Fans who took in Marvel movie blockbuster Black Panther were no doubt thrilled by the all-woman fighting force known as the Dora Mijale, the fierce soldiers who protected King T’Challa. In our world, an all-woman force known as the Amazons of Dahomey were a respected military presence that most accounts say emerged in the 18th Century.
History points to the Kingdom of Dahomey, which now rests where Benin and Togo are today as the place where the fighting force was born. Under the rulership of a king from the Fon tribe, the Ahosi [“king’s wives” in Fon], or the Mino [“our mothers in Fon] were said to be initially women who hunted large game for the king not unlike a lion’s pride. This moved the king to arm the women in or around the 1720s, making them an official part of his royal entourage.
The soldiers did not use the European name bestowed upon them due to their military might and strength in numbers, instead preferring the language of their people. The Ahosi struck a menacing pose in photos and other images, which showed them armed with guns taken from colonizers and European settlers in what was called the Slave Coast. There is even a painting of one Ahosi general holding a gun and a severed head of a white enemy.
The similarities to Black Panther’s Dora Mijale are quite evident. Like the Dora Mijale, which translates into the fictional Wakandan language to “the adored ones,” the Ahosi were said to be wives in training to the king. There isn’t widespread English-language research done on the Amazons but most findings point to them being just as skilled as their male counterparts in the art of war.
After two major wars that took place in the 1890s when France invaded the kingdom, the Ahosi were officially disbanded in 1892. Benin declared independence in 1960.
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