The people of Benin were divided into groups ruled by chiefs. These people came first from Ife, to set up small states of their own. Later they became strong and broke away from Ife.

In 1485, the Portuguese first visited Benin City, the capital of Benin. Trade began here between the Portuguese and the Yorubas ,who sent their products down to Benin.

The Portuguese bought slaves, blue coral beads, pepper and blue cloth which they took to the Gold Coast. From there these goods were sent by sea to Europe.

The chiefs and traders of Benin became wealthy. With the guns they bought from the Portuguese, they went on slave raids. In the 17th century, the power of Benin state stretched from Lagos to Bonny.

But the people of Benin went on fighting for slaves and this brought the downfall of this state. Towns were destroyed, the country was poor and no one cultivated the land.


Benin city itself suffered greatly. Fewer traders came to the city now, and the people became poorer and poorer.