BEFORE OYO The people who lived in Yorubaland, at least by the seventh century BC, were not initially known as the Yoruba, although they shared a common ethnicity and language group. The historical Yoruba develop in situ, out of earlier (Mesolithic) Volta-Niger populations, by the 1st millennium BC. Archaeologically, the settlement at Ile-Ife can be dated to the 4th century BC, with urban structures appearing in the 12th century (the urban phase of Ile-Ife before the rise of Oyo, ca. 1100-1600, is sometimes described as a "golden age" of Ile-Ife).
OYO EMPIRE Ife was surpassed by the Oyo Empire as the dominant Yoruba military and political power between 1600 and 1800 AD. The nearby kingdom of Benin was also a powerful force between 1300 and 1850. Most of the city states were controlled by Obas, elected priestly monarchs, and councils made up of Oloyes, recognised leaders of royal, noble, and often even common descent, who joined them in ruling over the kingdoms through a series of guilds and cults. Different states saw differing ratios of power between the kingship and the chiefs' council. Some, such as Oyo, had powerful, autocratic monarchs with almost total control, while in others such as the Ijebu city-states, the senatorial councils were supreme and the Ọba served as something of a figurehead. In all cases, however, Yoruba monarchs were subject to the continuing approval of their constituents as a matter of policy, and could be easily compelled to abdicate for demonstrating dictatorial tendencies or incompetence. The order to vacate the throne was usually communicated through an aroko or symbolic message, which usually took the form of parrots' eggs delivered in a covered calabash bowl by the senators.Read More
Yoruba history by TYLPI writer.