Dahomey, Ancient Kingdom of


  • Herskovits, M. J. (n.d.). Population Statistics in the Kingdom of Dahomey - ProQuest. Retrieved October 22, 2023, from https://www.proquest.com/openview/b765af0a9fb7c878408b7b02f349335f/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=1818403
  • Herskovits, M. J. (1967). Dahomey: An ancient West African Kingdom (Vols. 1–2). https://amzn.to/3MyK46b
  • Law, R. (1991). the Slave Coast of West Africa 1550 - 1750. The Impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade on an African Society. https://amzn.to/40lxmNP
  • Law, R. (1986). Dahomey and the Slave Trade: Reflections on the Historiography of the Rise of Dahomey. The Journal of African History, 27(2), 237–267. https://www.jstor.org/stable/181135

Part I – The People & Their Setting

  • Kind of like the Freys violating the sacred promise of hospitality by murdering invited guests Robb, his pregnant wife, and mother, legend has it that the kingdom of Dahomey was born out a similar violation of the sacred laws of hospitality.
  • Tacoodonou, chief of the Foy nation murdered a sovereign prince of neighboring Calmina. The prince had made a friendly visit to honor one of the chief’s festivals.
  • Chief Tacoodonou went further by sacking Calmina, the capital of the deceased prince he murdered. Feeling all swole now, the Chief then waged war on Da, king of Abomey.
  • Chief Tacoodonou put Da to death by cutting his belly; then placed his body under the foundation of a palace that he built in Abomey, as a memorial of his victory over king Da.
  • As a result, he called the newly conquered territory Dahomy, a derivative of Da the unfortunate victim and Homy his belly. In other words, Dahomey means a house built in Da’s belly.
  • When one of the brothers gained control of Alllada, the other two fled–one went southeast and founded Porto-Novo, which is on the east coast of Whydah. The other brother, Do-Aklin, went north to found the kingdom Abomey, which later became the heart of the future Dahomey kingdom.
  • All these smaller kingdoms founded by the three brothers ultimately had to pay tribute to the more powerful Yoruba kingdom of Oyo to the east.
  • What makes the Dahomey kingdom so fascinating to me is the fact that it is one of the few West African civilizations that has been least affected by European control. As a result, its cultural patterns and practices can be appreciated in their near pristine state.
Agaja1708-32AbomeyConquered Allada in 1724

Part II – Economic Life



Origin of Konbit -The Cooperative Elements in Dahomean Life


Socio-Economic Classes in Dahomean Society

The Fiscal Policy of the Dahomean Kingdom

Part III – Social Organization

Kinship Groups in Dahomean Society

The Sib Organization of Dahomey

The Sib Organization of Dahomey (Continued)

The Ancestral Cult: Deification of the Ancestors

The Ancestral Cult: Worship of the Ancestors

Non-relationship Groupings

Part IV – The Life-Cycle of the Individual

Birth & Puberty

Cicatrization & Circumcision


Marriage (Continued)

Adjustment & Maladjustment in Marriage

Death & the Partial Burial

The Definitive Burial

The Mourning Period