How the Benin monarchy started and flourished
The Benin Kingdom is one of the most long lasting and flourishing monarchies in the world but it started from somewhere.
The first king of the Benin kingdom was Eweka 1, son of the Yoruba prince Oranmiyan. Oranmiyan was sent by his father the Ooni of Ife to rule the Benin Kingdom from Igodomigodo.
His attempts to rule the kingdom did not go well, the Chiefs tried to sabotage him. In turn, he got upset and left Igodomigodo. While he was leaving, he called the land Ile Ibinu which means land of anger or vexation. Ibinu is now called Bini or Benin.
On his way out of Benin, he stopped at Egor, where he took Erunwide as his wife. Eweka 1 was the child of that union, and he became the first Oba of Benin. Oranmiyan never returned to Benin.
Different kings came and went after Eweka 1 but the most powerful king was Oba Ewuare the Great (1440 - 1473).
His reign was one of the greatest and the reason why the Benin Kingdom still stands tall today. He inspired dedication and loyalty in his subjects. He built massive walls around the kingdom and, art flourished during his reign.
The Benin kingdom is famous for its artwork. They had artists guilds. These artists made lifelike figures and masks from brass and bronze.
They also made carvings from ivory and wood. Most of these artworks were seized by the colonialists and carried off to their countries.
The people of Benin were powerful traders who were involved in different trading activities. They sold ivory, gold, palm oil and pepper to Portuguese and Dutch traders.
They were also actively involved in the slave trade by capturing people from neighboring cities and selling them to the Europeans.
In the 18th and 19th century, the kingdom was at its weakest because of civil wars among the people. At the same time, the British colonialists were attempting to invade the Benin Kingdom and make it part of their colony.
According to numerous historical accounts, the British colonialists succeeded in 1897, they burned down Benin City and expelled Oba Ovonramwem to Calabar.
His son Aiguobasin Ovonramwem later worked with the colonial government as a chief from 1902. He was able to rebuild the kingdom, set up art guilds and commission new artwork in place of the ones stolen.
The Benin monarchy still exists today as one of the most flourishing and long-standing monarchies in the world.
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