For decades on end, a group of women defending the southern part of the Sahara have been sowing fear in their enemies. They were called the "Mothers of the people", while history remembers them as the Dahomey Amazons.
These women struck sheer horror in the hearts of the European colonists. They comprised part of the army of the Kingdom of Dahomey, present-day Republic of Benin, hence their name.
These Amazons were notorious for their mercilessness toward their enemies. For them, every battle had to end with death, which was why they always beheaded enemy combatants.
In their final days, the army consisted of about 25 000 women. The last Amazon warrior from this tribe died in 1979 in a remote village of the old Kingdom of Dahomey.
Researchers theorize that Dahomey Amazon history owes its origins to the 17th century, when the regiment was initially used only to hunt elephants. However, after impressing their king with their agility, it was not long before they became his bodyguards.
Only Dahomey Amazons were allowed to stay out after dusk.
At the beginning of the 19th century they were transformed into fully functioning warriors. The strongest, healthiest and bravest women were chosen for military training and turned into fighting machines.
The Amazons were quick, merciless and capable of withstanding pain. They fought to the death and could survive 10 days in the jungle, armed with nothing but a machete.
But as the king's warriors they had no right to marry and have children. They were considered to be officially wed to the king himself and took a vow of chastity during their service. If any Amazon were caught with a man, she would face death.
They devoted their lives completely to Dahomey society and as a reward were allowed to take up leadership positions, claiming power and influence.