6 years ago

The Oyo state of the yorubas was the earliest and
the largest of the four great kingdoms of west
Africa. At present very little is known about the
early history of the state. The little that is known
gleaned mostly from Yoruba legends and
According to some of these traditions,Oduduwa,
the chief ancestor and first king of the yorubas
settled at Ile Ife. His eldest son and successor
Okanbi died at Ile Ife leaving seven children: the
first was a daughter, the mother of Olowu, the
ancestor of the Owus; the second also a
was the mother of Alaketu, the founder of Ketu;
the third became the king of Benin; the fourth
Orangun became the king of Ila; the fifth Onisabe
became the chief of the Sabes, the sixth Olupopo
became the chief of the Popos; and the seventh
Oranmiyan became the founder and the first
Alafin of Oyo.
These were the founders and first Obas of
Oranmiyan, as the story goes, set out with an
army to conquer the tribes to the north of Ila Ife.
It appears he was the Most warlike of the sons of
Okanbi. He left a reletion Adimu at Ila Ife to look
after the sacred shrine of the gods. Oranmiyan
was not succesful in this expedition, and instead
of returning to Ila Ife in disgrace,he founded a
at Oyo Ajaka(Old Oyo) where he and his army
settled. This tradition was followed by later Oyo
generals whose military expeditions proved a
failure. Mr. Peter Morton Williams suggests that
Oyo was founded between 1388 and 1438.
Speculations are rife as to why Oranmiyan chose
Old Oyo as his capital. Perhaps he chose it
beacause its situation in the savannah was
suitable for movement of cavalry on which his
military power depended, and because it was
strategically placed to defend the new kingdom
against attacks by the Nupe and Borgu. Perhaps
again, he wanted to exploit its situation along the
trade route from the south to the north.
However, it came to be that Oranmiyan as the
Alafin of Oyo and his descendants were accepted
by the peole of Ife as the military rulers of
Yorubaland while Adimu and his descendants
became known as 'Oni' , and were accepted by
the people of Oyo as the spiritual ruler of all
Yorubas. Oyo ilee oooo
Oyo was at first a small and insignificant state on
the northern borders of Yorubaland near the
Niger. It is not certain when Oyo began to expand
its power. But it is known that by the end of the
15th century, its inflence was widespread in most
parts of Yorubaland except the coastal region. It
is recorded that when the Portuguese first visited
Benin 1485, they inquired whether a powerful
king of the interior they had heard of was the
much sought-after Prester John. The Oba of Benin
told them of a powerful monarch in the
hinterland whose face was never seen by his
subjects. This reference was made to the Alafin of
Oyo. It is evident therefore that the
of Oyo supremacy over the Yoruba states had
started before the visit of the first Europeans to
the Guinea coast.
However , towards the end of the 16th century a
southward expansion of Oyo by conquest of the
Yoruba states is noticeable. The cause of this
southward conquest is not clearly known. As
pointed out earlier, the popular theory among
European historiansis that the desire of the Oyos
to to participate in the develping European
coastal trade was the cause. Against this, it must
be said that the economy of Oyo at this period
was basically agricultural, and European trade did
not yet offer such attractions as to generate wars
of conquest. Moreover, European products had
not grown so popular in the interior . In actual
fact, Oyo was still lookng northwards to the
from where it imported salt and horses, and not
south toward the sea. Furthermore, the wars of
expansion of the 16th and 17th centuries were
not fought to procure slaves for export to the
coast but for local service in Yoruba farms. It was
not until the 18th century that wars to provide
slaves for sale to Europeans became important.
By the middle of the 18th century, Oyo was at
peak of its power and had built a vast empire. The
empire was bounded to the north by the Niger, to
the east by Benin, to the west by the frontiers of
modern Togo, and to the south by the mangrove
swamps and lagoons. Nupe, Borgu and Dahomey
paid tribute to the Alafin of Oyo....

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