For over six hundred years the city of Benin was the capital of a prosperous, well-organized empire of the same name. At its peak during the 14th and 15th centuries, the empire stretched from Dahomey to the Niger River and reached as far south as the coast. In 1170 A.D. a prince from the city of Ife named Oranmiyan founded the monarchy of Benin. His son, Eweka I, became the first Oba (king). The present ruler, Erediauwa I, is the 39th Oba of the dynasty.

The palace in Benin was the height of a complex feudal society characterized by widespread competition for power, prestige and wealth. The arrival of the Portuguese around 1485 created a new era of prosperity and rapid expansion. The Portuguese provided economic and militaristic strength for the kingdom, acting as a conduit for overseas trade and fighting in Benin military campaigns.

In the early 17th century a dynastic dispute resulted in the establishment of two rival states at Abomey and Porto-Novo. The first of these grew into the Kingdom of Dahomey, which dominated the area until the 19th century.

In 1704, France received permission to erect a port at Ouidah, and in 1752 the Portuguese founded Porto Novo. On June 22, 1894, the territory was named by decree the "Colony of Dahomey and its dependences" and was granted autonomy which it retained until October 18, 1904 when it became part of French West Africa. On December 4, 1958 the Republic was proclaimed. Dahomey became independent on August 1, 1960 and is a UN member country.

If the first independent Government was ousted by a military coup on October 28, 1963, Dahomey, during the ensuing years up to 1972, went through a lot of political upheavals that always climaxed in military coups. That of October 26, 1972 was the starting point of a 17-year regime which three years later went red with a Marxist Leninist ideology. In other words, on November 30, 1975 Dahomey was under a centrally controlled government and eventually became the People's Republic of Benin. At the National Conference held in Cotonou (February 19-28, 1990) and at which all walks of life were represented,
fundamental decisions were taken, namely:

  • Abolition of Marxist ideology as the State philosophy.
  • The reversion to the genuine flag.
  • The reversion to the multi party system.
  • The dissolution of all one-party structures.
  • The release of all political detainees and prisoners.
  • The respect of all Human Rights.


To learn more about the development of the Benin government, and the creation of the national flag and coat of arms, please click here.