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|Culture / Re: Benin And Ife Never Had Any Connections more facts to this by SilverSniper: 12:15am On May 01, 2020|
I wouldn't say it's "doubtful anyway". One of the earlier written sources to mention the Benin kingdom, Duarte Pacheco Pereira's Esmeraldo de Situ Orbis, which dates from the beginning of the 16th century (it was written between 1505 and 1508), notes that the Benin kingdom was "usually at war with its neighbours and takes many captives", which they sold to the Portuguese. However, later Portuguese sources from only about two decades into the 16th century indicate that Benin had restricted the slave trade heavily. Actually the king of Portugal at that time wrote a letter to the king of Benin requesting that the king of Benin "open his markets", by which he was referring to slave-markets. Part of the letter is quoted in Ryder's book. Benin did not lift the restrictions, and as a result the Portuguese gradually started to go west to the early Allada kingdom to obtain slaves.
This is why I said about three decades. The Portuguese made contact with Benin in 1485, a slave trade later developed (although Benin also traded other things with the Portuguese at that time, particularly pepper) at some point between 1485 and the time that Pereira's book is referring to, but by the 1520s that early Benin-Portugal slave trade was basically dead.
Anyway, I do not think there is so much disagreement in general in our ideas about this, more like differences in details. Your mention of captured slaves from wars most likely serving a productive role in Benin's economy is also something I would agree with, and is actually a fairly standard academic view (for example, an article about Benin's civil war that I referenced in another thread actually mentions this).
|Culture / Re: Benin And Ife Never Had Any Connections more facts to this by SilverSniper: 8:14pm On Apr 30, 2020|
I don't necessarily endorse everything AreaFada2 claimed at all, but this is a bit wide of the truth, not only with respect to Benin, but also with regard to Yorubaland. I won't get into the issue of the slave trade and the Yoruba and Benin areas in any detail here, because these issues have been studied in great detail already by several scholars, and instead I'll just make a brief comment. Although it is true that the slaves that Oyo exported were captured from surrounding groups - this export to the coast (particularly the "Slave Coast" area of west Africa) of slaves (to be later sold to Europeans) taken in wars by Oyo is mentioned in European documents from the mid-1600s onward - it is also true that during the Oyo civil war and the subsequent wars in Yorubaland in the 19th century, there was a significant increase in slaves of Yoruba origin that were being sold to European slave buyers (there were already some Yoruba slaves in the slave trade prior to this, as various European documents from earlier centuries attest to; some of these may have come from Ijebu, which is noted as selling slaves in European sources).
I wouldn't say the Benin kingdom "did not participate" in the slave trade, but it was a very minor player compared to many other African kingdoms. The very strict restrictions on the slave-trade that Benin imposed - after the initial slave trade with the Portuguese that did occur for about three decades in the late 15th to the early 16th century - actually led to two centuries of there being practically no slaves exported from Benin to Europeans. Even after that two centuries, in the 18th century when the slave-trade did reemerge in Benin for some decades, the numbers involved were very small, especially when compared to some other prominent Nigerian and west African states. This is actually discussed and analyzed in detail in Ryder's 1969 book that you asked me about in that other thread, but there other scholars besides Ryder who reached a very similar conclusion independently of Ryder by simply looking at what the sources show.
Regarding "food", the historian Samuel Johnson made the following claim in his book:
"The origin of the Ijebus has been variously given ; one account makes them spring from the victims offered in sacrifice by the King of Benin to the god of the ocean, hence the term Ijebu from Ije-ibu, i.e., the food of the deep. The Ijebus themselves claim to have descended from Oba-nita, as they say of themselves, "Ogietiele, eru Obanita," i.e., Ogetiele, servants of Obanita. But who was this Oba-nita? Tradition says he also was a victim of sacrifice by the Olowu or King of Owu." - Samuel Johnson, The History of the Yorubas, pp. 18-19
A historian, Tunde Oduwobi, gives an interesting analysis of this ascription of servile origins to the Ijebu in his publication "Early Ìjèbú history: An analysis on demographic evolution and state formation" (2006). Oduwobi also notes in that article and in another article that, of course, the Ijebu had their own completely different traditions about their origins.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 7:42pm On Apr 30, 2020|
TerraCotta, I apologize but I will have to delay my detailed response to your (very interesting) posts a little longer than I had anticipated, since something came up (in my personal life) that I need to work on that is taking me longer than expected. I found the quote you provided from Ward-Price's book about Christianity in Ife especially interesting, since it corresponds closely with something I had come across years ago in a book on Ife's past by M.A. Fabunmi. I should be able to post a response by Sunday.
TAO11, I saw that in this thread, and in some other threads that were recently started on this forum, you repeatedly referenced the following statement by Dmitri Bondarenko from one of his publications:
"Historically, ethnographic sources and European writings of the early and mid-sixteenth century (based on relations from Benin of the late fifteenth century) and of the early seventeenth century, also testify to the Second Benin Dynasty's links with Ife."
