The Dahomey Amazons or Mino, which means “our mothers,” were a Fon all- female military .. Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey ( 1st ed.). New York, U.S.: New York University Press. ISBN Clodfelter. One of Dahomeys’ women warriors, with a musket, club, dagger—and her .. Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey. History is rife with tales of fighting women. More often than not, these stories prove more legend than history. Dating back to the amazons of ancient Asia Minor.

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The Dahomey Amazons or Minowhich means “our mothers,” were a Fon all-female military regiment of the Kingdom of Dahomey in the present-day Republic of Benin which lasted until the end of the 19th century. They were so named by Western observers and historians due to their similarity to the mythical Amazons of ancient Anatolia and the Black Sea.

King Houegbadja who ruled from tothe third King of Dahomeyis said to have originally started the group which would become the Amazons as a corps of elephant hunters called the gbeto. Houegbadja’s son King Agaja ruling from to established a female bodyguard armed with muskets. European merchants recorded their presence. According to tradition, Agaja developed the bodyguard into a militia and successfully used them in Dahomey’s defeat of the neighbouring kingdom of Savi in From the time of King Ghezo ruling from toDahomey became increasingly militaristic.

Ghezo placed great importance on the army, increasing its budget and formalizing its structure from ceremonial to a serious military. While European narratives refer to the women soldiers as “Amazons”, they called themselves ahosi king’s wives or Mino our mothers.

Ghezo recruited both men and women soldiers from foreign captives, though women soldiers were also recruited from free Dahomean women, some enrolled as young as 8 years old. Membership among the Mino was supposed to hone any aggressive character traits for the purpose of war. During their membership they were not allowed to have children or be part of married life though they were legally married to the king.

Many of them were virgins. The regiment had a semi-sacred status, which was intertwined with the Fon belief in Vodun. The Mino trained with intense physical exercise.

They learnt survival skills and indifference to pain and death, storming acacia -thorn defenses in military exercises and executing prisoners. Serving in the Mino offered women the opportunity to “rise to positions of command and influence” in an environment structured for individual empowerment.

The Mino took a prominent role in the Grand Council, debating the policy of the kingdom. From the s to s when the opposing party collapsedthey generally supported peace with Abeokuta and stronger commercial relations with England, favouring the trade in palm oil above that in slaves; this set them at odds with their male military colleagues. Apart from the Council, the Annual Customs of Dahomey included a parade and reviewing of the troops, and the troops swearing of an oath to the king.


Amazons of Black Sparta | The Women Warriors of Dahomey | Books – NYU Press | NYU Press

The celebrations on the 27th day of the Annual Customs consisted of a mock battle in which the Amazons attacked a “fort” and “captured” the slaves within, [8] a custom recorded by the priest Francesco Borghero in his diaries. The women soldiers were rigorously trained and given uniforms. By the midth century, they numbered between 1, and 6, women, about a third of the entire Dahomey army, according to reports written by visitors.

These documented reports also indicated that the women soldiers suffered several defeats.

Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women’s Regiment of Dahomey

The women soldiers were said to be structured in parallel with the army as a whole, with a center wing the king’s bodyguards flanked on both sides, each under separate commanders. Some accounts note that dajomey male soldier had a dahomeyy warrior counterpart. The women’s army consisted of a number of regiments: Each regiment had different uniforms, weapons and commanders.

In the latter period, the Dahomean female warriors were armed with Winchester rifles, clubs and knives. Units were under female command. An published translation of a war chant of the women claims the warriors would chant, “a[s] the blacksmith takes an iron bar and by fire changes its fashion so have we changed our nature.

We are no longer women, we are men.

The Dahomey kingdom was often at war with its neighbors, and captives were needed for the slave trade. The Dahomey women soldiers fought in slave raids, as referenced in the Zora Neale Hurston non-fiction work Barracoonand in the unsuccessful wars against Abeokuta.

Amazons of Black Sparta : The Women Warriors of Dahomey

European observers noted that they “handled admirably” in hand-to-hand combat, but that they did not know how to use their flintlocks. Cotonou, where thousands of Dahoney including many Amazons charged the French lines and engaged the defenders in hand-to-hand combat. Despite the blacck given to them by the Europeans, the Amazons were decisively crushed, with several hundred Dahomey troops being gunned down while Dahomey were killed in melee combat within the French lines.

The French lost 5 men killed and a few dozen wounded. According to Holmes, many of the French soldiers fighting in Dahomey hesitated before shooting or bayoneting the Amazons. The resulting delay led to many of the French casualties. By the end of the Second Franco-Dahomean Warspecial units of the Amazons were wzrriors assigned specifically to target French aarriors.

The legionnaires were impressed by the boldness of the Amazons and later wrote about the spsrta courage and audacity. For the loss of 86 Regulars and Amazons, the Dahomey only managed to kill 6 French troops in the melee.


Amazons of Black Sparta | Hurst Publishers

The troops were disbanded when the kingdom became a French protectorate. Some of the women married and had children, while others remained single. According to a historian who traced the lives of almost two dozen ex-amazons, all the women displayed difficulties adjusting to life as retired warriors, often struggling to find new roles in their communities that gave them a sense of pride comparable to their former lives.

Many displayed a tendency to start fights or arguments that frightened their neighbours and relatives. Between andseveral British travelers in Abomey recorded encounters with ex-amazons, now old women who spun cotton or idled around courtyards.

In a interview with a Beninese historian, Nawi claimed to have fought the French in Nawi died in Novemberaged well over Ghezo’s Amazons play a significant role in the novel Flash for Freedom!

The main character of Charles R. Saunders fantasy novel Dossouyean ahosi of Abomey, is closely modelled on the Dahomey ahosi. Wren ‘s book of short stories Stepsons of France contains a story called “Here are Ladies”describing a series of clashes between troops of the Foreign Legion and the Dahomey Amazons.

The warriors are also the main focus and blac, about in Layon Gray ‘s stage play Black Sparta. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article needs additional citations warrors verification.

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October Learn how and when to remove this template message. Dahomey And The Dahomans: Political Polarization in Dahomey, “. The Journal of African History.

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