Kingdom of Benin

The Kingdom of Benin, also known as the Benin Kingdom, was a pre-colonial kingdom in what is now southern Nigeria. Its capital was Edo, now known as Benin City in Edo state. It should not be confused with the modern-day Republic of Benin, formerly the Republic of Dahomey. The Benin Kingdom was "one of the oldest and most highly developed states in the coastal hinterland of West Africa, dating perhaps to the eleventh century CE",[2] until it was annexed by the British Empire in 1897.

Kingdom of Benin

The extent of Benin in 1625
The extent of Benin in 1625
(now Benin City)
Common languagesEdo
King/Emperor (Oba) 
• 1180–1246
Eweka I [1]
• 1440–1473
Ewuare (1440–1473)
Ovonramwen (exile 1897)
• 1978–2016
Erediauwa I (post-imperial)
• 2016-
Ewuare II (post-imperial)
• Established
• Annexed by the United Kingdom
162590,000 km2 (35,000 sq mi)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Southern Nigeria Protectorate
Today part of Nigeria


The original people and founders of the Benin Kingdom, the Edo people, were initially ruled by the Ogiso (Kings of the Sky) who called their land Igodomigodo. The first Ogiso (Ogiso Igodo), 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 erupted and crown prince Ekaladerhan, the only son of the last Ogiso, was sentenced to death as a result of the first Queen (who was barren) deliberately changing an oracle’s message to the Ogiso. In carrying out the order of the palace, the palace messengers had mercy and set the prince free at Ughoton near Benin. When his father the Ogiso died, the Ogiso dynasty ended. The people and royal kingmakers preferred their king's son naturally as next in line to rule.

The exiled Prince Ekaladerhan had changed his name to Izoduwa meaning 'I have chosen the part of prosperity' and found his way to Ile-Ife. It was during this period of confusion the elders led by Oliha ( an elder) mounted a search for the banished Prince Ekaladerhan whom the Ife people now called Oduduwa. Oduduwa, who could not return due to his advanced age, granted them Oranmiyan, his son, to rule over them. Oranmiyan was resisted by Ogiamien Irebor, one of the palace chiefs, and 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 Ogie-Egor, the ninth Enogie (Duke) of Egor, by whom he had a son. After residing there for some years he called a meeting of the people and renounced his office, remarking that the country was a land of vexation, Ile-Ibinu ( “ile”means land ”binu” mean anger, and thus the kingdom was called Ibinu, which was mispronounced Bini by the in the 15th and 16th centuries the Portuguese). this was out of frustration as he often expressed that “only a child born, trained and educated in the arts and mysteries of the land could reign over the people”. He arranged for his son born to him by Erinmwinde to be made King in his place, and returned to Yoruba land of Ile-Ife. His son, the new King was deaf and dumb, and the elders recoursed to Oranmiyan who gave them charmed seeds "omo ayo" to play with, which will make him to talk. The little Oranmiyan played with the seeds with his peers at Egor, his mother’s hometown. While playing with the seeds he announced "Owomika" meaning 'my hands catch it' in yoruba, but this was misconstrued to mean 'Eweka' by the Edos and subsequently conferred on him as his royal name, Thus giving rise to the culture of Obas of Benin spending seven days and nights at Usama before proceeding to announce their royal names at Egor. Eweka thus started the Oba dynasty. Oranmiyan was also the founder of the pup Empire where he ruled supreme as the first Aalafin of Oyo and proceeded to ile ife to become the 6th Ooni of ife while his descendants ruled in Ile Ife, Oyo and Benin.

By the 15th century, Benin had expanded into a thriving city-state. The twelfth Oba in line, Oba Ewuare the Great (1440–1473) would expand the city-state's territories to surrounding regions.

It was not until the 15th century during the reign of Oba Ewuare the Great that the kingdom's administrative centre, the city Ubinu (ibinu), began to be known as Benin City by the Portuguese, a pronounciation later adopted by the locals as well. The Portuguese would write this down as Benin City. Though, other Edo clans, such as the Itsekiris and the Urhobos, still referred to the city as Ubini up until the late 19th century, as evidence implies.