However, this statement could be viewed as misleading. The writings "of the early and mid-sixteenth century" and "of the early seventeenth century" that he is referring to are actually the ones already analyzed by Ryder and Thornton with regard to the 'Ogane'/'Hooguanee' ruler. Bondarenko is not referring to any other documents (and in fact no other documents exist besides those ones which even touch on the Ogane/Hooguanee ruler) from that time period. Those documents, all of which I have read, do not mention Ife, and apart from the issue of direction in those documents, one of these documents, without actually mentioning direction, situates the location of the 'Ogane' ruler with respect to Benin in such a way that that ruler's kingdom would not correspond to Ife. There is a detail in one of those documents that Bondarenko misses, but that Thornton apparently did not, which makes the identification of that kingdom as Ife problematic. Bondarenko is essentially engaging in circular reasoning here - by assuming that the 'Ogane' documents of the early and mid-sixteenth century and of the early seventeenth century do in fact refer to Ife (when they do not mention Ife and the direction and relative positioning of kingdoms which they give do not align well with an identification with Ife) in order to use them as evidence to support the idea that they are evidence of the particular Ife-Benin connection he discusses in the article. To be clear, it is not that they could not refer to Ife - although some details given in at least one of them make it questionable that they actually do - but that it would not be a reasonable argument to use such documents to prove a particular connection, since one would be assuming what one intends to prove. I will expound on this at greater length in my replies on Sunday as well as provide the original sources (and translations) of the documents he is referring to.
|Politics / Re: FG Excludes Lagos, Borno, Delta From Cash Transfer As N/W Gets Biggest Share by SilverSniper: 8:31am On Apr 16, 2020|
There's no rationale or logic at all.
It's just shameless theft.
Buhari is a joke of a president. A sad joke.
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|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 11:59pm On Apr 15, 2020|
Jacob Egharevba was the first Nigerian historian to mention such a link in modern times.
Dmitri Bondarenko, who you have repeatedly cited, co-authored an entire article proposing exactly what you are ridiculing here.
You can read the article below by Bondarenko and his co-authors, and you can see his citations of Egharevba's work:
Peter Roese, Dmitri Bondarenko - "Ludewig Ferdinand Römer's "Nachrichten von der Küste Guinea" (Mid-18th Century) as a Source on the Benin Kingdom History and Culture" (2001)
I have no special interest one way or the other whether or not such a proposed link really has some basis, personally. I'm just letting you know that both Jacob Egharevba (drawing upon oral tradition) and now Dmitri Bondarenko (drawing upon both published oral traditions from different groups and older European documents) thought such a link to be entirely plausible and based on something real.
A note about at least one thing in the article itself: Roese (and Roese) and Bondarenko's suggestion that "Dahomey = Dauma" (the Dauma indicated on some old maps) is an idea that was refuted by some other researchers decades ago, but they may not have read the articles which explain that it is a reference to a different place.
Another note is that their translation (on p. 2 of that article) of what the Englishman that Rømer spoke to was saying about the comparison of towns on the Gold Coast (what is now Ghana) to Benin City is misleading in its wording, or just seems to be a case of quite poor translation for that specific passage. The Englishman that Ludwig Rømer spoke to was actually criticizing Bosman for suggesting that any of those towns on the Gold Coast were somehow comparable to Benin City. In one of the editions of Willem Bosman's book (A New and Accurate Description...) a comparison is made between the architecture of Benin City and the architecture of Axim, a town in the Gold Coast. That Englishman (who had visited Benin City in the mid 1700s) found this comparison absurd apparently because he considered Benin City's architecture to be much more impressive and Benin City to be a much greater city. That Englishman was really telling Rømer that anyone who could even suggest, as Bosman apparently had, that Benin City was not better than those towns on the Gold Coast - i.e. that those towns on the Gold Coast (such as Axim) were somehow comparable to Benin City - was simply a liar or had never been to Benin City, hence his criticism of Bosman.
The translation by Selena Axelrod Winsnes of this same passage in her translation (published in 2000) of Ludwig Rømer's book A Reliable Account of the Coast of Guinea (1760) is much more accurate in conveying what the Englishman was complaining about to Rømer, and it conveys the sense of the whole statement much more lucidly, whereas the article above seems to just get the translation wrong on that point. Winsnes, however, does not provide a very informative footnote (in what is an otherwise excellent and well annotated translation of Rømer's book) to that passage, and incorrectly states that Bosman's book never compared anywhere on the Gold Coast to Benin City, whereas in fact a comparison of Axim's architecture to Benin City's architecture is made in at least one edition.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 7:31pm On Apr 15, 2020|
First of all, great post! My situation is precisely the opposite - I'm not near many of the books I have at all, nor do I have access to some of the things I would like to cite (as I alluded to above with regard to Meek's book) but I'll try to make good with the few I have with me if we have another very lengthy discussion as we've had previously. Also, I'll be responding in parts just because I have some other things to get done even in this quarantine/shelter-in-place situation and I can't spare as much time to make super lengthy posts just right now.
Yes I am aware of this idea of the Niger-Benue confluence as some kind of origin or dispersal point for the larger linguistic group that several of the southern and Middle Belt groups in Nigeria belong to and I have read that article by Obayemi in the past. Ryder's focus in the article is more related to the issue of this thread so I didn't want to get into that broader issue of what the origin point of the so called "Kwa" group is right here (as that seems to be another topic in and of itself).
What is important to note for this discussion is that neither Pacheco Pierrera or Joao de Avieros (de Barros in some transcriptions) introduced the concept of the Ogane/Houganee as a pre-eminent governmental or religious power in our area. That idea dates back to the 1375 map of global kingdoms called the Atlas, made by Europe’s leading cartographer of that period, Abraham Cresques: https://www.earthlymission.com/catalan-atlas-medieval-world-map/.
I did read professor Blier's book on ancient art in Ife years ago so yes, I am aware of this mention of the map from her book. The issue of the depiction of the "king of Organa" and similarly named places/rulers on 14th, 15th and 16th century European maps was actually brought up by Thornton, in his 1988 article on the Ife-Benin relationship, so I was aware of it even earlier (and Blier is well aware of Thornton's article, which she cites at one point in that book). He actually uses that map and others to make his own argument about who he thinks the ruler really is and of course his identification is quite different. (I still disagree with his ultimate conclusion, so my position about the validity of his identification has not changed - I still think that identification is mistaken, just as I did in that other thread where we had a lengthy discussion although some of my reasons have changed slightly.)
