There is no trace of modern geographic maps of the Dahomean kingdom. Now in place of the once strong state is the Republic of Benin. And began история states in the sixteenth century. The founder of Dahomey is considered to be King Houegbaj, ruling from 1645 to 1685. The capital he made the city of Abomey. The sacred cult of the king is the foundation on which Houegbadj began to build his state. So that none of the subjects had any doubts about the divine origin of their ruler, sacrifices were offered to his unearthly ancestors. Moreover, the livestock or fruit business was not limited. The ancestors of the king demanded human blood and flesh. And the ruler himself was the master of everything and everything in his state. Therefore, he did not levy a tax on the peasants, but simply slaughtered the share belonging to him. From the moment of its formation, Dahomey embarked on the militaristic rails. And in order for the state train to move without stopping, a lot of money was needed. One of the funds received from agriculture was clearly not enough. Therefore Houegbadzha quickly mastered the profitable trade - the slave trade. Given the warlike nature of the Dahomeans and their constant wars with their neighbors, there was no shortage of goods. Prisoners were sold on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea to Europeans who sent black slaves to America. And the money Houegbadzha and his subsequent receivers spent on the purchase of firearms and cold weapons. First-class weapons at that time allowed the kingdom to take over new and new territories. For example, the troops of King Agaji in the eighteenth century were able to capture the coastal state of Allada, where the roots of the royal family of Dahomey go. But this victory pushed Agadji with a strong adversary - the city-state of Oyo, who was Dahomey's main competitor in the slave trade.
That standoff ended in victory for Oyo. Dahomey, though retained independence, but paid tribute. But this had no effect on the policy of the Dahomean kings. They continued to seize new lands, actively traded slaves and palm oil.
It is unknown when the Dahomey army began to call for women. There is a version that, due to numerous wars, there was a constant shortage of male soldiers. And then one of the kings decided to train the military craft of women, creating a detachment for personal safety. According to another version, originally women were used as hunters for elephants. And once one of the rulers of the kingdom saw how cleverly they coped with large and strong animals. The skills of the Amazons impressed the monarch so much that he made them his bodyguards. There is a third version, why in the personal protection of the king recruited only women. According to Dahomei beliefs, with the arrival of night, not a single man should remain in the palace of the ruler. And this rule applied to everyone, even to bodyguards. But the ban did not concern women. Therefore, in order not to become a victim of an enemy scout, or simply not to be bored in a huge empty palace, some ruler decided to combine business with pleasure. Next to him were always women and not ordinary concubines, but professional warriors.
Becoming “Mino” was not easy. In the ranks of warriors selected girls on certain criteria. And, besides strength, endurance and health, they also paid attention to looks. After the "casting" began a long and exhausting process of preparation. Experienced mentors (by the way, they were veteran warriors, men were not allowed) taught the girls to endure pain, to own various weapons (both cold and firearms) and to kill in cold blood (their particular “handwriting” was decapitation of the defeated enemy), not allowing feelings to prevail over duty to the king. In addition, there was a whole range of special exercises with a gymnastic bias. For example, the girls learned to climb the walls covered with thorny acacia branches. Women were also sent to multi-day jungle marches, where their only assistant and protector was a machete.
Curiously: the age limit as such did not exist. An eight-year-old girl and an adult woman could have become Mino. Some became volunteers voluntarily, and some were taken away by force. For example, a husband or father could complain to the king about his wife or daughter because of their difficult, unruly nature. And the ruler just such women were needed.
And although the training was held by far not all candidates, there were plenty of people willing to become “minos”. The fact is that for Dagomean women, this was an excellent opportunity to escape an even more difficult and harsh life that was meant for the common man in that state. And in the service, if you managed to prove yourself, the Amazons waited for financial security, senior positions and influence.
Since Mino had a half-sacred status, they were forbidden to marry and have children. It was believed that during military service they were the wives of the king. And if any man specifically or accidentally touched the warrior, inevitable death awaited him.
King Gezo, ruling from 1818 to 1858 year, increased spending on the army even more. Moreover, the monarch focused directly on his Amazons. Under him, the number of female warriors reached about six thousand - about a third of the whole army of the kingdom.
The mino training has undergone major changes. Now they were training as European soldiers, they were given a military uniform and Dutch firearms. At the same time, what is interesting, the machetes remained, since it was most convenient for them to chop off the enemies of the head.
In 1861, the Spanish missionary Francesco Borghero was honored - the King of Dahomey Glélé invited him to attend a military parade. Of course, the priest was most impressed by a detachment of armed women marching past him. Prior to that, he did not suspect that the representatives of the weaker sex may be professional soldiers.
