Oyo Empire
Ilú-ọba Ọ̀yọ́
Timeline: Principia Moderni III (Map Game)
OTL equivalent: Yorubaland
1400 – 1525
Flag of Oyo.svg
Yinyin gun!
(Hail Victory!)
Map of Oyo Empire (1525).png
Location and extent of the Oyo Empire (1525)
Largest city Lagos
Official languages Yoruba
Regional Languages Igbo, Mandinka
Ethnic groups (1525) Yoruba, Igbo, Mandinka
Religion Islam
Demonym Oyo
Government Dictatorship
 -  Asaaju Ajani
Legislature Supreme Apejọ
 -  Established 1400 
 -  Constitution 1438 
 -  Isokan declared 1456 
 -  Total 809,800 km2 
312,666 sq mi 
 -  1525 census 41,902,671 
 -  Density 51.74/km2 
134/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 1525 estimate
 -  Total $25.267 billion 
 -  Per capita $603 
Currency Oyo nkan
Drives on the right
Oyo, officially known as the Oyo Empire (Yoruba: Ilú-ọba Ọ̀yọ́) was a large state located in West Africa. It currently spans a total area of 809,800 km² (312,666 sq mi), and possesses an estimated population of 41.9 million subjects as of 1525. The capital of Oyo is Oyo-Ile, which is also the largest city in the empire. Due to its rising appearance as a threat to European colonies and the slave trade, a coalition of European nations invaded the Oyo and divided it into several territories.


Early history (1400–1492)

The Oyo Empire was established in 1400 by Oranyan, the first Alaafin of Oyo, after uniting the local Yoruba tribes into a single polity. Oranyan's first dealings as the ruler of his people were to establish a standing army which his named the Ikorira, or "The Hatred", indicating its new role in fighting the hated or despised enemies, and the Eso, an imperial guard that was to serve Oranyan and future Alaafin, and answer to them directly. This new force was to be comprised to 45,000 troops, of which 37,000 were infantry and 8,000 cavalry. The Eso were to be comprised of 2,000 men, a thousand taken from the infantry and cavalry, and cross-trained to serve as the elite forces both on foot and horseback when needed. In 1401, Oranyan and a trade delegation set off for Mali in the north, leaving his son, Akintunde, as regent in his absence, while seeking to establish a trade alliance with the Mali Empire. Such an alliance was accepted by the Malian leaders, and a trade route set up in 1402. Oranyan's desire to learn more of the lands around him, with those in the north being of great interest to him, saw him acquire a large map, which spiked his interests in exploration, particularly in the yet unexplored south of Africa.

Alaafin Orayan returned to his capital of Oyo-Ile in 1403, bring with him many riches and books from Timbuktu, taking keen interests in the warhorses he had acquired during his stay in Mali. He crossbreed many of the Malian horses with those held by Oyo, hoping to develop a new breed of horse tailored to the dense jungle terrain of northern Oyo. Elsewhere, the war canoes that he sent off to the south before his departure returned to Lagos, bringing with them new goods and information on the southern African tribes, with which they established good relations with. Oranyan sent the warriors back off to the south, but not before he instructed them to make maps of the region, teaching them the skills needed to accomplish that goal. While Oranyan was furthering his plans back home, the merchants he led into Timbuktu had continued north on his orders, reaching Morocco in mid-1403, and crossing the straits into Grenada in late-1403. They gained much information on the local customs, religions, and trades, and recorded many of their discoveries for the Alaafin in preparation for their return and report to him the following year.

Upon their return to Oyo, the merchants brought with them missionaries from Castille, who's presence Oranyan later requested at his court. Upon hearing of their religion Catholicism, Oranyan and his court converted in 1404, along with a significant portion of the Oyo population. The missionaries were later instructed by the Alaafin to teach his people how to read and write, as well as help set up an Oyo clergy in the capital to take over upon the missionaries return home to Castille. Oranyan set off a second trip heading to Castille in late-1404, seeking to learn of the nation which he had only heard of from his merchants. Upon his arrival in early-1405, Oranyan was shocked by the sheer level of wealth and power shown by the Castillians, and was outraged that he people by comparison knew nothing. He made it his life goal to begin developing Oyo in such a way that his people would be like those of Europe, and sought to ensure his people would never be left behind technologically. While he was away, Oranyan's son Akintunde took a census with the help of the missionaries in Oyo, a census which showed a total of 2,172,428 inhabitants within the lands of Oyo.

