provided the Portuguese with pepper, cloth, ivory and bronze casting. Benin craftsmen were kept busy carving ivory objects ranging from spoons to carved animals and birds, sold at modest prices to sailors and merchants from far and near.

The Benin-Portuguese ivories blend the high-status imagery of two cultures – from Europe, the Portuguese coats of arms, armillary spheres and scenes of the nobility, and from Benin, the Guild designs reserved for royalty and views of nobles on horseback accompanied by retainers and equipped with swords, elaborate costumes, feathers and other Benin marks of rank and wealth. All these attracted other European communities – the Spanish, Dutch, German and English – to trade with Great Benin.

The currency in which the Benin overseas trade was conducted brought many blessings to the land. In addition to the metal manillas, the sea-shell type of currency – cowries – enhanced the local economy.
The development that all this trade brought to the city, surrounded by the nine gates of the beautiful ancient Benin Culture, was summed-up by the Portuguese ship captain Lorenzo Pinto, visiting in 1674, as follows. “Great Benin, where the King resides, is larger than Lisbon; all the streets run straight as far as the eye can see. The houses are large, especially that of the King, which is richly decorated and has fine columns. The city is wealthy and industrious. It is so well organised that theft is unknown and people live in such security that they have no doors to their houses.”

“Britain seeks control over trade and territory”

Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi was on the throne during the British invasion of Benin City in 1897. To prepare the grounds before the invasion, the British first sneaked military spies into Benin, to infiltrate the nation´s security system during the Igue festival, a period of acute spiritual sensitivity for Edo people, when their monarch goes into seclusion for two weeks for spiritual cleansing and cannot receive visitors. The spies were eliminated for their hostile acts. The British then sent a delegation to Benin in March 1892. The delegation was led by Capt. Henry L. Gallwey, the Vice Consul for the Benin River District of the Niger Coast Protectorate, supposedly to conclude a Treaty of Protection with Oba Ovonramwen of Benin. The British had deceived King Dosumu of Lagos to sign a similar treaty that ceded Lagos to the British in 1861.

They forced the same kind of treaty on the Jaja of Opopo in 1887 to gain access and economic control of the eastern coast of Nigeria. Quoting Capt. Henry Gallwey, who after retirement became Sir Henry Gallwey, in a report on the 1892 visit to Benin, for the Journal of the African Society of April 1930, under the title: Nigeria in the (Eighteen) Nineties, he wrote in part: Any idea I may have had of being received by the king the day I arrived was very soon dispelled. After being kept waiting for three days, I sent word to say that I could wait no longer. To support my threat, every half-hour, I sent a carrier away with a load I did not require, telling them where to wait for me. This artifice rather worried the king, and he sent word to me asking me not to be vexed, as my interpreters put it. However, that afternoon, it was arranged for me to have audience with the king. I accordingly donned my uniform and sallied out with my companions into the burning heat of the afternoon, a most unreasonable time of day at which to hold a palaver. I am afraid, however, that the kings of Benin were never renowned for their reasonable natures. In spite of these pinpricks, it was all very interesting and amusing, and I never gave a thought to the discomfort of being encased in a dress intended to be won at levees and such functions in temperate climes.

After attempting to compromise the nation´s security earlier on, the British delegation could not be received by the Oba of Benin immediately they arrived because of the need to check out their real mission. When the Oba signaled readiness to receive the delegates, they were in encased dress intended to be worn at levees, to the palace. In other words, they were in military uniform to the palace of an Oba who was weary of visits of Europeans. After the incidence of the Dutchman, Commandant Willem Hogg, who pulled a pistol and shot at Oba Oresoyen in 1735, while on a courtesy visit to the palace to discuss business matters with the Oba and his chiefs, Benin Obas became a little more careful about granting direct audience to European visitors

This is the genesis of the difficulties experienced by Capt. Gallwey while trying to have audience with the Oba in 1892. At the palace, the disposition and mannerisms of the visitors had to be carefully studied before the Oba could receive them, since they were in military uniform. Capt. Gallwey said the Oba was unreasonable and then generalized as all Benin Obas are wont to be. He had made up his mind before the visit and was looking for excuses to set up Benin kingdom for British invasion. To emphasize that Benin was a special case to crack, the British rushed to force treaties on neighbouring territories. They attacked the Nana of Itsekiri, in their ´palm oil war´ in 1894 and exiled Nana to Ghana; attacked the Koko of Nembe in 1895, and the Ashanti Prempeh of Ashanti in 1896, to produce duress inspired spurious treaties to take control of the kings´ respective areas of influence.

