Pericles Press Book Publishing and Marketing

Home | Book | Contact Us/Ordering
Market Risk | Sea Power | Portuguese Beginnings | Dutch Empire | Decline | Chronology

Portuguese Beginnings

Vasco da Gama's voyage

Vasco da Gama left Lisbon on July 8, 1497 with 170 men in four ships and would return in mid-September 1499 with only two ships and and fifty-four men, after completing a voyage of 27,000 miles.  He proved that a sea route to India existed and that the journey was survivable.  He also proved that European firepower was more than a match for that of the Muslim world, while European diplomacy was unlikely to form the basis for future friendly trading relations. The only spices he brought back were those of a small Muslim ship which he encountered and captured, (although the smaller-than-expected cargo brought a return some sixty times the cost of the expedition).  Underestimating the sophistication of the Eastern markets, he had offended several rulers, not only by offering them cheap trinkets in expectation of obtaining valuable items, but also by his less-than friendly activities.  He brought back valuable information about lower than expected market prices at their Eastern source.

One of his major discoveries came on the first leg of the voyage.  Rather than taking a conservative route, south along the western coast of Africa to the Cape of Good Hope, he sailed out into the Atlantic in a wide southern arc, trusting that when he turned back toward the African coast, his reckoning would place him at the Cape.  The idea for the new route may have come from Bartolomeu Dias, the discoverer of the Cape, who traveled with him for part of the journey.

The first part of the journey was familiar, south along the Moroccan coast of Africa to the Cape Verde islands, some 425 miles east of the coast.  When his fleet left there on August 3rd, they sailed southwest into the Atlantic, then turned south before reaching the South American coast of what is now Brazil. Da Gama was hoping to sail as far as 34 degrees South, the latitude of the Cape of Good Hope, but landed on the African coast, just one degree north, to anchor at a place he named St. Helena Bay on November 4th. Leaving there on November 16th, they passed the Cape of Good Hope on November 18th, to anchor at Mossel Bay, which Dias had reached in February 1488. Dias had taken some seven months, using the African coastal route, after leaving Lisbon in July 1487. Da Gama's small fleet had sailed a total of 4,500 miles from Lisbon.  From the Cape Verde Islands, the distance covered had been more than 3,700 miles, in only ninety-three days.

The Treaty of Tordesillas

If da Gama had, so far, been fortunate, the entire expedition was itself a stroke of diplomatic good fortune for Portugal.  Spain had been willing to give up its claims to Africa and Indian Ocean lands because it mistakenly believed Columbus' 1492 New World discoveries were in the Orient.

In 1493, Spanish and Portuguese exploration activities were placing the two countries on a collision course. Pope Alexander VI, hoping to avert war, issued a papal bull, the Inter Caetera, on May 4, 1493.  He drew an imaginary line in the Atlantic Ocean, about 350 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands.  Spain was granted trading rights west of the line, while Portuguese rights fell east of the line.

King John of Portugal, fearful that the line might be too close to the African coast, raised objections.  Spain agreed to negotiate, and the two sides met at the Spanish town of Tordesillas.  In June 1494, they signed what became known as the Treaty of Tordesillas,  The treaty would ultimately give Portugal the future South American country of Brazil, since the line was moved 950 miles to the west of the original proposed location.  With Portugal's discoveries secure, John began planning a voyage to the East, but died in 1495.  King Manuel I,  his cousin, succeeded to the throne, and threw his weight behind the expedition.

The East Coast of Africa

It would take some five months, from November 18 1497 to April 1498, to work up the eastern coast of Africa, a distance, from the Cape to Malindi, of  3,150 miles.  Before leaving Mossel Bay, da Gama burned his supply ship. The remaining ships, his flagship the 'Sao Gabriel,' the 'Sao Rafael,', and the 100-ton 'Berrio,' then sailed. Their first landfall was Santa Cruz Island, in Algoa Bay, 250 miles east, and Dias' furthest discovery. Experiencing their first bout of scurvy during the next leg, the expedition would reach the Muslim city of Mozambique, 1,700 miles up the coast from the Cape, the first week of March, 1498.