Oyo's growth continued quite well, with the census helping the government to plan out how best to develop the nation. The Alaafin returned to his nation in 1406, bringing with him hundreds of books, maps, navigators, soldiers, and missionaries, all with the aim of modernizing his country. Upon his return from visiting of the cities of Europe, Oranyan was not pleased with the way his people had been living in comparison to the Europeans. In 1406, Alaafin Oranyan ordered the razing of his capital city of Oyo-Ile, seeking to rebuild the city in a modern form comparable to those of Europe. He redesigned the city from the bottom up, with a number of cathedrals, palaces, castles, and bazaars, all of which were designed with the sole intent of rivaling those found in Europe's largest cities. This rebuilding of the empire's major cities extented to Lagos as well, which the Alaafin envisioned to become the major port city of the empire. A massive harbor was inserted into the new city map, as well as a large shipyard which was to serve as the primary shipbuilding center of Oyo.

All of the new cities were to be layed out in a grid, as Oranyan's visit to the European cities, though eye-opening, was also disgusting. These cities were to be clean and healthy, and the Alaafin himself was involved in the design of the canal systems of the new cities, ensuring that while the people had access to water, it would not be polluted by the filth of waste dumped into the new sewage systems. In the same year, the Oyo had been involved in exploration of the southern reaches of Africa, with the aim of developing trade links with the local tribes. To that end, Alaafin Oranyan established the segun, a group of warrior-explorers who would serve as the nation's eyes and ears beyond the borders, to expand the maps that Europe had become so good at making. The following year, Oyo-Ife's development proceeded to a point where a tenth of the new city's sewage system had been completed, and the city walls re-erected. The city was being rebuilt at a pace that it was able to get most of the population back into homes in an organized manner that recommended the city's success to the nation's neighbors.

Oranyan spent most of his time pouring over maps, books, and weapons, to aquiant himself with the technologies and knowledge that he had discovered in his trips to Europe, and saw fit to educate his nobles in the same manner, especially when it was brought to his attention that many in his court were uneasy with the nation's swift progression into modernization. Spending many nights speaking to groups of nobles and priests, Oranyan indicated that his people could not continue along the same path they had been for centuries, and that they needed to change or change would be brought to them violently. Terror moved the nobles into complience, and prevented a major issue that would have blocked development of the nation's programs. In late-1407, the Alaafin established the segun, a band of warrior-explorers who were educated in Western ideals and information, and knew the tradecrafts of the Europeans. They were sent off in a caravel named the Rin Ajo, generously built for them by the Castillians brought to Oyo by Oranyan, and began their journey to southern Africa to begin their commission to explore the coastline of Africa.

In 1408, more than a quarter of Oyo-Ile had been rebuilt, with a neat city grid taking formation from a bird's eye view of the city. Lagos began to take shape as a port city, and plans were already underway to begin building ships for the nation. The Rin Ajo docked at the city of Mombasa, where the briefly resupplied before docking again in Yemen, taking on many goods and seeking yet failing to establish diplomatic connections with Yemen. The literacy rate in Oyo continued considerably, with gains made with the male population, allowing them to further their education and help them contribute even more to the modernizationation of the nation. In the following year, several honor killings were reported in several villages, as the shrinking animist population sought to force the growing Christian population to return to the old ways of life. However, the lack of support for the animists and the very real danger of having the larger and much more powerful Christian nations in the north attack them, prevent many Oyo from bowing to pagan demands. The attackers were dealt with swiftly, and Catholicism continued to grow without further issue. Ife was vassalized by Oyo that very same year, and brought into the empire as an autonomous province.

