Askia The Great (1538) Muhammad Toure (Mohammed Ben Abu Bekr) had a few variation of his name. He was governor as well as the favored general of Sunni Ali Ber. He believed that he was entitled to the throne after Sunni Ali's death, rather than Ali's son, Abu Kebr. With aid from the Muslim Scholars, Muhammad Toure took power from Sunni Ali Ber son. Claiming that the power was his by right of achievement, Muhammad attacked the new ruler a year later and defeated him in a historically bloody battle. When one of Sunni Ali's daughters heard the news, she cried out "Askia," which means "forceful one." This title was taken by Muhammad as his new name. Askia began by consolidating his vast empire and establishing harmony among the conflicting religions and political elements. Under the leadership of Askia, the Songhay Empire flourished until it became one of the richest empires of that period. A devout Muslim, Askia Mohammed I made a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1496. One thousand infantry and a cavalry detachment of 500 horsemen accompanied him. He also took 300,000 gold pieces. In Mecca, Askia met the Caliph of Egypt. Askia requested that the Caliph appoint him as his representative in West Africa. The Caliph agreed. Askia Mohammed returned to Gao in 1497, with a new title. He was now the Caliph of the Western Sudan, spiritual ruler of all the West African Muslims. The empire Askia inherited from the Sonni Dynasty was already massive, yet he expanded north, east and west by conquest. Ultimately it would cover an area about the same size as all of Europe. By 1514 his armies captured the Hausa Confederation of northern Nigeria. Next to capitulate was the city of Agades in Niger, and finally the regions to the far west of the empire around the Atlantic. As the kingdom grew into an empire, Askia Mohammed I came up with new methods of government, establishing a strongly centralised administration. Among the most important posts were the Minister of Treasury, the Minister of Tax Collection, the Minister of the Army and Navy, and the Minister of Trade and Industry. In some territories, the Askia allowed the regional kings to rule as they had before, just as long as they paid tribute. With his empire firmly established, Askia resumed his attack on his enemies, carrying the rule of Islam into new lands. Askia the Great, made Timbuctoo one of the world's greatest centers of commerce and learning. With the vassal nations Songhay was about the size of the continental United States. He went blind and was disposed by one of his sons (Askia Musa) and exile to an island in the Niger River. He was restored by one of his later Sons later. (Askia Ishaq). There were about 8 Askia in this line of rulers. In other territories, the Askia created a parallel post to the local governor called the mondyo (i.e. inspector), who formed the official link to the imperial Songhai government. Askia Mohammed I died in 1538 after falling off his horse and drowning in a river. Oddly the river was at its lowest level because it was not rainy season. He was buried in a Step Pyramid at Gao. He is fondly remembered as Askia the Great.