The Amazons. That was the name given by the French to the mighty female warriors whom they confronted and finally defeated in 1892 after great and wholesome battles in the kingdom that was formerly known as Dahomey. Originally known as the Mino, meaning “Our Mothers” they were an all- female military regiment.
First formed in the 16th Century and lasting for 400 years, the name Amazons was used because the only people the French soldiers could equate these mighty warriors to were Ancient Greek legendary characters about which many a film in recent decades has been made. Accounts written by the French Foreign Legion tell of their boldness, audacity and ability to speak several languages. This alone gives us insight into the ferocity of the battles and how challenging they would have been.
Mainly from the Fon Tribe, the women were trained to withstand the fear of pain and death and were highly regarded, not only for their warrior skills but their intellect in politics and civil matters. Hand to hand combat was their prowess. The French themselves admit that the only reason they were finally victorious was on account of the superiority of their own war weapons – long bayonets.
Following the defeat of the Dahomean Army the Dahomey Kingdom was carved up and apportioned amongst the Europeans, in yet another strategic self-serving move to appease each other. Today Dahomey is known as the Republic of Benin – to be noted it bears no relation to Benin City in Nigeria.
These fearless warriors bravely fought battles and finally succumbed to the French under the duress of war and not the offer of trinkets and weaponry as was often portrayed to be the case elsewhere in Africa although its shores consisted part of the slave coast, see map. The two final Franco-Dahomean Wars saw successive and decisive defeats and the Dahomean Army finally surrendered in 1892.
The significance and impact of the Amazons today is greatly understated at the very least and as Europe begins to acknowledge the source of its power and might was predominantly on the resources of the African people and land, more and more facts come to light. Further still, as details of the factual accounts of the past 500 years continue to emerge, we are all forced to examine the agenda and re-write some of the wrongs, misinformation and omissions in history books.
Main photo: Combat at Cotopa
written by J. Sigaud