The nation continued on its path of development with the port of Lagos expanding as planned, and a considerable portion of the Imperial Palace at Oyo-Ile completed by 1409. Christianization of the country progressed at such a speed that a large number of monasteries were being built throughout the nation to support the preaching and teaching work of the Catholic Church in Oyo. Oyo conquered much of the coast near its borders, reaching out to Yoruba tribes that were impressed with the development of Oyo as a unified nation. This also saw Oyo develop a strong bond with the neighboring city-state of Ife, which was vassalized in 1410 following a successful alliance between the larger Oyo Empire and the smaller city of Ife. In the same year, the segun explorers were dispatched to Yemen, where they docked and attempted to establish a trade pact with the Yemeni rulers. However, this venture failed when it was agreed upon that the trip to Yemen was far to long and far to costly to maintain on a permanent basis.

A second census in 1410 showed the population of Oyo to be 2,314,553, a great increase that denoted the success of the empire's programs to modernize the nation, one of the major facets being that of maintaining clean cities free of pests and refuse. Close to half of Lagos was constructed when the nlanla vessel Imọlẹ ti Shango was completed by the dockyards. It was sent off shortly thereafter to pursue a trade route with the Kongo people of Angola, a region the Oyo had visited only a few years prior to the ship's construction. Returning empty-handed, the Alaafin granted the segun a half-year shore leave, allowing them to rest before continuing on their next venture. Alaafin Oranyan and Prince Akintunde were present at a celebration of Oyo's swift modernization programs, as well as the literacy program which had been underway for nearly five years. With the industrial power of Oyo increasing every month, and the wealth following into the nation on an annual basis, there was much to celebrate as the nation continued to following the footsteps of the great trade nations of Europe.

By 1413, Oyo's navy had a considerable number of nlanla ships to expand their trade routes further south and west, increasing their ability to project their influence far and wide as they outgrow the Benin Empire in sheer power. The acceptance of Christianity continued under Oranyan's capable rule, as he made it a force to be respected and accepted, rather than one to be feared and rejected. By the year 1415, a fifth of Oyo's adult male population could read, a feat accomplished with the government's strong desire to push the need to read and write in society. This breakthrough came at a time when Castille cut Oyo off from trade after it came to regard the Oyo as a nusiance rather than a reliable trade partner. A large, literate male population was just what Oyo needed to ensure it could continue with the modernization of the nation, as the navigators and warriors sent by Castille to help Oyo had been withdrawn. With enough men able to read and write Spanish and Latin, the Oyo could understand the technology behind the vessels and weapons they were purchasing from the Castillians, effectively granting Oyo the ability to produce these goods themselves without Castillian support.



Name Status Date Established Latest Government Change Population Area  (Sq Km)
Oyo Main Nation 1400 1456 11,321,771 179,850
Ife Personal Union 800 1410 513,734 5,400
Benin Personal Union 1440 1447 4,371,422 16,050
Mali Personal Union 1230 1479 25,695,744 608,500


The military of the Oyo Empire, known as the Ikorira, is the main force tasked with protecting the boundaries of Oyo from external threats and internal uprisings, as well as protecting the Asaaju from danger. This force currently consists of 150,000 men, 50,500 on foot and 12,500 on horseback. Oyo has access to gunpowder weapons, fortresses, warships, and a deticated medical corps.


The army of the Oyo is divided into five armies, four standard armies and one special army known as the Eso, which serves as the imperial guard. The four armies are made up of 12,000 warriors of spear and bow and 2,500 cavalry of lance and shield, with the Eso consisting of 5,000 men, trained in foot and cavalry warfare. The armies are centered into settlements with their families outside of the capital of Oyo-Ile, banned from entering with weapons. However, the Eso are the only military formation permitted to remain in the capital with their armor and weapons, serving as palace guards and policemen.


The Oyo are the only nation in their region to employ cavalry given they possess the only stretch of land where horses can be used in battle. As such, the Oyo military is able to make a greater impact in combat thanks to their ability to field heavy armored warriors akin to European knights during battle. Thus, they have been able to carve a greater swath of land out of their region and make it their own. With few enemies to oppose them, the Oyo have basically run the region according to their own rules given that their cavalry are powerful enough to make quick work of any who oppose their laws.


Oyo's navy is made up of 197 ships of multiple classes, though only thirty-seven of these are equipped with cannon, and of these, only twelve, the eranko class vessels, are capable of fighting far beyond the shores of Oyo at the level of the Europeans. The rest of the ships are often employed as trade vessels, though it is not unheard of for the navy to militarize the ships and use them for combat should the need come for it.





Foreign Relations