Aside from Benin City, the system of rule of the Oba in the empire , even through the golden age of the kingdom, was still loosely based upon the Ogiso dynasty, which was military and royal protection in exchange for pledged allegence and taxes paid to the royal administrative centre. The Language and culture was not enforced as the empire 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.

Oral tradition

Queen Mother Pendant Mask- Iyoba MET DP231460
Benin ivory mask of the Queen Mother Idia; 16th century; ivory, iron & copper; Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)
Afrikaabteilung in Ethnological Museum Berlin 29
Bronze Head of Queen Idia; early 16th century; bronze; Ethnological Museum of Berlin (Germany)

The original name of the Benin Kingdom, at its creation some time in the first millennium CE, was Igodomigodo, as its inhabitants called it. Their ruler was called Ogiso.[3]

Nearly 36 known Ogiso are accounted for as rulers of this initial incarnation of the state. According to Edo oral tradition, during the reign of the last Ogiso, his son and heir apparent, Ekaladerhan, was sentenced to death because one of the Queens deliberately changed an oracle message to the Ogiso. In carrying out the order of the palace, the palace messengers set him free recognizing his innocence.

Upon the death of the last Ogiso, a group of Benin Chiefs led by Chief Oliha mounted a search for their banished Prince Ekaladerhan who the Ife people called Oduduwa at Ile-Ife. They pleaded for Oduduwa return(The Ooni) but were granted one of his sons as King in instead.

Centuries later, in 1440, Oba Ewuare, also known as Ewuare the Great, came to power and expanded the borders of the former city-state. It was only at this time that the administrative centre of the kingdom began to be referred to as Ubinu after the Yoruba word and corrupted to Bini by the Itsekhiri, Edo, and Urhobo living together in the royal administrative centre of the kingdom. The Portuguese who arrived in an expedition led by Joao Afonso de Aveiro in 1485 would refer to it as Benin and the centre would become known as Benin City.

The Kingdom of Benin eventually gained political strength and ascendancy over much of what is now mid-western Nigeria. Archeologists have discovered that the Edo people did have a writing system, their artwork which had let the scientists discover their true history. Including the armor, magnificent drawing skills.

Golden Age

Ancient Benin city
Benin city in the 17th century.

The Oba had become the mount of power within the region. Oba Ewuare, the first Golden Age Oba, is credited with turning Benin City into a city-state from a military fortress built by the Ogisos, 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.

A series of walls marked the incremental growth of the sacred city from 850 AD until its decline in the 16th century. To enclose his palace he commanded the building of Benin's inner wall, an 11-kilometre-long (7 mi) earthen rampart girded by a moat 6 m (20 ft) deep. This was 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. Ewuare also added great thoroughfares and erected nine fortified gateways.

Excavations also uncovered a rural network of earthen walls 6,000 to 13,000 km (4,000 to 8,000 mi) 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.[4]

At its height, Benin dominated trade along the entire coastline from the Western Niger Delta, through Lagos to modern-day Ghana.[5] It was for this reason that this coastline was named the Bight of Benin. The present-day Republic of Benin, formerly Dahomey, decided to choose the name of this bight as the name of its country. Benin ruled over the tribes of the Niger Delta including the Western Igbo, Ijaw, Itshekiri, and Urhobo amongst others. It also held sway over the Eastern Yoruba tribes of Ondo, Ekiti, Mahin/Ugbo, and Ijebu.[6] It also established the first colony of Lagos hundreds of years before the British took over in 1851.[7]

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 well-known 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).

European contact

Drawing of Benin City made by an English officer 1897
Drawing of Benin City made by an English officer, 1897

The first European travelers to reach Benin were Portuguese explorers starting with Joao Afonso de Aveiro in about 1485. A strong mercantile relationship developed, with the Edo trading slaves and tropical products such as ivory, pepper and palm oil for European goods such as Manilla (money) 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 19th 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, pepper, and slaves. Visitors in the 16th and 19th centuries brought back to Europe tales of "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 as part of a punitive mission, which brought the kingdom to an end.[8] A 17th-century Dutch engraving from Olfert Dapper's Nauwkeurige Beschrijvinge der Afrikaansche Gewesten, published in Amsterdam in 1668 says:

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...

Another Dutch traveler was David van Nyendael, who in 1699 wrote an eye-witness account.


