The special army lived in the king’s mansion, provided slaves and lived in luxury.
The Kingdom of Dahomey existed for many centuries from about 1600 to the first few years of the 20th century. It was located in the center of present-day Benin (a West African country).
Dahomey is known for its distinctive carvings, the birthplace of the voodoo religion, and the center of the Atlantic slave trade.
The empire was mainly maintained by the army. They captured the inhabitants, either through raids or war, and annually sold slaves to Europeans in exchange for goods such as guns, textiles, and alcohol.
But the relentless sweep led to dire consequences: The formation of the world’s only recorded first all-female army.
The West calls them Dahomey ‘Amazons’, formed during the reign of King Ghezo, who reigned from 1818 to 1858. In those years, the birth rate of male babies was very rare, and men in the country also disappeared. Many wars created the unique army of Dahomey Amazons.
The king used women from the local Fon tribe to build his military force and they were called “mino”, which means “our mother” in Fon.
The recruitment was either voluntary, with some younger than eight years old, or taken from captives and once members were forbidden to have children or marry anyone other than the king.
Soldiers living in Ghezo’s quarters. They were provided with tobacco, alcohol and slaves.
A story told in 1861 by Italian priest Francesco Borghero describes a “frightening and barefoot” army of 3,000 strong soldiers, armed with knives, sticks, and three-legged razors sharp enough to cut couple.
In a mock attack, Francesco Borghero watched as the army expanded the giant thorn bushes, removing any wounds inflicted by the thorns, before storming the hut and taking the ‘prisoners’ back to their homes. king.
The actual battles they participated in included raids against various neighboring kingdoms as well as two devastating Dahomean wars against the French in the late 19th century.
They lost both wars to a superior armed opposition but there are tales of women beheading their enemies while fighting.
Despite the defeat, a French foreign legionnaire named Bern praised the group’s courage and called the Dahomey Amazons “warriors” who “fought with utmost courage.”
By some estimates, in the four major war campaigns the Dahomey Amazons participated in, they lost between 6,000 and 15,000 members.
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