So the possible connection between the Ogane/Hooguanee of the Portuguese reports, and the Organa king/kingdom on the late medieval European maps has been more widely known at least since Thornton's article was published, although other scholars (Richmond Palmer may have been one of them, if I recall correctly) had suggested this connection even earlier, prior to Thornton's article. I am also familiar with the Catalan Atlas and what it depicts (I even discussed that map on a thread on that other forum - that one where you made an account but didn't post . By the way, were you too annoyed by some of the ignorance, bias, etc. that exists on there and considered it a waste of time to even bother engaging with it, or was it just too boring and nothing on there caught your interest? I'm still somewhat surprised that you didn't make a single post.)
I would however point out that Cresques' knowledge here must be described as shaky or inadequate if he really did mean to refer to what we might presume that he meant to refer to with that king of Organa figure and kingdom on the map. The Catalan Atlas actually describes the king of Organa in this manner: "a Saracen who waged constant war against the Saracens of the coast and with the other Arabs". The coast he is referring to here seems to be the North African coast. In fact, the way the map is (and where the "Organa" king is positioned) there couldn't be any other coast that he is referring to.
Blier does state in her book that the "Rey de Organa" is "repositioned toward the central Sahara" on the Catalan Atlas (instead of being further south where we would presume he should be if the figure is meant to depict a ruler closer to the part of west Africa we are discussing). It seems that in fact the positioning was not a "repositioning" and the real reason for the position was that Cresques did not really see the "Organa" kingdom as being what we are referring to in this discussion (so I am not sure that he had a real understanding of the polities of the region we are talking about if the Rey de Organa is meant to depict a west African ruler from somewhere in or near Nigeria), hence Cresques' map presenting the idea that the king of Organa was an Arab that fought other Arabs, and hence the ruler's depiction on the map as an Arab/Saracen.
Thornton did of course argue (on p. 356 of his 1988 article) that the positioning of Organa on the "best" maps from the Catalan school of cartographers should be interpreted as implying that the Rey de Organa was really south of the desert and closer to the Niger river (the "Nile" on that part of the map). But he also made an interesting comment, or admission, in note 20 (on pp. 360-361) at the end of the article. He mentioned in that note that the historian Tadeusz Lewicki, in his article "Le Royaume d'Organa des cartes européennes du XIV e au XVIe siècle" (1976) actually "summarizes the existing arguments and provides a strong argument for identifying Organa with the oasis state of Ouargla".
Ouargla is in the Sahara, and given the cultural background that Ouargla would have had at the time the map was made it would be quite understandable why the king of Organa would be depicted and described as a Saracen, if Cresques was indeed referring to Ouargla. Considering that the sounds "l" and "n" often end up being interchanged in words in various languages (this is a very common linguistic phenomenon; I don't recall the word for it), the name Ouargla is actually close to Organa even in sound and appearance.
There's also something else notable about Ouargla besides the fact that the cultural background of a medieval sultan of Ouargla would be a better fit for the depiction and description of the king of Organa given in the Catalan Atlas. It was apparently one of the oldest towns in the Sahara (or at least it is described as such in multiple sources) and it was also a major player in the trans-Saharan trade:
"By 911, the Shi'ite Fatimids ovethrew the kingdom of Tahert as well as established their control over Sijilmasa [southern Morocco] and Ouargla or Wargla. It was the Fatimids who founded the city of Mahdiya as their capital around 915. It was however in 947 under the ruler Fatimid al-Mansur that they established Mansuria, slightly southwest of Kairouan, as a new capital to replace Mahdiya. Associated with these changes, Ouargla emerged as the dominant northern terminus of the major gold-bearing trans-Saharan route that led from Gao. " - Stefan Goodwin, Africa's Legacies Of Urbanization: Unfolding Saga of a Continent, p. 88
This major role in international trade would probably make this city a noteworthy place for a map-maper and that is probably one reason why the the ruler (sultan) of Ouargla might be depicted on a later medieval map.
You also mentioned Cresques' background as part of a Jewish trading family. Interestingly, Ouargla did actually have a significant population of Jews in the Middle Ages:
"M'zab Jewry are apparently the descendants of Jews from Tahert, an ancient metropolis destroyed in 902 C.E., but also from Sedrata and Ouargla in the important region of Ifriqiyya – which in ancient and medieval times contained the territories of present-day Libya and Tunisia. Ouargla was a center of Karaite Jews. Until 1300 the Jewish community of the M'zab was reinforced demographically by Jews from the island of *Djerba (southern Tunisia) and Jebel Nafusa (the region of Tripolitania in modern Libya). Overwhelmingly residing in Ghardaia, the Jews were mainly employed as goldsmiths as well as being suppliers of ostrich feathers whose exports to Europe were monopolized by their coreligionists in parts of the Mediterranean."
I am familiar with the background of the Portuguese search for "Prester John" (incidentally "Prester John" is actually indicated in the Catalan Atlas, on panel IV), however I think that this depiction of the "Rey de Organa" on the Catalan Atlas is not likely to have been a motivating factor in their search for Prester John in west Africa. Considering that Cresques depicts him as war waging "Saracen" and taking into account the attitudes that probably existed in 15th century Christian Iberia with respect to "Moors", "Saracens", etc. that seems unlikely. Thornton suggests, more plausibly, on p. 356 of his 1988 article, that the maps they used which led them to later identify "Organa" with Prester John were certain later maps, rather than the Catalan Atlas.
