King of Dahomey

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The King of Dahomey (Ahosu in the Fon language) was the ruler of the Kingdom of Dahomey, in the southern part of present-day Benin, which lasted from 1600 until 1900 when the French abolished the political authority of the Kingdom. The rulers served a prominent position in Fon ancestor worship leading the Annual Customs and this important position caused the French to bring back the exiled king of Dahomey for ceremonial purposes in 1910. Since 2000, there have been rival claimants as king and there has so far been no political solution.[1] The Palace and seat of government were in the town of Abomey. Early historiography of the King of Dahomey presented them as absolute rulers who formally owned all property and people of the kingdom. However, recent histories have emphasized that there was significant political contestation limiting the power of the king[2] and that there was a female ruler of Dahomey, Hangbe, who was largely written out of early histories.[3]

First King of Dahomey

Multiple lists of the Kings of Dahomey have been put together and many of them start at different points for the first King of Dahomey. In various sources, Do-Aklin, Dakodonu, or Houegbadja are all considered the first king of Dahomey. Oral tradition contends that Do-Aklin moved from Allada to the Abomey plateau, Dakodonu created the first settlement and founded the kingdom (but is often considered a "mere chief"), and Houegbadja who settled the kingdom, built the palace and created much of the structure is often considered the first king of Dahomey.[4] Oral tradition contends that the kings were all of the Aladaxonou dynasty, a name claiming descent from the city of Allada which Dahomey conquered in the 1700s. Historians largely believe now that this connection was created to legitimate rule over the city of Allada and that connections to the royal family in Allada were likely of a limited nature.[4] In oral tradition of most accounts, Houegbadja is considered the first king and recognition of him happened first in the Annual Customs of Dahomey.[4]

List of Kings of Dahomey

Rulers of Abomey Before Kingdom of Dahomey

Tenure Ruler Notes
c.1600 Do-Aklin or Gangnihessou Leader of Fon settlement on Abomey Plateau.
c.1625 to 1645 Dakodonou, Ahosu Founder of Kingdom of Abomey and built the palace.

Rulers of Kingdom of Dahomey

Tenure Ruler Notes
1645 to 1685 Houegbadja, Ahosu In most accounts the first King of Dahomey.
1685 to 1716 Akaba, Ahosu
1716 to 1718 Hangbe, Regent Hangbe was ruler of Dahomey for a short period of time between the death of Akaba and the rule of Agaja. Bay argues that there is clear evidence that suggests Hangbe did rule for a period, but it is unclear whether it was for three months or three years. She is not included in any lists of Dahomey Rulers.
1718 to 1740 Agaja, Ahosu
April 1740 to 1774 Tegbessou, Ahosu
1774 to 1789 Kpengla, Ahosu
1789 to 1797 Agonglo, Ahosu
1797 to 1818 Adandozan, Regent Excluded in some lists
1818 to 1858 Ghezo, Ahosu
1858 to 1889 Glele, Ahosu
1889 to 1894 Béhanzin, Ahosu Final independent King of Dahomey
15 January 1894 to 1900 Agoli-agbo, Ahosu Appointed to the position when the French conquered Abomey.

King of Dahomey ceremonial title after 1900

Tenure Ruler Notes
1900 to 1940 Agoli-agbo, Ahosu In exile and served with French restrictions
1940 to 1948 Aidododo, Ahosu
1948 to 1983 Togni-Ahoussou, Ahosu
1986 to 1989 Joseph Langanfin, Ahosu
30 September 1989 to present Agoli Agbo Dedjalagni, Ahosu Since 2000, Houédogni Béhanzin has made a rival claim to the position
22 January 2000 to 30 December 2012 Houédogni Béhanzin, Ahosu Rival to Agoli Agbo Dedjalagni for position since 2000. He died in 2013


See also


  1. ^ Araujo, Ana Lucia (2010). Public Memory of Slavery: Victims and Perpetrators in the South Atlantic. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press. ISBN 978-1-60497-714-1.
  2. ^ Yoder, John C. (1974). "Fly and Elephant Parties: Political Polarization in Dahomey, 1840-1870". The Journal of African History. 15 (3): 417–432. doi:10.1017/s0021853700013566.
  3. ^ Alpern, Stanley B. (1998). "On the Origins of the Amazons of Dahomey". History in Africa. 25: 9–25. doi:10.2307/3172178.
  4. ^ a b c d Bay, Edna (1998). Wives of the Leopard: Gender, Politics, and Culture in the Kingdom of Dahomey. University of Virginia Press. ISBN 978-0-8139-1792-4.
  5. ^ "Rulers of Benin". Retrieved 2012-10-07.
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