The kingdom of Benin began in the 900s when the Edo people settled in the rainforests of West Africa. By the 1400s 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 1600s the Obas started to lose control of their people. By the 1800s Benin was no longer strong or united. The kingdom came to a sudden end in 1897, when a British army invaded and made it part of the British Empire.
HOW DID THE KINGDOM BEGIN
Around the year 900 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 1100s 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 1500s.