Ghezo or Gezo was King of the Dahomey, in present-day Benin, from 1818 until 1858. Ghezo replaced his brother Adandozan as king through a coup with the assistance of the Brazilian slave trader Francisco Félix de Sousa, he ruled over the kingdom during a tumultuous period, punctuated by the British blockade of the ports of Dahomey in order to stop the Atlantic slave trade. Ghezo ended Dahomey's tributary status to the Oyo empire but dealt with significant domestic dissent and pressure from the British to end the slave trade, he promised to end the slave trade in 1852, but resumed slave efforts in 1857 and 1858. Ghezo died in 1858 assassinated, his son Glele became the new king. Ghezo was a son was a younger brother to Adandozan; when Agonglo died, there was a succession struggle between his sons. An oral tradition which developed during Ghezo's rule to erase Adandozan from official history says that Adandozan was named regent and that he refused to step down for Ghezo when the latter was old enough, but this is doubted by historians.
Information about the final years of Adandozan's administration is limited, providing only a partial understanding of the situation that resulted in Ghezo's rule. What is known is that around 1818, Adandozan imprisoned Francisco Félix de Sousa, a powerful Afro-Brazilian slave trader, when the latter demanded repayment for money loaned to Adandozan. With the help of Nicola d'Olveira, the son of the Afro-Dutch wife of Agonglo, de Sousa escaped from imprisonment and relocated to Grand-Popo. While in exile, de Sousa sent gifts and money to Ghezo that Ghezo used to establish support for a challenge to the throne. In the 1818 Annual Customs, it is said that Ghezo appeared holding the war drum in the palace and upon seeing this the Migan and Mehu removed the royal sandals from Adandozan and named Ghezo the king, it is quite that the initial struggle was more violent than this story relates. According to some versions, Ghezo was not named the ruler at this point, but instead the regent to rule until Adandozan's son Dakpo was old enough to rule.
The story says that this lasted until 1838 when Ghezo instead named his son, the future king Glele, as the crown prince, at that point Dakpo and Adandozan led a brief fight within the palaces. The fight resulted in a fire that burned part of a palace and killed Dakpo, making Ghezo the clear king of Dahomey. Ghezo's rule was defined by some important military victories, domestic dissent, transformation of the slave trade economy. Ghezo's rule is remembered as one of the most significant in terms of reform and change to the political order of the kingdom. In addition to the military victories, domestic dissent, slave trade, Ghezo is credited with expanding the arts and giving royal status to many artisans to move to the capital of Abomey, his most significant military victory was over the depleted Oyo empire in 1823. Since 1730, Dahomey had provided yearly tribute to the Oyo empire and some of its economic and military policy was controlled by Oyo interests. However, the Oyo empire had been weakened over the previous 30 years and, with the rise of the Islamic jihad to the north in the Sokoto Caliphate, the empire was unable to secure its tribute from Dahomey.
In the early 1820s, Ghezo refused to pay the annual tribute to Oyo. Oyo and Dahomey fought a small war early in the 1820s but violence escalated in 1823 when Oyo sent an ambassador to demand tribute and Ghezo killed him; the Oyo responded by organizing a force made up of the Mahi and other regional forces to attack Dahomey. Ghezo defeated these forces at a battle near Paouingnan. Oyo sent a larger force, 4,000 strong with a cavalry and camped near the village of Kpaloko. Ghezo defeated this force by organizing a night raid which resulted in the death of the Oyo leader and caused the Oyo troops to retreat. Although the victory over the Oyo were important, other military engagements were less effective in the early years of Ghezo's reign, he suffered losses to the Mahi people to the north of Dahomey and was unable to secure enough individuals to meet slave demands, leading him to sell citizens of Dahomey, a quite unpopular decision. With the further reduction of Oyo power in the region, Ghezo was more able to expand militarily against the Mahi and the Gbe people to the southwest of Dahomey after the mid-1820s.
