Female Soldier (Amazon), Dahomey, 1849-50


Frederick E. Forbes, Dahomey and the Dahomans: being the journals of two missions to the king of Dahomey, and residence in his capital, in . . . 1849 and 1850 (London, 1851), vol. 1, facing p. 23


Caption, Seh-Dong-Hong-Beh. An Amazon in the Dahoman army. Image shows her in war uniform, holding rifle in one hand and decapitated head of enemy in the other. The amazons are not supposed to marry . . . . All dress alike, diet alike . . . . what the males do, the amazons will endeavor to surpass. They all take great care of their arms, polish the barrels, and, except when on duty, keep them in covers. There is no duty at the palace, except when the king is in public, and then a guard of amazons protect the royal person . . . . The amazons are in barracks within the palace enclosure, and under the care of eunuchs . . . . In every [military] action (with males and females), there is some reference to cutting off heads (Forbes, vol. 1, pp. 23-24). In Dahomey, these female soldiers were known as ahosi. For a modern study, see Robert Edgerton, Warrior Women: The Amazons of Dahomey and the Nature of War (Westview Press, 2000).

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