View Full Version : Indigenous African Empires

Shadow Demon
05-30-2012, 11:53 AM
What's the word? Everyone talks about Egypt for obvious reasons as the most advanced indigenous empire in Africa and one of the most advanced in the world in antiquity.

Although making a lesser contribution I don't think alot of people know about the lesser known indigenous empires in Africa, specifically the Sub-Saharan or Black African empires. These empires in size and administration and power seem to me to be still sizeable empires.

I'm not trying to get into the whole Egyptology race debate, but I personally don't think the Egyptian empire could be classified as a 'Black Empire', although judging from its proximity to Nubia and Punt (generally what is, from knowledge, now Sudan/Somalia) I dont dispute their was racial mixing and some Nubian/Black Kings could have become Pharoahs.

I wonder if alot of the pro black figures like Killah Priest know and take pride about the following empires, who can with assurance be called SSA or Black African empires.

I also think its important people don't necessairly measure the worth of their culture or ancestry by how powerful an empire their was etc. I think to a degree thats flawed logic as what is intelligence and power is a subjective not a objective fact. E.g. some African societies including basic tribes actually had matrilineal monarchy and more equality for women a long time before the West even if they didnt have modern tech or medicine

Songhai Empire- 540,543 sq mi (At Year 1500)

Specifically focusing on Emperor Askia


Not the most reliable of sources but still.


Muhammad Askia The Great
Sunni Ali's successor to the throne of the Empire of Songhai was his son Abu Bakr Dao who only reigned for just over one year and was overthrown in a coup d'etat by Sunni's trusted Serahule general and prime minister, Mohammed Ture Ibn Abi Bakr or King Askia Muhammad I. He reigned from 1493 to 1528 and under him Songhai saw a rapid expansion of its territory making Songhai the largest former African empire in history. His term also saw an increase of trade with Europe, the building of many Islamic schools and incorporating Islam into the workings of the government. This was the period that saw the peak of the ancient civilization of the Songhai.

When he came to the throne his first challenge was to legitimize himself on the throne and to ensure that his children would become accepted rulers of the empire. To achieve this end he either executed or exiled from the empire all members of the previous two dynasties which were the Za dynasty that originally founded the capital Gao and the Sunni dynasty that ruled until 1493.

After securing his place on the throne he tried to win over the allegiance and support of his people through Islam which he calculated would act as a unifying force. He also made friendly overtures to the Muslim population whom he and his predecessor Sunni Ali had persecuted. Many appointed as royal advisers. To further emphasise his religious credentials he went on an extravagant pilgrimage to Mecca in 1497. He spent vast amounts of gold on giving to charity, gifts and the purchase of a hostel located in Cairo for use by Sudanese pilgrims. In recognition of this, Askia Muhammad, was awarded the title "Caliph of The Blacks" by the then Sharif of Mecca. As a result of this title he became the Islamic leader of Western Sudan. Like Mansa Musa before him he came back home with a group of respected Islamic scholars who served as administrators, educators and judges as well as giving out religious advice. As relations with the Muslim world improved so more trade and prosperity came to Songhai.

Territorial Expansion:
With a disciplined, well trained, and well equipped army the king began a campaign of conquest through Jihad by marching south and attacking the Mossi of Yatenga whom he failed to defeat but nevertheless the battle reinforced the grip of the empire in its southern territories. From here he drove westward and attacked and conquered the remaining part of the Manding (Mali) Kingdom in a war which lasted 13 years. He then proceeded with his army eastward and re-conquered Agadez (Afades) and reduced Hausaland states of Katsina and Kano and Zamfara to subordinate states of the Songhai Empire. In the north, he also consolidated Ali's conquest and extended the empires political influence into the Sahara dessert as far north as the salt mining center of Taghaza.

Administration & Government:
To consolidate all these territorial gains he established a sophisticated system of administration. He scrapped the existing political divisions and re-drew the map of the empire by splitting it into four regions with each region having an appointed governor. Local chiefs and rulers had authority over their geographic area but were answerable to the governors. Judges were put in place in all the major towns within the empire meting out Sharia Law. As for the capital city the king had direct authority and controlled the government workings.