Following victories in these areas, Ghezo focused the military power on a region, between the Oyo empire and Dahomey and had been the target of significant slave raiding. After some significant victories in this area by Dahomey, the city of Abeokuta was founded as a safe-haven for people to be free of slave raiding in an defended location. By the 1840s, Abeokuta had become a major power in the area and wars between Abeokuta and Dahomey became regular. In 1849-50, British naval officer Frederick E. Forbes went on two missions to the court of King Ghezo "in an unsuccessful attempt to convince him to end involvement in the slave trade."In 1851, Ghezo organized a direct attack on the city of Abeokuta, but it did not succeed. Ghezo suspended large-scale military operations. However, by 1858 a conservative faction pressured Ghezo to begin large-scale military operations again with an assault on Abeokuta to follow, it is possible that this renewed warfare between the two states led to Ghezo's death, with some accounts claiming that Abeokuta paid for an assassination of Ghezo.
Ghezo is credited with th
Porto-Novo is the capital of Benin, was the capital of French Dahomey. The commune covers an area of 110 square kilometres and as of 2002 had a population of 223,552 people; as the name suggests, Porto-Novo was developed as a port for the slave trade led by the Portuguese Empire. Porto-Novo is a port on an inlet of the Gulf of Guinea, in the southeastern portion of the country, it is Benin's second-largest city, although Porto-Novo is the official capital, where the national legislature sits, the larger city of Cotonou is the seat of government, where most of the government buildings are situated and government departments operate. The region around Porto-Novo produces palm oil and kapok. Petroleum was discovered off the coast of the city in the 1990s, has since become an important export; the capital's name Porto-Novo is of Portuguese origin meaning "New Port". It remains untranslated in the national language of Benin. Porto-Novo comprises the Yoruba and the Gun. Although the aboriginals of the area were Yoruba speaking, there seem to have been a wave of migration from the region of Allada further west, which brought Te-Agbanlin and his group to the region of Ajashe.
This newcomer group brought with them their own language, settled among the original inhabitants, their Yoruba hosts. It would appear that each ethnic group has since maintained their ethnic nationalities without one group being linguistically assimilated into the other. Towards the end of the 19th century, the city came under French imperialistic ambitions and sphere of influence. A community that had exhibited endoglossic bilingualism now began to exhibit exoglossic bilingualism, with the addition of French to the language repertoire of the city's inhabitants. Unlike the city's earlier Gun migrants however the French sought to impose their language in all spheres of life and stamp out the use and proliferation of indigenous languages. Under French colonial rule, flight across the border to British ruled Nigeria in order to avoid harsh taxation, military service and forced labor was perennial. Of note is the fact that the Nigeria-Benin southern border area arbitrarily cuts through contiguous areas of Yoruba and Egun speaking people.
A combination of all the afore mentioned facts of history, coupled with the fact that the city itself lies within the sphere of Nigerian socio-economic influence have made Porto Novians develop an attitude and characteristics suggesting a preference for some measure of Bi-Nationality or dual citizenship, with the necessary linguistic consequences, for example, Nigerian home video films in Yoruba, with English subtitles have become popular in Porto-Novo and its suburbs. Porto-Novo was once a tributary of the Yoruba kingdom of Oyo, which had offered it protection from the neighbouring Fon, who were on the business of expanding their influence and power in the region, the Yoruba community in Porto-Novo today continue to remain one of the two ethnicities aboriginal to the city; the city was called Ajashe by the Yorubas, Hogbonu by the Guns. It was renamed by the Portuguese in the 16th century to Porto Novo, meaning "New Port." It was developed as a port for the slave trade. In 1861, the British, who were active in nearby Nigeria, bombarded the city, which persuaded the Kingdom of Porto-Novo to accept French protection in 1863.
The neighbouring Kingdom of Dahomey objected to French involvement in the region and war broke out between the two states. In 1883, Porto-Novo was incorporated into the French "colony of Dahomey and its dependencies." In 1900, it became Dahomey's capital city. The kings of Porto-Novo continued to rule in the city and unofficially, until the death of the last king, Alohinto Gbeffa, in 1976. From 1908, the king held the title of Chef supérieur. Many Afro-Brazilians settled in Porto-Novo following their return to Africa after emancipation in Brazil. Brazilian architecture and foods are important to the city's cultural life. Benin's parliament is in Porto-Novo, the official capital, but Cotonou is the seat of government, with most of the governmental ministries. Porto-Novo has a cement factory; the city is home to a branch of the Banque Internationale du Bénin, a major bank in Benin, the Ouando Market. In 2016, Porto-Novo is to be served by an extension of the Bénirail train system. Owned motorcycle taxis known as zemijan are used throughout the city.
