(c. 1210-c. 1260)
Sundiata was the son of Nare Fa Maghan, king of the Mandingo, and Sogolon Conde. The union of Maghan and Sogolon was based on the prophecy that Sogolon would give Maghan a son who would be Mali's greatest king.
Sassouma, Maghan's first wife, viewed Sundiata as a threat to her son Dankaran Touman's accession to the throne. She was relieved when Sogolon's son turned out to be sickly and lazy. He walked on all fours and was always eating.
When Maghan died, Sassouma engineered her son's succession to the throne. Legend has it that Sundiata stood upright, with a herculean effort and the help of an iron rod, bending the rod in the process. Sogolon, sensing that Sundiata was now a real threat to Sassouma and Touman, went into exile with her son.
During this exile, Sundiata travelled through the kingdoms of the savannah and blossomed into a mighty warrior. Meanwhile, Mali was conquered by the Sosso king, Sumaguru.
Sundiata moved toward Mali, amassing an army of recruits from the kingdoms he visited during his exile. Finally, he defeated Sumaguru at Kirina.
Subsequently, he invited the leaders of the twelve kingdoms of the savannah to Kurukan Fuga, where the Great Assembly or Gbara took place. Here, he was proclaimed Mansa and, according to legend, "he divided the world." In turn, each ally was proclaimed king of his territory. Sundiata then outlined the Constitution and administrative structures of this union, laying the foundations of the Empire of Mali that stretched from the forests of the south far into the Sahara, north of the great Niger River bend.
The Empire of Mali, Carol Thompson. Franklin Watts, Incorporated, 1998.
General History of Africa, Vol. IV: Africa from the Twelfth to Sixteenth Century, UNESCO. University of California Press, 1986.
The Western Sudan: Ghana, Mali, Songhay, Kenny Mann. Dillon Press.
The Royal Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay: Life in Medieval Africa, Patricia and Fredrick McKissack. Henry Holt, 1995.
Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali, D.T. Niane. Addison-Wesley, 1995.
Sundiata: Lion King of Mali, David Wisniewski. Clarion Books, 1992.
Topics in West African History, A. Adu Boahen, Jacob F. Ade Ajayi, and Michael Tidy. Addison-Wesley, 1987.
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Historical, Cultural, and Societal Background: Mali Empire
Sondiata and Mansa Musa on the Web
Sundiata in the Electronic Passport
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