Amazons of Dahomey – the most feared women in history : FindingTheWorld.
The story of the Amazons, women who fought with daring fearless to the last, is one of the most famous of Greek mythology. In the Iliad they wore Antianeirai nickname (“those who fight like men”), and some stories claimed that they would have cut a breast easier to use bows and spears.
The myth of the Amazons lasted over millennia, although not confirmed their history. But few know the genuine story of the Amazons: those of Dahomey. Army West African women warriors terrorized the region of black continent for over 150 years, the centuries XVIII and XIX.
Dahomey, the kingdom of the Amazons
Kingdom of Dahomey was founded in the eighteenth century in the area where the state is today Benin, Togo bordered to the west and east of Nigeria.
Women warriors known today as “Amazons of Dahomey” descended from a group that consisted of basic job hunting elephants: gbeto. It was founded during the reign Wegbaja the first century of existence of the kingdom of Dahomey.
In the eighteenth century, these women began to act as guards of the royal palace, while having the task of implementing the edicts issued by the king, but did not have a special training. In Dahomey, no man (except eunuchs) was allowed to enter the royal palace after sunset, their presence in the royal building is reduced even during the day. Eunuchs and women played the role of guardians of the palace.
Under Agadja king, who reigned between 1708 and 1740, many women have been incorporated into the royal army, as it appear larger, so intimidating opponents. Although they were not fitted with weapons, wearing only flags, impressed by their courage, winning the confidence of the king. He decided to include them in an elite corps of the army, and his confidence will be rewarded with victory in the fight to conquer the kingdom of Ouidah. Amazons of Dahomey have played a key role in this victory, which the king obtained a city on the Atlantic coast. Direct access to ocean allowed the king to win money from the slave trade.
Agadja his successors have carried on the habit of using Amazons in battle, their number increasing with time. Around 1830, the palace guards began to be transformed into an armed force. The decision was taken by King Guézo to strengthen its forces, because the kingdom come in many armed conflicts with opponents who had broader. During the reign of Guézo, Amazons number increased from 600 to 6,000.
Djivo Adrien Joseph, author of “Guézo: the Renovation du Dahomey” says thinking of the royal army of Amazons: “Those who return from war without being conquered must die. If we retreat from the battle, our life is king available. Any appeal must be conquered city, if not, we must be buried in its ruins. Guézo is king of kings, and how long we live not to fear. Guézo again gave us birth. we are wives, daughters , his soldiers. war is our profession, war clothes us and nourishes us. ”
Living with one purpose: to kill the king
Women soldiers of Dahomey was nicknamed “Amazons” by the first Europeans entered the region, and these elite troops of the kingdom deserves its nickname. The background language, spoken by the people of Dahomey, the Amazons were known as Mino, meaning “our mothers”.
Amazons of Dahomey were driven lower by a single goal: to become an elite fighter. Since the early years, they were trained to handle weapons, to be strong, fast and able to withstand pain. The methods used for hardening body is included jumping over walls of acacia branches covered with thorns or long expeditions through the jungle without any supplies.
European explorers reportedly, military women organize simulations of battles in royal ceremonies and talent struggle women exceeded that of men in army dahomiană. Also, little girls grown to become the soldiers had to undergo intense training of desensitization still small.
Girls not yet participated in the fighting were tested in these ceremonies. A French naval officer, Jean Bayol, has witnessed such an event in December 1889. Bayol described how a girl “not killed anyone yet” was gone to a prisoner recently captured. Frenchman tells how happy he stepped to the severed head to the prisoner and three swords, which he held with both hands. The final blow, he cut the last piece of tissue that held the head attached to the body, and then wiped the blood from his sword and drank.
All women in the army of the king were his wives, but was rather a formal name, is actually a form of a vow of chastity. No woman in the band was allowed Amazon to have sexual relations with another man, being totally committed to the king, whom he worshiped.
