May 21



Trained to be cold, ruthless killers, the Dahomey Amazons that once dominated West Africa became a French colonial nightmare in the 19th century.

Photo of Dahomey Amazons warriors in the 1890s

When the French colonists attempted to take over the Kingdom of Dahomey (now the Republic of Benin) in West Africa in the late 19th century, they encountered fierce resistance from the Dahomey Amazons, an army of thousands of female warriors. brave.

The female warriors of the Dahomey Amazons married their king, dedicated their lives to defending the kingdom, and vowed never to bear children.

In the Dahomey Amazons female warriors, there are people who wield rifles, but there are also those who carry swords so sharp that they can cut enemies in half.

According to a French soldier, the Dahomey Amazons are warriors who “fight with a spirit of courage, far surpassing other armies. They have good combat training and are very disciplined.”

Elite female warriors

The Dahomey Amazons warriors show off their skills. Photo taken circa 1890.

From the 17th century until 1904, King Dahomey ruled a large area of ​​West Africa. The mighty kingdom of Dahomey was built on wars, slavery, and a heavy tax system. The state was organized around a centralized monarchy, a huge army, and international trade relations with the Europeans.

However, the most impressive aspect that symbolizes the strength of the pre-colonial kingdom of Dahomey is its strong army of female warriors.

This army of 3,000 female warriors has defended the kingdom of Dahomey for centuries. They are often referred to as Mino, Ahosi or “king’s wives”.

According to scholars, the birth of Dahomey female soldiers stems from the fact that King Dahomey organized the recruitment of female bodyguards from concubines or women he considered unattractive in married life.

These female bodyguards have their own strengths compared to the male soldiers. They were married to the king so their loyalty was guaranteed. They can also patrol the royal residence at night when men are prohibited by law from entering.

In the mid-19th century, female warriors made up 40% of the army of Dahomey. The process of recruiting and training female warriors is also very strict and harsh.

Candidates must pass a series of physical and mental tests. For example, they were tasked with climbing a wall of spikes to test their pain tolerance. Candidates were also taken into the jungle, without food, to see if they could survive.

But arguably the most brutal test lay in their “insensitivity training”.

Most recruits had never killed anyone before joining the army. Therefore, King Dahomey would force them to execute prisoners of war to show their bravery.

Dahomey warriors were destroyed by the French colonialists

Although brave, skilled and brave, in the end, the Dahomey female warriors were still defeated by the French army, which was better equipped.

In 1890, during the First Franco-Dahomey War, the French prevailed thanks to more advanced rifles.

The French attacked the Amazons Dahomey army at the Battle of Dogba in 1892.

In a fierce battle with the French, more than 400 female warriors Dahomey Amazons risked their lives to protect their kingdom, but only 17 survived.

However, even after the Dahomey Amazons fell to the French, the survivors continued to fight. They hid in the ranks of indigenous women captured by the French, looking for opportunities to attack the French. They slashed the necks of French officers at night.

The French were so terrified of the Dahomey Amazons that they issued an order that Dahomey women never serve in the army or carry weapons.


Dahomey Amazons

You may also like

What if we spread solar cells to fill the Sahara?

Get in touch

0 of 350