The Great Benin Moat

Compiled by Uwagboe Ogieva

 

The Benin City Wall And Moat Can Make Edo State Become A Tourism Destination

http://ihuanedo.ning.com/profiles/blogs/the-benin-city-wall-and-moat

 

The Benin moat [Iya]:
The Benin moat, also known traditionally as Iya,is the largest man-made earthworks in the world. One of the wonders of the world. It predates the use of modern earth-moving equipment or technology in these parts. The moat encircles the old perimeter precincts of the City and was constructed as a defensive barrier in times of war. {5th} Oba Oguola {about 1280-1295} dug the first and second moats to fortify the City from invaders; Udo warriors "Iyokuo" under the command of Chief Akpanigiakon a powerful war lord, and the ruler of Udo. Oba Oguola further decreed that important towns and Villages should build similar moats as defence systems around their communities.This gave rise to twenty of such moats around Benin City and its environs. Oba Oguola succeeded in crushing Chief Akpanigiakon and his powerful armies at the battle of Urhezen about 1285 CE. An extension of the moat was constructed in the 15th century during the reign of {12th} Oba Ewuare the Great (1440-1473 CE).The Benin moat is over 3200 kilometers long. ” – http://www.edostateassociation.com/useful-info.html

 

Defensive Fortification of Ancient Benin City: The Benin Moat

Edo, the people of Igodomigodo famously known for almost a millennium as Benin, had built a moat complex to protect themselves in the wars they fought. The defensive fortification of Benin City, the capital,
consisted of ramparts and moats, call
iya, enclosing a 4000 square kilometer (2485.5 miles) of community lands. In total, the Benin wall system encompasses over 10,000 kilometers (6213.7 miles) of earth boundaries. Patrick Darling, an archaeologist, estimates that the complex was built between 800 and
1000 up to the late fifteenth century (Keys 1994: 16). Advantageously situated, the moats were duged in such a manner that earthen banks provided outer walls that complemented deep ditches. According to Graham Connah, the ditch formed an integral part of the intended barrier but was also a quarry for the material to construct the wall or bank (Keys 1994: 594). The ramparts range in size from shallow traces to the immense 20-meter-high (66 feet) around Benin City (Wesler 1998: 144). The
Guinness Book of World Records describes the walls of Benin City as the world's second largest man-made structure after China's Great Wall, in terms of length, and the series of earthen ramparts as the most extensive earthwork in the world.

During the second half of the 15th century, Oba Ewuare the Great (ruled 1440-1473 AD) ordered a moat to be dug in the heart of the city. The earthworks served as a bastion and also afforded control of access to
the capital which had nine gates that were shut at night. Travel notes of European visitors also described the Benin walls (e.g. Pacheco Pereira 1956: 130-147; Dapper 1668). It was finalized around 1460, at that time being the world's largest earthwork. (See historical photos of
Benin City).

Early European visitors never failed to be impressed with the Benin City's grandeur and level of organization. Benin as it appears in documents of the seventeenth century the natural reflection of centralized
wealth was its magnificent capital city Benin. Reports from the anonymous. Dutchman D.R. (c. 1600) and David van Nyendael (some fifty years later) described Benin City as an extraordinarily extensive and flourishing city which easily matched the European metropolis of it time (Hodgkin 1960: 119-120;
Ben-Amos 1995: 42ff). The Portuguese compared it with Lisbon, the Dutch with Amsterdam or Antwerp, the Italians with Florence, and the Spaniards with Madrid (Kea 1971: 187). Its size was matched by dense habitation; houses built close to each other along long, straight streets. The royal palace, a city within the
city, was also impressive, with countless squares and patios and innumerable
doors and passageways, all richly decorated with the art that has made Benin
famous. The city was orderly, well laid out, and sparkling clean so that the
walls of the houses appeared polished (Dapper 1693: 122). The people clothes;
some are dressed in white, others in yellow, others in blue or green; and the
city captains are regular judges who resolve lawsuits, debates and
conflicts. [source- http://ihuanedo.ning.com/profiles/blogs/west-africa-precolonial-benin ]

 

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