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The Great Songhai Empire - Culture - Nairaland

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The Great Songhai Empire by Nobody: 7:25pm On Jul 23, 2012
This was the greatest empire in Africa - outside Egypt (Kemet), Nubia (Sudan), Cush (Ethiopia), and arguably The Great Zimbabwe IMO.



The Songhai Empire, also known as the Songhay Empire, was a state located in western Africa. From the early 15th to the late 16th century, Songhai was one of the largest Islamic empires in history.[3] This empire bore the same name as its leading ethnic group, the Songhai. Its capital was the city of Gao, where a Songhai state had existed since the 11th century. Its base of power was on the bend of the Niger River in present day Niger and Burkina Faso. The Songhai state has existed in one form or another for over a thousand years if one traces its rulers from the first settlement in Gao to its semi-vassal status under the Mali Empire through its continuation in Niger as the Dendi Kingdom. The Songhai are thought to have settled at Gao as early as 800 CE, but did not establish it as the capital until the 11th century, during the reign of Dia Kossoi. However, the Dia dynasty soon gave way to the Sonni, proceeding the ascension of Sulaiman-Mar, who gained independence and hegemony over the city and was a forbear of Sonni Ali. Mar is often credited with wresting power away from the Mali Empire and gaining independence for the small Songhai kingdom at the time.

Imperial Songhai
In 1340, the Songhai took advantage of the Mali Empire's decline and successfully asserted its independence. Disputes over succession weakened the Mali Empire, and many of its peripheral subjects broke away. The Songhai made Gao their capital and began an imperial expansion of their own throughout the western Sahel. And by 1420, Songhai was strong enough to exact tribute from Masina. In all, the Sonni Dynasty would count 18 kings.

Sunni Ali
The first emperor of Songhai was Sonni Ali, reigning from about 1464 to 1493. Like the Mali kings before him, Ali was a Muslim. In the late 1460s, he conquered many of the Songhai's neighboring states, including what remained of the Mali Empire. Sunni Ali quickly established himself as the empire's most formidable military strategist and conqueror.[citation needed] His empire was the largest empire that Africa has ever seen.During his campaigns for expansion, Ali conquered many lands, repelling attacks from the Mossi to the south and overcoming the Dogon people to the north. He annexed Timbuktu in 1468, after Islamic leaders of the town requested his assistance in overthrowing marauding Tuaregs who had taken the city following the decline of Mali. However, Ali met stark resistance after setting his eyes on the wealthy and renowned trading town of Djenné (also known as Jenne). After a persistent seven-year siege, he was able to forcefully incorporate it into his vast empire in 1473, but only after having starved its citizens into surrender. The invasion of Sonni Ali and his forces caused harm to the city of Timbuktu, and he was described as an intolerant tyrant in many African accounts.

Sonni Ali conducted a repressive policy against the scholars of Timbuktu, especially those of the Sankore region who were associated with the Tuareg. With his control of critical trade routes and cities such as Timbuktu, Sonni Ali brought great wealth to the Songhai Empire, which at its height would surpass the wealth of Mali.In oral tradition, Sonni Ali is often known as a powerful politician and great military commander. Whatever the case may have been, his legend consists of him being a fearless conqueror who united a great empire, sparking a legacy that is still intact today. Under his reign, Djenné and Timbuktu were on their way to becoming great centers of learning.