The British accused Oba Ovonramwen of lack of cooperation, and to look good in the eyes of the rest of the world, added human sacrifice, as their reasons for launching their full-scale war on Benin in January 1897. The real reason for the British Expedition was that the British viewed the Benin kingdom as the main obstacle in their expansion drive into the agricultural interior of the West African coast from the River Niger. The war lasted for eight days from January to early February 1897, and went in their favour because of their big guns and cannons, which the Edo army did not have. After capturing the ancient city of Benin and slaughtering thousands of the natives in cold blood, to grossly depopulate the city, and the few survivors had escaped to farms and villages, the British ransacked the palace of the Oba, homes of nobles and chiefs, artistes´ workshops, and shrines, to rescue pagan art and relieve Benin of the evil. Then the British burnt the entire city down to the last house.

Akin Adeoya in the Sunday Guardian of March 29, 2009, wrote: There was a great kingdom of Benin that lasted for centuries with a highly stable administration and a civilization that built great highways and produced works of such great significance that the British who invaded and ultimately defeated the Ovonramwen´s gallant forces, nearly went mad with envy that not all their Christian piety or civility could help them resist the urge to steal these works of art, which their own civilization could not rival. These works of art, till today, still grace the shrines of the British Empire and civilization, the British Museum.

The palace of the Oba of Benin, according to Joshua Utzheimer, 1603, was about the size of the German City of Tubingen. This was razed down by fire by the British invading force, claiming to be on a civilizing mission. Is razing cities after the surviving few victims of their assault have surrendered, not the epitome of barbarism Can any thing be more callous than this Oba Ovonramwen who could not be captured but who surrendered to the British in August, 1897, was exiled to Calabar (in south-east Nigeria), where he died in January, 1914.

From accounts of members of the British army that invaded Benin City in 1897, we learn that the floors, lintels, and rafters of the council chambers and the king´s residence in the palace were lined with sheets of repoussé, decorated brass covered with royal geometric designs and figures of men and leopards. Ornamental ivory locks sealed the doors and carved ivory figurines surmounted anterior. A brass snake, observed for the first time by a European in the early eighteenth century, was still to be seen on the roof of the council chamber house. All of these, along with other invaluables, including precious works of arts, the invading British stole in the name of their king and country. What they could not steal or burn, they destroyed, including invaluable records of the Bini scintillating civilization, to allow their historians to falsify human history and African contributions.

According to Prof. Akin Ibidapo-Obe in: A Synthesis of African law, the British stripped Benin of its pagan art treasure..almost 2,500 of the famous Benin bronzes, valuable works of art such as the magnificent carved doors in the palace, were carried off to Europe for sale. Today, almost every museum of the world possesses an art treasure from Benin. It is important to relate the account of British brigandage and deliberate and wanton stealing of Africa´s invaluable art treasures to show that our culture was great and was envied. The tradition and way of life that spawned such great achievement was deliberately destroyed and history was falsified to justify the introduction of their obnoxious laws, some of which purported to forbid our traditional religion.

This is how Prof. Felix Van Luschan, a former official of the Berlin Museum for Volkerhunde, described what the British deviously called Pagan art of Benin; these works from Benin are equal to the very finest examples of European casting technique. Benvenuto Celini could not have cast them better, nor could any one else before or after him. Technically, these Bronzes represent the very highest possible achievement. Only a highly civilized nation could have borne the expenditure and facilities of such marvelous works of art, some of the best masterpieces in the history of mankind.

