Akaba (Dahomey kings)

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Houessou Akaba was the fourth King of Dahomey. He succeeded his father, Aho Houegbadja, and ruled from 1685 to 1708.

Biography

Akaba's symbols were the warthog and a saber.

According to legend, Akaba was sent by his father to ask one of the hostile neighbors, named Da, for a piece of land. If he had refused, he could have been punished, but he was clever enough not to refuse. Akaba later asked Da for more land, which Da gave grudgingly, planning to kill Akaba by ruse. He dug a deep hole and lined it with spikes on a road Akaba normally took. Akaba's dogs, leading his way, fell into the hole instead of their master; Akaba knew that Da was behind the murder attempt. Furious, he asked Da for yet another piece of land. Da replied sarcastically "you can build your house on my belly" (i.e., "over my dead body"). Akaba killed Da in anger. He then proceeded to pose the cornerstone of the palace he intended to build upon Da's disemboweled body. It is from the palace "Da Homeh" that the military empire of Dahomey drew its name.

Akaba had to build his own palace because of a particular custom of the Abomey royal family. At the death of each of the kings of Abomey, his palace became a funeral temple for the worship of the departed royal ancestor. The kings were buried in their bed chambers; a large number of their wives (usually set at 41) were 'allowed' to 'accompany' the deceased king on his 'voyage to Allada'; they were either dispatched with knives and buried with the king or immured in a sealed chamber next to his burial place. The burial chamber became the location of food and drink offerings by the descendants to a small bronze asen, a metal pole topped with a small circular alter for receiving the offerings. According to Fon tradition, the asen originated in Allada and were brought to Abomey before the 17th century.

Houessou Akaba's reign was characterized by war and military expansion. His enemies, the Nago (Western Yoruba) kings, attacked Abomey and burned the town. But the warriors of Abomey ultimately defeated the Nago armies and the kingdom extended to include the banks of the Oueme River. Akaba failed, however, to capture Porto-Novo.

Family

Akaba died of smallpox in 1708. Because his only son, Agbo Sassa, was only 10, Akaba was succeeded by his brother, Dossou Agadja.

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