Ewuare The Great was one of the most powerful rulers of the Benin Empire. He ruled between 1440 and 1473 and changed the empire for the better during his time as ruler. But why did he make the Benin Empire better? And why was Ewuare so great? In this blog post, we answer these questions and find out more from these about this ruler.
Ewuare Before He Was Great
Before Ewuare became the Oba (ruler) of the Benin Empire, he was Prince Ogun — the third son of the Oba Ohen. When his father died, his brother Oba Orobiru became the ruler of Benin and exiled him from the kingdom. In a famous story told about the exiled Prince Ogun, on his travels he did a favour for a jungle spirit who thanked him by giving him a magic bag called an Agbavboko. The Agbavboko had two magical powers — unlimited space and pulling out whatever you desire. On his return to Benin City, there was a parade to honour his brother Uwaifaikon and immediately set a large part of the city on fire. He then pulled a poisonous arrow out of his Agbavboko and assassinated his brother with it. By doing this, he became the new ruler of the Benin Empire.
How Did Ewuare Become Great?
After the assignation of his brother and him becoming the new Oba, Prince Ogun took the name Ewuare which means "the trouble has ceased". Later Ogidigan was added to his name, which means 'the great'. But this wasn't just a name given to the new Oba, he truly lived up to being one of the greatest rulers the Benin Empire ever saw.
Ruling As Oba
As the Oba, he did a lot to ensure the Benin Empire kept growing in wealth and territory. This made him one of the greatest African leaders of his time. One of the first things Ewuare did as the Oba is rebuilt the city of Benin that was destroyed in the fire that he started. He continued his work by reforming the political structures within his kingdom and expanding the territory of the empire. He successfully took over several cities and towns in the region which expanded the empire. According to the stories told of Ewuare, he won 201 battles over various towns and cities.
While Ewuare was Oba of the Benin Empire, he met explorer Ruy de Sequeira in 1472. During their meeting, they established limited trade between the two empires.
Ewuare & The Benin Bronze
Today, the Benin Empire is known for its historic bronze work, and we have Oba Ewuare to thank for that. He is credited with expanding the ivory and wood carvings of the empire, but more importantly, creation of the bronze heads that were shrines to deceased Obas. As an influential leader, Ewuare The Great, truly lived up to his name. He expanded his empire, introduced structure into the political system, improved trade, and left his mark with his incredible art.