When the Nigerian government requested to loan a replica of the Idia Ivory mask for use during the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC), held in 1977 in Lagos, Nigeria, from the British Museum of Mankind, the British authorities insisted on the Nigerian government depositing a sum of three million dollars before collecting the loaned copy. A 17th century Benin bronze head (nine inches high) stolen from the palace of Oba Ovonramwen, by the British invaders in 1897, was auctioned by Sotheby, New York, for US$550,000 in July, 2007.

Despite the British abuse of Edo culture and marginalization of Edo history, the splendour of Edo civilization continues to this day to astound and excite the world. Benin artifacts are among the most exquisite and coveted in world´s history, and the kingdom of Benin remains famous for its sophistication in social engineering and organization. The Bini Obaship institution is still one of the world´s most revered apart from being one of the most ancient. Edo was incorporated into what the British called the Niger Coast Protectorate, later known as the Southern Protectorate, and after annexing Arochukwu (Igboland) in 1902, and Hausa Fulani emirates in 1903, merged what they called Southern and Northern Protectorates in 1914 to form what in now Nigeria.

The  British activity in the area, most notably through the Trans-Atlantic slave-trade, resulted in major disruptive repercussions. To preserve Benin’s independence, the Oba banned the export of goods from Benin, until the trade was exclusively in palm oil.  By the last half of the 16th century Great Britain had become desirous of having a closer relationship with the Kingdom of Benin; for British officials were increasingly interested in controlling trade in the area and in accessing the kingdom’s rubber resources to support their own growing tire market. Several attempts were made to achieve this end beginning with the official visit of Richard Burton in 1862 when he was consul at Fernando Po. Following that was an attempt to establish a treaty between Benin and the United Kingdom by Hewtt, Blair and Annesley in 1884, 1885 and 1886 respectively. However, these efforts did not yield any results. Benin resisted becoming a British protectorate throughout the 1880s, but the British remained persistent. Progress was made finally in 1892 during the visit of Vice-Consul H.L. Gallwey. This mission was significant, being the first Official visit after Burton’s. Moreover, it would also set in motion the events to come that would lead to Oba Ovonramwen’s demise.

The Gallwey treaty allegedly signed by the king required the Benin Empire to abolish the Benin slave trade and human sacrifice.[9] Despite the stories later told by Gallwey, there is today still some controversy on a number of points—most of all as to whether the Oba actually agreed to the terms of the treaty as Gallwey had claimed. First, at the time of his visit to Benin the Oba could not welcome Gallwey or any other foreigners due to the observance of the traditional Igue festival which prohibited the presence of any non-native persons during the ritual season. Also, even though Gallwey claimed the King (Oba) and his chiefs were willing to sign the treaty, it was common knowledge that Oba Ovonramwen was not in the habit of signing one sided treaties.
The Treaty reads “Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India in compliance with the request of [the] King of Benin, hereby extend to him and the territory under his authority and jurisdiction, Her gracious favor and protection” (Article 1). The Treaty also states “The King of Benin agrees and promises to refrain from entering into any correspondence, Agreement or Treaty with any foreign nation or power except with the knowledge of her Britannic Majesty’s Government” (Article 2), and finally that “It is agreed that full jurisdiction, civil and criminal over British subject’s and their property in the territory of Benin is reserved to her Britannic Majesty, to be exercised by such consular or other officers as Her Majesty shall appoint for the purpose…The same jurisdiction is likewise reserved to her Majesty in the said territory of Benin over foreign subjects enjoying British protection, who shall be deemed to be involved in the expression “British subjects” throughout this Treaty” (Article 3).
It makes little sense that the Oba and his chiefs would accept the terms laid out in articles IV-IX, or that the Oba or his chiefs would knowingly bestow their dominion upon Queen Victoria for so little apparent remuneration. Under Article IV, the treaty states that “All disputes between the King of Benin and other Chiefs between him and British or foreign traders or between the aforesaid King and neighboring tribes which can not be settled amicably between the two parties, shall be submitted to the British consular or other officers appointed by Her Britannic Majesty to exercise jurisdiction in the Benin territories for arbitration and decision or for arrangement.” Oba Ovonremwen was a tenacious man, which is contrary to the accounts of treaty portrayers such as Gallwey; he was not doltish.
The chiefs attest that the Oba did not sign the treaty because he was in the middle of an important festival which prohibited him from doing anything else (including signing the treaty). Ovoramwen maintained that he did not touch the white man’s pen. Gallwey later claimed in his report that the Oba basically accepted the signing of the treaty in all respects. Despite the ambiguity over whether or not the Oba signed the treaty, the British officials easily accepted it as though he did.


