The Real Reason The Dahomey Amazons Were Disbanded

There have been some elite military units throughout history, but you would be hard pressed to find many that were like the Dahomey Amazons. This all-female regiment served the kingdom of Dahomey for nearly two centuries, fiercely defending their people and their king. The Dahomey Amazons, or Mino ("mothers"), endured intense training that turned them into some of the most feared warriors on the planet (per Culture Trip). Despite their vast skill set and formidable reputation, the Amazons were eventually disbanded.

There are many reasons why a government or ruler might dissolve any given component of their military. Lack of funds, shortages in equipment, or the unavailability of the right candidates to fill the ranks are just a few possibilities. However, none of those were the issue for the Mino. They were the dominating force in West Africa for decades and likely would have continued to prevail in their conquests, but for a decision by the king. This choice was one that would result in not only the abolishment of the Dahomey Amazons, but also in the ultimate downfall of an empire.

Mysterious origins

According to a second article at Culture Trip, the true date of the Amazons' formation as a military unit is unknown, though it is widely speculated that it was at some point during the 1600s. After the turn of the century, they became part of the palace guard, before rapidly expanding their ranks and becoming a part of Dahomey's military. By the 1850s half of Dahomey's army was made up of these female soldiers.

Life as one of these warriors was anything but easy. They were divided into several different groups such as huntresses, archers, reapers, and gunners (per All That's Interesting). However, before you could reach those designated groups, you had to complete some brutal training. Some of this training included tests of a candidate's speed, agility, and athleticism, but also required the ability to withstand high amounts of pain. They were also subjected to "insensitvity training," with the goal of turning them into fighters who would not hesitate to slay their enemy. This process molded these women into a highly skilled yet brutal fighting force that dominated their region and expanded their kingdom.

The Franco-Dahomean Wars

Though the Kingdom of Dahomey had an incredible military, it didn't mean that they were completely safe. During the 19th century, Europeans began colonizing this part of the African continent. According to War History Online, the king of Dahomey, Behanzin, went to war with the French, which was the first Franco-Dahomean War. The Dahomey Amazons participated in this conflict, and though they reportedly won some battles, they were ultimately outmanned and outgunned.

There was also a Second Franco-Dahomean War, and though the Mino fought in that one as well, the French were ultimately victorious in 1894 (per Culture Trip). This defeat of the Dahomean military paved the way for French colonization in the region. When the Europeans seized power, they also disbanded their foe's military, including the Dahomey Amazons. According to Black Past, the French went so far as to ban the women of Dahomey from military service or bearing weapons, as they were too much of a potential threat. France then controlled this area for decades until 1960, when the former kingdom of Dahomey became the independent nation of Benin.

The last Dahomey Amazon is believed to have died in 1979 (per All That's Interesting). In 2018 these elite female warriors served as inspiration for the Dora Milaje of Marvel's blockbuster film "Black Panther."