Once a girl bought an iPad, when her father saw it, He asked “What was the 1st thing you did when you bought it?
“I put an anti-scratch sticker on the screen and bought a cover for the iPad” she replied.
“Did someone force you to do so?” “No” “Don’t you think it’s an insult to the manufacturer?” “No dad! In fact they even recommend using
a cover for the iPad” “Did you cover it because it was cheap & ugly?”
“Actually, I covered it because I didn’t want it to get damage and decrease in value.”
“When you put the cover on, didn’t it reduce the iPad’s beauty?”
“I think it looks better and it is worth it for the protection it gives my iPad.”
The father looked lovingly at his daughter and said, “Yet if I had asked you to cover your body which is much more precious than the iPad, would you have readily agreed???” She was
Indecent dressing and exposure of your body reduces your value and respect.
This is the story of a lost medieval city you’ve probably never heard about. Benin City, originally known as Edo, was once the capital of a pre-colonial African empire located in what is now southern Nigeria. The Benin empire was one of the oldest and most highly developed states in west Africa, dating back to the 11th century.
The Guinness Book of Records (1974 edition) described the walls of Benin City and its surrounding kingdom as the world’s largest earthworks carried out prior to the mechanical era. According to estimates by the New Scientist’s Fred Pearce, Benin City’s walls were at one point “four times longer than the Great Wall of China, and consumed a hundred times more material than the Great Pyramid of Cheops”.
Situated on a plain, Benin City was enclosed by massive walls in the south and deep ditches in the north. Beyond the city walls, numerous further walls were erected that separated the surroundings of the capital into around 500 distinct villages.
Pearce writes that these walls “extended for some 16,000 km in all, in a mosaic of more than 500 interconnected settlement boundaries. They covered 6,500 sq km and were all dug by the Edo people … They took an estimated 150 million hours of digging to construct, and are perhaps the largest single archaeological phenomenon on the planet”.
Barely any trace of these walls exist today.
Benin City was also one of the first cities to have a semblance of street lighting. Huge metal lamps, many feet high, were built and placed around the city, especially near the king’s palace. Fuelled by palm oil, their burning wicks were lit at night to provide illumination for traffic to and from the palace.
When the Portuguese first “discovered” the city in 1485, they were stunned to find this vast kingdom made of hundreds of interlocked cities and villages in the middle of the African jungle. They called it the “Great City of Benin”, at a time when there were hardly any other places in Africa the Europeans acknowledged as a city. Indeed, they classified Benin City as one of the most beautiful and best planned cities in the world.
In 1691, the Portuguese ship captain Lourenco Pinto observed: “Great Benin, where the king resides, is larger than Lisbon; all the streets run straight and as far as the eye can see. The houses are large, especially that of the king, which is richly decorated and has fine columns. The city is wealthy and industrious. It is so well governed that theft is unknown and the people live in such security that they have no doors to their houses.”
In contrast, London at the same time is described by Bruce Holsinger, professor of English at the University of Virginia, as being a city of “thievery, prostitution, murder, bribery and a thriving black market made the medieval city ripe for exploitation by those with a skill for the quick blade or picking a pocket”.
Benin City’s planning and design was done according to careful rules of symmetry, proportionality and repetition now known as fractal design. The mathematician Ron Eglash, author of African Fractals – which examines the patterns underpinning architecture, art and design in many parts of Africa – notes that the city and its surrounding villages were purposely laid out to form perfect fractals, with similar shapes repeated in the rooms of each house, and the house itself, and the clusters of houses in the village in mathematically predictable patterns.
As he puts it: “When Europeans first came to Africa, they considered the architecture very disorganised and thus primitive. It never occurred to them that the Africans might have been using a form of mathematics that they hadn’t even discovered yet.”
At the centre of the city stood the king’s court, from which extended 30 very straight, broad streets, each about 120-ft wide. These main streets, which ran at right angles to each other, had underground drainage made of a sunken impluvium with an outlet to carry away storm water. Many narrower side and intersecting streets extended off them. In the middle of the streets were turf on which animals fed.
“Houses are built alongside the streets in good order, the one close to the other,” writes the 17th-century Dutch visitor Olfert Dapper. “Adorned with gables and steps … they are usually broad with long galleries inside, especially so in the case of the houses of the nobility, and divided into many rooms which are separated by walls made of red clay, very well erected.”