When Benin discovered Britain’s true intentions, eight unknowing British representatives, who came to visit Benin, were killed. As a result a Punitive Expedition was launched in 1897. The British force, under the command of Admiral Sir Harry Rawson, razed and burned the city, destroying much of the country’s treasured art and dispersing nearly all that remained. The stolen portrait figures, busts, and groups created in iron, carved ivory, and especially in brass (conventionally called the “Benin Bronzes”) are now displayed in museums around the world.
The kingdom was fragmented and the British gave semi autonomy to all the dukedoms under the empire.they even tried to make some them feel superior to the mother empire as seen in the Yoruba mini states examples.
The monarchy was suspended and replaced with Benin City Council structure which failed to govern a people used to the most organized state for over 2000 years. They British were forced to restore the monarchy by crowning Aguobasinmwin the Crown Prince and heir to the exiled Oba Ovoramwen as Oba Eweka the second. He was succeeded by his eldest son Oba Akenzua the second who in turn was succeeded by the current Emperor Oba Erediawa in 1979.


The Edo Monarchy and Empire Predate The English Monarchy And Evidenced By This Chronology Of Benin And The English Kings and When They Ruled.

40 BC-16 AD | Ogiso Igodo Nil in England
16AD-66 AD |Ogiso Ere. Nil in England
66 AD-100 AD|Ogiso Orire. Nil in England
385 AD-400 AD| Ogiso Odia. Nil in England
400AD-414AD| Ogiso Ighido. Nil in England
414AD-432AD|Ogiso Evbuobo. Nil in England
432AD-447AD| Ogiso Ogbeide. Nil in England
447AD-466AD| Ogiso Emehe. Nil in England
466AD-482AD| Ogiso Ekpigho. Nil in England
482AD-494AD|. Ogiso Akhuankhuan. Nil in England
494AD-508AD|. Ogiso Efesekhe. Nil in England
508AD-522AD| Ogiso Irudia. Nil in England
522AD-537AD|. Ogiso Orria. Nil in England
537AD-548AD|. Ogiso Imarhan. Nil in England
548AD-567AD|. Ogiso Etebowe. Nil in England
567AD-584AD|. Ogiso Odion. Nil in England
584AD-600AD|. Ogiso Emose. Nil in England
600AD-618AD|. Ogiso Orhorho. Nil in England
618AD-632AD|. Ogiso Erebo. Nil in England
632AD-647AD|. Ogiso Ogbomo. Nil in England
647AD-669AD|. Ogiso Agbonzeke. Nil in England
669AD-675AD|. Ogiso Ediae. Nil in England
675AD-712AD|. Ogiso Orrhiagba. Nil in England
712AD-767AD|. Ogiso Odoligie. Nil in England
767AD-812AD|. Ogiso Uwa. Duke Egbert/Aethelwulf
812AD-871ADOgiso Ehenede. Duke Aethelwulf/Aethelbald
871AD-917AD|. Ogiso Ohuede. King Alfred
917AD-967AD|. Ogiso Oduwa. King Edward/Athelstan
967AD-1012AD|. Ogiso Obioye. Edmund/Eadred/Eadwig/Edgar
1012AD-1059AD|. Ogiso Arigbo. Aethelred/EdmundII/Sven/Cnut
1059AD-1100AD|Ogiso Owodo. Harold/Edward/Harold11/William

