80 FACTS ABOUT THE GREAT BENIN KINGDOM


The Oldest Surviving Kingdom in the World is Great Benin Kingdom and is 2054 years Old. The Ogiso dynasty lasted for about 854 years plus an interregnum of 285 years between the reign of Ogiso Orire and Ogiso Odia, there was an interregnum of 70 years between Ogiso Owodo and Oba Oranmiyan plus 845 years of Oba ruler-ship till date.

1. The First Storey Building in Nigeria was built at Ughoton by the Dutch in the year 1718 AD, and it was called "The Factory". The said building was destroyed by the British during the war against the Benins in 1897. The site of the building is still intact.
2. The Oldest Church in West-Africa was established in Great Benin Empire by the Earliest Portuguese missionaries in the 16th Century which is today known as the Holy Aruosa (Benin National Church). Pope Pius XII visited Benin and handed the church to the Oba of Benin, Oba Oreoghene in 1692 AD.
3. The first Known Embassy Established in Nigeria was in Benin during the reign of Oba Esigie in the 16th century.
4. Elaba is the only Chieftaincy title in Benin Kingdom in whose presence the Oba's Sword bearer (Omada) would ceremonially hold the Oba’s symbol of Authority(Ada) upside down
5. Oba Orhogbua is the first literate king ever recorded in the present day West-Africa.
6. Chief Ogiamien is one of the Uzama N'Ibie (Uzama Minor), the council was created by Oba Esigie.
7. The Oldest known letter written in Nigeria was by Duarte Pires instructed by Oba Esigie which was addressed to King John II, on the 20th October, 1516AD. The second oldest letter was written by Anthonio Domingo (Great-grand Son of Oba Olua) to the Pope to seek for missionary assistance in other to spread Christianity in Benin Empire in 1652 AD.
8. Oba Orhogbua founded Lagos and planted a dukedom, the Obaship of Lagos (Eko).
9. Oba Orhogbua introduced the common salt from his numerous voyage to Benin Cuisine in replacement of our traditional organic salt (Obu).
10. The word Okoro means prince in Benin and Uvbi as princess.
11. Oba Orhogbua is the first Sailor king in the present day West-Africa.
12. They are five fighting Empire building Obas of Benin, Oba Ewuare I, Oba Ozolua, Oba Esigie, Oba Orhogbua and Oba Ehengbuda N'Obo.
13. Oba Ehengbuda was the last Oba of Benin to lead the Benin armies physically in battle.
14. Ogiso Odoligie and Oba Esigie were regarded as the redeemer kings because of their pre-ordination by God.
15. Ogiso Orriagba created the college (council) of the hereditary Uzama Chiefs.
16. The last Ogiso palace was located in the present day Ring-Road where the National museum is sited and it was called 'Ogbe Ogiso'
17. Oldest ever recorded market in Africa is Ogiso (Agbado) Market dated 60BCE.
18. Ekpeye, Ogba and Iwurhuohna people of River State are children of Akalaka a Benin warrior that migrated from Benin to found their present location during Oba Ewuare I reign.
19. Onitcha town was founded by Benin royal house who migrated during Oba Esigie reign.
20. The shortest Oba that reigned in Great Benin kingdom was Oba Ezoti (14 days) 1473-1473 AD.
21. They are three usurpers to the revered Benin throne, Oba Uwaifiokun (1430-1440), Oba Ozuere (1712-713) and Oba Ogbebo (1816-1816)
22. The longest Oba that reigned in Great Benin Kingdom was Oba Akengbuda (54 years) 1750-1804 AD.
23. The oldest crown prince (crown prince Osifo) to become an Oba of great Benin was later crowned as Oba Obanosa.
24. Oba Akengbuda relocated from the palace to Ogbe N'Alaka to pave way for his son, crown prince Osifo (Oba Obanosa) to become an Oba i.e two Oba's in one kingdom (Benin).
25. The first ever recorded bank (Owigho) in present day West-Africa was built in Benin kingdom by Oba Eresoyen, construction started in the year 1740 AD and was completed in the year 1743 AD.
26. Oba Akengboi kept his hair like a Rastafarian Benin call Agbihiagha.
27. Oba Ahenkpaye was dethroned because of his selfishness and ruthlessness by chiefs of Benin Kingdom.