Dapper adds that wealthy residents kept these walls “as shiny and smooth by washing and rubbing as any wall in Holland can be made with chalk, and they are like mirrors. The upper storeys are made of the same sort of clay. Moreover, every house is provided with a well for the supply of fresh water”.
Family houses were divided into three sections: the central part was the husband’s quarters, looking towards the road; to the left the wives’ quarters (oderie), and to the right the young men’s quarters (yekogbe).
Daily street life in Benin City might have consisted of large crowds going though even larger streets, with people colourfully dressed – some in white, others in yellow, blue or green – and the city captains acting as judges to resolve lawsuits, moderating debates in the numerous galleries, and arbitrating petty conflicts in the markets.
The early foreign explorers’ descriptions of Benin City portrayed it as a place free of crime and hunger, with large streets and houses kept clean; a city filled with courteous, honest people, and run by a centralised and highly sophisticated bureaucracy.
The city was split into 11 divisions, each a smaller replication of the king’s court, comprising a sprawling series of compounds containing accommodation, workshops and public buildings – interconnected by innumerable doors and passageways, all richly decorated with the art that made Benin famous. The city was literally covered in it.
The exterior walls of the courts and compounds were decorated with horizontal ridge designs (agben) and clay carvings portraying animals, warriors and other symbols of power – the carvings would create contrasting patterns in the strong sunlight. Natural objects (pebbles or pieces of mica) were also pressed into the wet clay, while in the palaces, pillars were covered with bronze plaques illustrating the victories and deeds of former kings and nobles.
At the height of its greatness in the 12th century – well before the start of the European Renaissance – the kings and nobles of Benin City patronised craftsmen and lavished them with gifts and wealth, in return for their depiction of the kings’ and dignitaries’ great exploits in intricate bronze sculptures.
“These works from Benin are equal to the very finest examples of European casting technique,” wrote Professor Felix von Luschan, formerly of the Berlin Ethnological Museum. “Benvenuto Celini could not have cast them better, nor could anyone else before or after him. Technically, these bronzes represent the very highest possible achievement.”
What impressed the first visiting Europeans most was the wealth, artistic beauty and magnificence of the city. Immediately European nations saw the opportunity to develop trade with the wealthy kingdom, importing ivory, palm oil and pepper – and exporting guns. At the beginning of the 16th century, word quickly spread around Europe about the beautiful African city, and new visitors flocked in from all parts of Europe, with ever glowing testimonies, recorded in numerous voyage notes and illustrations.
Now, however, the great Benin City is lost to history. Its decline began in the 15th century, sparked by internal conflicts linked to the increasing European intrusion and slavery trade at the borders of the Benin empire.
Then in 1897, the city was destroyed by British soldiers – looted, blown up and burnt to the ground. My great grandparents were among the many who fled following the sacking of the city; they were members of the elite corps of the king’s doctors.
Nowadays, while a modern Benin City has risen on the same plain, the ruins of its former, grander namesake are not mentioned in any tourist guidebook to the area. They have not been preserved, nor has a miniature city or touristic replica been made to keep alive the memory of this great ancient city.
A house composed of a courtyard in Obasagbon, known as Chief Enogie Aikoriogie’s house – probably built in the second half of the 19th century – is considered the only vestige that survives from Benin City. The house possesses features that match the horizontally fluted walls, pillars, central impluvium and carved decorations observed in the architecture of ancient Benin.
Curious tourists visiting Edo state in Nigeria are often shown places that might once have been part of the ancient city – but its walls and moats are nowhere to be seen. Perhaps a section of the great city wall, one of the world’s largest man-made monuments, now lies bruised and battered, neglected and forgotten in the Nigerian bush.
A discontented Nigerian puts it this way: “Imagine if this monument was in England, USA, Germany, Canada or India? It would be the most visited place on earth, and a tourist mecca for millions of the world’s people. A money-spinner worth countless billions in annual tourist revenue.”
Instead, if you wish to get a glimpse into the glorious past of the ancient Benin kingdom – and a better understanding of this groundbreaking city – you are better off visiting the Benin Bronze Sculptures section of the British Museum in central London.