* Eweka I (1180–1246). William11/Henry the 1st & others
* Uwuakhuahen (1246–1250). Henry the 3rd
* Henmihen (1250–1260). Henry the 3rd still
* Ewedo (1260–1274). Edward the 1st
* Oguola (1274–1287). Edward the 1st still
* Edoni (1287–1292). Edward the 2nd
* Udagbedo (1292–1329). Edward the 3rd
* Ohen (1329–1366). Edward the 3rd still
* Egbeka (1366–1397). Richard the 2nd & others
* Orobiru (1397–1434). Henry the 6th
* Uwaifiokun (1434–1440). Henry the 6th still
* Ewuare the Great (1440–1473). Edward the 4th
* Ezoti (1473–1475). Edward the 4th still
* Olua (1475–1480). Edward the 4th still & others
* Ozolua (1480–1504). Henry the 7th
* Esigie (1504–1547). Henry ViIII
* Orhogbua (1547–1580). Mary the 1st and Elizebeth Ist
* Ehengbuda (1580–1602). James 1st & Charles 1st
* Ohuan (1602–1656). Premiers Oliver and Richard Cromwell
* Ohenzae (1656–1661). Charles the 2nd
* Akenzae (1661–1669). Charles the 2nd still
* Akengboi (1669–1675). Charles the 2nd still
* Akenkpaye (1675–1684). James the 2nd
* Akengbedo (1684–1689). William the 3rd
* Ore-Oghene (1689–1701). Mary the 2nd
* Ewuakpe (1701–1712). Queen Anne
* Ozuere (1712–1713). Queen Anne Still
* Akenzua I (1713–1740). George 1st & George 2nd
* Eresoyen (1740–1750). George the 2nd
* Akengbuda (1750–1804). George 3rd and William IV
* Obanosa (1804–1816). William IV still
* Ogbebo (1816). William IV still
* Osemwende (1816–1848). Queen Victoria
* Adolo (1848–1888). Queen Victoria/Edward VII
* Ovonramwen (1888–1914) Edward III/George V
* Eweka II (1914–1933). Edward VIII
* Akenzua II (1933–1978). George V/Elizebeth II
* Erediauwa I (1979–present). Elizebeth II


Ife Priestly Earldom was founded sometime in 13AD
Oyo Mini Kingdom was founded sometime in 14AD by Ajaka