Da Gama hoped to impress the Sultan at Mozambique by inviting him for a meal aboard his ship, but the bracelets and bells offered as gifts were considered worthless and relations were less than cordial.  The expedition soon sailed and reached Mombasa, 800 miles to the north, but found the reception there just as cool.  At Malindi, just south of the equator, da Gama found an ally in the local Sultan, who was a rival of Mombasa's ruler, who provided a warm reception, which included gifts of cloves and pepper, as well as a navigator for the journey to India. The navigator was no ordinary seaman, but a highly esteemed Arab navigator named Ibn Majid, the 'Lion of the Sea in Fury,' as he called himself.  He had published a 'Nautical Directory,' the 'Kitab al-Fawa'id' in 1490, which covered nearly every aspect of nautical science as well as specific information about the Red Sea and Indian Oceans.  On May 18, 1498, twenty-seven days after leaving Malindi, the fleet landed on the Malabar Coast of India, some 50 miles north of Calicut.  (An alternate dating places his arrival on May 22, 1498, having taken only twenty-three days to cross the Arabian Sea.)  They had covered a distance of 2,300 miles.

India and back

The party was received well at Calicut by the Zamorin, or king, at first, but the Portuguese hoped the trinkets ridiculed at Mozambique, would make a better impression.  They did not.  The Zamorin's agents are said to have laughed when they saw what da Gama was prepared to offer by way of gifts, suggesting gold would be more appropriate.  It is said that da Gama's explanation for the lack of expensive gifts was that he had only come to make discoveries.  The Zamorin wondered whether he sought to discover stones or men. Why had he come with nothing, if he hoped to discover men?  Suspicions about da Gama's activities or intentions, or the natural hostility of the Muslim trading community toward Christians, prevented him from establishing cordial relations during the three months he remained. A dispute over the non-payment of harbor tolls led to the arrest of some of the Portuguese, for which da Gama retaliated by taking some Hindus hostage.  On August 29 the Portuguese sailed from Calicut.  Ibn Majid, their Arab pilot, was not with them, having disappeared.

Da Gama did not immediately leave India, but explored the coast to the north.  By mid-October the expedition had almost reached Goa, when it was decided to head for home.  The Indian Ocean, at this time of year, was not a favorable environment.  Becalmed for part of the time, fighting headwinds at others, the crew also had to worry about a lack of food.  Thirty crew members succumbed to scurvy.  Finally, after three months they reached Malindi. The Sultan, once again, was eager to help, providing them with food and supplies.  Before leaving Malindi, the 'Sao Rafael' was burned, since death had thinned the ranks to such an extent that three ships could not be fully manned.  In March 1499, they reached the Cape of Good Hope, and on April 25 were off the coast of Guinea.  In late August or early September, they were back in Lisbon.

Pedro Cabral and the second expedition

One of the practical pieces of knowledge Vasco da Gama brought back from India was the market price of pepper in Calicut, about three ducats per hundredweight.  In Venice, the European spice distribution center, the price was 80 ducats, about double what it had been in 1495.  Portugal was not slow to recognize the commercial potential access to the new markets presented.  On March 9, 1500, a new fleet left Lisbon bound for India.  It was commanded by a 32-year-old nobleman named Pedro Alvares Cabral.  With thirteen ships and 1,200 men, its goal was, not only to bring back spices, but also to establish settlements on India's Malabar Coast.

Cabral planned to repeat da Gama's 'volta,' the name for the journey's arcing swing into the Atlantic from the Cape Verde Islands.  It was while on this maneuver that he would come within sight of the coast of what would become Brazil, at Mount Pascal, on April 22, 1500. On May 2nd, the Indian journey was resumed.  The fleet safely reached the Cape of Good Hope, only to be hit by a severe storm, which caused the loss of four vessels, including one carrying Bartolomeu Dias, the discoverer of the Cape. The expedition was now down to eight vessels, one having been sent home earlier to announce the South American discovery.  What remained of the fleet reached Calicut on September 13, 1500.

The Portuguese had learned at least one lesson from da Gama's experience, the danger of underestimating the sophistication of foreign markets.  Cabral brought expensive gifts to appease the Zamorin, including an engraved silver basin and two silver maces.  At the same time, they were only beginning to appreciate the power of their weaponry and were unrepentant in the application of force and intimidation.  To impress the Zamorin, Cabral ordered one of his ships to attack the transport ship of a rival power which had entered the harbor of Calicut.  It was large enough to be carrying six elephants and 300 soldiers.  The Zamorin is said to have been pleased when Cabral gave him the captured ship as a gift, although the ease with which the ship had been captured may have been a source of concern.  Flattered, or intimidated, he signed a treaty granting the Portuguese the right to trade for spices in Calicut.