I'll try to respond to rest of your post as I get time.
Edit: Upon re-reading your last paragraph above, I realized you were actually alluding to the fact that the Portuguese were later to explore the west coast of Africa in search of the source of the gold that was flowing in the trans-Saharan trade (in addition to seeking Prester John in Africa as a Christian ally against the Muslims; they were carrying out the two objectives simultaneously). So I think I did misinterpret that last paragraph of yours in my initial response and actually I agree that the Catalan Atlas, with its depiction and description of Mansa Musa and his abundant gold and wealth, would have been an impetus for their desire to explore west Africa in the 15th century. Since that is what you seem to be alluding to (their search for the source of the gold in west Africa that was going north in the trans-Saharan trade) then there's no disagreement that the map would have been a major inspiration for them.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 5:06pm On Apr 15, 2020|
Thanks for the examples and references. I read William Clarke's book years ago and yes it does have some interesting details about architecture in there, among other things. I don't recall any details about architecture that Bowen might have mentioned for some reason, even though I read his book, so if you do eventually find what he stated about architecture or walls specifically do please post it.
It was actually another poster in that thread I started that gave the example of the Japanese practice - I did post quotes that mentioned the polished/shining walls from Benin in the thread but it was another poster that supplied that example of those highly polished shining earthen balls that the Japanese made.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 1:50am On Apr 15, 2020|
The historian Elizabeth Isichei is one scholar that did suggest (in A history of Nigeria), when discussing the Beni Nupe confederacy, that Ryder drifted away from his 1965 suggestion in his 1969 book:
"If there was a real dynastic link with Nupe this seems doubtful. It seems more probable that statements about a common heritage rest on the accidental verbal similarity between Benin and Beni. It is noteworthy that Ryder, who questioned the Ife connection and argued the case for linkages with a northern kingdom, abandoned the line of argument in his later book, Benin and the Europeans" - Elizabeth Isichei, A history of Nigeria, Volume 2, p. 137
However after re-reading his 1969 book I found that he does not actually do so at all. On page 7 of the 1969 book, Ryder cites his 1965 article, where his position was that the reference to east should perhaps be interpreted as the correct, and literal direction (although allowing for other possibilities about its meaning) that the Benin informants intended to indicate to the Portuguese about where the "Oghene" lived, (Oghene is a word meaning "great lord" in Edo (Bini), but which is used to refer to God in some other Edoid languages in modern times; of course God in Edo (Bini) is Osa, Osanobua, Osanobua Noghodua (God almighty), etc.) without changing his position.
In his 1969 book when discussing the origins of the dynasty of the Obas of Benin, Ryder cites his 1965 article on p. 7 and he does not indicate that his position had changed:
"1. cf. A.F.C. Ryder, 'A reconsideration of the Ife-Benin relationship'. Journal of African History, vol. VI, i (1965). This article examines the evidence for and against the tradition which identifies the Oghene with the Yoruba Oni of Ife, and suggests that many conflicts could be resolved by ascribing a more northerly origin to the dynasty. It is further argued that the origin of the name Benin might be sought in this direction."
I believe Isichei simply misread or did not accurately recall what Ryder's position was in his 1969 book. John Thornton's 1988 article about the Ife-Benin issue, where he cites Ryder's work repeatedly, does not make any note of Ryder changing his position at any point. I think Isichei was simply mistaken about this point.
I found out later on that the idea that the "Oghene" was indeed literally to the east of Benin, as stated twice in two different primary sources - first by Duarte Pacheco Pereira (in Esmeraldo de Situ Orbis) and later by João de Barros (in Décadas da Ásia, First Decade, Book III), was not exclusive to Ryder or Thornton. Decades before either Ryder or Thornton put forward their theories, Charles K. Meek had suggested (in his 1931 book A Sudanese Kingdom: An Ethnographical Study of the Jukun-speaking Peoples of Nigeria) that the "Ogane"/"Hooguanee" mentioned by Pereira and then by de Barros was possibly the ruler of the ancient Kwararafa state, based on the fact that the distance given in the original account (two hundred and fifty leagues east of Benin in de Barros' account) and the direction (east) line up with the location of the ancient Kwararafa state relative to Benin.
Of further interest is that the ancient Kwararafa state was a brass/bronze casting center (exquisite ancient brass or bronze artifacts have been found from there, Leo Frobenius's assistant made some drawings of some of these during one of Frobenius's expeditions to Nigeria in the early 20th century). The Kwararafa "empire" or "confederacy" was supposedly also ruled by a divine "priest king" in the past, according to what both P.A. Talbot and Meek found during their research in the early 20th century, and it had numerous surrounding groups under its authority or influence. Of course there is also supposed to be some sort of significant historical connection between Kwararafa and Igala, or at least Jukun and Igala, according to the thinking of most researchers on precolonial Nigerian history. Also, in his 1965 article, on p. 35, Ryder also proposes a possible Kwararafa connection to Benin as Meek did decades earlier.
Meek also made one surprising comment in his book on the Jukun. He mentions (on p. 50) a certain name and states that "among the Jukun at the present time it is the title of the official who supervises the burial rites of the kings of Wukari". What was surprising - or rather, peculiar - to me is that Meek claims that that name was also found at Benin. I would include the full quote but I do not have the book on me right now.
An interesting article along this line of thought, with regard to the ancient Kwararafa state, before its defeat and destruction by the Bornu empire, is R. Gray - "Christian Traces and a Franciscan Mission in the Central Sudan, 1700–1711" Journal of African History 7 (1967): 383-393. That article might be relevant, if some of the details stated there about crosses are more than just coincidental.
