King of benin
Communicator. A ruler with many skills, Oba (king) Esigie was known for his hospitality, literacy, and abilities as a communicator. Benin was one of two major, wealthy Yoruba states west of the lower Niger delta. During his reign, which began in 1504, Esigie established peaceful relations with Portuguese ambassadors as well as the Christian missionaries who had come from Lisbon at the request of his predecessor, Oba Ozolua, in 1486. In 1516 missionary Duarte Pires reported that Oba Esigie was a man of learning who could speak and read Portuguese and practiced astrology (which then included what is now known as the science of astronomy). Oba Esigie maintained a strong connection to Portugal throughout his reign, and in 1540 he sent an ambassador to the Portuguese capital.
European Trade. Oba Esigie encouraged extensive trade with the Europeans but kept Benin independent of European rule. During his reign, selling slaves to the Portuguese, the French, and later the English became a major business in Benin, whose armies captured people from other West African kingdoms for this purpose. At this time the Portuguese described Esigie’s capital as a city with a nine-mile wall around it. As several historians have pointed out, this description reveals that Benin was a wealthy trading center, but its great wall suggests that it had many enemies and was plagued by unrest and instability.
Changing Royal Succession. By Esigie’s time the rulers of Benin had strengthened the governing power of the oba. Oba Esigie continued this trend by waging a successful war against the group of noblemen who had the power to choose the king of Benin and changing the rules of royal succession so that the throne was inherited by the oba’s eldest son.
William Farquhar Conton, West Africa in History, 2 volumes (London: Allen & Unwin, 1965,1966).
Basil Davidson, with F. K. Buah and the advice of Ajayi, A History of West Africa to the Nineteenth Century, revised edition (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor/Doubleday, 1966).