History Behanzin Hossu Bowelle (king Shark)

History Behanzin Hossu Bowelle (king Shark)

Behanzin Bowelle "The King Shark", was the most powerful of the West African Kings in the last years of the 19th Century. he was the eleventh king of Dahomey, and the last independent ruler of Abomey(Abomey is a city in the Zou Department of Benin). He is often referred to as King Shark, a Dahomeyan surname which symbolized strength and wisdom. Behanzin being a poet is credited with the creation of some of the finest poetry and song ever produced in Dahomey.

Behanzin was the absolute master of his kingdom. A nod of his head meant life or death for his subjects. Not many were permitted to see him do even the most common things.

While marching, if he wanted a drink of water, a screen needed to be placed over his face until he finished drinking. When the water was passed to him, the soldiers would throw themselves on the ground and say "A-h-h-h", as though they were also drinking. The saliva from king Behanzin's mouth was not allowed to touch the ground.

king Behanzin's army, had rifles which was supplied by the Germans and were getting too strong for neighboring French colonies. In 1890, Behanzin had defeated a French expedition and made France pay for the use of Cotonou port. He declared a treaty made with France by his father, Gli-Gli in 1868 null and void, from this war began.

Behanzin and his warriors fought bravely, but they proved no match for the well-armed forces of the French, except in hand-tohand combat.At Atchoupa, during a fierce storm, a force estimated at 7000 warriors and 200 amazons hurled itself at the French. The women fought with supreme courage, preferring death to retreat. Clinging to the legs of the French troops, they brought them to earth and poignarded them.

Behanzin now sought peace, the more so as two of his neighbors, the Egbas and the Gesus, had joined the French. He sent three envoys to Colonel Dodds, offering an indemnity of $5,000,000 and free trade at the port of Cotonou. As a peace token, he sent cattle, gold, and two silver hands of superb Dahomeyan work, asking Dodds to take one of the hands and cross it with his own in a sign of friendship. Dodds, in return, sent biscuits and conserves, saying that he was willing to make peace on condition that Behanzin permit him to hoist the French flag at Abomey, his capital.

Behanzin promptly refused. After a stiff battle, the French captured Abomey, or rather its ruins. Behanzin had fired the town destroying his palace with all its wonderful art treasures. His throne of beaten gold was undamaged, however. Later was presented to King Toffa, in recognition of his loyalty.

He passed away at Bleda in 1906' at the age of sixty-five. In 1928 his son, Prince Ouanilo Behanzin, removed his body to Dahomey, the prince himself dying on the return trip to France.