Cabral was soon to learn a lesson about the limits of military power. Perhaps placing too much reliance on his understanding with the Zamorin and the fact that he had a treaty, he set up a depot in the city with seventy men. The installation survived long enough to collect and load spices for two ships, but it was an irritant for the Muslim merchants.  A riot ensued, and a mob, said to number 3,000, attacked.  Of the seventy Portuguese, fifty were killed in the fighting and twenty escaped by swimming out to their ships. Cabral suspected that the Zamorin had condoned the attack, but chose not to contest the issue on land.  Instead he captured ten Muslim vessels.  Their entire crews, numbering 500 to 600, were killed and, after their cargoes had been removed, were burned.  Cabral then bombarded the city, which started a number of fires.  Despite this show of force, he decided that it was unwise to attempt to capture the city, choosing instead to negotiate with the ruler of Cochin, a city located halfway between Calicut and the southern tip of India, for a settlement.  The ruler at Cochin quickly agreed to a treaty allowing the Portuguese a factory.

If Cabral had failed to establish a settlement at Calicut, his first choice, the expedition was deemed an overall success.  When his fleet returned to Portugal in the summer of 1501, it was rumored to have carried a cargo of 300,000 pounds of spices.

Portuguese Resources in 1501

In cost-benefit analysis terms, spices, in the European market of 1501, were an extremely efficient commodity, when it came to generating profits, which were high enough to allow the Portuguese to set up an exchange in Antwerp. The spice market was apparently still viewed with some scepticism, since the Portuguese used their earnings to invest in copper and silver. Cabral's voyage had been costly, in human terms. Over half of the 1,200 men beginning the voyage had died.

If the Portuguese were unsure of the value of spices, they were quick to recognize and exploit the advantage provided by their military resources. The value of any given resource changed over time, and value was relative, when comparisons were made, as Cabral had discovered at Calicut.  The seventy soldiers stationed at the depot, armed with the most recent military training and weaponry, were no match for an angry mob.  When it came to weaponry and naval technology, in contrast, the Portuguese were light-years ahead of their Arab opponents. Muslim ships and cities could not withstand a determined bombardment. Portuguese technology had its shortcomings, in more absolute comparisons.  Wooden ships, powered by the wind, no matter how militarily advanced, were no match for the seas or the weather.  An unexpected calm, accompanied by long periods of food or water  shortages, could bring on scurvy and starvation, foes as deadly as hurricanes or severe storms.  Navigational experience and seasonal observations provided some protection, but were no guarantee of safety.  Certain seasons offered more favorable winds and charts could warn of underwater hazards.  Asian lands, in their sheer size and population, represented a formidable obstacle in and of themselves.  It had taken a monumental effort, on the part of the Portuguese, just to reach India, let alone gain control of coastal cities.  Conquering entire continental regions would have required a far greater investment.  (Francisco Almeida underscored that observation by decreeing that the annexation of territory was to be avoided since the navy could not spare any men.)  While fortifications capable of withstanding mob attack could offer an effective defense, their static nature was little help in a protracted land campaign.

Vasco da Gama's second voyage

Following Cabral's return, Vasco da Gama was given command of a new expedition totaling twenty-five ships, twelve belonging to the Crown and thirteen owned by private merchants, which sailed in February 1502.  A major goal was the subjugation of Calicut.  The voyage took on aspects of a naval crusade against Islam.  On October 1, 1502, a large dhow, the 'Meri,' was sighted off the Malabar Coast of India.  Its mission was peaceful, since it was carrying 380 men, women, and children, returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca. After seizing 12,000 ducats in treasure and cargo valued at another 10,000 ducats, the ship, with all its passengers was burnt or blown up with gunpowder.  When the fleet reached Calicut on October 30th, da Gama demanded, not only the surrender of the city, but the expulsion of all Muslims.  Whether he defeated a Muslim fleet and captured 800 prisoners, or simply took and hung some local fishermen, he is said to have cut off their heads and hands, (or, alternatively, their ears, noses, and hands), and sent the parts ashore in a boat with a note, in Arabic, suggesting that the Zamorin use the parts to make curry.  With the capture of Calicut, the Portuguese had control of two cities on the Malabar Coast.

