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Full Text: Tribus, 50.2001,N.F.

TRIBUS 50, 2001 
They erected the castle of Fredensborg on the Ningo River and trade posts like 
Tehie, Ningo, Ada and Keta, all in today's Ghana. Danish influence expanded ra 
pidly and it finally controlled the coastal strip east of Accra, embracing the posts afo 
rementioned, of which Ada and Keta had been the more important ones. It seems 
the Danes held a virtual protectorate over the Akwapim and Volta river area. All 
Danish possessions on the Gold Coast were sold to the English in 1850. Among the 
trading items brought to Guinea by the Danes had been the famous „Dane guns“ or 
„long Danes“ (flint-lock guns), a name, for which those weapons had been known 
until recently in Benin. 
Unfortunately, not much is known about the Danish merchant Ludewig Ferdinand 
Römer. He was born in 1714 and at the age of twenty-five, in 1739, he was employed 
in West Africa by the Danish West India and Guinea Company. Römer spent ten 
years there and finally left the Gold Coast in 1749. In 1760 his book was first publis 
hed but only its second edition of 1769 has become well-known. Ludewig Ferdinand 
Römer died in 1776. 
Römer on the extend of the Benin Kingdom to the west 
Römer, who collected material personally on the spot is our main source on this 
point. He further received information on Benin from an Englishman he met on the 
Gold Coast. Regrettably, the identity of this person has not been disclosed yet. By 
going through Römer's book, it is sometimes difficult to find out if the information 
on the Gold Coast affairs derives from either himself or his English informant. 
However, it is for sure that the material on Benin is provided by the latter. 
It is well known that several traders from England resided in the Benin River area in 
the 18 lh century, i.e during the time in question. In the 1730s, English ships traded re 
gularly at Gwato, the old port of Benin. A.EC. Ryder informs us of some particular 
visits. According to him. the Dutch factor at Gwato, W. van Essen reported in 1731: 
„[...] I found an English bark under the command of a Captain Arthur Lane.“ He 
continues: „In September 1736 an English sloop, forced back into the river by con 
trary winds, was attacked by night and all the crew killed, save for one man who hap 
pened to be ashore. The attackers plundered the ship, then sunk it.“ End of 1737, the 
then Dutch factor at Gwato, Abram Raems, fled Benin on board an English ship 1 . 
Ryder discovered another important information yet, i.e. even Danish ships traded 
in the Benin River in the 1780's 2 . 
Before going any further, it should be stated that it is quite difficult to translate 18 ,h 
century German into English. Furthermore, several sentences are quite open to dif 
ferent interpretation. 
Römer starts to describe his findings on the relations between the Gold Coast and 
Benin as follows: „It is well known that before the arrival of the Portuguese or other 
Europeans on the coast, the King of Rio Benin ruled the whole coast of Guinea, up 
to Rio Gambia as Emperor. Some say his rule extended even far to the south up to 
Rio Benin [Benin River], Therefore his realms even surpassed China in extend. I as 
sume only a few Europeans on the coast know about it, although they can observe 
vestiges of it daily. The red Contreterre the Negroes wear, had once been a imperial 
mark of honour. The old-fashioned sabres which the Negroes esteem as magnificent 
for their families are testimony that they derive from an imperial commander-in- 
chief or [war-] captain... One can find footprints of this rule at the upper coast, but 
not as many as on the Gold Coast where some families derive their ancestry from 
those Benin generals or viceroys. Their magnificent horse-tails are a sign of honour 
(like with the Turks) present day and in the past. One can see that such horse tails are 
several hundred years old. Their spears or Asagayen are of the same age and the iron 
is much harder than European makes.“ 3 
Römer further states: „The Englishman already mentioned criticised the well known 
Bosman who [...] provided a report on the capital Benin as well. He describes it in a 
disdainful manner by saying: the government and the town are not better compared 
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