The city is located about 40 kilometres away from Cotonou Airport which has flights to major cities in West Africa and Europe. Porto-Novo had an enumerated population of 264,320 in 2013; the residents are Yoruba and Gun people as well as people from other parts of the country, from neighboring Nigeria. Population trend: 1979: 133,168 1992: 179,138 2002: 223,552 2013: 264,320 1st arrondissement 2nd arrondissement 3rd arrondissement 4th arrondissement 5th arrondissement The Porto-Novo Museum of Ethnography contains a large collection of Yoruba masks, as well as items on the history of the city and of Benin. King Toffa's Palace, now a museum, shows; the palace and the surrounding district was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on October 31, 1996 in the Cultural category. Jardin Place Jean Bayol is a large plaza; the da Silva Museum is a museum of Benin history. It shows what life was like for the returnin
King of Dahomey
The King of Dahomey was the ruler of the Kingdom of Dahomey, in the southern part of present-day Benin, which lasted from 1600 until 1900 when the French abolished the political authority of the Kingdom. The rulers served a prominent position in Fon ancestor worship leading the Annual Customs and this important position caused the French to bring back the exiled king of Dahomey for ceremonial purposes in 1910. Since 2000, there have been rival claimants as king and there has so far been no political solution; the Palace and seat of government were in the town of Abomey. Early historiography of the King of Dahomey presented them as absolute rulers who formally owned all property and people of the kingdom. However, recent histories have emphasized that there was significant political contestation limiting the power of the king and that there was a female ruler of Dahomey, written out of early histories. Multiple lists of the Kings of Dahomey have been put together and many of them start at different points for the first King of Dahomey.
In various sources, Do-Aklin, Dakodonu, or Houegbadja are all considered the first king of Dahomey. Oral tradition contends that Do-Aklin moved from Allada to the Abomey plateau, Dakodonu created the first settlement and founded the kingdom, Houegbadja who settled the kingdom, built the palace and created much of the structure is considered the first king of Dahomey. Oral tradition contends that the kings were all of the Aladaxonou dynasty, a name claiming descent from the city of Allada which Dahomey conquered in the 1700s. Historians believe now that this connection was created to legitimate rule over the city of Allada and that connections to the royal family in Allada were of a limited nature. In oral tradition of most accounts, Houegbadja is considered the first king and recognition of him happened first in the Annual Customs of Dahomey. Sources: History of the Kingdom of Dahomey Royal Palaces of Abomey Benin Fon Fon states Rulers of the Fon state of Alada Rulers of the Fon state of Savi Hweda Lists of office-holders
Royal Palaces of Abomey
The Royal Palaces of Abomey are 12 palaces spread over an area of 40 hectares at the heart of the Abomey town in Benin the capital of the West African Kingdom of Dahomey. The Kingdom was founded in 1625 by the Fon people who developed it into a powerful military and commercial empire, which dominated trade with European slave traders on the Slave Coast until the late 19th century, to whom they sold their prisoners of war. At its peak the palaces could accommodate for up to 8000 people; the King's palace included a two-story building known as akuehue. Under the twelve kings who succeeded from 1625 to 1900, the kingdom established itself as one of the most powerful of the western coast of Africa. UNESCO had inscribed the palaces on the List of World Heritage Sites in Africa. Following this, the site had to be included under the List of World Heritage in Danger since Abomey was hit by a tornado on 15 March 1984, when the royal enclosure and museums the King Guezo Portico, the Assins Room, King's tomb and Jewel Room were damaged.
However, with assistance from several international agencies the restoration and renovation work was completed. Based on the corrective works carried out and reports received on these renovations at Abomey, UNESCO decided to remove the Royal Palaces of Abomey, Benin from the List of World Heritage in Danger, in July 2007. Today, the palaces are no longer inhabited, but those of King Ghézo and King Glélé house the Historical Museum of Abomey, which illustrates the history of the kingdom and its symbolism through a desire for independence and fight against colonial occupation; the opulent palaces built by the 12 rulers of the kingdom within the cloistered site of Abomey, functioned between 1695 and 1900, as the traditional cultural hub of the empire. The first ruler to initiate the building of palaces was King Houegbadja. According to folklore, the descendents of the royal family of Abomey who built the 12 Royal Palaces of Abomey are the progeny of Princess Aligbonon of Tado and a panther, their kingdom existed in the southern part of the present day Republic of Benin in Abomey.
