According to legend, the dynasties of the Kingdoms in the south of the Republic of Benin originated in Tado, a town in present-day Togo, and were born of a mythical couple - Princess Aligbonon of Tado and a panther. In the 17th century, two of their descendants, Kings Ganyé Hessou and Dako Donou, laid the foundations of a new Kingdom - Danhomé. At this time the Kingdom was limited to the Abomey plateau. In the 18th century, King Agadja (1708-1740) extended the frontiers of Danhomé to the Atlantic coast by conquering the Kingdoms of Allada and Savi. From this time onwards Danhomé directly participated in the Transatlantic Slave Trade through the port of Whydah or Ouidah, the capital of Savi and it became very prosperous. The Kingdom reached its peak in the 19th century under King Guézo (1818-1858). Forced by anti-slavery movements, King Guézo developed the Kingdom’s agriculture and Danhomé's economy increasingly turned towards exporting agricultural products, such as corn, and palm products. In spite of King Gbehanzin's (1889-1894) strong resistance to European penetration at the end of the 19th century, the Kingdom finally lost its independence and became part of the French colony of Dahomey.

Ouidah (also spelt Quidah or Whydah)

Ouidah was once the centre of the slave trading in Benin. It is characterised by the European influences visible through the architecture Portuguese, French, Danish and English trading posts or strongholds. La Porte de Non-Retour (above) built in 1992 stands at the end of la Rue des Esclaves.


This wooden divination tray entered a European collection in about 1650. This makes it the oldest African wood sculpture to have been ‘preserved’ in the West. It was traded away from Africa during the middle of the seventeenth century and ended up in Augsburg, where it fell into the hands of a German merchant from Ulm. Christoph Weickmann. Documentation that accompanied the work indicates that it was originally owned and used by the King of Ardra (Allada). It is now held in the Ulmer Museum in Germany.

© Ulmer Museum, Ulm, Exoticophylacium Weickmannianum, Germany. Ifa Divination Tray (Opon Ifa)Fon, Allada, Republic of BeninWood,16thˆ17th century

Allada was also the birthplace of Gaou Ginou, a prince and father of Toussaint L'Ouverture who was the founder of the Caribbean state of Haiti.


Dahomey (its capital is Abomey) was an important kingdom in Benin's history. Many enslaved Africans left from here during the 16-18th centuries. It was a strong military empire, and feared by its neighbours. Legend says that the ‘founder’ of the three main kingdoms in southern Benin (Allada, Dahomey, and Porto-Novo) were from the same family, sometime in the 1500s, from a village near the Mono River, in what is now Togo. The King of Abomey is a sacred being. Thirteen Kings succeeded each other in Abomey, each one having his assumed name or symbol of power taken from an allegorical sentence recalling his career, his vision or his plans. This is a photo of King Agoli-Agbo, the last King of Dahomey from 1894-1901. He eventually signed a protectorate treaty, which considerably limited his powers and reduced him to a traditional Chief. He was soon deported and Danhomé was integrated into the colony of Dahomey.

© Abomey Historical Museum, Benin.