A thread on the legendary all female Dahomey Amazons warriors of the Empire of Dahomey (Present day Republic Of Benin, not to be confused with the Great Benin Kingdom). The Amazon were known as Mino in the Fon language of Benin, which means "Our Mothers"
While most People today know of the Dahomey Amazons from their legendary battles with French troops & their Senegalese, Hausa & Yoruba allies who destroyed the Dahomey Empire in 1894, this was actually the final chapter in the 200 years blood soaked saga of the Mino.
The Mino were founded in the late 1600s by King Houegbadja of Dahomey, initially as a team of elephant hunters. At the time, elephant tusks was one of the most valuable commodities in all of Africa. Elephant hunting was precarious & required great skill & team coordination.
The Mino became so prolific in elephant hunting & weaponry that, in 1708, Queen Hangbe, the daughter of King Houegbadja, repurposed the Mino as her personal bodyguard. A role in which they served faithfully until the death of Queen Hangbe in 1711.
Queen Hangbe was succeeded by her younger brother Agaja. King Agaja was the first to deploy the Mino in battle against his enemies in 1727. At the time, the Kingdom of Ouidah, the birthplace of Voodoo, was the most powerful state in the region.
Ouidah control most trade routes & held a monopoly on the slave trade with Europeans. Many of the slaves traded to Europeans by Ouidah came from Dahomey, so King Agaja wanted revenge & a piece of the slave trade market, which had become the most lucrative business in West Africa
During the conquest Savi, the Capital of Ouidah, King Agaja ordered the Mino to dress up as the male soldiers & line up behind the male ranks in the battle formation. The Ouidah army was surprised to see such a large number of troops marching towards them.
Once the battle ensued, the Dahomey male troops at the frontline line pretended to be overwhelmed & faked a retreat. The Ouidah army then gave chase to finish off the Dahomey army. They were soon confronted by the wall of Mino warriors who were laying in wait.
The Mino were renowned for decapitating their opponents in the midst of combat, with just one swing of the sword. A skill they had developed & refined from hunting & chopping up though elephant meat. And so fell the entire Ouidah Army. Dahomey then annexed the Kingdom of Ouidah.
In 1774, King Agaja was succeeded by his youngest son Tegbesu "Bossa" Ahade. During the reign of Tegbesu, Dahomey became a wholly militarized society, which existed for the sole purpose of waging war. Tegbesu also repurposed the Mino as a Slave raiding force.
King Tegbesu greatly increased the numbers of Mino warriors & implemented new rules. The Mino were not to get married & were to remain virgins while they served in the Army. They also adopted a new red (for blood) uniform to distinguish them from the men.
They wore antelope horns on their heads as a symbol of rank & service. This gave them an even more terrifying appearance. During this period, their legendary reputation for bloodlust grew & spread far & wide, even reaching Europe & the Americas.
In one instance, after a Portuguese army was soundly defeated & expelled from Motapa (Zimbabwe) in Southern Africa, thousands of miles from Dahomey, Portuguese troops returned to Europe & lied to their king & public they were ambushed by a platoon of 6ft tall female Mino warriors
(Fun Fact: King Tegbesu is still venerated in Hatian Voodoo to this very day, as the Loa (spirit) Bossu Ashade.)
In 1764, the Mino added to their already legendary status when they confronted & soundly defeated an Asante (Ashanti) army which had attempted to capture Ouidah. The Ashanti at this time, were the most militaristic & most powerful nation in West Africa.
During this period, the Vodun religion had taken a stronghold across Dahomey. The Mino became Vodun practitioners & many also served as Vodun priestesses. They were reputed to possess magical powers, such as summoning lightning, becoming invisible & transforming into Panthers etc
The Mino also took an increased role in government, having the final say on matters of war. Despite all their success, Dahomey suffered great losses to the Neighboring Oyo empire of the Yoruba. After 7 attempts, you successfully invaded Dahomey & forced them to pay tribute.
This tribute was paid primarily in the form of slaves. As a result, many Fon People of Dahomey , including many of the Mino were carried away to the Americas, especially to the French colonies of Saint Domingue (Haiti) Martinique, & the Louisiana territories.
Even in the Americas, the Mino continued to impact the society. The Fon People brought with them the Voodoo religion to the Americas. Many of the enslaved Mino became powerful Voodoo priestesses in the Americas. Several Mino are also venerated as Loa in Haitian Voodoo.
The adoptive mother of Haitian revolutionary Jean Jacques Dessalines was Toya Montu, an enslaved Mino from Dahomey. She taught the young Dessalines about warfare & how to fight.
Back in Africa, the Oyo empire began to decline due to Fulani Jihads & slave raids. Dahomey saw an opportunity to reassert itself as a dominant power. King Ghezo of Dahomey declared all out war on Oyo. He tasked the Mino with wreaking havoc on the Yoruba.
In 1835, Oyo attempted one final invasion of Dahomey, but the Oyo army was soundly defeated. Oyo never regained it's prominence, & Dahomey became the top military power in the region. The Dahomey - Oyo wars still rank as some of the most devastating in Africa's history.
The Mino continued rain terror on the Yoruba. They captured several Yoruba cities, including the sacred city of Ketou, which was founded by princes from Ilé Ifé, the cradle of Yoruba civilization.
In one account of the battle, in a display their superior combat skills, several Mino Women dropped their swords, disarmed their opponents with their bare hands & used their opponents swords to gut & decapitate them.
Dahomey at this point was at her peak until 1892, when it was invaded by a combined Army of French, Senegalese, Hausa & Yoruba troops during the European conquest of Africa. Even after most of the Dahomey male soldiers surrendered, the Mino chose to fight to the death..
In 1894, King Behanzin, the last king of Dahomey surrendered to the French & went into exile to Martinique. The remaining Mino were disbanded & Dahomey was annexed by France an incorporated into the French colony of Benin. Thus concluded thr saga of the Dahomey Amazons
King Behanzin, the last King of Dahomey with his personal Mino Bodyguards.
Also check out this book for more info on the subject. I don't like the title, especially the "Black Sparta" part, but the research & info is thorough

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