Oyo empire

Yoruba state in present-day southwestern Nigeria that dominated the land between the Volta and Niger rivers in 1650–1750.

Two waves of immigrants probably entered the area с AD 700–1000, and the second wave formed a state at Oyo. This state became preeminent among Yoruba states because of its good trading position, natural resources, and industrious inhabitants. Though at first less powerful than its neighbours, by the end of the 16th century its ruler, Orompoto, had used trade-derived wealth to maintain a trained army. In the 18th century Oyo subjugated the Dahomey kingdom and had begun trading with European merchants at Dahomey's ports. Oyo's wealth increased, but Abiodun (r. с 1770–90) neglected the army and the possibilities for territorial expansion, thus weakening central authority for his successor. Soon after 1800 Oyo was captured by Fulani Muslims from Hausaland. See also Hausa.

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▪ historical kingdom, West Africa
      Yoruba state north of Lagos, in present-day southwestern Nigeria, that dominated, during its apogee (1650–1750), most of the states between the Volta River in the west and the Niger River in the east. It was the most important and authoritative of all the early Yoruba principalities.

      According to traditions, Oyo derived from a great Yoruba ancestor and hero, Oduduwa, who came from the east to settle at Ile-Ife and whose son became the first alafin, or ruler, of Oyo. Linguistic evidence suggests that two waves of immigrants came into Yorubaland between 700 and 1000, the second settling at Oyo in the open country north of the Guinea forest. This second state became preeminent among all Yoruba states because of its favourable trading position, its natural resources, and the industry of its inhabitants.

      Early in the 16th century Oyo was a minor state, powerless before its northern neighbours Borgu and Nupe—by whom it was conquered in 1550. The power of Oyo was already growing by the end of the century, however, thanks to the alafin Orompoto, who used the wealth derived from trade to establish a cavalry force and to maintain a trained army.

      Oyo subjugated the kingdom of Dahomey in the west in two phases (1724–30, 1738–48) and traded with European merchants on the coast through the port of Ajase (Porto-Novo). As Oyo's wealth increased, so did its leaders' political options; some wished to concentrate on amassing wealth, while others advocated the use of wealth for territorial expansion. This difference was not resolved until the alafin Abiodun (reigned c. 1770–89) conquered his opponents in a bitter civil war and pursued a policy of economic development based primarily on the coastal trade with European merchants.

      Abiodun's neglect of everything but the economy weakened the army, and thus the means by which the central government maintained control. His successor, the alafin Awole, inherited local revolts, an administration tenuously maintained by a complex system of public service, and a decline in the power of tributary chiefs. The decline was exacerbated by quarrels between the alafin and his advisers; it continued throughout the 18th century and into the 19th, when Oyo began to lose control of its trade routes to the coast. Oyo was invaded by the newly risen Fon of Dahomey, and soon after 1800 it was captured by militant Fulani Muslims from Hausaland in the northeast.

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Universalium. 2010.

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