Recorded history is, traced to the 17th century to two of their descendants, namely Do-Aklin and Dakodonou. Houegbadja was the king who established the kingdom on the Abomey plateau and set the legal framework for the kingdom's functioning, political role, succession rules and so forth. King Agaja defeated the kingdom of Allada in 1724 and the Kingdom of Whydah in 1727; this resulted in killing of several prisoners. Many of the prisoners were sold as slaves at Ouidah called Gléwé; these wars marked the beginning of the dominance of Dahomey's slave trade (which was carried out through the port of Whydah with the Europeans. In the 19th century, with the rise of the antislavery movement in Great Britain, King Guézo initiated agricultural development in the country, which resulted in further economic prosperity of the kingdom achieved through exports of agricultural products such as corn and palm oil. In 1892-1894, France invaded Dahomey. Dahomey won many battles when the chief of the French army was killed.
However, Dahomey succumbed to the forces of the French Army. It became a colony of France. King Béhanzin, the last independent reigning king of Dahomey, after getting defeated by the French colonial forces, set fire to Abomey; the French deported him to Martinique. His successor King Agooli Agbo could rule only till his deportation to Gabon in 1900. In 1960, when the present day Bénin attained independence from France, it bore the name Dahomey; the official history of the kingdom were recorded and followed through a series of polychrome earthen bas-reliefs. Dahomean culture was deep rooted with intense reverence for the kings of Dahomey and with great religious significance; each king was symbolised on a "common appliquéd quilt". Ceremonies were part of the culture; the town where the palaces were built was surrounded by a mud wall with a circumference estimated at 10 kilometres, pierced by six gates, protected by a ditch 1.5 m deep, filled with a dense growth of prickly acacia, the usual defence of West African strongholds.
Within the walls were villages separated by fields, several royal palaces, a market-place and a large square containing the barracks. The average thickness of the walls was about 0.5 m, which maintained cool temperatures inside the palace rooms. Each palace had a distinct design to suit the whims of the kings; the Kpododji through the Honnouwa formed the first interior courtyard of the palace while the second interior courtyard Jalalahènnou was by the Logodo. The Ajalala, a unique building, which has many types of openings, is in the second courtyard; the palaces of Glèlè and Guézo, which survived the intentional fire of 1894 set by Béhanzin, were restored and they are now part of the museum. The materials used for construction consisted of earth for the foundations and raised structures; the wood work was made with palm, bamboo and mahogany species. Roof was made of sheet-metal; the bas reliefs functioned as a record book to record the significant events in the evolution of the Fon people and their empire, relating the military victories and power of each king and documenting the Fon people's myths and rituals.
However, in 1892, in defiance of French occupation, King Behanzin ordered that the city and the palaces be burned. Providentially, most monuments survived many palaces have been since restored. Copper and brass plaques adorned the walls. T
Benin the Republic of Benin and Dahomey, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east, Burkina Faso and Niger to the north; the majority of its population lives on the small southern coastline of the Bight of Benin, part of the Gulf of Guinea in the northernmost tropical portion of the Atlantic Ocean. The capital of Benin is Porto-Novo, but the seat of government is in Cotonou, the country's largest city and economic capital. Benin covers an area of 114,763 square kilometres and its population in 2016 was estimated to be 10.87 million. Benin is a tropical nation dependent on agriculture. Benin is a big exporter of palm oil; the substantial employment and income arise from subsistence farming. The official language of Benin is French. However, indigenous languages such as Fon and Yoruba are spoken; the largest religious group in Benin is Roman Catholicism, followed by Islam and Protestantism. Benin is a member of the United Nations, the African Union, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone, La Francophonie, the Community of Sahel-Saharan States, the African Petroleum Producers Association and the Niger Basin Authority.