Askia Muhammad the Great
Tomb of Askia
After taking the throne Muhammad is known as Askia the Great, even though he had no real right to be the king. Not only was he not in the royal family blood line, he did not hold the sacred symbols which entitled one to become a ruler. Furthermore, he was most likely a descendant of Soninke lineage rather than Songhay, which means that by Songhay standards his family background would have not allowed him to be King. But Askia managed to bypass that law and take the throne.
He organized the territories that Sonni Ali had previously conquered and extended his power as far to the south and east. He was not as tactful as Ali in the means of the military, but he did find success in alliances, because of these alliances he was able to capture and conquer more vastly. Unlike Ali however, he was a devout Muslim. Askia opened religious schools, constructed mosques, and opened up his court to scholars and poets from throughout the Muslim world. He sent his children to an Islamic School and enforced Islamic practices. Yet he was tolerant of other religions and did not force Islam on his people. Like Mansa Musa, Askia also completed one of the five Pillars of Islam by taking a hajj to Mecca, and, also like the former, went with an overwhelming amount of gold. He donated some to charity and used the rest for lavish gifts to impress the people of Mecca with the wealth of the Songhay. Islam was so important to him that upon his return he recruited Muslim scholars from Egypt and Morocco to teach at the Sankore Mosque in Timbuktu as well as setting up many other learning centers throughout his empire. Among his great accomplishments was an interest in astronomical knowledge which led to a flourishing of astronomers and observatories in the capital.
While not as renowned as his predecessor for his military tactics, he initiated many campaigns, notably declaring Jihad against the neighboring Mossi. Even after subduing them he did not force them to convert to Islam. His army consisted of war canoes, expert cavalry, protective armor, iron tipped weapons, and an organized militia.

Not only was he a patron of Islam, he also was gifted in administration and encouraging trade. He centralized the administration of the empire and established an efficient bureaucracy which was responsible for among other things tax collection and the administration of justice. He also demanded for canals to be built in order to enhance agriculture, which would eventually increase trade. More importantly than anything he did for trade was the introduction of weights and measures and appointing an inspector for each of its important trading centers. During his reign Islam became more widely entrenched, trans-Saharan trade flourished, and the Saharan salt mines of Taghaza were brought within the boundaries of the empire. Unfortunately as Askia the Great grew older his power declined. In 1528 his sons revolted against him and declared Musa, one of Askia's many sons, as king. Following Musa's overthrow in 1531, Songhay's empire went into decline. Following multiple attempts at governing the Empire by Askia's sons and grandsons there was little hope for a return to the power it once held. Between the political chaos and multiple civil wars within the empire it came as a surprise when Morocco invaded Songhay unexpectedly. The main reason for the Moroccan invasion of Songhay was to seize control of and revive the trans-Saharan trade in gold. The Songhay military, during Askia's reign consisted of full-time soldiers, but the king never modernized his army. The Empire fell to the Moroccans and their firearms in 1591.

Culture
At its peak, the Songhai city of Timbuktu became a thriving cultural and commercial center. Arab, Italian, and Jewish merchants all gathered for trade. A revival of Islamic scholarship also took place at the university in Timbuktu[citation needed]. However, Timbuktu was but one of a myriad of the cities throughout the empire. By 1500, the Songhai Empire covered over 1.4 million square kilometers.

Economy
Economic trade existed throughout the Empire, due to the standing army stationed in the provinces. Central to the regional economy were independent gold fields. The Julla (merchants) would form partnerships, and the state would protect these merchants and the port cities the Niger. It was a very strong trading kingdom, known for its production of practical crafts as well as religious artifacts. The Songhai economy was based on a clan system. The clan a person belonged to ultimately decided their occupation. The most common were metalworkers, fishermen, and carpenters. Lower caste participants consisted of mostly non-farm working immigrants, who at times were provided special privileges and held high positions in society. At the top were noblemen and direct descendants of the original Songhai people, followed by freemen and traders. At the bottom were war captives and European slaves obligated to labor, especially in farming. James Olson describes the labor system as resembling modern day unions, with the Empire possessing craft guilds that consisted of various mechanics and artisans.

Criminal justice
Criminal justice in Songhai was based mainly, if not entirely, on Islamic principles, especially during the rule of Askia Muhammad. In addition to this was the local qadis, whose responsibility was to maintain order by following Sharia law under Islamic domination, according to the Qur'an. An additional qadi was noted as a necessity in order to settle minor disputes between immigrant merchants. Kings usually did not judge a defendant; however, under special circumstances, such as acts of treason, they felt an obligation to do so and thus exert their authority. Results of a trial were announced by the "town crier" and punishment for most trivial crimes usually consisted of confiscation of merchandise or even imprisonment, since various prisons existed throughout the Empire. Qadis worked at the local level and were positioned in important trading towns, such as Timbuktu and Djenné. The Qadi was appointed by the king and dealt with common-law misdemeanors according to Sharia law. The Qadi also had the power to grant a pardon or offer refuge. The Assara-munidios, or "enforcers" worked along the lines of a police commissioner whose sole duty was to execute sentencing. Jurists were mainly composed of those representing the academic community; professors were often noted as taking administrative positions within the Empire and many aspired to be qadis.