In battle, the Amazons of Dahomey had no fear and pity, threw themselves with fury on the enemy. Men from neighboring kingdoms armies feared they considered enemies.
Amazons were part of the state Dahomey army for more than 150 years, representing one quarter of the armed forces. During the peak, around 1850, Amazon army numbered 6,000 women soldiers.
The main weapons used by the Amazons were muschetele and machetes, plus a razor used for beheading victims (at that time, the region was the custom of warriors to return home with heads and genitals of the opponent).
Although most were from Dahomey Amazons at the beginning, women captured during the fighting in neighboring kingdoms became the army. All Amazons proved loyalty to the king to death. Reports say that the period saw the Amazons are “men”, mocking the opponents the appellation of “women”.
At a royal parade held in 1850, involving over 2,000 women from the troops of King, one of them gave a speech that began with the following sentence: “As the blacksmith takes an iron bar and, with fire, transforms, so we have changed the way of being. There are women, are men “.
Reports of European settlers
The first Europeans to witness a battle worn by women in state Dahomey army were missionaries living in Abeokuta. This city, located today in Nigeria, was attacked in 1851 and 1864 by the forces of the kingdom of Dahomey. Despite the Dahomey army lost both battles, the stories left behind by missionaries from Abeokuta shows that women proudly and fiercely fought, the only detachment of invaders who managed to penetrate the defenses of the city walls.
Richard F. Burton, a British explorer who visited the kingdom of Dahomey in 1863, gave it the nickname “black Sparta”. Similarities seen by British explorer consist of individual subordination to the state (all men were slaves of the king of Dahomey, and all women were his wives) and military importance.
The most detailed accounts come from the past Europeans have witnessed fighting Amazons of Dahomey army: the French army.
The first conflict with French interests in the area occurred in 1889. In that year, Dahomey forces attacked a village under French domination. After the head of the tribe and the peaceful villagers, showing them invading French flag and saying he will be protected by Tri, commander of forces in Dahomey replied: “I like this flag? Very well, it will be helpful” . Immediately, he beckoned to one of the fighting, and it decapitated the head of the tribe with one blow of the sword, bringing the king of Dahomey his head wrapped in the French tricolor.
A year later, in 1890 the king declared war Béhanzin French troops. As usual, Amazons of Dahomey were in the forefront of his army. Initially, the French troops were reluctant to draw women, but after the soldiers at the outset have experienced the power of King Béhanzin elite troops, the French revised their attitude.
Reports mention the ferocity with which the French soldiers of Dahomey women fought against a better equipped army.
Having lost several battles in the luptătoarelor of Dahomey, the French Foreign Legion turned to reinforcements from the cavalry Senegalese troops and artillery. In the second war against the kingdom of Dahomey, in 1892, the French were defeated, thanks to technological superiority (him playing a key role machine guns).
A member of the Foreign Legion Dahomey said that women were “war fighting bravely, always to the other bands”. “I am extraordinarily courageous, highly disciplined and well trained for war,” wrote French admiration.
Despite the qualities shown by, luptătoarele of Dahomey could not cope with the French arms held high. Most of the Amazons was killed in the 23 battles fought the War. Even so, women were the last forces of the kingdom that surrendered.
Moreover, immediately after the war feared fighter continued to kill French soldiers in a unique way: is infiltrating popular among prostitutes among colonizing troops, officers expected the French to sleep, then they cut their own throat with the bayonet.
In 1894, Dahomey became part of Western Afrique française, Federation of the 8 French colonies in Africa. After victory, the French chose another king, and he disbanded the army Amazons.
Many of the surviving Amazons fighting against the French who lived until 1960, when Dahomey and gained independence. Last representative of the most feared armed women in history was discovered by a historic village Kinta Benin in 1978. It died a year later, aged over 100 years. In the same month last horsewoman who died, in November, would become the Republic of Dahomey Benin, a name it still bears this African country.