He was the most powerful king among the West African Kings during the end of the nineteenth century. Also referred to as “The King Shark”, the 11th King of Dahomey ruled with iron hands and resisted European intervention into his country.
He did this with a strong army including five thousand female warriors known as the Dahomey Amazons. In 1890, Behanzin defeated a French expedition and made France pay for the use of Cotonou port.
After declaring a treaty made with France by his father, Gli-Gli in 1868 null and void, war broke out. He was, however, defeated in 1894 by A.A. Dodds, a Senegalese mulatto, who fought him with powerful French armed forces. Behanzin exiled to Martinique, and died in Algeria in 1906. His body was moved to Dahomey in 1928.
According to legend, during his rule, a nod of his head meant life or death for his subjects and only a few were allowed to see him do some common things.