From the 17th to the 19th century, the main political entities in the area were the Kingdom of Dahomey, along with the city-state of Porto-Novo, a large area with many different nations to the north. This region was referred to as the Slave Coast from as early as the 17th century due to the large number of enslaved people who were shipped to the New World during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. After enslavement was abolished, France renamed it French Dahomey. In 1960, Dahomey gained full independence from France; the sovereign state has had a tumultuous history since with many different democratic governments, military coups, military governments. A Marxist–Leninist state called the People's Republic of Benin existed between 1975 and 1990. In 1991, it was replaced by the current multi-party Republic of Benin. During the colonial period and at independence, the country was known as Dahomey. On 30 November 1975, it was renamed to Benin, after the body of water on which the country lies—the Bight of Benin.
This had been named by Europeans after the Benin Empire in present-day Nigeria. The country of Benin has no connection to Benin City in modern Nigeria, nor to the Benin bronzes; the form "Benin" is the result of a Portuguese corruption of the city of Ubinu. The new name, was chosen for its neutrality. Dahomey was the name of the former Fon Kingdom of Dahomey, limited to most of the southern third of the present country and therefore did not represent Porto-Novo, central Benin, the multi-ethnic northwestern sector Atakora, nor the Bariba Kingdom of Borgu, which covered the northeastern district; the current country of Benin combines three areas which had distinctly different political systems and ethnicities prior to French colonial control. Before 1700, there were a few important city-states along the coast and a mass of tribal regions inland; the Oyo Empire, located to the east of modern Benin, was the most significant large-scale military force in the region. It conducted raids and exacted tribute from the coastal kingdoms and the tribal regions.
The situation changed in the 1600s and early 1700s as the Kingdom of Dahomey, consisting of Fon people, was founded on the Abomey plateau and began taking over areas along the coast. By 1727, king Agaja of the Kingdom of Dahomey had conquered the coastal cities of Allada and Whydah, but it had become a tributary of the Oyo empire and did not directly attack the Oyo allied city-state of Porto-Novo; the rise of the kingdom of Dahomey, the rivalry between the kingdom and the city of Porto-Novo, the continued tribal politics of the northern region, persisted into the colonial and post-colonial periods. The Dahomey Kingdom was known for its culture and traditions. Young boys were apprenticed to older soldiers, taught the kingdom's military customs until they were old enough to join the army. Dahomey was famous for instituting an elite female soldier corps, called Ahosi, i.e. the king's wives, or Mino, "our mothers" in the Fon language Fongbe, known by many Europeans as the Dahomean Amazons. This emphasis on military preparation and achievement earned Dahomey the nickname of "black Sparta" from European observers and 19th-century explorers such as Sir Richard Burton.
The kings of Dahomey sold their war captives into transatlantic slavery. They had a practice of killing war captives in a ceremony known as the Annual Customs. By about 1750, the King of Dahomey was earning an estimated £250,000 per year by selling African captives to European slave-traders. Though the leaders of Dahomey appear to have resisted the slave trade, it flourished in the region of Dahomey for three hundred years, beginning in 1472 with a trade agreement with Portuguese merchants; the area was named the "Slave Coast" because of this flourishing trade. Court protocols, which demanded that a portion of war captives from the kingdom's many battles be decapitated, decreased the number of enslaved people exported from the area; the number went from 102,000 people per decade in the 1780s to 24,000 per decade by the 1860s. The decline was due to the Slave Trade Act 1807 banning the trans-Atlantic slave trade by Britain and the United States following in
Agaja was a king of the Kingdom of Dahomey, in present-day Benin, who ruled from 1718 until 1740. He came to the throne after his brother King Akaba. During his reign, Dahomey expanded and took control of key trade routes for the Atlantic slave trade by conquering Allada and Whydah. Wars with the powerful Oyo Empire to the east of Dahomey resulted in Agaja accepting tributary status to that empire and providing yearly gifts. After this, Agaja attempted to control the new territory of the kingdom of Dahomey through militarily suppressing revolts and creating administrative and ceremonial systems. Agaja died in 1740 after another war with his son Tegbessou became the new king. Agaja is credited with creating many of the key government structures of Dahomey, including the Yovogan and the Mehu; the motivations of Agaja and his involvement with the slave trade remain an active dispute among historians of Dahomey with some arguing that he was resistant to the slave trade but agreed to it because of the need to defend his kingdom, while others argue that no such motivation existed and the wars against Allada and Whydah were for economic control.
