Tapestry depicting several kings of Dahomey and their regnal years.

The King of Dahomey (Ahosu in the Fon language) was the ruler of Dahomey, an African kingdom in the southern part of present-day Benin, which lasted from 1600 until 1900 when the French Third Republic abolished the political authority of the Kingdom. The rulers served a prominent position in Fon ancestor worship leading the Annual Customs and this important position caused the French to bring back the exiled king of Dahomey for ceremonial purposes in 1910. Since 2000, there have been rival claimants as king and there has so far been no political solution.[1] The Palace and seat of government were in the town of Abomey. Early historiography of the King of Dahomey presented them as absolute rulers who formally owned all property and people of the kingdom. However, recent histories have emphasized that there was significant political contestation limiting the power of the king[2] and that there was a female ruler of Dahomey, Hangbe, who was largely written out of early histories.[3]

The first king

Multiple lists of the kings of Dahomey have been put together and many of them start at different points for the first King of Dahomey. In various sources, Do-Aklin, Dakodonu, or Houegbadja are all considered the first king of Dahomey. Oral tradition contends that Do-Aklin moved from Allada to the Abomey plateau, Dakodonu created the first settlement and founded the kingdom (but is often considered a "mere chief"), and Houegbadja who settled the kingdom, built the palace and created much of the structure is often considered the first king of Dahomey.[4] Oral tradition contends that the kings were all of the Aladaxonou dynasty, a name claiming descent from the city of Allada which Dahomey conquered in the 1700s. Historians largely believe now that this connection was created to legitimate rule over the city of Allada and that connections to the royal family in Allada were likely of a limited nature.[4] In oral tradition of most accounts, Houegbadja is considered the first king and recognition of him happened first in the Annual Customs of Dahomey.[4]

List of kings

(Dates in italics indicate de facto continuation of office)

Reign Portrait King Notes
Kingdom of Abomey
c. 1600 Do-Aklin or Gangnihessou Leader of Fon settlement on Abomey Plateau.
c. 1625 to 1645 Dakodonou,
Founder of the Kingdom of Abomey and builder of the palace.
Kingdom of Dahomey
1645 to 1685 Houegbadja,
In most accounts the first King of Dahomey.
1685 to 1716 Akaba,
1716 to 1718 Hangbe,
Hangbe was ruler of Dahomey for a short period of time between the death of Akaba and the rule of Agaja. Bay argues that there is clear evidence that suggests Hangbe did rule for a period, but it is unclear whether it was for three months or three years. She is not included in any lists of Kings of Dahomey.
1718 to 1740 Agaja,
1740 to 1774 Tegbesu,
1774 to 1789 Kpengla,
1789 to 1797 Agonglo,
1797 to 1818 Adandozan,
Excluded in some lists.
1818 to 1858 Ghezo,
1858 to 1889 Glele,
1889 to 1894 Béhanzin,
Final independent King of Dahomey, reigned during the First Franco-Dahomean War (1890) and the Second Franco-Dahomean War (1892 to 1894).
1894 to 1900 Agoli-agbo,
Appointed to the position when the French conquered Abomey.
Ceremonial rulers
1900 to 1940 Agoli-agbo,
In exile and reigned with French restrictions.
1940 to 1948 Aidododo,
1948 to 1983 Togni-Ahoussou,
1986 to 1989 Joseph Langanfin,
30 September 1989 to July 2018 Agoli Agbo Dedjalagni,
Since 2000, Houédogni Béhanzin had made a rival claim to the position of king. Following the death of Agoli Agbo Dedjalagni, there was no titular King of Dahomey for 8 months.
22 January 2000 to 30 December 2012 Houédogni Béhanzin,
Rival to Agoli Agbo Dedjalagni for the position of king.
12 January 2019 to 17 December 2021 Dah Sagbadjou Glele,
Elected by Dahomeyan nobles.
22 January 2022 to present Georges Collinet Béhanzin


See also


  1. ^ Araujo, Ana Lucia (2010). Public Memory of Slavery: Victims and Perpetrators in the South Atlantic. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press. ISBN 978-1-60497-714-1.
  2. ^ Yoder, John C. (1974). "Fly and Elephant Parties: Political Polarization in Dahomey, 1840-1870". The Journal of African History. 15 (3): 417–432. doi:10.1017/s0021853700013566.
  3. ^ Alpern, Stanley B. (1998). "On the Origins of the Amazons of Dahomey". History in Africa. 25: 9–25. doi:10.2307/3172178.
  4. ^ a b c d Bay, Edna (1998). Wives of the Leopard: Gender, Politics, and Culture in the Kingdom of Dahomey. University of Virginia Press. ISBN 978-0-8139-1792-4.
  5. ^ "Rulers of Benin". Rulers.org. Retrieved 2012-10-07.
  6. ^ "New monarch appointed to ancestral kingdom of Dahomey". Modernghana.com.