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The kingdom of Benin

The kingdom of Benin began in the 900s when the Edo people settled in the rainforests of West Africa. By the 1400s they had created a wealthy kingdom with a powerful ruler, known as the Oba. The Obas lived in beautiful palaces decorated with shining brass. Gradually, the Obas won more land and built up an empire.

The Kingdom of Benin was located near the southern coast of West Africa in a region which is today southern Nigeria (the modern state of Benin is further along the coast to the west and named after the Bight of Benin).

The territory is a mix of rainforest, dry forest, and mangrove swamp. Formed in the 13th century CE as a state proper, the Kingdom of Benin was populated by the Kwa-speaking Edo people and covered at its peak an area of some 400 kilometres (250 miles) in length and 200 kilometres in width. The heartland was a circle around the capital, also called Benin, extending some 60 kilometres in all directions and was ruled directly by the king. Next came an outer band of territory governed by royal princes and finally a third ring of tribes which offered tribute to but were not directly ruled by the king of Benin.

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