Government
Upper classes in society converted to Islam while lower classes often continued to follow traditional religions. Sermons emphasized obedience to the king. Timbuktu was the educational capital. Sonni Ali established a system of government under the royal court, later to be expanded by Askia Muhammad, which appointed governors and mayors to preside over local tributary states, situated around the Niger valley. Local chiefs were still granted authority over their respective domains as long as they did not undermine Songhai policy. Tax was imposed onto peripheral chiefdoms and provinces to ensure the dominance of Songhai, and in return these provinces were given almost complete autonomy. Songhai rulers only intervened in the affairs of these neighboring states when a situation became volatile; usually an isolated incident. Each town was represented by government officials, holding positions and responsibilities similar to today's central bureaucrats. Under Askia Muhammad, the Empire saw increased centralization. He encouraged learning in Timbuktu by rewarding its professors with larger pensions as an incentive. He also established an order of precedence and protocol and was noted as a noble man who gave back generously to the poor. Under his policies, Muhammad brought much stability to Songhai and great attestations of this noted organization is still preserved in the works of Maghrebin writers such as Leo Africanus, among others.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Songhai_Empire

1 Like

Re: The Great Songhai Empire by Nobody: 7:31pm On Jul 23, 2012
^^^^This was the same empire that built the ancient city of Timbuktu, the first university in the world with black scholars - and later conquered Southern Europe in conjunction with Arabs, and ruled Southern Europe for more than 500 years. They also built a university in Salamanca (Spain).

They call them moors in Eurocentric books - but Moor means BLACK in Spanish.

I salute these great people! cool
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by SmoothCrim: 7:44pm On Jul 23, 2012
Ah! That old West Afrikan empire!!!

This is the kind of stuff I expect to discuss on here! By the way Cush is Sudan not Ethiopia you dumb Boko! grin grin grin grin grin grin
http://wysinger.homestead.com/kush.html
The Sudanese have a lot of history but, seem to have forgotten all of it grin grin grin much like most Africans.
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by Nobody: 7:50pm On Jul 23, 2012
^^^^How did they forget it? Both Nubia and Cush extended into Sudan/Ethiopia.

Why do you think they call Egypt(Kemet) the first daughter of Ethiopia?

The same people who built Nubia/Cush were the ones who later migrated to West Africa to build the Songhai, Mali, Ghana, Oyo, and Benin Empires..

Stop trolling, you're annoying..
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by SmoothCrim: 7:52pm On Jul 23, 2012
shymmex: ^^^^How did they forget it?

The same people who built Nubia/Cush were the ones who later migrated to West Africa to build the Songhai, Mali, Ghana, Oyo, and Benin Empires..

Stop trolling, you're annoying..


FALSE YOU dumb BOKO!!!!!!!! There is no evidence of that. They may have interacted with each other. And there is evidence of that but, it was not a whole scale migration! That is unprovable!!! Don't put Empires in the heart of West Africa in other regions!!
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by Nobody: 7:54pm On Jul 23, 2012
^^^^Both Nubia and Cush extended into Sudan/Ethiopia.

Why do you think they call Egypt(Kemet) the first daughter of Ethiopia?

I'm done with you, troll.. Don't mess up my thread.
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by SmoothCrim: 7:55pm On Jul 23, 2012
shymmex: ^^^^Both Nubia and Cush extended into Sudan/Ethiopia.

Why do you think they call Egypt(Kemet) the first daughter of Ethiopia?

I'm done with you, troll.. Don't mess up my thread.

