Statue of the panther ancestor
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, Ganyé Hessou and Dako, laid the foundations of a new kingdom: Danhomè. Houégbadja (1645-1685) set up the legal bases and the major principles of functioning - succession rules, the sovereign's political role, etc. At this period the kingdom was limited to the Abomey plateau.
In the 18th century, King Agadja (1708-1740) extended the frontiers of Danhomè to the Atlantic coast by conquering the kingdoms of Allada and of Savi. From this time onwards Danhomè fully and directly participated in the slave trade through the port of Whydah, the capital of Savi. It became very prosperous.
The kingdom attained its peak in the 19th century under King Guézo (1818-1858). Forced by anti-slavery movements, Guézo developed agriculture and converted Danhomè's economy towards increased exports of agricultural products (corn, palm derivatives) and less openly to slaves.
In spite of King Gbêhanzin's (1889-1894) strong resistance to European penetration at the end of the 19th century, the kingdom lost its independence and became part of the French colony of Dahomey.
[ The kings of Abomey ]