So a French officer, Jean Byail, described the Amazons that he met in 1889: “I saw teenage girl Naniska perform her first test — murder. She crept to the bound prisoner from behind, flapped a large knife, and his head rolled to her legs. Under the roar of the crowd, she raised her terrible trophy and licked the blood of the victim from the weapon. ”
The Europeans who visited Dahomey were surprised at the warriors if not all, then much: their privileged status, the right to sacrifice (including human), used in the voodoo cult, necklace amulets (from evil spirits), terrifying horned helmets, modern weapons . By the way, at the end of the nineteenth century, guns appeared in the Amazons in the arsenal. They were bought in Germany by King Benhanzin. With the advent of new weapons, a new detachment of female warriors appeared - artillery.
Around the same time, the king began to use "mino" not only as ordinary warriors, benefiting on the battlefield or executioners. They began to attach to the craft of espionage. And here the women did not lose face. Under the guise of prostitutes, beggar women, or merchants, they made their way into the camp of the enemy and obtained valuable information.
In 1863, English explorer Richard Burton arrived in Dahomey. He intended to establish a British mission here (he liked the good geographical location of the state) and conclude a peace treaty favorable to the empire with the Dagomeans. But having become acquainted with the African kingdom, Barton was unpleasantly surprised by their belligerence and aggression (especially the Englishman was stunned by the tradition of beheading enemies). And, of course, he could not help noting the black Amazons: "These women had so well developed skeleton and muscles that it was only possible to determine the sex by the presence of the breast." By the way, if before the recruiters paid attention to the appearance (this was said earlier), over time this criterion disappeared. The main were physical strength and endurance. It is easy to explain: the Dagomean kings understood perfectly well that it was one thing to fight with neighboring countries, and quite another with the colonial forces of the European powers.
Another Briton, Stanley Alpern, wrote a single treatise in English, devoting it entirely to female warriors. Here is what he wrote: “When the Amazons were leaving the palace, a slave with a bell always walked in front of them. The ringing of the bell told every man that he needed to turn away from his path, go some distance and look the other way.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, Europeans seriously undertook the colonization of West Africa. A special agility in this case showed the French. In 1890, the First Franco-Dahomean War began. Moreover, its course, as well as the final result, turned out to be unexpected for the French. They suffered several notable defeats before they were able to shoot and stab the Amazons with bayonets. Of course, the “mino” training also played its role, because women were “equal to any modern man-soldier from the elite of the armies of the colonial powers”.
Divisional General Alfred Amed Dodds wrote in his memoirs: “When the French soldiers saw who they were to fight with, they were taken aback. They did not understand how to fight the ladies. ” And although the victory in the first war formally went to the Europeans, there could be no question of conquering Dahomey. King Behanzin, who learned a lesson from the confrontation, successfully ordered a lull. He bought several thousand Mannicher and Winchester carbines from the Germans, giving the new weapons to the Amazons. The French, seeing that the enemy was not going to surrender, decided not to wait for the complete rearmament of the black soldiers.
Following the first, the Second Franco-Dahomean War began, continuing from 1892 to 1894. And at first military success was again on the side of the black monarch and his Amazons. Only when the Foreign Legion got involved in the hostilities did the French begin to win. More than two dozen bloody battles took place between Europeans and Africans during this time. Almost all the “minos” came down to them, and the French later recalled with horror the “incredible courage and audacity” of female warriors. And they called them the most terrible women on Earth.
By the way, while the war was going on, French journalists from the skin climbed in order to secure the image of merciless and bloodthirsty murderers behind the Amazons. This was done to justify the conquest of "wild" Dahomey. In one of the newspapers there was even a print of an Amazon depicting a bit of a French officer.
But even after the official victory, the French continued to suffer losses. If the soldiers wanted to spend the night with the Dagomean women, in the morning they were most often found with a throat cut.
In 1904, the state officially ceased to exist. In its place, a colony of French Dahomey appeared, entering into French West Africa. Independence of the state gained in 1960 year. It is curious that at first it was called the Republic of Dahomey. And only fifteen years later, the modern name appeared - Benin.
Nowadays, there are no Amazons in Benin. They are remembered except on holidays. These days, women dress up in costumes and perform a ritual dance telling about the heroic past of Dahomey. The last "mino" named Navi died in the 1979 year. At the time of death, the Amazon was over a hundred years old. Her memories are painstakingly recorded by ethnographers. Navi told them about the military life, confrontation with the French, colonial time and, of course, about the long-awaited freedom
The memory of the brave female warriors is stored not only in Benin. For example, director Werner Herzog immortalized them in his film 1987's Green Cobra of the Year. The main role in the film played by Klaus Kinski.