Fort Santo Antonio, UNESCO, Axim, Ghana 

Fort St. Anthony, located in Axim in the Western Region of Ghana, partly illustrates the motive for the construction of heavily fortified forts on natural elevations – especially on a rocky one that juts out into the sea.

In 1503, the Portuguese had built a trade post in Axim, near the edge of the River Ankobra, but they had to abandon it due to insistent attacks by the local people. They then constructed, in 1515, a massive triangular fort on a small promontory closer to the River Ankobra. Named ‘Santo Antonio’, it was the second Portuguese fort built on the Gold Coast, after St. George’s Castle (Elmina Castle). To enhance its defence on the landward side, a three-metre deep rock-cut trench was constructed.

The effective defensive capability of Fort St. Anthony was revealed by its ability to withstand attacks for over four years, even after the fall of Elmina to the Dutch in 1637. Having no rival in the surrounding gold-rich lands of the Ankobra and Tano River valleys enhanced the economic viability of the fort; gold traders from Adanse and Denkyira frequently visited the fort. However, between 1670 and 1720, with the construction of rival forts in the bays east of Axim, Portuguese trade monopoly was ruined.

Epic Ghana Culture & Adventure Route © Monika Newbound

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