The Ewe people inhabit the territory equivalent roughly to the south-eastern quarter of Ghana and the southern half of TOGO.
The EWE country is bounded by the rivers MONO and VOLTA and extends from the Atlantic coast inland up to about latitude 7. 6’N. in the east and latitude 7o 20′ N. in the west. Across the south eastern boundary line a related people – the FON of BENIN (formerly DAHOMEY)
The EWE people have not always lived in their present home. Their traditions recall a migration from the east – more precisely KETU a YORUBA town in modern BENIN. KETU was founded by the YORUBA people by the fourteenth century at the latest. A district in the modern Ghana, precisely in the Volta Region is also bearing the name KETU.
In it lived besides the forebears of the EWE, the YORUBA and the ancestors of the AJA, FON, and GA-DANGME. It was the expansion of the YORUBA people that pushed the EWE and related peoples westward.
The migrants went to live at TADO in present-day TOGO from where they later dispersed in various directions.
Some returned east to settle at ALLADA from where they founded the AJA kingdom of ALLADA, WHYDAH, POPO and JAKIN, and later the FON kingdom of DAHOMEY in the early eighteenth century.
The ancestors of the EWE went to live at NOTSIE, which was walled round.
Here, the entire community known as DOGBOAWO lived together, each unit in its individual ward under its own head. All of them were ruled by the king of NOTSIE. The early kings ruled well and the kingdom expanded. Trouble began when AGOKOLI ascended the throne. It is not clear whether he was the third or fifth king.
Because of his harsh and tyrannical, rule the people decided to escape. During the flight from NOTSIE the fugitives divided into three major groups. Broadly speaking, one group went to settle in the northern part of the new home. It founded the towns of HOHOE, MATSE, PEKI, KPANDO, AWUDOME, ALAVANYO, KPALIME, AGU, VE, KPEDZE and WODZE.
The second group founded the settlements of HO, AKOVIE, TAKLA, KPENOE, HODZO, KLEVI, SOKODE, ABUTIA and ADAKLU. And the third group took the southern route and went to settle in the coastal region of the new homeland. It founded TSEVIE, BE – which later gave birth to AGOENYIVE, BAGIDA and LOME – TOGO, ABOBO, WHETA, ANLO, KLIKOR, AVE, FENYI, AFIFE, TSIAME, GAME, TAVIA, TANYIGBE, etc.
Later other peoples from the west, ACCRA, ELMINA, LEKPOGUNO and DENKYERA came to settle near and amidst them. The GA (from Accra) settled around GLIDZI, the ANE or MINA from ELMINA settled at ANEXO, the DANGME from LADOKU settled at ADANGBE, AGOTIME, while the DENKYERA settled among the TONGU, along the river VOLTA.
The traditions do not provide any absolute chronology of the episodes and incidents recounted. However, in the early twentieth century when the accounts were first recorded, tradition then put the arrival of the Ewe in their new home at ten or more generations back.
Furthermore, the Ewe tradition concerning their accession to their new home is corroborated by evidence in the form of traditions of other people like the AJA, and FON and identifiable sites, recorded history and archaeological reconstruction.
On the basis of evidence from these other sources it can now be stated that the dispersal into their new home must have occurred sometime during the early seventeenth century. It would appear that the area into which the EWE moved was not completely devoid of human habitation.
But the original inhabitants were easily assimilated. As to whether what occurred was a mass movement or that of a few lineages, which later disseminated their story among the people of the dispersed settlements, the evidence points to the former rather than the latter probability.
The EWE penetrated their new homeland in a series of waves. Later, some groups broke away from the original settlements to found new ones. It was in this way that the area was filled up. The original settlements were few and dispersed. They took the form of villages consisting of small kinship groups.
The people settled down and laid claim to all the land in the area. The land was parcelled out among the various families. With the growth of the population the prestige of the leaders increased. Apart from the chiefs that had existed in the days of the sojourn at NOTSIE other chiefs now emerged.
