Hist 1110/ Fall 2014/ Dr. Laumann
Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali is an African oral tradition told by the griot, Djeli Mamoudou Koyate (Sundiata, 1) about a real historical figure who was prophesized to be a great leader. This West African tale describes the destiny and life of Sundiata, the founder of the Mali Empire. Before his coming, Sundiata’s destiny was predicted by the hunter of Sangaran (Sundiata, 6) to be the successor of his father, Maghan Kon Fatta. This oral tradition passed down by generations of griots incorporates an epic tale of the destiny of a great king who united the twelve kingdoms of Mali into a powerful empire (Sundiata, 1). The historical context of the story of Sundiata is the fact that it tells of a real king who founded the West African Mali Empire from about 1235-1255. This empire was preceded by the Ghana Empire and was followed by the Songha Empire (Spodek, 399). After defeating the Sosso king (Sundiata, 70), Sundiata allows his allied forces to keep their kingdoms but joined them together to form a powerful empire. The Mali Empire was significant for its power because unlike other governments, its power was obtained from the control of the desert trade routes and the taxes imposed on the trade (Spodek, 399). Hence, Mali was known for its vast connections of trade relationships. Also, the spread of Islam was a very important contributor to the Mali Empire because this universal religion was a common ground for traders due to the fact that Islam provided a common language for long distance traders (Sundiata, xi). Another important aspect of Islam is that people typically consider others more trustworthy if there is a common trait amongst each other; therefore, many traders turned to Islam for that “common trait”. Islams spread not only caused a common language for trade, but also a sort of trust among the traders which ultimately enabled trade routes to expand. There were many people who played key...
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