Agaja served a crucial role in the early development of the Kingdom of Dahomey. The kingdom had been founded by Agaja's father Houegbadja who ruled from 1645 until 1685 on the Abomey plateau. Although there were some limited military operations outside of the plateau, the kingdom did not expand before the eighteenth century. Oral tradition says that Agaja was born around the second oldest son to Houegbadja. Houegbadja's first two children were Hangbe. Agaja was called Dosu, a traditional Fon name for the first son born after twins; when Houegbadja died, Akaba became the king and ruled from 1685 until about 1716. Akaba died during a war in the Ouémé River valley and since his oldest son, Agbo Sassa, was a minor, his twin sister Hangbe may have ruled for a brief period of time. Hangbe supported a faction that wanted Agbo Sassa to be the next king, but Agaja contested this and became the ruler in 1718 after a brief, violent struggle. Agaja led the most important expansions of the kingdom in the 1720s with the conquest of the Kingdom of Allada in 1724 and the Kingdom of Whydah in 1727.
Allada and Whydah, both Aja kingdoms, had become important coastal trading centers in the early 1700s, with trade connections to multiple European countries. The two powers made a 1705 agreement where both agreed not to interfere in the trade of the other kingdom; the King of Whydah, grew connected through trade with the British Royal African Company while the king of Allada, made his ports outposts for the Dutch West India Company. In 1712, a British ship attacked a Dutch ship in the harbor at Allada, triggering economic warfare between Allada and Whydah that lasted until 1720. Upon coming to the throne and Soso made an agreement to attack Whydah and remove Huffon from power. In 1724, Soso died and a contest for the throne in Allada followed. On March 30, 1724, Agaja's army entered Allada in support of the defeated candidate, named Hussar. After a three-day battle Agaja's army set the palace on fire. Rather than place Hussar on the throne, Agaja drove him out of the city after establishing his own power.
Agaja turned his forces against the other Aja kingdoms. In April 1724, Agaja conquered the town of Godomey and in 1726 the King of Gomè transferred his allegiance from the King of Whydah to Agaja. Agaja planned his attack on Whydah in February 1727, he conspired with his daughter, Na Gueze, married to Huffon, to pour water on the gunpowder stores in Whydah. He sent a letter to all of the European traders in the port of Whydah encouraging them to remain neutral in the conflict, in return for which he would provide favorable trade relations at the conclusion of the war. On February 26, 1727, Agaja attacked Whydah and burned the palace, causing the royal family to flee from the city. During the five-day battle, reports say that five thousand people in Whydah were killed and ten to eleven thousand were captured. In April, he burned all of the European factories in the Whydah capital. In the three years between 1724 and 1727, Agaja had more than doubled the territory of Dahomey, had secured access to the Atlantic coast, had made Dahomey a prominent power along the Slave Coast.
The Aja kingdoms had been tributaries to the Oyo Empire since the 1680s. After Agaja had conquered Allada, it appears that he sent a smaller tribute and so on April 14, 1726, the Oyo Empire sent its army against Dahomey; the Oyo conquered Abomey and burned the city while Agaja and his troops escaped into the marshes and hid until the Oyo armies returned home. Agaja rebuilt Abomey and when he conquered Whydah the next year he provided many gifts to the King of Oyo. Despite these gifts, tributary terms acceptable to Oyo were not agreed to and so the Oyo Empire returned on March 22, 1728; as part of a strategy, Agaja buried his treasure, burned food resources, made all the residents of Abomey abandon the city. The Oyo army found it difficult to remain in that situation and so they returned to Oyo in April; this strategy was repeated in 1729 and 1730, with Oyo sending larger armies and Agaja and his troops retreating into the marshes. The 1730 invasion was devastating as the Oyo feigned acceptance of gifts from Agaja but ambushed Dahomey's forces when they returned to Abomey.