Plaque- Warrior and Attendants MET DT1231
Plaque with warriors and attendants; 16th–17th century; brass; height: 47.6 cm (18​34 in.); Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)

Military operations relied on a well trained disciplined force.[9] 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.[10]

Until the introduction of guns in the 15th 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.[9]

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).[9]

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.[11] 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.


Britain seeks control over trade

Benin began to decline after 1700. Benin's power and the wealth was continuously flourishing in the 19th century with the development of the trade in palm oil, textiles, ivory, slaves, and other resources. To preserve the kingdom's independence, bit by bit the Oba banned the export of goods from Benin, until the trade was exclusively in palm oil.

By the last half of the 19th century Great Britain had come to want 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 Francis Burton in 1862 when he was consul at Fernando Pó. Following that came attempts 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. The kingdom 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 Henry Galway. This mission was 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 Galway Treaty of 1892

At the end of the 19th century, the Kingdom of Benin had managed to retain its independence and the Oba exercised a monopoly over trade which the British found irksome. The territory was coveted by an influential group of investors for its rich natural resources such as palm-oil, rubber and ivory. After British consul Richard Burton visited Benin in 1862 he wrote of Benin's as a place of "gratuitous barbarity which stinks of death", a narrative which was widely publicized in Britain and increased pressure for the territory's subjugation.[12] In spite of this pressure, the kingdom maintained independence and was not visited by another representative of Britain until 1892 when Henry Gallwey, the British Vice-Consul of Oil Rivers Protectorate (later Niger Coast Protectorate), visited Benin City hoping to open up trade and ultimately annexe Benin Kingdom and make it a British protectorate.[13] Gallwey was able to get Omo n’Oba (Ovonramwen) and his chiefs to sign a treaty which gave Britain legal justification for exerting greater influence over the Empire. While the treaty itself contains text suggesting Ovonramwen actively sought Britain's protection, this appears to be a fiction. Gallway's own account suggests the Oba was hesitant to sign the treaty.[14] Although some suggest that humanitarian motivations were driving Britain's actions,[15] letters written between administrators suggest that economic motivations were predominant.[16] The treaty itself does not explicitly mention anything about Benin's "bloody customs" that Burton had written about, and instead only includes a vague clause about ensuring "the general progress of civilization".[16]

The conflict of 1897

Flag of the Benin Empire
An unidentified West African flag allegedly brought to Britain by Admiral F. W. Kennedy after the expedition.

When people in Benin discovered Britain's true intentions were an invasion to depose the king of Benin, without approval from the king his generals ordered a preemptive attack on the British party approaching Benin City, including eight unknowing British representatives, who were killed. 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.

See also


  1. ^ Ben-Amos, Paula Girshick (1995). The Art of Benin Revised Edition. British Museum Press. p. 20. ISBN 0-7141-2520-2.
  2. ^ Strayer 2013, pp. 695-696.
  3. ^ Ben Cahoon. "Nigerian Traditional States". Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  4. ^ Time Life Lost Civilizations series: Africa's Glorious Legacy (1994) pp. 102–4
  5. ^ The History of Africa: The Quest for Eternal Harmony.
  6. ^ "The Benin City Pilgrimage Stations".
  7. ^ Slavery and the Birth of an African City: Lagos, 1760--1900.
  8. ^ Chapter 77, A History of the World in 100 Objects
  9. ^ a b c Osadolor, Osarhieme Benson (23 July 2001). "The military system of Benin Kingdom, c. 1440–1897 (D)" (PDF). University of Hamburg: 4–264.
  10. ^ Robert Sydney Smith, Warfare & diplomacy in pre-colonial West Africa, University of Wisconsin Press: 1989, pp. 54–62
  11. ^ R.S. Smith, Warfare & diplomacy pp. 54–62
  12. ^ Igbafe 1970, p. 385.
  13. ^ Igbafe 1970, pp. 385-400.
  14. ^ Igbafe 1970.
  15. ^ E.G. Hernon, A. Britain's Forgotton Wars, p.409 (2002)
  16. ^ a b Igbafe 1970, p. 387.



