Kingdom of Ardra

  (Redirected from Great Ardra)

The Kingdom of Ardra, also known as the Kingdom of Allada, was a coastal West African kingdom in what is now southern Benin. It was named for its capital, the modern Allada, which was also the main city and major port of the realm.

The city and kingdom were supposedly founded by a group of Aja migrants from Tado, a settlement along the Mono River, in the 12th or 13th century.[1][2][3] Its kings "ruled with the consent of the elders of the people".[2] The state reached the peak of its power in the 16th and early 17th centuries, when it was an important source of slaves for the Atlantic trade. By the mid-15th century, the city of Allada had a population of approximately 30,000 people, while the state as a whole had a population of nearly 200,000 people by the 16th century.[3][4]


The name is variously spelled Ardra, Ardrah,[5] Ardres, Hardre, Arda, Arada, and Arrada. It is also sometimes known by its capital's present-day name Allada.

Foundational legendEdit

According to the Fon oral tradition, the Aja settlers that established themselves in the area of present-day Allada arrived in southern Benin around the 12th or 13th centuries coming from Tado, on the Mono River. They established themselves in the area that currently corresponds to southern Benin, until c. 1600, when three brothers — Kokpon, Do-Aklin, and Te-Agdanlin — split the rule of the region amongst themselves: Kokpon took the capital city of Great Ardra, reigning over the Allada Kingdom, while his brother Do-Aklin founded Abomey (which would become capital of the Kingdom of Dahomey) and their brother Te-Agdanlin founded Little Ardra, also known as Ajatche, later called Porto Novo (literally, "New Port") by Portuguese traders (which is the current capital city of Benin).[3]


Founded by Aja settlers, the settlement of Allada was in 1600 the most prominent of Aja states, bordering the nearby Oyo Empire, to which the King of Allada was vassal and tributary. Although it was an inland kingdom, Allada maintained control of some sea ports such as Offra, Jaquin and Whydah, thus making Allada important in the growing slave trade business, which also granted Allada the economic means to pay its duties to Oyo. Between 1640 and 1690, about 125,000 slaves were sold from Allada, peaking at about 55,000 during the 1680s alone.[3]

Originally a part of the Allada Kingdom, the city of Abomey went on to become capital of a new kingdom, the Kingdom of Dahomey, which grew strong enough to challenge the nearby Oyo Kingdom, with Dahomey finally vanquishing it and establishing itself as the main Kingdom in the region.

By the late 1690s, the growth of Dahomey had severely restricted Allada's supply of slaves from the north, while simultaneously Whydah surpassed Allada as a primary source of slaves from West Africa. This greatly weakened Allada's comparative power in the region.[3] In 1724, the Kingdom of Dahomey invaded the Kingdom of Allada; in three days, the King of Dahomey's troops slaughtered thousands of Allada's warriors and citizens. More than 8,000 of Allada's population were taken as prisoners and sold into slavery in the New World.[6]

Seaside fortEdit

Slaves used to be captured from enemy tribes and passed on to European slavers bound for the Americas, the route which by repute the father of Toussaint L'Ouverture, the famous general that started the Haitian revolution that lead Jean-Jacques Dessaline to liberate Haiti, had taken.[7][8]

Connection to Toussaint L'OuvertureEdit

According to the Toussaint Louverture Historical Society,[9] Toussaint L'Ouverture, the Haitian revolutionary and first Black governor of Haiti, was a direct descendant of Gaou Guinou, the heir – either son[10] or brother[9] – of the King of Allada killed during the invasion by the Kingdom of Dahomey in 1724.

To quote from their sources, "Gaou Guinou, Minister of War and younger brother of the King of Allada, rather than succeeding to his father and ascending naturally to the throne, chose then to accompany his vanquished soldiers in exile. He was given a hammock on board of a slave ship"[6][9] that sailed to the island of Hispaniola, where the slaves were sold in Haiti.


  1. ^ Asiwaju, A. I. (1979). "The Aja-Speaking Peoples of Nigeria: A Note on Their Origins, Settlement and Cultural Adaptation up to 1945". Africa: Journal of the International African Institute. 49 (1): 15–28. doi:10.2307/1159502. ISSN 0001-9720. JSTOR 1159502.
  2. ^ a b "Benin: History". Columbia Encyclopedia. 2000. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e Filippello, Marcus (2017). "Allada". In Aderinto, Saheed (ed.). African Kingdoms: An Encyclopedia of Empires and Civilizations. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. pp. 7–9. ISBN 978-1-61069-579-4.
  4. ^ Monroe, J. Cameron. "Urbanism on West Africa's Slave Coast". American Scientist. Archived from the original on 13 January 2014. Retrieved 24 September 2014.
  5. ^ The Modern Part of an Universal History, Vol. XVI, Bk. xvii, Ch. vii, London, 1760.
  6. ^ a b Cornevin R. — Histoire du Dahomey, 1962, p.105
  7. ^ Beard, John Relly (2012). Life of Toussaint L'Ouverture, the Negro Patriot of Hayti. UNC Press. Preface. ISBN 9781469607887.
  8. ^ "History of the Kingdom of Dahomey". KMLA. 1 September 2007. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  9. ^ a b c Beauvoir, Max G. "Highlights of the life of Francois-Dominique Toussaint Louverture". Toussaint Louverture Historical Society. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  10. ^ Beard, John R. (1863). Toussaint L'Ouverture: A Biography and Autobiography. Boston: James Redpath. p. 35. Retrieved 18 January 2015.

Coordinates: 6°39′N 2°09′E / 6.650°N 2.150°E / 6.650; 2.150