The Dahomey Kingdom — present-day Benin — was one of the most powerful kingdoms in Africa during the 18th and 19th centuries. At the time, the nation had one of the largest armies in Africa, including the powerful Dahomey Amazons. It also had significant international trade with various European nations. As well as a strong economy, and a highly functional political system. Even though the kingdom was so powerful, it was colonized by the French in 1894. But they didn’t go down without a fight which was lead by the last king of Dahomey, known as the King Shark!
How Behanzin Hossu Bowelle Became The King Shark
Behanzin Hossu Bowelle was born in the capital of Dahomey, Abomey, in 1844. He was the son of King Glele, who was the King of Dahomey at the time. When his father died, Behanzin became the 11th king of Dahomey. Soon started to be referred to as the King Shark. As per the tradition of Dahomey, a king is given a name representing his personal symbols. Symbols include the shark, the egg, and tow coconut palm trees.
The Most Powerful King In West Africa
Behanzin Hossu Bowelle lived up to his name as the King Shark as he was fearless. As king, he commanded a powerful army which had 150000 males and 5000 women. He was known to be a courageous and wise ruler by his people. But when the French were trying to take the kingdom, he was a victim of intense propaganda. He was portrayed as a cruel and violent man who ruled with an iron fist.
Before the death of his father, the French government made a treaty with King Glele in 1868. The agreement put the territory of Cotonou under French control. But restricted them from imposing their traditions and customs on the indigenous people. But the French didn’t stick to their word, and the local people were treated purely. When King Glele died, the French hoped to have a better relationship with the King Shark, but he was unwilling to play according to their rules. This lead to one of the most significant resistance to the European invasion in Africa.
The Battle For The Dahomey Kingdom
King Shark had a motto that was “the angry shark will terrorize its enemy,” and that is precisely how he fought against western colonizers. With his powerful army, including the Amazons of Benin, and his relationship with Germany, he was able to fight endless wars against the French at Cotonou, Dogba, Poguessa, and Oueme Valley. But the Battle of Adegon in 1894 ended King Shark’s courageous fight as the French had better weapons than the Dahomey army. The French then took control of the kingdom.
The King Shark was then exiled to the Caribbean island of Martinique. He spent the remainder of his life on the island but died in 1906 on African soil in Algeria. Today, Behanzin Hossu Bowelle is known as one of the greatest African rulers who refused to work colonizers and fought for his people.