Edit: Upon re-reading Ryder's 1965 article I made a correction above to my original post about his stance on the direction indicated in the sources.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 11:49pm On Apr 14, 2020|
Hello TerraCotta! Long time no see. Yeah, that's me. I forgot the login details for my old account(s) since it's been years since I signed on and posted here, and I couldn't remember where I had those details saved, so I just made a new account. I would be interested in anything you have to share regarding references to the use of such polishing in traditional/ancient Nigerian architecture.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 4:43am On Apr 14, 2020|
Ryder's book Benin and the Europeans (1969) is a book of about 370 pages, and it has not been digitized. I have a physical copy of the book; I do not have it in digital format and I do not think anyone does, yet. You can probably obtain it from a university library - I am certain that several university libraries in Nigeria, and outside of Nigeria, would have the book (you can use the worldcat.org site to look it up to find the closest library that has it).
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 4:39am On Apr 14, 2020|
As I said above, Dapper did not mention street lights. If there is some suggestion that he did, it is incorrect. He does not claim they had street lights in his account. Tall metal lamps placed at fixed positions in compounds and at a specific place in a square in the city are mentioned in mid and late 19th century British accounts, but nothing about "street lights" is in Dapper's account.
The newspaper you quoted was not criticizing there being an absence of street lights in the Benin City of the late 19th century, but just disputing the general picture conveyed by Dapper. That person writing in 1897 would have had no expectation that there would have been such things (street lights) on the basis of anything Dapper wrote, because Dapper did not mention street lights.
The "shiny walls" refer to earthen walls polished to a high degree so that they had a lustrous appearance. This appearance of the walls of the buildings in the capital are mentioned in the 1651 eye witness description of a Spanish priest, translated by Ryder and included as an appendix to his 1969 book on Benin. In that account, in Ryder's translation (p. 313 of Benin and the Europeans) the priest states that the walls of the houses are made of red clay and are "so smooth that they seem to be painted or polished". Later accounts by British visitors give a similar impression. James Fawckner, a British ship captain who visited Benin described a polished earthen bench he saw in a compound in Benin as looking "like marble":
"In the centre is a bench formed of brown clay, which, by frequent rubbing with a piece of cocoa-nut shell and wet cloths, has received a polish, and when dry looks like marble." - Narrative of Captain James Fawckner's Travels on the Coast of Benin, West Africa (1837), p. 33
Another mention of this specific kind of polishing of earthen architecture is this statement by Alan Maxwell Boisragon, one of the survivors of the "Benin massacre", who described a building in Ughoton in a similar manner:
"The chief of Gwatto's house, where we slept that night, was very much superior, the walls, which were very thick, being polished till they were nearly as smooth and shiny as glass." - Alan Boisragon, The Benin Massacre (1897), p. 81
Alan Boisragon was not writing a "positive' or "grandiose" account of the Benin kingdom, obviously, but was actually critical of it and could not be accused of trying to engage in exaggerated praise of Benin, for obvious reasons. He did not like Benin or its people - he was nearly killed by them afterall. There is nothing about mentioning shiny walls that makes a description grandiose. There was a traditional technique to polish earthen walls in certain parts of southern Nigeria to a very great degree in order give them a lustrous, aesthetically appealing appearance and the perception by some Europeans of Benin's particular application of such a technique to buildings in the kingdom was that it made the walls "shine".
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 3:33am On Apr 14, 2020|
I am not saying that pre-modern armies of empires (whether in west Africa or elsewhere in the world) could not really have a total army size (for an entire state, rather than assembled in a single battle) of 100,000 or more. I just think that there are multiple cases in history where such numbers are likely to be exaggerations. I can't make any definitive statement about army sizes though and I can understand why you might disagree.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 3:12am On Apr 14, 2020|
The problem with this argument is that the person who authored that paragraph (in 1897) in that weekly newspaper that you have cited, had absolutely no idea, in 1897, about the numerous other contemporary corroborating accounts from eyewitnesses that strongly affirm Dapper's account about the "the greatness of the King of Benin, of his capital". Apart from the fact that Derick Ruiters' earlier eyewitness account (published in 1602 in a book about west Africa by Pieter de Marees) of the streets, the palace, and other aspects of Benin line up perfectly with aspects of Dapper's later account, there is also the fact that the accounts of both a Spanish priest (cited and translated in the appendix of Alan Ryder's 1969 book about Benin) who visited Benin, and the testimony of a later Portuguese ship captain (Lourenço Pinto) who visited Benin (1693) also strongly affirm and agree with multiple aspects of Dapper's account. Actually, the article you keep referring to by Paula Ben-Amos Girshick and John Thornton, is very explicit, on p. 358, about the fact that multiple people from different countries who did actually visit Benin saw pretty much the same kinds of things that Dapper described.
You know that van Nyendael's account describing a capital city wrecked by civil war, in a period when the state has suffered a severe temporary defeat by the rebel army (led by the former commander of the royal army and his forces), is not going to be a positive account, so I am not sure how the writer's allusion to van Nyendael's account about a temporary situation is somehow proof that the many other earlier accounts are wrong. In any case, after the civil war was resolved in the 1720s, later French visitors to Benin in the late 1700s, such as J.F. Landolphe, or Pierre Labarthe did find a large capital city and a large army there and wrote about it; the article by Ben-Amos Girshick and Thornton even cites Labarthe at the end.
