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Benin City, a city (2006 est. pop. 1,147,188) in Edo State, southern Nigeria, is a city approximately twenty-five miles North of the Benin River. It is situated 200 miles by road east of Lagos. Benin is the center of Nigeria's rubber industry, but processing palm nuts for oil is still an important traditional industry. History Drawing of ...
Benin City, a city (2006 est. pop. 1,147,188) in Edo State, southern Nigeria, is a city approximately twenty-five miles North of the Benin River. It is situated 200 miles by road east of Lagos. Benin is the center of Nigeria's rubber industry, but processing palm nuts for oil is still an important traditional industry.
Drawing of Benin City made by an English officer, 1897
Statue on Ring Road in Benin CityFounded around the 10th century, Benin served as the capital of the Kingdom of Benin, the empire of the Oba of Benin, which flourished from the 14th through the 17th century. No trace remains of the structures admired by European travelers to "the Great Benin." After Benin was visited by the Portuguese in about 1485, historical Benin grew rich during the 16th and 17th centuries on the slave trade with Europe, carried in Dutch and Portuguese ships, as well as through the export of some tropical products.
Benin was first known as "Ile-Ibinu (1180-1897) A name which in Yoruba language means the "House of Vexation." Oba Ewedo would later change this name to "Ubinu" while the Protuguese corrupted the name to mean Benin in their own language. In about 1470, Ewuare changed the name to the new state of Edo
The Bight of Benin's shore was part of the so-called "Slave Coast", from where many West Africans were sold (usually by slave raiders) to foreign slave traders. In the early 16th century the Oba sent an ambassador to Lisbon, and the King of Portugal sent Christian missionaries to Benin. Some residents of Benin could still speak a pidgin Portuguese in the late 19th century.
The city and kingdom of Benin declined after 1700, with the decline in the European slave trade, but revived in the 19th century with the development of the trade in palm products with Europeans. To preserve Benin's independence, bit by bit the Oba banned the export of goods from Benin, until the trade was exclusively in palm oil.
On 1 February 1852 the whole Bight of Benin became a British protectorate, where a consul represented the protector, until on 6 August 1861 the Bights of Biafra and Benin became a united British protectorate, again under a British Consul.
On 17 February 1897, Benin City fell to the British. In the "Punitive Expedition", a 1200-strong British force, under the command of Admiral Sir Harry Rawson, conquered and burned the city, destroying much of the country's treasured art and dispersing nearly all that remained. The "Benin Bronzes", portrait figures, busts, and groups created in iron, carved ivory, and especially in brass (conventionally called "bronze"), were taken from the city by the British and are displayed in museums around the world. This act was perpetuated by the British who also auctioned some of the bronzes allegely to cater for their expenses incurred during the invasion of the city. Most of these artifacts can be found today in British museums and other parts of the world. Ever since, series of appeals have gone to the British government to return such artifacts. The most prominent of these artifacts was the famous Queen Idia mask used as a mascot during the Second Festival of Arts Culture (FESTAC '77) held in Nigeria in 1977 now known as "Festac Mask".
The defeat, capture and subjugation of Benin paved the way for British military occupation and the merging of later regional British conquests into the Niger Coast Protectorate, the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria and finally, into the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. The Benin monarchy was restored in 1914, but true power lay with the colonial administration of Nigeria.
Benin City is home to some of Nigeria's premier academic institutions, namely, The University of Benin, Ambrose Alli University both state-owned, and Benson Idahosa University, Igbinedion University (okada)
Attractions in the city include the Benin City National Museum, the Oba's Palace, and various festivals and the Benin Moats measuring about 20 to 40 Ft.