These were mostly the original founders of villages. The kind of chieftaincy that emerged was one of a constitutional head. The chiefs reigned rather than ruled, and their powers were effectively circumscribed by the elders whom they had to consult always.
Contrary to Prof. D. Westermann’s claims, the EWE had had chiefs at least from NOTSIE onwards. Quite early chieftaincy became hereditary patrilineally either in two clans as in ANLO or two or three lineages as in PEKI, HO, NOTSIE or in individual lineages, which is the more widespread practice.
Though the office was hereditary, yet within the particular lineage or clan it was elective. In course of time the original settlements expanded to become the individual states of present-day Eweland, some of which encompassed a number of towns and stretched over substantial land areas.
The names of the original nuclear settlements came to be applied to all the area occupied by the people originating from them. For example ANLO derived from ANLOGA the nuclear settlement and WATSI from NOTSIE. These states or DUKOWO varied in size from WODZE, which is a single city state to ANLO, which had 36 towns. In 1906, the North German missionary Jacob Spieth counted 120 of these.
In the days of poor communication when vast areas lay much unexplored the territorial unit was perforce small. The DUKOWO were independent of one another except by way of trade. Each DUKO considered itself an autonomous unit, however all acknowledged that they were all essentially one people.
Some of these DUKOWO are the following. Along the coast going east away from the river Volta, are ANLO, BE, GE. Inland behind the coastal DUKOWO are PEKI, ADAKLU, TOVE, HO, KPANDO, WATSI etc.
The EWE did not evolve a single all – encompassing state. A number of reasons account for this.
Some were geographical, others were economic. Another crucial reason was that no single EWE DUKO was able to permanently impose its authority on the others and thereby create a unified state. For example, ANLO and GE tried to expand to attain boundaries that would ensure their political and economic survival, and also confer on them prosperity and political power.
But both were operating at the same time and in the same restricted area, that is the EWE coastal belt. Furthermore, both depended a good deal on the same economic activity-trade in slaves. This clash of territorial and economic interests led to many conflicts and wars between them in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Neither, however, enjoyed absolute military superiority over the other, so complete military defeat became impossible. Therefore permanent conquest could not be achieved. The conflict between ANLO and GE was never to be permanently resolved in favour of either. The frequent clashes merely resulted in stalemate or transient acquisition of territory by one at the expense of the other.
Foreign political and military intervention in the EWE territory also contributed to the inability of the EWE to evolve a single political unit. This contributed to the inability of either ANLO or GE to completely dominate the other and possibly the rest of EWELAND. The consequence of foreign intervention was generally to disorganise the territory and accentuate the division of the states.
In the period before the imposition of colonial rule over the EWE, the states that intervened in EWELAND were GRAND POPO, AKWAMU, DAHOMEY and the European state of Denmark. The intervention by GRAND POPO and DAHOMEY was inconsequential while that of the other two had a greater and more enduring impact.
From the late seventeenth century AKWAMU began to help ANLO in its wars with GE and more importantly those with ADA and other states west of the river VOLTA. A number of writers like WILKS, KEA and more recently GREENE and ACHEAMPONG have claimed AKWAMU hegemony over ANLO. The so-called evidence in support of this claim is however contradicted by the known facts.
The AKWAMU-ANLO relationship was one of a politico-economic alliance. Through its alliance with ANLO AKWAMU was assured of regular supplies of salt and dried fish and the coastal markets to which she could take its slaves for sale. For its part ANLO was assured of military assistance. Since the late seventeenth century (1682) various witnesses and writers have testified to the persistence of this alliance.
Despite the linguistic difference and the geographical separation between the two peoples, the AKWAMU-ANLO entente was to endure into the nineteenth century. So intimate and persistent was the relationship that some versions of ANLO traditions actually claim that the AKWAMU also evolved from KETU, like the EWE.