Consolidating gains in Africa and India

Vincente Soder, the brother of Vasco da Gama's mother, stayed behind in India with a permanent squadron of five ships, when da Gama returned to Portugal.  He was joined, in 1503, by Alfonso de Albuquerque, another nobleman with military experience.  One of his first tasks was to cement the relationship with the Raja of Chochin, by building a fortification there.  In the summer of 1504, Albuquerque returned to Portugal, to be replaced by another nobleman with a new title.

In 1505, Manuel I created the title of Viceroy of India and assigned Francisco de Almeida to fill the post.  When he sailed for India on March 25th with a fleet of twenty-two vessels and 1,500 sailors, soldiers and laborers, his military objective was to consolidate gains while eliminating the Muslim threat in Africa and India.  The cities of Mombasa, Sofala, and Kilwa, on the East African Coast, were the first victims of his campaign.  Crossing over to India from Kilwa, he began what was to become a four-year naval Crusade against Muslim shipping and cities, similar to that of da Gama. At Cananour (Cannanore), north of Calicut, he is said to have shot prisoners from cannon.  Da Gama's uncle, Sodre, engaged in similar conduct, beating the chief Muslim merchant until he fainted, then stuffing his mouth with excrement and covering it with a slab of pork.

Albuquerque rejoined the campaign, bringing an additional squadron with him from Portugal in 1506. He fortified the island of Socotra, at the entrance to the Gulf of Aden, hindering Arab access to the Indian Ocean from the Red Sea.  In 1507 he extended Portuguese control further south along the African coast with a fortification at Mozambique. In August of that year, he captured the port of Hormuz, at the entrance to Persian Gulf.  The Arab and Persian men who were captured had their right hands and noses cut off.  The noses and ears of women captives were ordered cut off as well.

In 1509 Albuquerque succeeded Almeida as Viceroy of India.  One of his first goals became the capture of Goa.  It would replace Cochin, with its small harbor and difficult defensive position.  By January 1510 he had assembled a fleet of over 20 vessels and 1,500 Portuguese soldiers, aided by Hindu mercenaries.  An initially successful assault in March was thrown back, and it would not be until November that the city would be taken.  The defenders, said to number 8,000 were massacred, but the women were spared.  Albuquerque then ordered his men to marry those widowed by the assault.

Sri Lanka

The Portuguese gained a foothold in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) in 1505 almost by chance.  Don Lourenço de Almeida, son of the newly appointed viceroy, was commanding a squadron patrolling for Muslim ships off the southern coast of the island.  Seeking shelter from a storm, he put into the port of Galle.  When King Parakramabahu VIII of Kotte learned of their visit he offered them gifts of cinnamon and elephants, as well as trading rights in the city of Columbo.  They soon set up a settlement, but mindful of their experience with Muslim hostility at Calicut, quickly turned into a fortified outpost.

The kingdom of Kotte was one of three kingdoms competing for power on the island when the Portuguese arrived.  Kotte and the central highland kingdom of Kandy were Buddhist Sinhalese, while the Kingdom of Jaffna, on the northern tip of the island, was Hindu Tamil. In 1521 Kotte was divided by civil war.  Mayadunne, brother of the king Bhuvanekabahu, established a rival kingdom at Sitawake, away from the coast and therefore outside Portuguese control.  His son Raja Sinha I (Rajasinha) would maintain the kingdom until his death in 1593, but after that it disappeared.  Bhuvanekabahu, in 1521, was forced to ask the Portuguese for help, which allowed them to consolidate control at Columbo.  In 1551, they recognized his grandson, Dharmapala as king, in return for further concessions.  They were to receive a continuous payment in cinnamon and, and were allowed to expand the size of their fort at Columbo (1554).  Dharmapala's conversion to Catholicism in 1557 seemed to strengthen their hold, but it proved such an unpopular move that they were forced to abandon the city of Kotte.  Despite these setbacks, they claimed sovereignty over  Kotte on the death of Dharmapala in 1597, by virtue of a deed he made.  In 1614 the cinnamon trade became a royal monopoly.