What I will agree with is that numbers such as "100,000" (or more) in historical accounts of pre-modern (pre-modern meaning something like before the last few centuries, the exact cut-off dates for what separates "modern" from "medieval" and "ancient" are often arbitrary) armies in both European or Arabic sources of any state, except in certain special cases, are often exaggerations. But the meaning that historians usually take from such descriptions, when other aspects of such descriptions are credible, is that the people giving such accounts are trying to describe a state with a very large army, lots of power, etc. If you object to "100,000" or similarly large numbers being taken literally, that is fine, although that objection should apply consistently to all the powerful states in the west African region that were described as having such numbers of soldiers by outside visitors. I don't think historians focus too much on the specific number when talking about total army sizes (rather than the numbers of soldiers present at specific battles, which is a different thing) of a state in those older historical accounts so much as the meaning the account was trying to convey about the power of the state.
The mention of "more recent travelers" not finding the same grandeur or magnificence of visitors of earlier centuries is not an argument against the validity of the accounts of earlier centuries, since Benin's power had declined in those times (mid to late 19th century), relative to what it had been in the past, due to internal conflicts, and apparently, changes in trade. European visitors to Oyo in the early 19th century did not find the same kind of power or prosperity there that had existed in earlier centuries but this does not mean the earlier accounts about Oyo were false in that case either.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 2:08am On Apr 14, 2020|
Dapper's work has been analyzed extensively by the historian Adam Jones. Jones actually published an annotated English translation of the section of Dapper's book that discusses Benin and in the introduction he discusses Dapper's sources.
Adam Jones - Olfert Dapper's Description of Benin (1998)
Also, Jones published a translation of a mid-seventeenth century Dutch manuscript that Dapper drew upon for some of his information on Benin in 1995
Adam Jones - West Africa in the mid-seventeenth century: an anonymous Dutch manuscript (1995)
In the footnotes to his translation of the manuscript he notes that multiple statements about Benin from that earlier manuscript were copied by Dapper and incorporated in his book in the section where he discusses Benin.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 1:58am On Apr 14, 2020|
Dapper did not write about street lights. Cyril Punch, who visited Benin City in the late nineteenth century, made note of some hand lamps that were in common use in Benin City at night: "The open compounds at night, full of people and lit up with these lamps, were very striking." He also mentioned tall metal lamps (not hand-held) placed at fixed locations and he makes a distinction between what he called "small standard lamps" and "large standard lamps". The latter he describes in this manner: "I have been struck by the large lamps in the compounds exciting so little remark. They were about 20 feet high and the receptacles for the oil and wick were about 4 feet in diameter. The stands were of wrought iron of good workmanship, and figures of toads, alligators, &c., were either applique or cast in the moulds and the bars hammered out to the required dimensions. These lamps were only alight on very big occasions." Richard F. Burton, who visited Benin City in the mid nineteenth century, stated that in the center of a square in the city he saw a "brass neptune" that was "planted upon a tall pole", which he said was used as a "reflector of a palm oil lamp." I don't see the relevance of Dapper there.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 6:59pm On Apr 13, 2020|
The three attachments below are from Robin Law's "Contemporary Source Material For the History of the Old Oyo Empire, 1627-1824" (the 2001 revised edition that was published as part of the York/UNESCO Nigerian Hinterland Project).
The first is a mention by Archibald Dalzel of tribute being paid to Nupe around 1790 after a major defeat.
The second is a later mention (by G.A. Robertson in Notes on Africa (1819) of (some of?) the Nupe and some other groups being tributary to Oyo later on (what Law calls a 'reversal' of the previous situation with respect to Nupe in a footnote), although that could actually be referring to an earlier state of affairs.
The third attachment is from Thomas Bowdich's comments about Oyo from 1819, where he states that he was told by an Oyo man that Oyo had a more powerful northern neighbour. Law (in footnote 333) interprets the name of that neighbour given in Bowdich's account as possibly referring to Nupe.
The issue of tribute payment probably just depended on what its real relative power was at a certain time.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 5:14pm On Apr 12, 2020|
The relevant passage in Andreas Ulsheimer's account (from 1603, I wrote 1602 earlier mistakenly as I was recalling the date from memory) is the following:
"Forty miles from Benin lies a large town called Lago [Lagos], which also belongs to the King of Benin. It lies on an island and is a frontier town, surrounded by a strong fence. In it live none but soldiers and four military commanders, who behave in a very stately manner. Every day they come together in the king's house and make a sacrifice every morning. After the sacrifice, they hold court in the open air, in front of the king's house. Whoever has anything to complain about makes his complaint. They all fall on their knees when they present their case, and when one man is given a verdict in his favour, he thanks the authorities and the king. Also, two envoys always stand with the judge and listen to what is done. Every day these two send news off to the king, informing him of what the judges have done that day. They do this throughout the whole year. This is practiced not only in Lago, but also in other towns of the king, as well as in Benin itself. Many people come to the aforesaid town Lago, by water and by land, with their wares, which consist of beautiful cotton cloths woven in all kinds of colours and patterns." - Andreas Ulsheimer's voyage of 1603-4, translation by Adam Jones in German Sources for West African History, 1599-1669 (1983), pp. 40-41
The "forty miles" would be either German miles or perhaps Dutch miles (Ulsheimer was a German, but he was working for the Dutch), not English miles.
At that time, the king of Benin, presumably one of the "warrior-kings" of Benin tradition - most likely either Orhogbua or Ehengbuda - was campaigning directly in the Lagos area (something which Egharevba, who had no idea about Ulsheimer's account, also claimed independently on the basis of tradition in his works on Benin history centuries later) and the "king's house" in "Lago" that Ulsheimer refers to is a reference to his residence there while on campaign. Ulsheimer gives a very brief description of the Benin palace, in Benin City, separately from this, in another part of his account (given on p. 37 of the book by Adam Jones cited above), and so the "king's house" that he mentions in that passage is not a reference to the royal palace, but to a certain royal building in "Lago".