With the regular destruction of Abomey, Agaja moved the capital to Allada and ruled from there (his son Tegbessou would move the
The Kingdom of Dahomey was an African kingdom that existed from about 1600 until 1894, when the last king, Béhanzin, was defeated by the French, the country was annexed into the French colonial empire. Dahomey developed on the Abomey Plateau amongst the Fon people in the early 17th century and became a regional power in the 18th century by conquering key cities on the Atlantic coast. For much of the 18th and 19th centuries, the Kingdom of Dahomey was a key regional state ending tributary status to the Oyo Empire; the Kingdom of Dahomey was an important regional power that had an organized domestic economy built on conquest and slave labor, significant international trade with Europeans, a centralized administration, taxation systems, an organized military. Notable in the kingdom were significant artwork, an all-female military unit called the Dahomey Amazons by European observers, the elaborate religious practices of Vodun with the large festival of the Annual Customs of Dahomey, they traded prisoners, which they captured during wars and raids, exchanged them with Europeans for goods such as knives, firearms and spirits.
The Kingdom of Dahomey was referred to by many different names and has been written in a variety of ways, including Danxome and Fon. The name Fon relates to the dominant ethnic and language group, the Fon people, of the royal families of the kingdom and is how the kingdom first became known to Europeans; the names Dahomey and Danhome all have a similar origin story, which historian Edna Bay says may be a false etymology. The story goes that Dakodonu, considered the second king in modern kings lists, was granted permission by the Gedevi chiefs, the local rulers, to settle in the Abomey plateau. Dakodonu requested additional land from a prominent chief named Dan to which the chief responded sarcastically "Should I open up my belly and build you a house in it?" For this insult, Dakodonu began the construction of his palace on the spot. The name of the kingdom was derived from the incident: Dan=chief dan, xo=Belly, me=Inside of; the Kingdom of Dahomey was established around 1600 by the Fon people who had settled in the area.
The foundational king for Dahomey is considered to be Houegbadja, who built the Royal Palaces of Abomey and began raiding and taking over towns outside of the Abomey plateau. King Agaja, Houegbadja's grandson, came to the throne in 1708 and began significant expansion of the Kingdom of Dahomey; this expansion was made possible by the superior military force of King Agaja's Dahomey. In contrast to surrounding regions, Dahomey employed a professional standing army numbering around ten thousand. What the Dahomey lacked in numbers, they made up for in superior arms. In 1724, Agaja conquered Allada, the origin for the royal family according to oral tradition, in 1727 he conquered Whydah; this increased size of the kingdom along the Atlantic coast, increased power made Dahomey into a regional power. The result was near constant warfare with the main regional state, the Oyo Empire, from 1728 until 1740; the warfare with the Oyo empire resulted in Dahomey assuming a tributary status to the Oyo empire.
Tegbesu spelled as Tegbessou, was King of Dahomey, in present-day Benin, from 1740 until 1774. Tegbesu was not the oldest son of King Agaja, but was selected following his father's death after winning a succession struggle with a brother. King Agaja had expanded the Kingdom of Dahomey during his reign, notably conquering Whydah in 1727; this increased both domestic dissent and regional opposition. Tegbessou ruled over Dahomey at a point where it needed to increase its legitimacy over those who it had conquered; as a result, Tegbesu is credited with a number of administrative changes in the kingdom in order to establish the legitimacy of the kingdom. The slave trade increased during Tegbessou's reign and began to provide the largest part of the income for the king. In addition, Tegbesu's rule is the one with the first significant kpojito or mother of the leopard with Hwanjile in that role; the kpojito became a prominently important person in Dahomey royalty. Hwanjile, in particular, is said to have changed the religious practices of Dahomey by creating two new deities and more tying worship to that of the king.
According to one oral tradition, as part of the tribute owed by Dahomey to Oyo, Agaja had to give to Oyo one of his sons. The story claims that only Hwanjile, of all of Agaja's wives, was willing to allow her son to go to Oyo; this act of sacrifice, according to the oral tradition made Tegbesu, was favored by Agaja. Agaja told Tegbesu that he was the future king, but his brother Zinga was still the official heir; the kingdom fought Second Franco-Dahomean War with France. The kingdom was reduced and made a French protectorate in 1894. In 1904 the area became part of French Dahomey. In 1958 French Dahomey became the self-governing colony called the Republic of Dahomey and gained full independence in 1960, it was renamed in 1991 the Republic of Benin. The Dahomey kingship exists as a ceremonial role to this day. Early writings, predominantly written by European slave traders presented the kingdom as an absolute monarchy led by a despotic king. However, these depictions were deployed as arguments by different sides in the slave trade debates in the United Kingdom, as such were exaggerations.