The northern kingdom of Jaffna came under Portuguese control in the 1540's.  Sangily, the king, was so outraged by the conversion of the island of Mannar to Catholicism in 1544 that he led an expedition there and decapitated the resident priest and some 600 parishioners.  The Portuguese then deposed him and installed a Tamil prince on the throne. They would not formally annex the kingdom until 1619.

The Portuguese managed to capture Kandy, the capital of the highland kingdom, and even to install a queen on the throne, but they were unsuccessful at establishing total control over the kingdom.  One 1630 Portuguese force, attempting to suppress opposition, was annihilated, and its captain-general killed.  Another army under the general, Melo de Castro, suffered a similar fate in 1638, when Raja Sinha II was ruler. The army was destroyed in the wooded hills of Gannoruwa.

The Capture of Malacca

With the elimination or reduction of the Arab threat to India, Albuquerque sought to expand Portuguese influence to include lands where spices were being produced.  In the summer of 1509 he organized an expedition to the Spice Islands.  The commander was Diego Lopes de Sequeira.  Crossing the Bay of Bengal, the fleet reached Sumatra at the end of August.  Continuing east they reached the port city of Malacca, on the Malay peninsula.  While they were able to establish a factory, members of the royal house, egged on by local Muslim merchants, planned an attack which would eliminate what they considered to be a European threat. When some 100 crewmembers from the expedition's four ships were ashore to load spices, they were surrounded and attacked by Malays.  The shore party was saved by the actions of an officer on one of the ships, Fernão de Magalhães, better known by the future name of Ferdinand Magellan, who paddled ashore to join the fight. Sixty of the shore party were killed or captured.  When the captives were not released, Sequeira retaliated by killing two captives with a crossbow shot to the head and depositing the bodies on the shore. Without sufficient resources for a siege, the expedition returned to India.

Albuquerque was inclined to exact some form of retribution for injuries suffered, when that policy furthered his goals.  However, in the case of far-off Malacca, his instinct to react immediately was tempered by the knowledge that a military venture would be risky.  His calculations began to change however, when he received word from the prisoners of Sequeira's voyage, who had not been executed after all, that political support for the sultan had fallen off because he had executed his popular prime minister, Tun Mutahir, for an imagined plot.

When the Portuguese returned in 1511, they came with a fleet of thirty vessels, fifteen Portuguese ships and fifteen captured junks.  The invasion force numbered 1,500 men, of which 800 were Portuguese soldiers, and 600 were Hindu archers from India.  Albuquerque was in command.  He did not immediately assault the city, since it was estimated to have a defending force of between 20,000 and 30,000 men, supported by 3,000 cannon. His strategy instead, was to bluff the sultan into surrender. He issued an ultimatum demanding the release of the Portuguese prisoners. When it appeared that the sultan was stalling for time, Albuquerque, on July 25th, began a bombardment, while raiding parties set fire to houses on the shore.  Ships in the harbor were burned, with the exception of those of the Chinese and Indian merchants, who were prepared to offer assistance to the Portuguese.

Albuquerque finally ordered an assault from the beach, but it was repulsed.  However, an assault on St. James day succeeded in taking the local mosque and a bridge over the river.  To protect his men from the poisoned arrows and darts of the Malays, he hung sails on spars.  A fortified junk was sent to reinforce the bridge and, after being freed from a bar, reached the bridge on August 10th.  Boats were positioned to protect the bridge, and when the Portuguese advanced on the city, they were able to move cannon into position to fire the length of the streets.  The sultan hoped that an elephant charge would stop the Portuguese but the elephants panicked and ran through the ranks of the Malay defenders when the Portuguese thrust lances at their eyes, ears, and bellies.  The sultan fled into the jungle, leaving the city to Albuquerque.  The siege had taken six weeks.

While Albuquerque allowed some of the city to be sacked, he chose to leave the foreign settlements alone.  The sultanate, as an institution, was retained, and Albuquerque's first appointment as governor was a Rui de Brito, with one Nina Chatu appointed as prime minister.  One plot discovered by the Portuguese, was dealt with ruthlessly.  Utimata Raja, a Javanese leader, was arrested after being invited to the fort for a meeting.  He, his son, son-in-law, and grandson were beheaded on a scaffold in the square, and their bodies displayed there for a day.

