The Asante Empire rose to power during the 17th Century in what is now modern day Ghana when the Asante, an Akan-speaking people established their state around Kumasi in the late 1600s.
The rise and fall in the power of the Asante Empire can be explained by the effects of the Trans-Saharan Trade and the Trans-Atlantic Trade in Gold and Slaves on the influence of the Asante Empire.
The Rise Of Osei Tutu And The Asante Empire
The Asante Empire’s rise to power began when it was founded by Osei Tutu, the Asantehene (Paramount Chief) of the Asante Empire from 1701 to 1717 and his Priest Komfo Anokye who worked to unify a variety of independent chiefdoms into the most powerful political and military state in the coastal region.
Osei Tutu formed and organized the Asante union, a powerful alliance of Akan-speaking people who became loyal to Osei Tutu’s central authority. Osei Tutu then made Kumasi the capital of the new Asante Empire.
Most importantly, Osei Tutu also created the Golden Stool, a lasting symbol of the power of the Asante Empire which he argued represented the ancestors of all the Asante.
It was upon the Golden Stool that Osei Tutu legitimized his power and that of the royal dynasty that followed him.
The Trade in Gold and Slaves was important in the Asante Empire’s rise to power.
Gold was the major product of the Empire, and Osei Tutu made all gold mines royal possessions. He also made gold dust the circulating currency in the Asante Empire which was accumulated and traded by Asante citizens.
The Asante Royal family would also melt it down and fashion it into new patterns of display in jewelry and statues to project its power.
Decline Of The Power Of The Asante Empire
By the early 1800s however, the Asante Empire would lose its power because of its heavy reliance on the Slave Trade.
Initially, the Asante Empire’s Slave Trade was focused north with captives going to Mende and Hausa traders who exchanged them for goods from North Africa and indirectly from Europe along the Trans-Saharan Trade Route.
By 1800 however, Trade had shifted to the South as the Asante Empire sought to meet the growing demand of the British, Dutch, and French for Slaves across the Atlantic Ocean along the Trans-Atlantic Trade Route.
The consequences of the new Trans-Atlantic trade destroyed the power of the Asante Empire because from 1790 until 1896, the Asante Empire was in a perpetual state of war.
The constant warfare also weakened the Asante Empire against the British who eventually captured Kumasi and annexed the Asante Empire into their Gold Coast colony in 1902.
The story of the rise and fall in the Power of the Asante Empire stands as a monument to the Great Empires of Pre-Colonial Africa.