28. Isi Aghadahomen, corrupted as Dahommey was a name of Esan General who led Benin warriors to conquer present day republic of Benin. The country was named in 1975 after their former colonial master. Great Benin Kingdom.
29. Oba Esigie created the school of astrology (Iwoki) and was the first man to speak a foreign language (Portuguese) in Nigeria in the year 1518AD.
30. Queen Idia (Oba Esigie mother) is the first Oba's mother to be alive to see her son becoming an Oba. That's because traditionally previous Crown prince mothers were killed before their Sons ascend the throne.
31. Oba Ewuare I conquered more than 201 towns and villages during his reign. This remarkable feat earned him the title Ewuare Ogidigan (Ewuare the great).
32. Iyase, Esogban, Eson and Osuma are referred to as the four Cardinal chiefs (Eghaevbo N'ore)
33. Since Oba Ewedo relocated the palace from Usama to Ogbe only four Oba's were not buried at Ogbe. Hence 'Aiguoba vbie Ogbe' (no one sleep at ogbe except the oba)
34. Agbodo mystically was buried at ogbe (he is the only man to ever achieve that feat after Oba Udagbedo enacted a law of nobody aside the Oba can be interred at Ogbe quarter)
35. Great benin kingdom has been ruled by 71 kings (documented) and 21 kings(undocumented) and two documented administrators (Evian and Agho Obaseki)and about 12 undocumented administrators
36. Ga tribe of present day Ghana migrated from Benin during Oba Udagbedo reign (1299-1334)
37. Oba Ahenzae is the youngest Oba to be crowned
38. Between Oba Ahenzae and Oba Ewuakpe the Oba-ship was rotated amongst different branches of the royal family for six reigns.
39. Oba Akenzua I is the richest monarch that ever ruled in Benin kingdom. Hence nicknamed Akenzua N'Isonorho (Akenzua, the money raining sky).
40. Oba Ewuakpe enforced the primogeniture Law in Benin Empire, called the Atoro oath. N.B: primogeniture had started during Ogiso Orriagba but was not consistent
41. The 39 Obas in second dynasty all ruled averagely in 22 years (excluding the present Monarch)
42. Ogiso Igodo or Obagodo is the oldest king that has ever ruled Benin Kingdom across the two dynasties, he reigned for 56 years.
43. Oduduwa was the exiled crowned prince from Benin known as Ekaladerhan, which is being purported as the progenitor of the Yoruba race.
44. The 31 Ogiso's in the first dynasty all ruled in average of 28 years (excluding the 285 years of interregnum).
45. Prince Akennuzama rejected to be crowned as Oba of Benin instead asked the elders to crown his son Idova in his place because of his old age. Prince Idova was crowned as Oba Ewuakpe.
46.The monarch of Warri kingdom is an off shoot of the royal house of Benin kingdom founded by prince Iginuwa the Son of Oba Olua in the 15th century.
47. The Osemawe of Ondo was corrupted from Osemwughe, the Benin warrior who deserted Udo town, when there was war between Benin City and Udo town.
48. The word Ondo was corrupted from the town Emwan N Udo (people of Udo town)
49. The world most famous mask Queen Idia mask was the face of FESTAC 77 held in Lagos in 1977.
50. Ezomo is the last amongst the Uzama N'ihinron that was made hereditary by Oba Akenzua I.
51. The first Edaiken of Uselu is Crown prince Kuobuyuwa, son of Oba Ewuare I.
52. The word Benin was corrupted from Ubini by the Portuguese explorer meaning “a place of heavenly pageantry and prosperity”
53. Ohen Okun, Olokun priest of Ughoton is the first known Diplomat of Nigeria origin to Europe, who was sent as a Benin ambassador by Oba Esigie in the year 1526AD, hence the first man to be exposed to western education
54. Affonso .D. Aveiro is the first ambassador from Europe to Benin and first in Nigeria.
55. Olu Atuwatse (Dom Domingo) Son of Crown Prince Ginuwa and grand Son of Oba Olua who was sent to Portugal in 1601 for advanced studies by his Grandfather, the reigning Oba. He graduated from the University of Coimbra in 1611. He is the first person to obtain a European university degree in present day Nigeria. He later married the daughter of a Portuguese noble, Dona Feirs. Their son Antonio Domingo referred to in Benin History as the Golden Skinned king, succeeded him to the throne in 1643.