The Spice Islands (Moluccas)

Albuquerque was not ready to send an invasion force further east without more information.  In December 1511 he sent three ships from Malacca to explore the Spice Islands, or Moluccas, located in the region between Borneo and New Guinea.  Antonio d' Abreu  commanded the lead ship and Francisco Serrão commanded the second.  Although the expedition carried 500 men, Albuquerque was inclined toward developing friendly trading relations.  Ship encountered along the route were not to be attacked or captured.  Nakoda Ismail, a Malaccan trader, was sent ahead in a junk to announce the expedition, as a form of goodwill ambassador.

In January 1512, the three ships had sailed nearly 3,000 miles from Malacca and into the Banda Sea.  They landed at Ceram, the largest of the Spice Islands.  Exploring south, they landed on Neira.  Finding the natives eager to trade, they spent a month loading nutmeg and cloves on their three ships. After departing Neira, Serrão's ship, a purchased Chinese junk, became separated from the other two in a storm and ran aground on a reef at the island of Lusi Para, some 150 miles west of Ambon.  The Portuguese, alert to the dangers of pirate attack, managed to surprise the crew of a prahu, which had stopped on the island.  The captured crew then sailed them to Ambon, landing them at Hitu, a peninsula on the northern side of the island.

Hitu's chiefs were at war with Ceram, and the Portuguese were quickly persuaded to intervene.  Ceram was invaded and conquered.  Following this victory, Serrão was urged to take part in another conflict, that between the island kingdoms of Ternate and Tidore, to the north.

Serrão sided with Sultan Bolief (Boleyse, Abu Lais, or Abdul Hassan), the ruler of Ternate.  However, Serrão seemed less inclined to wage war on Tidore, ruled by Sultan Almanzor, than to seek a diplomatic solution.  By one account, he eventually persuaded both sultans to sign a treaty, and received the daughter of Almanzor as a wife in return, with whom he had a son and a daughter.

Sometime after arriving in Ternate he made the decision, not just to remain, but to 'go native.'  He became a personal counselor to the sultan.  His arrival coincided with a dream the sultan had, in which men dressed in iron arrived to serve his kingdom, (or at least that was the public explanation given by the sultan.  (The story was somewhat reminiscent of Montezuma's vision of the arrival of Cortes in Mexico.)  Whatever the factual basis of the story, Serrão willingly accepted the sultan's hospitality.  Reluctant to leave his newfound home, he sent two of his crew members to Malacca, rather than go himself, to deliver a letter to the Portuguese authorities from the sultan requesting their help.

While authorities were pleased by the sultan's overtures, especially his pledge to deliver cloves, they considered Serrão's failure, or refusal, to return a form of desertion, which carried the death penalty.  However, when they sent a fleet to Ternate, under Captain Antonio de Miranda de Azevedo, they established a permanent factory there, without disciplining Serrão.  Whether they took more drastic measures eight years later to deal with his insubordination was a matter of speculation.  He died in 1521, a victim of poisoning, although there were differing versions of what took place.  According to one account, it was Sultan Bolief who killed him.  Portuguese involvement was suspected because the sultan himself is said to have died of poisoning a few days later.  Another version was that Sultan Almanzor had him poisoned at a royal dinner, partly in revenge for the marriage demand for his daughter.

Whatever their involvement in Serrão's end, the Portuguese decided a military presence was far more effective, or at least less risky, than reliance on the diplomatic skills of a renegade officer.  In 1522 they began construction of a fort on Ternate, to be named St. John the Baptist.  On February 15, 1523, it was completed.  Seven years later their reliance on military power seemed justified when they put an end to a native revolt by executing its leader.  Prince Darwis, the brother of Sultan Bolief, was beheaded and quartered in the spring of 1530.

In the immediate aftermath of Bolief's death, Darwis had persuaded the Portuguese to invade Tidore.  Some 600 of its inhabitants were killed.  The Portuguese had reason to fear Spanish encroachment on their territory.  The remnants of Magellan's round-the-world voyage had found their way to the Moluccas and Sultan Almanzor, not only swore allegiance to Spain, but also offered the Spaniards a place of refuge, as well as a cargo of spices.  A Portuguese physician is said to have later poisoned Almanzor. In 1529 a local elder fomented a rebellion by calling for a jihad against the Portuguese, and the islanders besieged them in Fort St. John. A Portuguese foraging party was ambushed and several soldiers were killed.  The death of Darwis effectively ended the rebellion.