Further reading

External links

Coordinates: 6°20′N 5°37′E / 6.333°N 5.617°E

Art of the Kingdom of Benin

Benin art is the art from the Kingdom of Benin or Edo Empire (1440–1897), a pre-colonial African state located in what is now known as the South-South region of Nigeria. Primarily made of cast bronze and carved ivory, Benin art was produced mainly for the court of the Oba of Benin - a divine ruler for whom the craftsmen produced a range of ceremonially significant objects. The full complexity of these works can be appreciated only through the awareness and consideration of two complementary cultural perceptions of the art of Benin: the Western appreciation of them primarily as works of art, and their understanding in Benin as historical documents and as mnemonic devices to reconstruct history, or as ritual objects. This original significance is of great import in Benin.

Benin Bronzes

The Benin Bronzes are a group of more than a thousand metal plaques and sculptures that decorated the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin in what is now modern-day Nigeria. Collectively, the objects form the best known examples of Benin art, created from the thirteenth century onwards, by the Edo people, which also included other sculptures in brass or bronze, including some famous portrait heads and smaller pieces.

In 1897 most of the plaques and other objects were looted by British forces during a punitive expedition to the area as imperial control was being consolidated in Southern Nigeria. Two hundred of the pieces were taken to the British Museum, London, while the rest were purchased by other European museums. Today, a large number are held by the British Museum. Other notable collections are in Germany and the USA.The Benin Bronzes led to a greater appreciation in Europe of African culture and art. Initially, it appeared incredible to the discoverers that people "supposedly so primitive and savage" were responsible for such highly developed objects. Some even concluded that Benin knowledge of metallurgy came from the Portuguese traders who were in contact with Benin in the early modern period, which is an erroneous assumption considering the Benin Empire was in itself a hub of African civilization before the Portuguese traders visited. Today, it is clear that the bronzes were made in Benin from an indigenous culture. Many of these dramatic sculptures date to the thirteenth century, centuries before contact with Portuguese traders, and a large part of the collection dates to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It is believed that two "golden ages" in Benin metal workmanship occurred during the reigns of Esigie (fl. 1550) and of Eresoyen (1735–50), when their workmanship achieved its highest qualities.While the collection is known as the Benin Bronzes, like most West African "bronzes" the pieces are mostly made of brass of variable composition. There are also pieces made of mixtures of bronze and brass, of wood, of ceramic, and of ivory, among other materials.The metal pieces were made using lost-wax casting and are considered among the best sculptures made using this technique.

Benin Expedition of 1897

The Benin Expedition of 1897 was a punitive expedition by a United Kingdom force of 1,200 under Admiral Sir Harry Rawson in response to the ambush of a previous British-led party under Acting Consul General James Philips (which had left all but two men dead). Rawson's troops captured, burned, and looted Benin City, bringing to an end the west African Kingdom of Benin. As a result, much of the country's stolen art, including the Benin Bronzes, were relocated to Britain.

Ethnological Museum of Berlin

The Ethnological Museum of Berlin (German: Ethnologisches Museum Berlin) is one of the Berlin State Museums (German: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin), the de facto national collection of the Federal Republic of Germany. It is presently located in the museum complex in Dahlem, along with the Museum of Asian Art (German: Museum für Asiatische Kunst) and the Museum of European Cultures (German: Museum Europäischer Kulturen). The museum holds more than 500,000 objects and is one of the largest and most important collections of works of art and culture from outside Europe in the world. Its highlights include important objects from the Sepik River, Hawaii, the Kingdom of Benin, Cameroon, Congo, Tanzania, China, the Pacific Coast of North America, Mesoamerica, the Andes, as well as one of the first ethnomusicology collections of sound recordings (the Berliner Phonogramm-Archiv)

The Ethnological Museum was founded in 1873 and opened its doors in 1886 as the Royal Museum for Ethnology (German: Königliches Museum für Völkerkunde), but its roots go back to the 17th century Kunstkammer of the rulers of Brandenburg-Prussia. As the museum’s collections expanded in the early twentieth century, the museum quickly outgrew its facility in the center of Berlin on Königgrätzer Straße (today named Stresemannstraße). A new building was erected in Dahlem to house the museum’s store rooms and study collections. In the Second World War, the main building of the museum was heavily damaged. It was demolished in 1961, and the buildings in Dahlem (in what was then West Berlin) were reconfigured to serve as the museum’s exhibition spaces.