Regarding the tradition of the prince "Ashipa" (Edo: "Esikpa", "Aisikpa" of Iseri, of the Olofin dynasty, being appointed the first Oba of Lagos, as a reward by the Oba of Benin for transporting the dead body of a renowned Benin soldier, "Aseru" (or "Asheru" back to Benin City for burial, it is entirely possible. Although Robin Law has discounted it ("Trade and Politics behind the Slave Coast: The Lagoon Traffic and the Rise of Lagos, 1500-1800" (1983), p. 328) and Dmitri Bondarenko has also discounted it (A Popular History of Benin, p 153), it can't simply be ruled out and the account may be based on something that really happened.
A recent overview of different traditions about the history of Lagos is "Benin Imperialism and the Transformation of Idejo Chieftaincy Institution in Lagos, 1603-1850", Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, Vol. 25 (2016) by Bashir Olalekan Animashaun.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 9:36pm On Apr 11, 2020|
What I got from the account was that the rebel commander (most likely the Iyase, formerly the commander of the royal army before he rebelled) and his forces struck directly at the capital and wrecked it, I didn't see anything about him successfully devastating the whole country/kingdom (and it's unclear how the state would still function as Nyendael described if that were actually the case), and that isn't in the account, but you're welcome to your own interpretation. I think you've made it clear what your interpretation is, but the clarification was mostly for anyone else that might be reading the thread.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 9:15pm On Apr 11, 2020|
Well the article doesn't mention the surrounding towns and villages all or even mostly being ruined, and in fact Nyendael's account portrays the state's structure as continuing intact even after the devastation of the capital by the war. Who knows, maybe that part of Nyendael's account is inaccurate, but it's there. Anyway, I was only clarifying a detail about the kingdom vs. the capital. The rebel army struck a major blow at the capital and gained a victory, but the state continued to function, and then recovered completely later on including the capital itself. I was just bringing that up in case any other readers of the thread were confused about what was really in the article.
I am still looking for the account and I only returned to this thread to comment on a few other things in the meanwhile. I've read hundreds of articles (maybe more) and books on Nigerian and West African history and this was from nearly a decade ago so it wouldn't be easy to track down.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 8:47pm On Apr 11, 2020|
The article by Ben-Amos and Thornton (a very good article, read it many years ago and it was one of the works I was alluding to in my first mention of a civil war), is only saying that the capital (Benin City), except the palace itself, was temporarily ruined by the civil war, going by van Nyendael's account. In fact there were still active armies on both sides (the royal army and the rebel army), even after the royal army's temporary defeat by the rebel army, and there was not some evidence of Benin as a "state" somehow being reduced to a "village", unless one deliberately misreads the text. Indeed, the authors of the article observe that van Nyendael mentioned that the Benin state's "bureaucracy" was functioning intact (even despite the impact of the war on the kingdom's capital). The king of Benin eventually defeated the rebels by the 1720s with the help of the Ezomo of Benin (a military commander from the Esan/Ishan area) as the main commander of the royal army, in return for which the Ezomo's status and privileges within the kingdom were elevated. The article by Ben-Amos and Thornton ends by stating that Benin's economy was thriving again by the mid-1700s as attested by a visitor, and that Benin City was once again a large city at least by the time that it was described as such by later European visitors to Benin City in the late 1700s.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 8:39am On Apr 11, 2020|
The first modern historian to mention some sort of connection between Benin and Nupe was Jacob Egharevba, the Obakhavbaye of Benin. He first mentions that there were some waves of migration from Nupe into Benin during Benin's prehistory or very earliest period in his work Bini Titles (1956), and later refers again to waves of migration from Nupe (among other places) into early Benin in the 4th edition (1968) of his book A Short History of Benin, whereas he does not mention these supposed waves of Nupe migrations in earlier editions of that book or in his earliest works in general. Of course it is well known to historians by now that there were multiple changes - some minor and unimportant, some significant - in his accounts of Benin history over time. I am not sure what he based this idea on, but since Egharevba's first mention of waves of migration from Nupe into Benin during its earliest period, when the Benin area was first being settled, is from nearly a decade before Ryder published his article "A Reconsideration of the Ife-Benin Relationship" (1965) - an article in which Ryder proposes the idea of there being some kind of deeper connection between Benin and the Nupe-Igala area than previously supposed - it is clear that Egharevba's notion about some sort of connection with Nupe does not derive from Ryder's theory or research.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 12:24pm On Apr 10, 2020|
Dapper derived his information on Benin mostly from a Dutchman named Samuel Blomaart (or Blomert) and also from another Dutchman, Michiel Evertsen, both of whom actually went to Benin. But even if one decides to ignore Dapper, Andreas Joshua Ulsheimer's account of Benin from decades before the publication of Dapper's book (Andreas Ulsheimer, or Ultzheimer, visited Benin directly; he described some aspects of Benin at the end of the 16th century, and his account was published a few years later in 1602) describes the king of Benin as a "powerful king" who "conducts war all the time". Once again, this perspective is basically in accordance with everything else from everyone else. I don't see why this is really in doubt or controversial. Dapper's book isn't the first to portray Benin as powerful, there's nothing unique about Dapper's portrayal of Benin as powerful, and his account basically lines up with both earlier and later independent sources, so that aspect of his account of Benin isn't really seen as controversial or exceptional by academics.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 9:02am On Apr 10, 2020|
I added an edit after looking back at my posts and it seems I didn't even say that the account claimed he had brought Ajaka along with him, you just interpreted it that way (which is understandable). And like I said, I will look for the account I read.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 8:52am On Apr 10, 2020|
It's not a lie - I remember it distinctly being different from the standard or most popular account from Johnson and involving this detail about Ajaka - and I did mean "sent' initially not "left"; I didn't mean to indicate that he was with Ajaka at Oyo and left him there so that was just poor phrasing on my part I should have just said he left the Oyo monarchy to his son Ajaka rather than saying "left Ajaka to rule in Oyo" as if he had taken Ajaka with him to Oyo and then left him there (which isn't what I meant).
