The Kingdom of Benin
The Kingdom of Benin also known as the Edo Kingdom or the Benin Empire was a powerful kingdom in West Africa in what is now southern Nigeria. It is not to be confused with the current nation of Benin, a modern-day nation-state. The Kingdom of Benin’s capital was Edo, now known as Benin City in Edo state. The Benin Kingdom was “one of the oldest and most highly developed states in the coastal hinterland of West Africa”, it was formed around the 11th century AD”, and lasted until it was annexed by the British Empire in 1897.
Animals tamed by hunters accompanied the Oba during his annual procession through Benin City and played an important role in Benin military life. Leopard hides and teeth were conferred upon the Oba’s military commanders to offer protection in battle and to confirm the recipients “right to take life.” The leopard symbolized the Oba’s authority, the loyalty of his subjects, and high status. How the leopard came to be a royal symbol, however, is a matter of opinion. In one famous myth, the leopard is heralded for the balance between his strength and his reserve and moderation as a leader. The leopard symbolizes the complete harmony between two compelling forces – the menacing and the moderating – that, in Benin, it is believed every ideal Oba should possess.
Benin African Leopard Bronze