The Great Benin Empire dating as far back as the 11th Century

The Great Benin Empire dating as far back as the 11th Century

Southern Nigeria was home to the Benin Empire. The capital of the Kingdom of Benin was Edo, now in Edo state known as Benin City. The Kingdom of Benin was one of the oldest and most developed states in the West African coastal hinterland, dating back to the 11th century CE.

The Empire was established by the People of Edo who were first ruled by the Ogiso dynasty and were the Igodomigodo nation. The Ogiso were somewhat legendary kings up to the 13th century.

The people of Edo began to grow upset with the Ogiso in the 13th century and decided to ask Prince Oranmiyan ofIfe to take charge of them. The first Benin king was started by his son Eweka.

While taking the throne, Benin’s authority did not settle with Eweka but instead with an established order of local rulers. From 1440 to 1480, Ewuare the Great reigned, and was Benin’s most prominent ruler. He shifted power firmly from the chiefs into royalty.

They viewed Ewuare the Great as a warrior and a magician. It was his popularity and ruling that enabled him to create an inherited succession to the Benin throne and vastly expand the territory.

Eware was the representative of his people in political, cultural, legal, and economic terms. He also built large walls, and moats and fortifications.

A deep moat surrounded the towering inner wall, which historians believe must have taken 1,000 men working 10 hours a day, seven days a week to complete 5 dry seasons.

Excavations have found proof of 4,000 to 8,000 miles of earthen wall expected to take 150 million man-hours to complete. At the end of the 15th century, the Portuguese finally entered the Empire.

Benin became considered for bronze, iron, and ivory artifacts. In the 16th century, the British followed the Portuguese and established their own trading relationship, and brought Great Benin tales to Europe.

The empire lasted until Benin City was burnt, looted, and destroyed by the British in 1897. Countless priceless artifacts were destroyed, and there was no longer the beautiful city that had enthralled visitors for centuries.