The king created a council of ministers which assisted his rule in the metropolitan area and the rest of the empire. These included the defence minister or Balama, finance minister or Fari-Mundya, foreign affairs minster or Korey-farma and the Bari Farma or minister of fisheries, lakes and rivers. All these government posts were held by the kings own family or people who had married into the royal family.

In order to pay for the cost of the large and complex administration and meet the cost of maintaining a powerful standing army a dependable source of imperial revenue had to be created. The most significant of these sources of income were derived from the royal estates spotted all over the empire and worked on by slaves under an estate manager or Fanfa. Each estate had to produce a set quantity of a particular crop or other commodity every year. These could be in the form of rice, corn or dried fish. Some slaves were put to work as craftsmen making a fixed number of arrows, spears or say boats each year. Some of these weapons were sold to create income for the royal coffers.

To ensure maximum income from customs duties and tolls Askia actively promoted commerce and trade for example controlling the meddlesome Tuareg on the trade routes. He standardised the system of weights and measures and inspectors regularly went to the major trade markets to check traders for any fiddling or short-measures. As a result of the above reforms and new measures trade rapidly expanded. The commercial activities of Songhai were centred on the cities of Timbuktu which regulated commerce in the northwest and west; Gao which served the east and north east such as Egypt, Tripoli and Kano. The last city was Jenne which was the commercial centre for domestic commercial activity. The main exports of Songhai were still slaves, ivory, gold while her major imports were salt from Taghaza and horses from North Africa. The money medium of exchange was normally cowry shells though it is thought that plain gold coins may have been used in Timbuktu.

Another achievement of Askia The Great was in the field of education. The king encouraged education to a level unsurpassed in the history of western Sudan. He promoted higher education and professors and scholars were attracted to Timbuktu which became an august educational centre. There were up to 150 Koranic schools in Timbuktu alone and university education was provided by the Sankore mosque which saw the graduation of a large number of eminent historians, theologians and jurists.

One of them was the distinguished scholar Ahmad Baba who created a biographical dictionary and wrote as many as 50 books on Islamic Law.

In the 16 century the empire had now reached its peak of glory, wealth and power. Yet by 1596 Songhai had faded out of the stage of history.

Asante (Ashanti) Empire 100,000 sq mi at 1874

(not necessairly based on above area)

http://sites.google.com/site/afropublic/asante-empire (Again not the most reliable)

(Wikipedia) The Ashanti (or Asante) are a major ethnic group in Ghana, a powerful, militaristic and highly disciplined people of West Africa. Their military power, which came from effective strategy and an early adoption of European Firearms, created an empire that stretched from central Ghana to present day Benin and Côte d'Ivoire, bordered by the Dagomba kingdom to the north and Dahomey to the east. Due to the empire's military prowess, sophisticated hierarchy, social stratification and culture, the Ashanti empire had one of the largest historiographies of any indigenous Sub-Saharan African political entity. Today the Ashanti monarchy continues as a constitutionally protected, sub-national traditional state in the Republic of Ghana.


The Asante Empire has its beginnings with Osei Tutu, who united the Asante people under one state, as represented by the golden stool-said to hold the soul of the Asante people. Legend says, the stool was brought to earth by priest and royal advisor Okomfo

Anokye. Osei Tutu introduce new military organization and ways of fighting to the Asante militia. Asante was a vassal of Denkyira, the largest Akan state at that time. She paid taxes to the denkyirahene. By 1701, Asante's army conquered the Empire of Denkyira, which gave the empire access to the coastal trade with Europeans, especially the Dutch at Elmina Castle. Osei Tutu died in 1717, at which time the state of Akim (Akyem) came under Asante hedgemony.

Opoku Ware (1720-1750) succeeded as asantehene. Opoku expanded the empire further. He first defeated a revived coalition of Denkyira, Sefwi, Akwapim, and Akim(Akyem). He invaded the kingdoms of the Black Volta-Tekyiman, Banda, Gyaaman, and Gonja. The state of Dagomba was conquered between 1744-1745. The Asante Empire acquired control of the middle Niger trade routes. Under Opoku Ware, the role of women was diminished. Asante society was matrilineal and women played significant administrative roles. Men began to fill administrative functions of the empire.