(1) THE OGISOS( Heavenly Kings)
Oba Igodo
{About 40BC-16AD}
Igodo or Obagodo established the kingdom in the sense that it was during his period the components of Benin were united and formed into a central Administrative Unit. He was the first recorded Ogiso {monarch} of Igodomigodo {Benin} kingdom with his seat of government at ugbekun. He created the Edion Nene the {four elders} Oliha, Edohen, Ero and Eholo they were chosen based on their merit, to help the Ogiso management the affairs of the kingdom. Their positions were not hereditary if any of them died the post is fill is with any person who remit the position. They were later to be knows as uzama nire hion {the seven kingmakers}.
{About 16AD-66AD}
He succeeded his father in about 16 AD .The first Ogiso to wear a crown, a lover of peace.He transferred the capital of Igodomigodo {Benin kingdom} from Ugbekun to Uhudumwunrun .Created many villages .Build the first market called Ogiso market this market is now known today as Agbado market .Introduced the specialized professional guild system of carpenters {Owina} and {Igbesamwan}the wood and ivory carvers. To promote the highest ideals .theses guilds were accorded royal patronage. To this day guild like those of wood carvers are still operating at Igbesanmwan He introduced what became the key components in Africa monarchism. Ekete {a royal stool}, Agba [{a rectangular stool}, and Ekpoki {a leather box},the round leather fan {Ezuzu}, beaded anklets {Eguen} collars odigba a simple undecorated form of crown, the swords of royal authority, {Ada and Eben} the former a sword of honour and the latter sword for royal dancing.
{About 66AD-100AD}
Ogiso Orire ascended the throne of Igodomigodo kingdom {Benin kingdom} in about 66AD, in continuation of the hereditary system after the dead of his father it is not clear who actually transferred the capital of Igodomigodo {Benin} kingdom from Ugbekun to Uhudumwunrun He or his Father Ere.Tradition says Orire dead childless plunging the monarchy into a period of confusion that lasted for about 3 centuries, without a royal successor.
During this period Igodomigodo, kingdom {Benin kingdom} became a republic nation and fragmented, each community was govern by their community elders {Owere} and the oldest man in the community Odionwere they manage the day-to-day affair of their various community.The ancient system of self-governance.
{About 385AD-400AD}
After more than three century of confusion, and as republic the communities that make up Igodomigodo land {Benin kingdom} agreed to a unified community under a monarchial government.Odia the oldest person in the united community was crowned the Ogiso of Igodomigodo kingdom [Benin kingdom] becoming the first Ogiso Odionwere of the kingdom, {A system there by the oldest person in the community is crowned the monarch of the kingdom.
{About 400AD-414AD}
Tradition says before he ascended the throne, he was a blacksmith.
Tradition says, he was very old before he ascended the throne. He died at about the age of 110 years.
{About 432AD-447AD
Tradition says,he hailed from Ugbague.He died on Ugie day.
{About 447AD-466AD}
He was born in Emehe quarter and he was a great diviner.
{About 466AD- 482AD}
Before he ascended the throne, he was a financier.
{About 482AD- 494AD}
Before mounting the throne he was into commerce
Born in Urube quarter in Benin City Before his ascension to the throne, he was a livestock farmer.
{About 508AD-522AD}
No much is known about him.
{About 522AD-537AD}
Before his ascension to the throne, tradition says he was a professional game hunter.
{About 537AD-548AD}
Before his ascension to the throne, tradition says he was skilful potter.
{About 548AD-567AD}
Before his ascension to the throne, tradition says he was a skilful wrestler
{About 567-584AD}
Tradition says He was lover of songs and music,a folk tale teller.
{ABout 584AD-600AD}
Some Historians are of the view that Emose was a female Ogiso {queen}.Others disagrees, in their view; Emose was a posthumous male child who inherited his mother’s huge wealth and took his mother’s name along with it. And no female has ever reign in Ighodomigodo kingdom [Benin kingdom].
Ororo {Orhorho} 
{About 600D-618AD}
Some Tradition says Ogiso Ororo {Orhorho} was a male Ogiso. Before his ascension to the throne, he was a skilful blacksmith and great trader .Other tradition are of the view that Ororo {Orhorho} was a female Ogiso {queen} she was assassinated due to her wickedness while on her way to Omi her mother’s native village.
{About 618AD-632AD}
Before his ascension to the throne traditional historians says, he was an angler and canoe carver.
{About 632AD-647AD}
Before his ascension to the throne tradition says, he was a traditional midwife.
{About 661AD-669AD}
Tradition says he was an historian and philosopher.
{About 669AD-675AD}
He was the last Ogiso Odionwere. Before his ascension to the throne, tradition says he was a skilful wood carver and sculpture.
