The Songhai Empire became the most important state in West Africa following the decline of the Mali Empire in the late 1400s.
It originated as a small kingdom along the eastern side of the Niger River during 1000 C.E. and was under the rule of the Mali Empire.
It was located within the south of the Sahara Desert along the Niger River and stretches from the present-day country Niger to the Atlantic Ocean.
Even though they were conquered by the Mali Empire, the Songhai people proved to be powerful and troublesome for conquerors as they controlled the transport on the Niger River.
In fact, the Songhai Kings made several efforts to raid Mali centers during early 15th century C.E. to fight for their independence. Ultimately, the Mali kings lost their grip on several smaller kingdoms.
The Songhai Empire first came into power under the leadership of Sunni Ali. Several historians believed that Sunni Ali was held a prisoner for political reasons by the Mali emperor before he escaped to the city of Gao.
Sunni Ali subsequently took control of the city and went on established the Songhai Empire at around 1464 C.E.
He began to conquer nearby towns including trading locations such as Djenne and Timbuktu that was considered as important cities of the Mali Empire.
At around 1468 C.E., Sunni Ali deployed an army equipped with armored cavalry and a naval fleet within the Niger River to conquer the remnants of the old Mali Empire.
The Songhai immediately took control of the important trade port of the Timbuktu of the Niger River by 1469 C.E.
In addition, the Songhai Empire also centralized government systems with respect to the more federal arrangements of the earlier empires.
Even though rulers were considered as an absolute monarch and had 700 eunuchs at his court; the thrones of the Songhai kings were never secured.
As a matter of fact, six of the nine rulers of the Songhai Empire were either dead on violent deaths or dethroned in rebellions.
In most cases, kings of the Songhai Empire were killed by their uncles or brothers.
Why did the Songhai Empire fall?
The Songhai Empire lasted for 800 years before it started to weaken during the mid-1500s as a result of the civil war and internal strife.
Who conquered the Songhai Empire?
The Songhai Empire subsequently collapsed and was divided into smaller states in the early 16th century after the Moroccan army invaded and conquered the cities of Gao and Timbuktu.
What was Askia Muhammad known for?
Askia Muhammad was known for the promotion of Islamic scholarship, general tranquility, and commerce in the Songhai Empire.
How important was the city of Timbuktu in the Songhai Empire?
During the Songhai Empire, the city of Timbuktu was the center of education and trade.