Following German reunification, although many of the Berlin museum collections were relocated, the collections of the Ethnological Museum remained in Dahlem. Starting in 2000, concrete plans were developed to relocate the collections back to the center of the city. As a result, in 2019, the Ethnological Museum and Museum of Asian Art are scheduled to reopen in the Humboldt Forum in the reconstructed Berlin City Palace (German: Berliner Stadtschloss) immediately south of the main Museum Island complex.

Harry Rawson

Admiral Sir Harry Holdsworth Rawson, (5 November 1843 – 3 November 1910) was a senior officer in the Royal Navy. He is chiefly remembered for overseeing the British Benin Expedition of 1897 that burned and looted the city of the Kingdom of Benin, now in Nigeria. No shame was attached to the event at the time, which amounted to a punitive expedition, and Rawson was appointed Governor of New South Wales, serving from 27 May 1902 to 27 May 1909.

Impluvium (house)

An impluvium is a type of dwelling typical of the Jola in the Casamance region of Senegal. It is a circular mud building, built with a ring of rooms around a walkway that circumscribes a central water trench, fed by an opening that allows water into the building. Impluvia remain cool in very hot weather as the water evaporates. There is a particularly fine example that serves as a hotel in Enampore. Impluvial architecture is also used by the Igbo, Yoruba and Edo of southern Nigeria, in which they consist of small courtyards cornered with large pots to collect rain water. Edo and Yoruba houses usually consist of several impluvia and courts. The amount and size of these courts depend on the social and economic status of the individual. Royal palaces in Yorubaland and the Kingdom of Benin possessed hundreds of impluvia sometimes floored with elaborate pavements made of potsherds and quartz pebbles arranged in decorative patterns.

Invasion 1897

Invasion 1897 is a Nigeria movie that re-enacted the historical events that culminated in the February, 1897 invasion, destruction and looting of the ancient West African kingdom of Benin; and the deposition and exile of its once powerful king. The movie which was produced and directed by Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen was released in 2014 and features several Nollywood actors including Segun Arinze, Paul Obazele and Charles Inojie. The plot of the story picks off from the narration of a young prince of Benin,who was arrested and brought to trial for stealing historical artifacts from a British museum and his journey into history to defend himself.

Izevbokun Oshodin

Izevbokun Oshodin (also Izevbokun Osodin) (circa 1850-1929) was a chief in the ancient Kingdom of Benin in present day Edo State of Nigeria. He was one of the loyal lieutenants of Oba (king) Ovonramwen, the exiled ruler of Benin who worked with the British colonial authorities to administer what was left of the ancient kingdom of Benin after the Benin Massacre and the subsequent military operation against Benin that destroyed most of the city in 1897. He was first appointed a Warrant Chief and member of the Native Council constituted by the new British Resident.. He was later appointed District Head of Benin Districts by the British colonial government from 1914-1924 and served as the District Head of Benin City from 1924-1929. He died on 11 April, 1929 in Benin City during the reign of Oba Eweka II.He was one of the few chiefs in Benin Kingdom who built and lived in expansive palaces that were characteristic of the nobility of the ancient kingdom and formed part of what has intrigued many scholars about the architecture of ancient Benin. His palace, built in 1897, after the return to normalcy following the punitive war, still stands till date and is located at the beginning of Sakponba Road near the busy King's Square in Benin City

Landed nobility

Landed nobility or landed aristocracy is a category of nobility in various countries over the history, for which landownership was part of their noble privileges. Their character depends on the country.

The notion of landed gentry in the United Kingdom and Ireland varied over time.

In Russian Empire landed nobles were called pomeshchiks, with the term literally translated as "landed estate owner". See Russian nobility for more.

Junkers were the landed nobility of Prussia and Eastern Germany

Landadel were landed nobility of the Holy Roman Empire

In Poland, szlachta were usually landowners, with magnates being the class of the wealthiest szlachta. Middle and smaller landed szlachta was called ziemiaństwo/ziemianie (from the word ziemia, land), usually translated as landed gentry.

In some places, e.g., in Low Countries before Spanish rule, urban nobility with landed estates was distinct from landed nobility. In general, relations between landed nobility and towns was very complex in Europe.