56. Oba Esigie is the first King in Africa to be baptized in the year 1504 AD.in Benin.
57. Oba Ozolua N’Ibaromi was the father of Alani of Idoani, Olowo of Owo, Uguan of Ora and Eze of Aboh.
58. Oba Esigie created the title of Iyoba nu'Uselu (Queen Mother of Uselu).
59. The King of Benin can in a single day make 20,000 men ready for war, and, if need be, 180, 000, and because of this he has great influence among all the surrounding peoples. His authority stretches over many cities, towns and villages. There is no King thereabouts who, in the possession of so many beautiful cities and towns, in his capital 'Olfert Dapper', description of Africa, 1668 AD.
60. According to the Guinness Book of Records (1974 edition) described the walls of Benin City and its surrounding kingdom as the world's largest earthworks carried out prior to the mechanical era.
61. According to estimates by the New Scientists Fred pearce, Benin City walls were at one point four times longer than the great wall of China, and consumed a hundred times more material than the Great Pyramid of Cheops
62. Benin City is surrounded by massive walls dug by Oba Oguola in 13th century and Oba Ewuare I in the 15th century.
63. Great Wall of Benin extended for some 16,000km in all, in a mosaic of more than 500 interconnected settlement boundaries. They covered 6, 500sq km and were all dug by the Edo people.
64. The Great wall of Benin took an estimated 150million hours of digging to construct, and are perhaps the largest single archaeological phenomenon on the planet.
65. Benin City is the first City to have a semblance of street lighting in the world.
66. The Portuguese were the people who called our land “Great City of Benin” because they were astonished with what they saw that the Edo people achieved centuries before any major cities in the world.
67. 1n 1691, the Portuguese ship captain Lourenco Pinto observed: “Great Benin, where the king resides, is larger than Lisbon; all the streets run straight and as far as the eyes can see.
68. In ancient times there were no doors in Great Benin because it was so secure that the people didn’t bother about doors and windows.
69. The Benins are the best bronze casters (Igun – eronmwon) in the world.
70. In the golden age, Oba Ewuare I changed Benin into a city states from a military fortress built by Ogiso.
71. Two kings were installed without a crown, Ogiso Igodo (40BC-16AD) and Oba Oranmiyan (Odolorre) 1170-1200 AD.
72. The present palace has been burnt down three times, Prince Ogun who later became Oba Ewuare I, Oba Ogbebo and lastly the British military fiasco.
73.The first palace in Benin Kingdom was located at Ugbekun quarters built by Ogiso Igodo in about 40-42BC.
74. The progenitor of the Benin race is known by the earliest Benin oral documentary as 'PA IDU'
75. Great Benin is known as the cradle of Black civilization and the centre of the world (Edorisiagbon).
76. Igodomigodo was the former name for what we now call 'Edo land'
77. The Benin were the first to use sophisticated weapons (guns) to fight war(Idah war) in the present day Nigeria in about 501 years ago (August, 1516), the war was led by Oba Esigie mother (Queen Idia).
78. No female King has ever ruled Benin kingdom across the Two dynasties, the purported female Ogiso Emose(584-600AD) and Orrorro(600-618AD) are male kings on coronation, took over their mothers name.
79. All Oba’s in Lagos(Eko) were all buried in their ancestral home (Benin City) until late 19th century, to further lay credence to that Oba Osemwende in 1834 instructed Idewu Ojulari, the Oba of Lagos to zegbele(kill himself) the instruction was, expectedly, complied with. The Lagos Oba complied by taking poison.
80. Prior to present day civilization/infrastructural developments, ten gates/ roads historically led into Benin City. They are: 1). Akpakpava (Ikpoba) Road 2). Irhuase (Ogba). 3). Imose(Sapele). 4). Okhoro Road 5). Ughoton Road 6). Udo Road 7). Ugbor Road 8). Uhunmwun Idunmwun Road 9). Uselu (Oyesunu) Road. 10). Utantan (Esokponba) Road.

