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Gangnihessou, or Ganye Hessou, is the first of the traditional "twelve kings of Dahomey." Dahomey was an African kingdom situated in what is now Benin.



According to the stories Gangnihessou came from a dynasty that in the 16th century had come, from Tado on the river Moro, a place that now lies in Togo, to Allada, and there became kings of Great Ardra. He was one of four brothers. One of them was king of Great Ardra, and after his death his territories were divided over his three brothers. This is how, besides Great Ardra and Little Ardra Dahomey came into existence, even though that originally was no bigger than the Abomey-plateau.


Ganye Hessou is said to have been king around 1620. He is supposed to have been dethroned by his brother Dakodonou while traveling through the kingdom. His symbols were the male gangnihessou-bird, a drum, and a hunting stick with throwing stick. (The bird was a rebus for his name.)


It is not entirely clear whether historically he actually was a king. It would also be possible that he was a leader of importance, who managed the affairs of the society through his suggestions, with his brother Dakodonou being the first to assume the title of king. It is clear, however, that Dakodonou was considered King, in his time.

Great Ardra

If one were to follow the stories as strictly as possible, then the number of brothers points to Gangnihessou actually being the brother who, as king of Great Ardra, was king over all three lands. There are indeed also stories that name him in that function. In these, Dogbagrigenu is the brother that gets Dahomey, and Dakodonou is the son of Dogbagrigenu.

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