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The Great Benin kingdom has been described as the center of Nigeria’s development and with good reasons too. Benin was a pre-colonial kingdom in what is now southern Nigeria. Its capital was Edo, now known as Benin City in Edo state. Benin which is often confused with the modern-day Republic of Benin, is one of the oldest and most highly developed areas in Nigeria.
Being one of the most talked about places in Nigeria, it comes as no surprise that a lot of things which have gained prominence in the country and the world today, first started or was witnessed in the Benin kingdom.
Here are some interesting facts about the ancient kingdom that proves how much of a great kingdom it really is:
1. 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 1692AD.
The church, Holy Aruosa which means ‘Eye of God’ is a traditional worship house of the Binis where the people are said to have direct contact with God without going through any intermediary.
2. Oba Orhogbua founded Lagos and planted a dukedom, the Obaship of Lagos.
His reign was marked with the expansion of the Empire westwards. He founded Eko and Badagry and established the monarchical rule in those places and placed his own representatives to rule them. He established the first Oba of Lagos.
3. Oba Ehengbuda was the last Oba of Benin to lead the Benin armies physically in battle.
After his death in 1601, the Benin kingdom gradually shrunk in size. The boundary of Benin Empire and Oyo Empire was set at Otun Ekiti during his reign after many wars was fought between the two Empires.
4. The Benin people are the best bronze casters in the world.
This is believed to be one of the greatest defining characteristics of the historic Kingdom of Benin. Established in the 14th century by Oba Oguola, the tradition of the casting profession remains a very preserved tradition only practiced by the Igun clan of casters by the official approval of the Oba.
5. No female king has ever ruled Benin kingdom across the two dynasties; the purported female Ogiso Emose (584-600AD) who at his coronation, took the mother’s name ‘Emose,’ and so earned the reputation of being regarded as a woman Ogiso and Ogiso Orroro (600-618AD), was blacksmith and a philosopher who ruled for 18 years and died at the age of 98 years holding an iron in his hand.
9. According to the 1974 edition of Guinness Book of Records, the walls of Benin City and its surrounding kingdom as the world’s largest earthworks carried out prior to the mechanical era.
10. The King of Benin can in a single day make 20,000 men ready for war and more, if need be. This is due to the fact that he has great influences among all the surrounding peoples. His authority stretches over many cities, towns and villages.