Kusi Obodom (1750-1764) succeeded Asantehene Opoku. He consolidated conquered territories, while introducing administrative reform in the civil service. Osei Kwadwo(1764-1777) re-initiated expansion and pursued consolidation of territories. Osie Kwame(1771-1803) and Osei Tutu Kwame(1804-1823) pursued expansion and consolidation. Between 1811-1814, the Fante was defeated and brought under Asante hedgemony. After 1820, the entire Gold Coast was under Asante control and her authority supreme.

In 1902, Asante was defeated by the British, after great resistance by heroine Ya Asantewa and made a crown colony.


Kumasi was the capital of the empire and residence of the asantehene.The asantehene was selected via maternal descent. Administrative post would be filled by paternal descent, but later the asantehene would fill positions based on merit, so the lowest in the society would rise in the ranks of the empire. The empire maintained faraway contacts with Timbucktu, Tripoli, Mecca, and Europeans nations. Dignitaries from the latter countries and capitals could all be found in Kumasi.

Each town or province was maintained by an administrator assigned by the asantehene. Order was maintained by the ankobia(special police). They were stationed at Kumasi and all major towns. Members were hand-picked by the asantehene. The ankobia served as personal bodyguards to the asantehene and provided special intelligence. They thwarted rebellion against the state, dissent from rivalry to the throne, and machinations of troublesome territories.

Communication was key to controlling the empire. A network of long and wide roads traverse the provinces. People and goods travelled from the Atlantic coast to the Niger River, through well maintained roads. Trade in slaves, from wars and gold mining were major economic activities.

Military Organization

The Asante was able to win numerous military battles and proved overwhelming to her enemies largely due to her military formation. Asante military organization assumed the shape of a plane. The nose was comprised of a party of scouts. The fuselage was made up of columns of soldiers, followed by the commander of the army and staff. The tail occupied by rear guards. The wings had five columns of warriors. Medical staff stood in the rear.

Asante Architecture

Ashanti architecture is perhaps best known from the reconstruction at Kumasi. Its key features are courtyard-based buildings and walls with striking reliefs in mud plaster, brightly painted. An example of a shrine can be seen at Bawjwiasi in Ghana. Four rectangular rooms, constructed from wattle and daub, lie around a courtyard. Animal designs mark the walls, and palm leaves cut to tiered shape provide the roof. The average house like the shrine, had four rectangular rooms surrounding a courtyard. Some were 2 to 3 stories in height and could hold 80 people. The side facing the street would sometimes have storefronts, trade shops, or balcony. Roof were made of palm leaves. A trellis embedded with clay formed the wall.

The palace of the Asantehene was a huge structure containing 12 oblong courts, with arcades on one side and several squares. Its walls were decorated.

Major long avenues, on a north/south orientation, occupied the Ashanti state and Akan towns. Side streets joined into major avenues at right angles. All major avenues in Kumasi had names.

Drunken Monk
05-31-2012, 05:19 PM
I also think its important people don't necessairly measure the worth of their culture or ancestry by how powerful an empire their was etc. I think to a degree thats flawed logic as what is intelligence and power is a subjective not a objective fact. E.g. some African societies including basic tribes actually had matrilineal monarchy and more equality for women a long time before the West even if they didnt have modern tech or medicine

totally agree with you on that aspect

interestin readin btw

Shadow Demon
05-31-2012, 05:38 PM
^ Word

also many Islamic cultures treats their women worse than Western cultures,

but in actual fact, I read that in the Quran, property rights for women, and the right to relatively equal treatment was written down.It just a shame its not practiced as much, religious bigots!!

And it took till the 20th century for the West to catch up.

Drunken Monk
05-31-2012, 05:44 PM
Most Muslims dont practice what is really written in the Koran, it is known

Fatal Guillotine
06-11-2012, 05:51 PM
you ever read anything by professor smalls?