{About 685AD-712AD}
He changed the odionwere system of Ogisoship to hereditary system. He created the title Ezomo to join the four exciting members of Edion Nene the {four elders} Chief Oliha, Edohen, Ero and Eholo-Nire and called them Edionnisen {the five elders} and made their positions to be hereditary.
{About 712AD-767AD}
Tradition says he was a very resourceful Ogiso, a warrior; he conquered many towns and villages.He stabilized the state by the formation of the Benin Army during his reign. A class of people known as “Iyokuo”-the warriors– was established.
{About 767AD-821AD}
He inherited a great kingdom. Brass casting was introduced into Benin kingdom during his reign. He decorated his daughter Emwinkururre with brass bangles/ankles.
{About 821AD-871AD}
He inherited a large kingdom and wealth, improved art craft and trade.
During his reign, there was serious inflation. There were other pestilences which followed. People counterfeited the coins of the realm by bringing illegal money into the country. What really happened was that people suddenly discovered a large quantity of cowries (which was the then known coin or money in use) and there after flooded the country with it. The attendant result was inflation.
{About 917AD- 967AD}
The kingdom was in the state of anarchy during his reign.
{About 967 AD-1012AD}
When Ogiso Obioye came in as ruler, he harnessed the whole currency by nationalizing cowries wherever they were in private hands or with the state.This money became scarce and its value restored. It is this state of affairs which gave rise to the expression “a valuable article purchased with Obioye’s Coin”. Ogiso Obioye therefore was the first king who reformed the currency.
He was a great merchant.Some tradition says he introduced the use cowries as currency and slave labours.
{About 1059AD-1100AD}
He was the last Ogiso, of Igodomigodo {Benin kingdom} banished to Ihinwirin for the killing of a pregnant woman.He brought a lot of stresses and hardship on the nation he was incompetent. He more or less fell back to the habit of not summoning the state council meeting unless there was trouble. He was preoccupied wit the primogeniture law especially as he had only one son who he thought might die before him which might leave him without a successor. This obsession drove him to consult the oracle as to how he might have more male children who might succeed him. In the end, the tragic episode of Ikaladerhan’s banishment came into our history. However, Ikaladerhan by a change of fortune eventually emerged at Uhe (or Ife) as a king with the appellation Ododuwa derived from the Benin word “Imaghidoduwa or Imadoduwa” which is an exclamatory word “I have not missed the path to prosperity” a reminiscence of his surprise at his emerging as a king in a strange land after having left as a refugee.
SOURCE; Infoedoworld
If our ancestors could build the biggest and strongest empire in Africa from the scratch,what stops us from toeing their footsteps. We can rebuild if we set our minds on it. The British,not the contrived Nigerian state,conquered us. They have since left and since there is no record showing Oba Overanmwen signed us away to Nigeria,we must reclaim our independent state and rebuild our united Empire.
Ben-Amos, Paula Girshick (1995). The Art of Benin Revised Edition. British Museum Press. p. 20. ISBN 0-7141-2520-2.
Robert W. Strayer, Ways of the World: A Brief Global History with Sources, Bedford/St. Martin’s: 2012, pp. 695-696
Time Life Lost Civilizations series: Africa’s Glorious Legacy (1994) pp. 102–4
Chapter 77, A History of the World in 100 Objects
Osadolor, Osarhieme Benson (23 July 2001). “The military system of Benin Kingdom, c. 1440–1897 (D)” (PDF). University of Hamburg. pp. 4–264.
Robert Sydney Smith, Warfare & diplomacy in pre-colonial West Africa, University of Wisconsin Press: 1989, pp. 54–62
R.S. Smith, Warfare & diplomacy pp. 54–62
Hernon, A. Britain’s Forgotton Wars, p.409 (2002)
Strayer, Robert (2012). Ways of the World: A Brief Global History with Sources,. New York: Bedford/St.Martin’s. ISBN 978-0312583460.
Bondarenko D. M. A Homoarchic Alternative to the Homoarchic State: Benin Kingdom of the 13th–19th centuries. Social Evolution & History. 2005. Vol. 4, No 2. pp. 18–88.
Ezra, Kate (1992). Royal art of Benin: the Perls collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 9780870996320.
Mercury, Karen. The Hinterlands, historical fiction about the Benin Expedition of 1897. Medallion Press, 2005
‘P.A.Igbate’ Benin Under British Administration (The Impact of Colonial Rule on an African Kingdom 1897-1938)
Roese, P. M., and D. M. Bondarenko. A Popular History of Benin. The Rise and Fall of a Mighty Forest Kingdom. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2003.
Culled from Wikipedia but refreshed and refleshed with additional information by Prince Friday Stewalt S.Ojealaro.
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