Source: Institute For Benin Studies
Contributors: Mr. Aiko Obobaifo, Osazee Amas-Edobor, Nathaniel Akenuwa and Oghoyemwen Joan. E.

The kingdom of Benin began in the early 900AD when the Edo people settled in the rainforests of West Africa. By the 1400AD they had created a wealthy kingdom with a powerful ruler, known as the Oba. The Obas lived in beautiful palaces decorated with shining brass.

Gradually, the Obas won more land and built up an empire. They also started trading with merchants from Europe.

For 200 years Benin was very successful, but in the 1600AD the Obas started to lose control of their people. By the 1800AD Benin was no longer strong or united. The kingdom came to a sudden end in 1897AD, when a British army invaded and made it part of the British Empire.

How did the kingdom begin?
Around the year 900 AD, groups of Edo people began to cut down trees and make clearings in the rainforest. At first they lived in small family groups, but gradually these groups developed into a kingdom.

The kingdom was called Igodomigodo. It was ruled by a series of kings, known as Ogisos, which means ‘rulers of the sky’.

In the 1100AD there were struggles for power and the Ogisos lost control of their kingdom.

The Edo people feared that their country would fall into chaos, so they asked their neighbour, the King of Ife, for help. The king sent his son Prince Oranmiyan to restore peace to the Edo kingdom.

Oranmiyan chose his son Eweka to be the first Oba of Benin. Eweka was the first in a long line of Obas, who reached the peak of their power in the 1500AD.

A bronze statue of Prince Oranmiyan
This brass figure is believed to be Prince Oranmiyan. Edo legend says that no one in Benin had ever seen a horse before Oranmiyan arrived!

How did Benin become an empire?
Around 1440, Ewuare became the new Oba of Benin. He built up an army and started winning land. He also rebuilt Benin City and the royal palace.

Oba Ewuare was the first of five great warrior kings. His son Oba Ozolua was believed to have won 200 battles. He was followed by Oba Esigie who expanded his kingdom eastwards to form an empire and won land from the Kingdom of Ife. Ozolua and Esigie both encouraged trade with the Portuguese. They used their wealth from trade to build up a vast army.

The fourth warrior king was Oba Orhogbua. During his reign, the empire reached its largest size. It stretched beyond the River Niger in the east and extended west as far as present-day Ghana.

Oba Ehengbuda was the last of the warrior kings. But he spent most of his reign stopping rebellions led by local chiefs. After his death in 1601, Benin’s empire gradually shrank in size.

A plaque showing an Oba of Benin and attendants
This brass plaque shows the Oba, or King, of Benin and his attendants. Why do you think the Oba is shown to be much bigger than the other people?

How did the kingdom end?
By the 1860s Benin was no longer a powerful empire and the Obas struggled to rule their people.

Benin was also under threat from Britain. The British wanted to gain control of Benin so they could get rich by selling its palm oil and rubber. The Oba tried to stop all contact with Britain, but the British insisted on their right to trade.

In 1897 a group of British officials tried to visit Benin. They were sent away because the Oba was busy with a religious ceremony, but they decided to visit anyway. As they approached the borders of Benin, a group of warriors drove them back and several British men were killed.

This attack made the British furious. They sent over a thousand soldiers to invade Benin. Benin City was burnt to the ground and the kingdom of Benin became part of the British Empire.