In India, jagirdar and zamindar were the landed aristocracies, which formed Indian feudalism. Sometimes, they were elevated to the status of 'princes' or 'royalty' owning princely states. Sometimes royal status was also reduced to the status of zamindars. In the south, Nairs constituted the landed gentry and owned vast amounts of land spread out in current day Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

In the Philippines, the Principalía was the ruling and usually educated upper class in the towns of the Spanish Philippines. The distinction or status of being part of the principalía was a hereditary right. This upper class was exempted from tribute (tax) to the Spanish crown during the colonial period. The principales (members of the principalía) traced their origin from the pre‑colonial royal and noble class of Datu and Lakan of the established kingdoms, rajahnates, confederacies, and principalities, as well as the lordships of the smaller ancient social units called barangays in Visayas, Luzon, and Mindanao. The members of this class enjoyed exclusive privileges, including the right to vote, be elected to public office, and be addressed by the title: Don or Doña.

Within certain communities in Nigeria, the reigning monarchs (known as the traditional rulers) are often vested with inalienable landownership due to their positions, with them either owning tracts of land outright or holding them in trust for their states. Some communities don't follow this pattern, however. In the Kingdom of Lagos, for example, landownership is not traditionally vested in the Oba of Lagos, who is descended from later immigrants from the Kingdom of Benin, but is instead vested in the so-called Idejo class of titled aristocrats, who all claim descent from the earliest Yoruba settlers of Lagos. Some of the more powerful of them have even risen to become subordinate obas under the overlordship of the Oba of Lagos due to this fact. Elsewhere, in Egbaland, the Egba Alake ruling section of the Egba Yorubas is typically considered to be the landowning segment of the clan. Both the ruler, the Alake of Egbaland, and the most powerful Ogboni aristocrats, the Omo-Iya-Marun, have to belong to families from this section.

Lucky Igbinedion

Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion (born 13 May 1957) was the governor of Edo State in Nigeria from 29 May 1999 to 29 May 2007. He is a member of the People's Democratic Party (PDP).


Ovonramwen Nogbaisi (ruled 1888 – 1897), also called Overami, was the Ọba (king) of the Kingdom of Benin up until the British punitive expedition of 1897.

Born in circa 1857, he was the son of Ọba Adọlọ, he took the name Ovọnramwẹn Nọgbaisi at his enthronement in 1888, every Ọba took a new name at his coronation, the name translates as Ovọnramwẹn meaning "The Rising Sun" and Nọgbaisi meaning "which spreads over all".

At the end of the 19th century, the Kingdom of Benin had managed to retain its independence and the Ọba exercised a monopoly over trade which the British found irksome. The territory was coveted by an influential group of investors for its rich natural resources such as palm-oil, rubber and ivory. The kingdom was largely independent of British control, and pressure continued from figures such as Vice-Consul James Robert Phillips and Captain Gallwey (the British vice-Consul of Oil Rivers Protectorate) who were pushing for British annexation of the Benin Empire and the removal of the Ọba.

A British invasion force headed by Phillips set out to overthrow the Ọba in 1896. The force's weapons were hidden in baggage, with troops disguised as bearers. Phillips plan was to gain access to Ovonramwen's palace by announcing that he intended to negotiate. Ovonramwen's messengers issued several warnings not to violate Benin territorial sovereignty, claiming he was unable to see Phillips due to ceremonial duties. Having been warned on several further occasions on the way, Phillips sent his stick to the Ọba, a deliberate insult designed to provoke the conflict that would provide an excuse for British annexation. Phillip's expedition was ambushed and all but two were killed. Subsequently a military operation against Benin in 1897 led by Harry Rawson resulted in the burning of Benin City, the destruction and looting of the royal palaces, and the deaths of untold numbers of its inhabitants. Although the British had orders to hang the Ọba, Ovonramwen escaped, but returned to the city to formally surrender on 5 August 1897. When Ovọnramwẹn returned to the city, after six months spent in evading capture in the forest, he was richly dressed and laden with coral beads and accompanied by an entourage of seven hundred to eight hundred people. He attempted to escape exile by offering Consul General Ralph Moor 200 puncheons (barrels) of oil worth £1500 [£183000.00 today] and to disclose where his 500 ivory tusks were buried [today's value: Up to £275,625,500.00] however this offer was dismissed as Mr. Moor had already discovered them.Ovonramwen was exiled to Calabar with two of his wives, Queen Egbe and Queen Aighobahi, and died there around the turn of the new year in 1914. Ovọnramwẹn was eventually buried in the grounds of the royal palace in Benin City. He was succeeded by his first son and legitimate heir, Prince Aguobasimwin, who ruled as Eweka II.


