Ozolua, originally called Okpame and later called
Ozolua the Conqueror), was an Oba of the
Kingdom of Benin
Kingdom of Benin from 1483
until 1514. He greatly expanded the Kingdom through warfare and
increased contact with the Portuguese Empire. He was an important Oba
in both history of the
Kingdom of Benin
Kingdom of Benin and retains importance in the
folklore and celebrations of the region.
3 See also
Prince Okpame was the third son of
Ewuare who had significantly
Kingdom of Benin
Kingdom of Benin during his reign from 1440 until 1473.
Following the death of Ewuare, his eldest surviving son, Esi, was
assassinated by a poison arrow at his coronation and his second oldest
son, Olua, ruled with significant domestic dissent for seven years.
After a short-lived rule of the kingdom by a collection of chieftains,
Prince Okpame was named the Oba (in either 1480 or 1483) and took the
His rule was defined largely by significant military expansion of the
Kingdom of Benin. This included a successful attack against the
Kingdom of Owo. While historical accounts of the battle differ, the
end result left
Owo with its independence while still requiring that
it pay tribute to Benin. In diplomatic exchanges with the
Portuguese, he claims to have been victorious in over 200 battles.
These victories earned him the title
Ozolua n'Ibarmoi (or
Conqueror) and in statues and artwork he is often displayed as a great
Although limited trade and contact with the Portuguese had begun under
his father Ewuare, the contact expanded significantly under Ozolua
with Portuguese explorer John Alfonso d'Aveiro entering the capital
Benin City in 1485 and accompanying Ozolua, although not
participating, in war.
Ozolua was intrigued by the possibilities
of firearms for expansion of the kingdom but was informed by d'Aveiro
that firearm trade was only possible with Christian allies of the
Portuguese. As a result,
Ozolua sent an ambassador to Portugal in the
early 1500s to propose missionary activity in the kingdom and a royal
conversion to Christianity in exchange for trade in firearms (at
least one source indicates that he himself went to Portugal at some
point). The Portuguese did not agree, but did send a group of
missionaries to the kingdom in 1514. However, finding a kingdom
uninterested in Christianity if it did not facilitate trade in
firearms, the missionaries quickly left.
The end of Ozolua's reign is bound with a number of important
folktales in the region. It is known that he had two sons,
Arualan and that at the end of his reign there was a war regarding
royal succession between the two brothers and
Esigie became the new
Oba of the Benin Kingdom. One popular story holds that in his old
Ozolua mistakenly named his son Arualan the ruler of Udo (a small
village in the Kingdom) rather than the ruler of Edo (or Benin City,
the capital of the Kingdom). Regardless, the confusion brings the two
sons into warfare. According to the tale, Arualan brings together a
substantial force and with significant confidence tells the people
remaining in his city that if he fails to be victorious they should
throw every possession of his into the nearby lake. As his army pushes
to Benin City, the resident of the city and Esigie's army flee to
avoid battle. Arualan returns disappointed that he did not have the
chance at victory and the villagers seeing his dejected return assume
the worst and throw his possessions into the lake, he follows his
possessions never to be seen again.
Although sources agree on the general date of the end of his reign at
1514, they disagree on the date of death. Hastings claims that he was
deposed in 1514 and assassinated by military leaders when the promise
of firearms did not materialize. Most other sources date his death
from natural causes to 1520.
^ a b c d e Watson, Noelle (1996). International Dictionary of
Historical Places: Middle East and Africa. Chicago, IL: Fitzroy
Dearborn. p. 126.
^ a b c d e f Falola, Toyin (2009). Historical Dictionary of Nigeria.
Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press.
^ Robert Smith (1969). Kingdoms of the Yoruba. Methuen & Co.
^ a b Hastings, Adrian (1994). The Church in Africa, 1450-1950.
^ a b Okpewho, Isidore (1998). Once upon a Kingdom. Bloomington, IN:
Indiana University Press.
Obas of the
Benin Empire and the Benin/Edo traditional state
Eweka I (1180–1246)
Benin Empire (1440-1897)
Akenzua I (1713–1740)
Ovonramwen Nogbaisi (1888–1914)
Under British rule (1897-1960)
Eweka II (1914–1933)
Akenzua II (1933–1960)
Under Nigerian rule
Akenzua II (1960–1978)
Erediauwa I (1979–2016)