|Posted: 16 November 2005 at 3:01am | IP Logged
The Ghana Empire (existed c. 750-1240) was located in what is now southeastern Mauritania and part of Mali. Though known to its own citizens as the Wagadou Empire (pronounced Wah-guh-doo), the Empire became known in Europe and Arabia as the Ghana Empire by the title of its ruler (the Ghanas meaning "Warrior King"), and the name stuck for centuries to come. The "dou" in the empire's name is Mande for "town" and prevalent throughout central West Africa. The "waga" in the name roughly translates to "herd". Thus, Wagadou means "Land of Herds".
The empire grew rich from the trans-Saharan trade in gold and salt. Relatively little is known about the kingdom, with most information coming from Andalusian traders who frequently visited the country, and from the Almoravids, who invaded the kingdom in the late 11th century.
It is believed to be the first of many empires that would rise in that part of Africa. It first began in the eighth century, when a dramatic shift in the economy of the Sahel area south of the Sahara allowed more centralized states to form. The introduction of the camel and other forms of livestock by Arabs brought about a revolution in trade, and for the first time, the extensive gold, ivory, and salt resources of the region could be sent north and east to population centers in North Africa and the Middle East in exchange for manufactured goods.
This trade produced an increasing surplus, allowing for larger urban centres; it also encouraged territorial expansion to gain control over the lucrative trade routes. Ghana is believed to have originally been a small Mandé and Berber inhabited principality also known as Awkar, that had existed since at least the fourth century. Awkar was originally ruled by Berber pastorialist. Around 750 or 800 AD Majan Dyabe Cisse or Dinga Cisse united the Soninke in taking over Awkar and establishing a state. The Cisse clan became the rulers of the new state called Wagadou. To this day, the Cisse name is prominent in the politics of Mali and Mauritania.
The Ghanas expanded their territory greatly, annexing a number of neighbouring cities and peoples. The empire's capital was built at Kumbi Saleh. This would grow to a size of 30,000 on the edge of the Sahara.
The first written mention of the kingdom comes soon after it was contacted by Arab traders in the eighth century. In the late ninth and early tenth centuries, there are more detailed accounts of a centralized monarchy that dominated the states in the region. The Cordoban scholar al-Bakri collected stories from a number of travelers to the region, and gave a detailed description of the kingdom in 1067. At that time, the Ghana could field an army of some 200,000 soldiers.
Upon the death of a Ghana, he was succeeded by his sister's son. The deceased Ghana would be buried in a large dome-roofed tomb. The religion of the kingdom involved emperor worship of the Ghana and worship of the Bida a mythical sea serpent of the Niger.
The capital city Koumbi was a large metropolis divided into two sections. One section was a center of trade and was inhabited almost entirely by Arab and Berber merchants. Because the majority of these merchants were Muslim, this part of town contained more then a dozen mosques. The other part of the city was called 'El-Ghaba'. This stoned-wall protected section was the royal and spiritual capital of the Empire of Ghana. Most of the houses here were build of wood and clay, but wealthy and important residents lived in homes of wood and stone. The kings palace was the grandest of sturctures in this part of the city.
As Islam grew throughout the region, the kings of Ghana permitted the religion, but did not convert to it. The growing power of the Almoravids to the northwest soon led them to launch a jihad against the kingdom. The empire had long been struggling. The rise of the Almoravids had disrupted the Saharan trade and pushed into the west. The population density around the empire's leading cities had also overtaxed the region, and the Sahara desert was expanding southward. While imported food was sufficient to support the population whenever the income from trade was high, when trade faltered, this system also broke down. The weakening of the centre sparked a revolt of the empire's vassal states, destroying the Ghana Empire in the thirteenth century and enabling the area to be annexed by the Almoravids. They collapsed quickly, and a new state, the Mali Empire, rose to dominate the region.
The modern country of Ghana is named after the ancient empire, though there is no territory shared between the two states. There are traditional stories that the survivors of the Ghana Empire migrated to the region of modern Ghana, but there is no evidence that this is true.
The Soninke dominated kingdom was conquered briefly by Almoravids under General Abu Bekr. The Almoravids could not hold the area, and it again was run by the Soninke. The Diarisso Dynasty of Sosso rulers starting with Diarra Kante conquered much of the kingdom and Kumbi Saleh in 1180. In 1203, Kumbi Saleh was captured by Diarra Kante's son Soumaoro Kante and forced to pay tribute.
Wagadou's vassal king Ghana Soumaba Cisse sheltered Sundjata Keita during his exile. He later gave half his army to Sundjata on his quest to liberate Mali from the Sosso. After Soumaoro's defeat at the Battle of Kirina in 1235, Ghana Soumaba Cisse became a permanent ally of Mali. As Mali became more powerful, Wagadou's role as an ally declined to that of a submissive state.
Rulers of Wagadou
- King Kaya Maja or Kaya Maghan (circa 350 AD);
- 21 Kings, names unknown (circa 350 AD- 622 AD);
- 21 Kings, names unknown (circa 622 AD- 750 AD);
- Majan Dyabe Cisse or Dinga Cisse first Ghana of Wagadou (circa 750 AD);
- More Ghanas, names unknown (circa 750 AD- 1040);
- Ghana Bassi (1040- 1062);
- Ghana Tunka Menin (1062- 1068);
- General Abu Bakr of the Moroccan Moslem Almoravids (1068- 1076);
- Ghana Kambine Diaresso (1076- 1090);
- Ghana Suleiman (1090- 1100);
- Ghana Bannu Bubu (1100- 1120);
- Ghana Majan Wagadou (1120- 1130);
- Ghana Gane (1130- 1140);
- Ghana Musa (1140- 1160);
- Ghana Birama (1160- 1180);
- Diara Kante of the Sosso tribe's Diarisso Dynasty from Kaniaga (1180-1202);
- Ghana Soumaba Cisse as vassal of Diarisso Dynasty led by Soumaoro (1203-1235);
- Ghana Soumaba Cisse as allied king to Mali under Sundjata Keita (1235-1240);
- Abu Bakr after Almoravid invaison*