Owo is a city in Ondo State of Nigeria. Between 1400 and 1600 AD, it was the capital of a Yoruba city-state. The local government has a population of 222,262, based on 2006 population census.


Ozolua, originally called Okpame and later called Ozolua n'Ibaromi (Ozolua the Conqueror), was an Oba of the Kingdom of Benin from 1483 until 1514. He greatly expanded the Kingdom through warfare and increased contact with the Portuguese Empire. He was an important Oba in both history of the Kingdom of Benin and retains importance in the folklore and celebrations of the region.

Pedro de Sintra

Pedro de Sintra, also known as Pêro de Sintra, Pedro da Cintra and Pedro da Sintra, was a Portuguese explorer. He was among the first Europeans to explore the West African coast. Around 1462 his expedition reached contemporary Sierra Leone and named it. Although according to professor C. Magbaily Fyle this could have possibly been a misinterpretation of historians; there has been evidence of Serra Lyoa being mentioned prior to 1462, the year when de Sintra's expedition reached the coast of Sierra Leone. This would suggest that the person who named Sierra Leone is still unknown. However, if de Sintra did name the area, it is unclear whether he named it after the landforms or climate in the area. According to some the coastal regions resembled lion's teeth while others suggest the thunderstorms sounded like the roar of a lion. Sixteenth century English sailors called the area Sierra Leoa which later evolved to Sierra Leone in the 17th century. The British, prior to the area being colonised, officially adopted the name Sierra Leone in 1787.De Sintra continued his journey with his expedition from Sierra Leone to contemporary Nigeria, where the Kingdom of Benin thrived. He described the streets of Benin wide and clean; unlike anything he had encounted in Europe. He also described the people well clad.

Philip Igbafe

Philip Aigbona Igbafe, (born December 15, 1936), is a Nigerian historian, professor and former public administrator noted for his work on the history of the Edo people of the precolonial Kingdom of Benin. Igbafe belongs to the Ibadan History School and his major works examine the selfish economic motives for colonialism and highlights the political, social and economic consequences of British rule for the African kingdom.

Royal family

A royal family is the immediate family of a king or queen regnant, and sometimes his or her extended family. The term imperial family appropriately describes the family of an emperor or empress, and the term papal family describes the family of a pope, while the terms baronial family, comital family, ducal family, archducal family, grand ducal family, or princely family are more appropriate to describe, respectively, the relatives of a reigning baron, count, duke, archduke, grand duke, or prince. However, in common parlance members of any family which reigns by hereditary right are often referred to as royalty or "royals." It is also customary in some circles to refer to the extended relations of a deposed monarch and his or her descendants as a royal family. A dynasty is sometimes referred to as "the House of ...". As of July 2013, there are 26 active sovereign monarchies in the world who rule or reign over 43 countries in all.

Stanley Garrick

Stanley David Garrick, Egaibu of Siluko (8 June 1888 – 12 May 1958) was a senior administrator and courtier to His Royal Highness Oba Akenzua II, the 37th Oba of the Kingdom of Benin, now southern Nigeria. His father was a Sierra Leone Creole catechist called J. D. Garrick.

The Tribal Eye

The Tribal Eye is a seven-part BBC documentary series on the subject of tribal art, written and presented by David Attenborough. It was first transmitted in 1975.

West African flag

The unidentified West African flag is a flag that was allegedly brought to Britain by Admiral F. W. Kennedy after the 1897 Benin expedition. The original flag is currently held by the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich near London.

Little is known about the flag, and indeed it has no proper name. It is commonly referred to as the 'Flag of the Benin Empire' because it was found/recovered from territory under the Benin Empire's control, even though it isn't known whether the flag had any official usage or connection to the Empire's central government.


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