The N’Nonmiton or “Our Mothers” were an all-female fighting force serving the Kingdom of Dahomey. They were also called the Dahomey Amazons by those in the West.
Origins of the Dahomey Amazons
By some accounts, the force was formed by Dahomean king Houegbadja during the mid or late-17th century. King Houegbadja’s intent was for the Amazons to be a part of the gbeto elephant hunters. More accurately, it was the king’s son Agaja who formed an all-woman bodyguard group during the 18th century.
This group of bodyguards were eventually formed into a fighting force. Their debut in combat was towards the end of Agala’s reign as king (1708-1732) during a battle against the Kingdom of Savi in 1727. The training focus and recruitment drive among Dahomey women picked up as the kingdom turned its focus on conquest and expansion.
The Ranks of N’Nonmiton
The Amazons were made up of Dahomean women and young girls. Depending on the conditions, women volunteered to join the forces or sent by their husbands because of unfavorable behavior. There are also women who were wives of the king. Training included running through thorn bushes and killing prisoners to endure pain and punishment and become indifferent towards killing in battle.
By serving Dahomey in times of war, an Amazon’s status could rise. They were revered and respected on military, political, and religious levels.
Fall of the Amazons
The Dahomey Amazons existed for a very long time and appeared to assist the main forces on multiple occassions. Their fall came as a result of King Behanzin’s overzealousness in facing France during the First and Second Franco-Dahomean Wars.