Edit: Actually after looking back at my earlier posts, I was in fact just saying that the other account stated that he established his son Ajaka as the first Alafin, and I don't think my phrasing even implies that he had taken Ajaka with him, though I see how someone could be read it that way.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 8:33am On Apr 10, 2020|
Which audio account is that Mr??
It was from an article in a journal, and I don't think it was an "Oyo account" but more likely an Ife account. I'll look for it and try to find it again. This was nearly a decade ago that I read this and I don't keep notes on everything I read, otherwise I would have just quoted it directly.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 8:12am On Apr 10, 2020|
The account stated that he sent his son to rule there as its first king, in contrast to the standard Oyo account given by Johnson and some others which makes Oranmiyan its first king, but this was many years ago, so I admit I might not be recalling the account exactly right. I also came across the accounts which claim some sort of Nupe or Borgu origin around the same time (Robert Smith summarizes the basic outline of those ideas on p. 30 of his book Kingdoms of the Yoruba) when I was reading all this stuff back then.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 7:46am On Apr 10, 2020|
The account was pretty clear in its meaning, and I don't think I misread it, but there are doubtless going to be different versions from different sources. As for Crowther or Johnson, honestly, I don't think their statements were in fact validated historically (it's not impossible I just don't see the explicit evidence for it.)
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 7:34am On Apr 10, 2020|
Historians don't need to cite Dapper to make the case that Benin was considered one of the most powerful states in the region, since multiple other accounts give a similar idea of the king of Benin's power. This kind of power existed before Europeans arrived and Benin's rise wasn't based on guns from Europeans - Benin didn't even have many guns until much later.
The quote is actually "the powerful and noble king of Benin", my initial post didn't have the order of the adjectives right.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 7:27am On Apr 10, 2020|
I haven't denied that the Ijebu had a big role in commerce in Yorubaland or denied that they probably played a big role in supplying other parts of Yorubaland with some guns and ammunition.
Since I can't find the book with the statement about mercenaries (I don't remember the title or author since it was so many years ago), I'll at least post these statements:
"Next the Ogbagis obtained help from Rabbah and Ilorin. Sinabu King Masaba's son and Hinakonu the Fulani Balogun of Ilorin came against him ; thrice was Ayorinde routed, and many of his fighting men speared, but he rallied again and maintained his ground. Ogbagi was at length taken. Ayorinde became lord of the Akokos and Ido Ani. He opened a caravan way to Owo through which he obtained ammunition from Benin." - Samuel Johnson, The History of the Yorubas
"The confederates now aimed at wresting from the Ibadans all their subject towns including Oyo towns under their protection from Ikirun to Iwo, and limit the Ibadan territories to the river Oba, that is the natural limits of their farms in that direction. It soon became evident that the Ifes had joined them, because their only safe route to Benin for ammunition via Oke Igbo became unsafe from kidnappers ; but the people of Modakeke being Oyos and not Ifes refused to join the coalition knowing that the destruction of Ibadan would be their own ruin, as the Ifes were ever hostile to them, but remained quiet for fear of the Ibadans." - Samuel Johnson, The History of the Yorubas
"The allies had also the great advantage over the Ibadans, in that they had free access to Benin for ammunition whilst nearly all the roads were closed to the Ibadans. Long flintlock guns with large muzzles were imported from Benin ; these, when fully loaded and fired, gave a report which reverberating from hill to hill all around sounded like Ki-ri-ji-i, from which this war was named the Kiriji Campaign." - Samuel Johnson, The History of the Yorubas
I meant 1514 above, about the letter from the king of Portugal, not 1492, I was going off memory and mixed up the dates.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 7:07am On Apr 10, 2020|
1. This is wrong and pretty much the exact opposite of the truth. Actually Benin was portrayed as a powerful state with a huge capital even in the early accounts. Benin really became powerful under Oba Ewuare, decades before any contact with Europeans.
A letter from the king of Portugal to the king of Benin in 1492 is addressed to the "powerful and noble king of Benin".
2. The Portuguese refused to sell firearms or cannon to Benin (in the late 15th century and 16th century) in any significant quantity because Benin was pagan and not Christian; it wasn't until the mid to late 17th century that firearms would have been very relevant, and Benin had a powerful state long before that. Actually even a mid-17th century European account noted that the Bini were not fond of firearms at all, and their soldiers didn't make that much use of them. By the 18th century however, Benin was even manufacturing some of its own guns.
3. Horses don't survive as long in the area Benin is in, and are just not as useful in that sort of environment, so the argument that Benin was a mainly infantry army rather than using cavalry like some states further north so this means it was weak is silly. In fact, Olfert Dapper records a victory by Benin over a kingdom "Isago" (probably a Nupe state, according to some historians) that had thousands of cavalry.
4. Benin exported guns to Yorubaland at one point, and exported mercenaries to parts of Yorubaland. This is a book by a Yoruba historian about the 19th century Yoruba wars. If I can recall it again, I'll post the source.
|Culture / Re: Benin Kingdom In Edo State Remained Part Of The Expansive Yoruba - Ooni Of Ife by SilverSniper: 6:54am On Apr 10, 2020|
I'm just going to move on, because this isn't going anywhere.
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