Porto-Novo, city (1992 pop. 179,138), capital of Benin, S Benin, a port on Porto-Novo lagoon, an arm of the Gulf of Guinea. It is Benin's second largest city and an administrative and shipping center. However, it is less important commercially and industrially than Cotonou, to which it is connected by rail. Porto-Novo is the trade center for an agricultural region whose chief product is palm oil; the city's exports include palm oil, cotton, and kapok. Probably founded in the late 16th cent. as the capital of a small kingdom, Porto-Novo [new port] got its name from the Portuguese, who built a trading post there in the 17th cent. Africans were shipped as slaves from Porto-Novo to the Americas. The Porto-Novo kingdom accepted French encroachment in 1863 as a means of fending off Great Britain, which was active in nearby S Nigeria. However, the inland Dahomean kingdom of Abomey resented the French presence, and fighting broke out. In 1883 the French navy landed at Porto-Novo and Cotonou. Porto-Novo was incorporated into Dahomey colony and in 1900 was made its capital. The Institute of Higher Studies of Benin is in the city.

City (pop. 2004 est.: 234,300), seaport, and capital of Benin, on the Gulf of Guinea, western Africa. Situated on a coastal lagoon in the southeastern part of the country, it was probably founded in the late 16th century as the centre of the kingdom of Porto-Novo. The Portuguese established a trading post in the 17th century, and it became a centre of the Atlantic slave trade. It became a short-lived French protectorate in 1863 and attained that status again in 1882. The ruins of old African palaces remain, and there are many colonial-style buildings, including the old Portuguese cathedral. Porto-Novo was established as the official capital of the country by the constitution, but only the legislature is found there; the president, most government ministers, and the judiciary reside in Cotonou.

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