This year should not pass you by without you having a success story to tell. We believe that you have it in you so do to, because no one is devoid of ability to positively impact his/her life. The eagle is a bird that fascinates me, and has held my attention for many years. Let me share with you some tips that can be learnt from some of the eagle’s characteristics in your success drive.
(1) An Eagle creates a niche for itself. It flies alone, at altitudes no other class of Avians do. It doesn’t fly with sparrows or other small birds.
Tip: Endeavor to fly at higher altitudes. How? By flocking (sorry!) with other Eagles, not sparrows and ravens. Why? Because, like begets like. Keep good company, get credible counsel and direction.
(2) Eagles have an accurate vision. An eagle has the ability to focus on something as far away as 5 kilometers. No matter the obstacle, an eagle will not shift its focus from the prey until it makes a kill.
Tip: Have a clear vision and mission for 2016. Then remain focused like a laser beam no matter what obstacle may arise (and trust me obstacles would).
(3) Eagles do not eat carrion i.e. dead things. They feed only on fresh prey.
Tip: Do not rely on your past success. Keep looking for new frontiers to conquer. Leave your past where it belongs – behind you. There is a reason why Scripture enjoins us not to think we have attained, but to press towards the mark.
(4) Eagles love storms. When clouds gather, the eagle gets excited. The eagle uses the storm’s wind to lift it higher. It gets into a storm for lifting and once atop relaxes to glide above it, thereby resting its wings and the effort required to flap! Thereby finding rest in a storm! Meanwhile, whilst a storm rages, other birds hide away, giving the eagle a free reign of the roost.
Tip: Face up to your challenges rather than run from them. This will make you emerge stronger and better than you were before. An the classic theory of elastic expansion kicks in. Let me explain – once an elastic band is over stretched, it takes a new form by becoming bigger than before. Storms, well used, can become stepping stones to freedom and/or more enlightenment. Ask Bro. Joseph.
(5) Mating Ritual: To commit to starting a family with a male eagle, a female eagle sets a commitment test – a fetch ritual. She plunges to earth with the male in hot pursuit. She picks up a twig and then soars back into the air, to a high altitude where she then drops the twig to free fall. The male is required to chase after to retrieve. Is expected to catch the twig in mid-flight, and fetch it back to the female eagle. The female repeats this test over and over again by increasing the drop altitude.
Where a male is able to catch up and retrieve successively, then and only then, will she accept him as her mate – for life. Why? To the female, the male eagle has shown commitment.
Tip: Whether in private life or in business, you must test and be sure of the commitment of those you partner with. Critical for your long term marital or business survival.
(6) Eagles’ Training Manual. When it is time to let an eaglet out of the nursery nest, the parent Eagle removes the down feathers and soft grass in the nest to inconvenience the eaglet. It then practically pushes the young one over the edge, encouraging the eaglet to exercise its wings! The parent catches and repeats this process until the eaglet is ready to spread its own wings to soar! Amazing!
Tip: Leave your comfort zone, there is no growth there. Worst case scenario, you would have learnt one more way not to do things! Remember the theory of elastic expansion I explained above.
(7) Regeneration: As an Eagle ages, it’s feathers become weak and this slows it down, threatening its survival. At this time, the eagle retires temporarily to a place hidden away in the rocks, far from prying eyes. Whilst there, it plucks out every feather on it’s own body until completely bare. This is a painful process and its body will be covered in blood. It temporarily appears vulnerable to the elements. The eagle however endures and remains in this hiding place until new feathers grow (as the law of regeneration ensures); then it makes a grand re-entry into its habitat. That eagle then gets to live again for a long time! Studies show that an eagle too week to follow through on this process dies in the hiding place!
Tip: We occasionally need to shed old habits, cast aside some limiting relationships, do
away with things that burden us, or adds little or no value to our lives and purpose.
It is important that we learn to do this with all the ruthlessness it deserves, enduring temporary pain. We need to be able to burn those limiting bridges and move on! Remember, fortune favors the brave.
Dear readers, it is my wish that you to prosper this year. And I know you have it in you to so do. Why don’t you study more on the Eagle and see what other viable lessons you can learn; so that you too can soar to greater heights this year.
Should you require further help my contact details are below:
email@example.com or +2348098445165. You can also like our FaceBook page – Adewale Adeniji_Nation, Heritage, Self – to get regular life issues and success tips.
Go and succeed, and when you do help others so to do! We love you!