Prove your claims you dumb BOKO!!! grin grin grin grin grin grin grin I read history objectively. I find it funny that a region that has produced so many empires(second to only North Africa maybe and that is debatable) will have some IDIOTS trying to remove them from the area grin grin grin
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by Nobody: 8:12pm On Jul 23, 2012
Also Ahmed Baba was from the Songhai empire. Most people don't know about him.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vhx5OHfekk
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by SmoothCrim: 8:12pm On Jul 23, 2012
The LAST Pure ancient West African cultures are found in Ghana. The rest have been destroyed almost!!

Only Ghanaian rule CAN SAVE West Africa!!!!



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ru2IvlO_G_0
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by SmoothCrim: 8:15pm On Jul 23, 2012
You can't talk about ancient west Africa without talking about GOLD GOLD GOLD!!!

In this region without gold you were generally considered a JOKE!!

I tried to make that point on another thread but, the trolls over ran it!

I love these types of debates!!

Lets talk about West African history, ancient West African culture etc etc.
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by Nobody: 8:28pm On Jul 23, 2012
^^^^^Undefeated Kushites

Re: The Great Songhai Empire by SmoothCrim: 8:30pm On Jul 23, 2012
shymmex: ^^^^^Undefeated Kushites

Actually the Kushites were defeated numerous times...

grin grin grin grin grin

What does Nubia mean dumb Boko??

Let me teach you a thing or two about Ancient Africa in general!!!
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by SmoothCrim: 9:04pm On Jul 23, 2012
Ran all the dumb Boko's out of here!!! grin grin grin grin grin grin grin grin grin grin grin

Only Ghanaian RULE can save West Afrika!

Let's take it back to the start!!

Take it back to the roots!!!


The last of the ancient West African(and African??) cultures is still practiced in Ghana only!!


Ghana Ghana!!!

A land of many Kings!
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by Nobody: 9:06pm On Jul 23, 2012
SmoothCrim:
Actually the Kushites were defeated numerous times...

grin grin grin grin grin

What does Nubia mean dumb Boko??

Let me teach you a thing or two about Ancient Africa in general!!!

They did conquer ancient Egypt thats for sure.
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by SmoothCrim: 9:07pm On Jul 23, 2012
KingMichael777:

They did conquer ancient Egypt thats for sure.

Yes! Conquered and ruled it!
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by SmoothCrim: 9:12pm On Jul 23, 2012
Since no one answered my question, Nubia means GOLD!


GOLD!!!!!


Ancient Africans generally loved Gold!!!


These Ancient African cultures are dead in Africa though even though Ghana(the only country I believe) still has a lot of it.

Pictures:














Re: The Great Songhai Empire by SmoothCrim: 9:15pm On Jul 23, 2012
Gold Gold GOLD!!




The heart of ancient West African culture!!!!
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by odumchi: 9:15pm On Jul 23, 2012
shymmex: ^^^^This was the same empire that built the ancient city of Timbuktu, the first university in the world with black scholars - and later conquered Southern Europe in conjunction with Arabs, and ruled Southern Europe for more than 500 years. They also built a university in Salamanca (Spain).

They call them moors in Eurocentric books -but Moor means BLACK in Spanish.

I salute these great people! cool

Are you talking about the same Songhay empire that fell to the Morrocans in 1591? If so, when did it invade Europe or even reach the North African coast?


Either way, nice thread.
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by SmoothCrim: 9:24pm On Jul 23, 2012
If we are taking about the Mali Empire by the time the so called Moroccans had overran, it was long past its peak and was dying or dead!!! Many will argue that the Moroccans destroyed it but, that is FALSE FALSE FALSE!!!

What destroyed the last remnants of empire was the arrival of Europeans. With European arrival that area no longer was the heart of trade in West Africa, the coastal areas were. Thus, those who may have initially sent their goods through the Trans-Saharan route started to use the Atlantic. This increased the gap in wealth between Coastal West Africa and those further up North! A gap that still exists today.
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by Nobody: 9:28pm On Jul 23, 2012
odumchi:
Are you talking about the same Songhay empire that fell to the Morrocans in 1591? If so, when did it invade Europe or even reach the North African coast?

Either way, nice thread.

