Opoku Ware (circa 1700-1750), who ruled from 1720-1750, was probably the greatest of the 18th century Asante warrior kings. Under his leadership, Asante defeated the state of Akyem and became the predominant power in the Gold Coast.

He was the grandson of the sister of Osei Tutu (q.v.), the founder of the Asante nation. The sudden death of Osei Tutu in battle against the Akyem Kotoku in 1717 threw Asante into a state of civil war and confusion. But eventually Opoku Ware, who had been nominated by Osei Tutu himself as his successor, became Asantehene (ruler of Asante) in about 1720.

To revive the flagging spirit of the people, and to bind them together, he sanctified ntam kese, the Great Oath of Asante. “This was a circumlocution to avoid the taboo words  ”koromante ne memeneda,” meaning Saturday and Koramante, a reference to the day and place of Osei Tutu’s death. An Asante chief who used this oath in swearing his allegiance could not go back on his word, and even the Asantehene himself was bound by it.

After bringing stability to the kingdom, Opoku Ware embarked upon a policy of conquest. He punished the tributary states of Sehwi to the west and Aowin to the southeast of Asante, which had rebelled and sacked Kumase, the capital of Asante – killing Opoku Ware’s mother and robbing the royal graves of their golds – during the war between Asante and Akyem in 1717. After the defeat of Sehwi, Opoku Ware annexed its territories between the Tano and Bia rivers which were henceforth known as Ahafo, the hunting ground of the Asantehene. He also conquered the states of Takyiman and Gyaman to the northwest. In addition, he reduced Akwamu, to the northeast of Accra, to the position of a junior partner in the Asante-Akwamu alliance which had come into being at the time when Osei Tutu ruled in Asante and Ansa Sasraku II ruled in Akwamu. In 1726 he also began an intermittent war with Wassa to the southwest which was to continue even after his death.

In 1730 Akwamu was defeated by Akyem, which tilted the balance of power in the interior of the Gold Coast in Akyem’s favour. To meet the threat, Opoku Ware attacked Akyem in 1742 in a war which ended in the complete defeat of Akyem. Having captured the Notes for the Accra forts from Akyem, as a result of which their rents were henceforth payable to the Asante, he thereby also increased Asante’s influence on the coast. Henceforth Asante was the dominant political economic power in the Gold Coast. The Asante also annexed parts of Akyem, and became the overlords of Kwahu to the east, and Akuapem, Adangme, Akwamu, and Accra to the southeast. After the successes, in 1744 -1745 Opoku Ware attacked and defeated the Dagomba to the north. By 1746, the Asante, under his rule, had become the main source of gold, ivory and slaves on the Gold Coast.

From 1746 onwards Opoku devoted most of his time to internal administration. He strengthened the monarchy at the expense of the Kumase chiefs who, as governors of the provinces, had become too powerful. He sought to end his dependence upon them by creating a number of stools whose occupants would be directly responsible to himself as Asantehene. One such stool was the Ankobea whose members were the Asantehene’s personal bodyguard.

These internal changes, however, led to uprisings in Asante. The Kumase chiefs drove Opoku Ware out of the capital, obliging him to seek refuge in Dwaben to the northeast. He then fought back, defeating Kumase rebels and obliging them to accept reforms. But the uprisings in the Asante had also led to rebellions in the outlying provinces. The Akyem, the Denkyera, and Twifo to the south, and the Wassa to the southwest threw off their allegiance to Asante with the open support of the coastal Fante.

By the time of his death in 1750, Opoku Ware had not only prevented the Asante nation from the disintegration which had threatened it at the time of Osei Tutu’s death, but had also added many states to its dependent territories, and had also increased its economic power. But the discontent which his reforms had provoked in Asante itself, and the subsequent revolt of some of the tributary states, prevented the Asante from enjoying the benefits of their newly-won supremacy.


Recent Comments

No comments to show.
This error message is only visible to WordPress admins

Error: No feed found.

Please go to the Instagram Feed settings page to create a feed.

Working Hours

8:00Am–4:00Pm, Monday Until 8:00

Office Location

Campus of CSIR Airport Residential Area, Accra-Ghana

The Encyclopaedia Africana Project. Is an AU Flagship Project with the mission to produce and publish peer reviewed articles devoted mainly to Africa and its people.