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15 Interesting Facts About The Ancient Kingdom of Benin

15 Interesting Facts About The Ancient Kingdom of Benin

The ancient kingdom of Benin is one of the oldest surviving civilizations in the world, considered to be over 2000 years old. It saw the formation of various dynasties and is regarded as the cradle of civilization in Nigeria. Today, the ancient kingdom of Benin is known as Benin City and is located in Edo State.

Here are 15 interesting facts the great Benin Kingdom:

1. When the earliest Portuguese missionaries visited Benin, they established the oldest church in the 16th century. Today, it is known as the Holy Aruosa (Benin National Church).

.2. The oldest embassy in Nigeria was established in Benin during the reign of Oba Esigie in the 16th century.

3. The first ever recorded letter in Nigeria was written by Duarte Pires under the instruction of Oba Esigie. The letter was addressed to King John II on the 20th of October, 1516 AD.

4. Benin was once home to the first storey building in Nigeria. The Dutch erected this building in 1718 and called it “The Factory.” In 1897, however, the British destroyed the said building during its war against the Benins.

5. Oba Orhogbua founded Lagos and originally named it Eko before the Portuguese gave it its current name.

6. Oduduwa, the alleged progenitor of the Yoruba race, was an exiled prince from Benin known as Ekaladerhan.

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7. Oba Orhogbua is the first literate king ever recorded in West-African history.

8. Oba Esigie is the first king in Africa to be baptised in the year 1504 AD in Benin.

9. The Dutch physician Olfert Dapper, gave a stirring description of the Oba of Benin In his book Description of Africa, he wrote:

“The King of Benin can in a single day make 20,000 men ready for war, and, if need be, 180,000, and because of this he has great influence among all the surrounding peoples’ … His authority stretches over many cities, towns and villages. There is no King thereabouts who, in the possession of so many beautiful cities and towns, in his capital.”

10. Interestingly, the Guinness World Records (1974 edition) describes the walls of the Benin Kingdom as the world’s second largest man-made structure after China’s Great Wall.

11. The British author Fred Pearce suggests that the walls of Benin were at one point  “four times longer than the great wall of China, and consumed a hundred times more material than the Great Pyramid of Cheops.”

12. The walls of Benin were about 16,000 km in length and covered a distance of covered 6,500 sq km. They were all dug by the Edo people.

13. Great Benin, where the king resides, is larger than Lisbon; all the streets run straight and as far as the eyes can see – Lourenco Pinto.

14. When the Portuguese visited Benin, they were so astonished at what they saw that they called it the “Great City of Benin.”

15. The ancient city of Benin is regarded as the cradle of Black civilization.


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