They ruled Europe during the dark ages before the renaissance, and that was way before 1591..
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by SmoothCrim: 9:28pm On Jul 23, 2012


Gold and Kola nuts are Modern day Ghana-Ivory Coast-Mali...

Ivory-Wood-Slaves are modern Nigeria and Cameroon.

When Europeans arrived it changed this dynamic and today that area of Africa is very poor, always suffering from drought etc!!But, Mali is the 3rd largest gold producer in Africa behind South Africa and Ghana. So, they are still living off that GOLD GOLD GOLD!!!!
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by SmoothCrim: 9:30pm On Jul 23, 2012
shymmex:

They ruled Europe during the dark ages before the renaissance, and that was way before 1591..

Can you focus the debate on empirical facts so as to not take it down a dangerous route which will skew history to embarrassing things wink wink wink grin grin grin

I have a very holistic understanding of African history so, I am not like the kids who just throw big things out there without understanding it.
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by odumchi: 9:40pm On Jul 23, 2012
shymmex:

They ruled Europe during the dark ages before the renaissance, and that was way before 1591..

Any historical evidence?

During the dark ages, Europe was politically fragmented and (for some time), Southern Spain was under the control of the Abbasids.
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by Nobody: 9:46pm On Jul 23, 2012
odumchi:
Any historical evidence?

During the dark ages, Europe was politically fragmented and (for some time), Southern Spain was under the control of the Abbasids.

I'll search my archives for links now.
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by SmoothCrim: 9:46pm On Jul 23, 2012
Even Sudan(Nubia/Kush) is today trying to restore their GOLD GOLD GOLD industry!!

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/18/us-sudan-gold-idUSBRE86H0SX20120718
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by SmoothCrim: 10:03pm On Jul 23, 2012
Well since no one is smart enough to debate it thank me later. I just gave you the context to study Ancient West Africa and African cultures.
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by PhysicsQED(m): 10:35pm On Jul 23, 2012
Bringing the thread back into focus on Songhai itself. . .

Has anyone come across any description of the fleet of ships (apparently) employed by one or more of the Songhai rulers?
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by Nobody: 10:49pm On Jul 23, 2012
PhysicsQED: Bringing the thread back into focus on Songhai itself. . .

Has anyone come across any description of the fleet of ships (apparently) employed by one or more of the Songhai rulers?

Nah, can you post a link?
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by PhysicsQED(m): 10:50pm On Jul 23, 2012
For the record, the reason why I want a primary source, or at least centuries old historical description second hand from knowledgeable informants, is because sometimes African boats that would necessarily have to have been much larger than say, Viking longboats (which for whatever reason, are not often called canoes), just going off of the description of them, are called war canoes. Now I know they were said to have had a fleet of "huge war canoes" (that's how one modern historical book described it) on the Niger river, but I want to see an actual original description (not someone else's summary/paraphrase) to see whether the "canoe" appellation is justified. If it is, no big deal - after all, both triremes and Viking longboats were really large war canoes - but I want to know if the boats might actually have been bigger.
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by SmoothCrim: 10:50pm On Jul 23, 2012
PhysicsQED: Bringing the thread back into focus on Songhai itself. . .

Has anyone come across any description of the fleet of ships (apparently) employed by one or more of the Songhai rulers?

Re: The Great Songhai Empire by SmoothCrim: 10:51pm On Jul 23, 2012



Off to conquer Europe now!!! grin grin grin grin grin grin grin grin grin grin grin grin grin grin grin tongue tongue tongue tongue grin grin grin grin grin grin grin
Re: The Great Songhai Empire by SmoothCrim: 10:56pm On Jul 23, 2012
Why are all of you so obsessed with African imperialism in Europe??

It makes it seem like you are desperate to counter European colonialism in Africa by focusing on African imperialism in Europe.

This is the wrong premise.

The correct premise is the simple fact that Colonialism, Imperialism and other similar ills are BARBARIC, USELESS and embarrassing history which belongs in the dustbin. Why would anyone apart from a very sick person want to relive that barbarian era

It is embarrassing history, shameful history when a group of Barbarians overrun a place and call it an empire! In the end, learn from history rather than finding joy in others misfortune.

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