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Why the great QUEEN IDEN of Benin kingdom was buried Alive
Queen Iden was the faithful and beloved wife of Oba Ewuakpe of the great of Benin Kingdom. She was the pride and embodiment of love, strength, courage, brevity, African beauty and femininity,
Ewuakpe became Oba (king) in the ancient Benin kingdom at about 1700 A.D. He was the 26th monarch of the hereditary title of Benin dynasty.
Meanwhile, many years before Ewuakpe became king, precisely between 1440-1473 AD, Oba Ewuare had prophesied that there would be a time when Benin Kingdom would experience bad times. This came to pass during the reign of Oba Ewuakpe.
Now, after Oba Ewuakpe’s coronation, he married a beautiful girl called Iden. She lived with him in the royal palace built with red soil mixed with palm oil instead of water.
Ewuakpe’s reign was characterized by a series of setbacks during the early period, to the extent that all subjects in the kingdom revolted against him.
The fundamental cause of the revolt was to protest against the monarch’s high handedness and his flagrant disrespect of human lives, which culminated in the mass killing of his subjects at Uselu during the funeral of his demised mother, Queen Ewebonoza in about 17.15 A.D.
When it became apparent that the elders and the citizens of the Kingdom could no longer accommodate the excesses of the King, they were compelled to severe connections with him.
Therefore, they suspended all meetings at the palace.
Social services were also grounded!
This uprising also affected all his wives (Olois), the royal slaves (ovien) and other palace attendants, who all left!
The Oba would have been left all alone, except for Queen Iden, who demonstrated her loyalty and love for her husband by staying with him.
With time, life in the palace became unbearable for Oba Ewuakpe and he decided to go to his mother’s town, Ikoka. But he wasn’t well treated there.
When he arrived, he wasn’t received with open arms. He was treated unkindly. For instance, they ordered him to join the youths of the town to clear the road path leading to the community well, in preparation for the rainy season.
He was angered by their disrespect for his esteemed position, that he had to place a curse on the people and the town of Ikoka.
In his sad state of mind, he came back to Benin.
During this devastating and isolatory period, Queen Iden became the only friend and comforter of Oba Ewuakpe, as she made herself present as the king’s only hope in time of great calamity.
In her quest to find a solution to her husband’s debacle, Queen Iden decided to do something about it, by consulting an oracle on behalf of her husband Oba Ewuakpe. She believed that the oracle would give instructions and a solution on what should be done about the calamity facing the ancient kingdom and its monarch.
After thorough divination by the oracle, he concluded and told Queen Iden that what was needed for the peace of the kingdom and the restoration of Oba Ewuakpe’s throne, was a human being as sacrificial lamb to appease the gods.
Immediately after finding out the solution to the problem from the oracle, she headed for the palace to give the message of the gods to his majesty the King in their empty harem.
The message from the diviner seemed to aggravate matters for Oba Ewuakpe because there was no other human being in his palace, free or bonded, besides his dear wife, Queen Iden, who incidentally was the conveyor of this report.
Consequently, the possibility of getting somebody else for the human sacrifice became remote for the royal couple.
In the absence of any other person Queen Iden volunteered to be used as the sacrificial lamb needed by the gods for the restoration of the kingdom and his royalty.
As soon as Queen Iden suggested to her husband that she would submit herself for the supreme price, as demanded by the ancestors, Oba Ewuakpe became nervously bitter, as he could not comprehend the possibility of himself killing his dear wife, who had stood with him in times of trouble, in order to atone for the sins she had not committed. But the determined Queen encouraged the royal hands to shed her blood, if only that would appease the ancestral spirits of the land of Benin, so as to put aside the upheaval in the kingdom.
When it became glaring to Oba Ewuakpe that there was no other way out of the predicament, he conceded reluctantly, to the pressure mounted by his faithful lover and Queen, to be sacrificed to the gods…
Eventually, he buried her alive on the spot near the Oba market in the heart of Benin metropolis.
Before Queen Iden voluntarily offered herself as an atonement to the gods, she requested one favour from the king, that he should make sure her grave side is kept clean at all times.