Great Ardra

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Great Ardra, also called Grand Ardra, or Allada, Ardres, Hardre, Ardrah, Arda, Arada or Arrada, was a West African kingdom historically located in part of what is now south Benin.

The main city (capital) of the Kingdom, as well as a seaside port belonging to the kingdom, were also invariably called Allada, Ardra, Arda, Arada, Arrada, Ardres or Hardre.

The Kingdom and the city of Allada were supposedly founded when a group of Aja[1] migrants settled in the area in the 12th or 13th centuries.[2]

Over the years, the village of Allada would become the capital of Great Ardra, a "state whose kings ruled with the consent of the elders of the people".[2]

Great Ardra reached the peak of its power in the 16th and early 17th centuries. In the mid-sixteenth century, Arda had a population of about 30,000 people.[3]

Foundational legend[edit]

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 circa 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).


Founded by Aja settlers, the settlement of Allada was in 1600 the most prominent of Aja states, bordering the nearby Oyo kingdom, 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.

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 vanquisinhing it and establishing itself as the main Kingdom in the region.

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, and made more than 8000 prisoners out of Allada's population, that were sold as slaves to go to the New World" [4]

Seaside fort[edit]

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 who liberated Haiti, had taken.[5][6]

Connection to Toussaint L'Ouverture[edit]

According to most sources,[7] the Haitian revolutionary and first President, Toussaint L'Ouverture, was the son of Gaou Guinou, himself the heir - either son [8] or brother [7] - of the King of Allada who had been killed during the invasion by the Kingdom of Dahomey, in 1724.

According to such 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" [4][7] that sailed to the American 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. doi:10.2307/1159502. ISSN 0001-9720. 
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ Monroe, Cameron. "Urbanism on West Africa’s Slave Coast". American Scientist. Retrieved 24 September 2014. 
  4. ^ a b (Cornevin R.- Histoire du Dahomey, 1962 p.105)
  5. ^ Beard, John Relly (2012). Life of Toussaint L'Ouverture, the Negro Patriot of Hayti. UNC Press. Preface. ISBN 9781469607887. 
  6. ^ History of Dahomey
  7. ^ a b c
  8. ^ 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