WEEK 4: THE ORIGIN AND EARLY HISTORY OF THE EDO SPEAKING PEOPLE OF BENIN
Benin Empire was one of the four forest states in West Africa. (Oyo Empire, Dahomey kingdom, Benin Empire and Akan States of Ghana). The origin of the Edo people of Benin is not certain. All that is known is from oral tradition.
According to oral tradition, the Benin people came from the east, referring probably to Egypt, which some historians have interpreted to mean Ife in Yoruba land.
Another account says that Benin was founded by Osanobua – a heavenly prince and son of the supreme deity. This myth has been interpreted by some scholars to refer to a claim by the Benin that their origin is more ancient than the origins of the Yoruba and their other neighbour.
The history of Benin empire can be conveniently divided into two periods – the first benin empire and the second Benin empire. We also have two dynasty – Ogiso and the lle-Ife dynasty.
THE FIRST BENIN EMPIRE; (THE OGISO DYNASTY)
The first Benin empire was ruled by the ogiso dynasty (AD 900-1300). The Ogiso dynasty of kings were all together about fifteen ogisos, including some women rulers during this period. Their period (Ogiso period) in the history of Benin is one in which a mixture of fable and legend features prominently.
They were often represented as “Semi-mythical” kings because of the semi divine nature and supernatural powers which the people attributed to them.
Igodo or Obagado is reputed to be the founder of the kingdom. He united the various communicates around Benin under his rule and thus established the Benin monarchical system and the Ogiso dynasty. Eve, who succeeded Igodo was the greatest of the Ogisos. His many contributions to the kingdom include the creation of the Ughoron- a class of royal singers and recorders of events, the creation of the Edionuisen – the five elders of the kingdom, a body that was later to become the founding nucleus of the Uzama. The establishment of the guild system for crafts men and the introduction of the royal throne.
The last Ogiso ruler was Owodo – an incompetent ruler who clashed with the nobles and was banished. A period of struggle for the throne among the chiefs, took place during the interregnum. Evian and his successor Ogiamwen, who attempted to rule during this period, were rejected because they were not Ogisos.
Benin then passed through a period of Republican rule (no king) characterized by political instability and factionalism.
Explain the importance of trade on the rise and fall of the Benin empire.
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