Warrior Kings (mid-1400s to late 1500s)
Kings waged war to seize resources Eager to expand their empire, seven obas, one after another, went to war with their neighbors to gain land and riches. Ewuare the Great, Ozuolua the Conqueror and Esigie of the Shining Bronze were the most famous of these warrior kings. When the Portuguese reached Benin in the late 1400s, the kingdom was at the height of its power. Portugal and Benin became trading partners, with ivory as one of Benin's main exports. The Oba received one ivory tusk from each elephant killed in his kingdom and traded some of this ivory to Portugal-either raw or carved into objects like the ridded cup you see here.
In the 1600s an artist created this engraving for the Dutch writer Olfert Dapper. The engraving was based upon descriptions from Europeans who had traveled to Benin. In his book, Dapper wrote that the Oba's palace was "as large as the City of Haarlem," including "beautiful and large square galleries about as large as the bourse [stock exchange] of Amsterdam."
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