Benin Empire

Born: 900s - 1897

Birth Place: United States

Known for: Benin was one of the major powers of West Africa. It was a beautiful empire with shiny palaces made from brass.

One of the oldest surviving civilizations in the world, considered to be over 2000 years old

The ancient city of Benin is regarded as the start of Black civilization.

When the Portuguese visited Benin, they were so amazed at what they saw that they called it the “Great City of Benin.”

Benin Empire

Life story


Early empire


Before Benin became an empire, it was known as the Kingdom of Igodomigodo. It began when the Edo people started to move into the rainforest.


The first rulers were the Ogisos. In the 1100s they lost control; a prince called Eweka was sent from a neighbouring Kingdom and became the ruler of Benin. Eweka was the Oba (a King). He was considered to be a divine ruler. The Oba’s mother was never able to meet him and he only left the Palace once a year.


Growing power


In the 1440s came the next Oba, Ewuare, who made Benin an Empire. He started an army to battle for land, rebuilt Benin’s city and made a beautiful palace covered in shimmering brass. The Obas after him continued to expand the Empire.


The Obas after him continued to expand the Empire and they traded all over the world selling rubber and palm oil to Portugal and the Netherlands. There are records of people visiting Benin from as early as the 1500s.


In the late 1890s, the British invaded Benin. They burnt the city and took control of the territory, making Benin a part of the British Empire. In 1960 Benin gained independence from the British Empire and became a part of the Independent Country of Nigeria.


In the 1600s, some Dutch merchants visited Benin City. They were shown around, and later the King brought out some of his pet leopards (who were very tame!) to meet the visitors and roam around the city.

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