Native political aspirations, temporarily thwarted, found a new voice in Sultan Hairun, who came to power in 1545.  He was willing to play an accommodating role for the Portuguese, if only to deal with a resurrected threat from Tidore.  Having invaded the island in 1521, they had retreated back into their fortress without subjugating its inhabitants.  Galvão, appointed governor in 1536, found a situation in which 20,000 men on Tidore were ready to launch an attack.  A nighttime raid routed the would-be attackers, although Galvão did not destroy the army, choosing instead to use the victory to pressure Tidore's sultan into a peace agreement.

Galvão received some help in his governance with the arrival of Francis Xavier, a Jesuit priest, in July 1546.  He hoped to convert Sultan Hairun and, while the sultan did not himself become a convert, he did not object to attempts to convert his subjects.  Cordial relations with the priest had the advantage of furthering friendly relations with the Portuguese authorities.  Unfortunately, diplomatic relations and a stable political environment were of secondary importance when compared to Portugal's economic interests, which viewed the maintenance of her spice monopoly as primary.  Enforcing the monopoly eventually brought Galvão into conflict with Sultan Hairun and he was recalled.  Hairun himself was the next victim, although it is unclear whether the action was ordered or condoned by authorities in Goa or was an unauthorized action by a local commander.

Galvão was replaced by a Captain Mesquita, who invited Hairun into Fort St. John after a public ceremony honoring him.  He was stabbed to death by members of the Portuguese garrison, then beheaded and quartered, following which Mesquita displayed his head on a pike above the castle walls.  Rather than cowing the islanders, the act enraged them and they besieged the castle.  Mesquita was arrested, on the order of authorities in Goa, and ordered to be brought back.

The Ternateans were now led by Hairun's son, Sultan Baab (Babullah).  Despite efforts to relieve the Portuguese garrison, Baab was able to maintain the siege until July 15, 1575, when the garrison surrendered, some five years after the siege had begun. Portuguese control of the Spice Islands had been reduced to their settlement at Ambon.  Captain Mesquita had been killed by a pirate attack in Java.  The Portuguese Crown had ordered his return to Ternate, following a diplomatic mission by Baab's representatives to Lisbon.  Chained below decks, he fought until he was cut down.

The Portuguese would repay Baab in 1582, when he was invited aboard a Portuguese ship and taken prisoner. He was beheaded, quartered, and the body parts preserved in brine. When the ship arrived in India, the head was presented to the Viceroy of Goa. On November 3, 1579, four years after the surrender of Fort St. John the Baptist, Francis Drake had sailed the 'Golden Hind' into the harbor of Ternate.  After taking on six tons of cloves he left on November 9th.

Receding Power

In 1580, Philip II of Spain claimed the throne of Portugal, following the death of the Portuguese king.  He backed his claim with an invasion force under the command of the Duke of Alba and a naval force under Admiral Don Alvaro de Bazán, the Marquis of Santa Cruz. Lisbon was in Spanish hands by August.  Whatever designs Goa had on its former settlements in the Spice Islands, the Portuguese no longer took orders from Lisbon.

Spain, with its base in Manilla, represented the only military force which could maintain a Portuguese presence in the region, yet Spain was too preoccupied with the Armada, Europe, and the New World, to do much in the Indies.  In the years following the defeat of the Armada in 1588, English and Dutch power was, not only holding its own against Spain in the Atlantic, but beginning to expand into the Pacific regions.

In February 1606 a Dutch fleet of seven ships and 1,500 men captured the Portuguese fortress at Ambon, weakly defended by only 100 soldiers.  It placed the Dutch in a position to better defend their factory on Banda. They followed this up with an attack on the Portuguese fort on Tidore which was destroyed when a Dutch cannon shot hit the powder magazine, killing seventy defenders in the explosion.  Spain had one final, if temporary success in the Bandas.  In retaliation for the attack on Tidore, the Spanish captured Ternate, with the help of the sultan of Tidore.  Ternate's ruler, Sultan Said, the son of Baab, was captured in the attack and taken to Manilla.

Portuguese settlements, now independent of Lisbon, did not immediately succumb to the Dutch or English.  While settlements on Ceylon would fall to Dutch attacks, starting in 1640, it would take eighteen years for the Dutch to completely conquer the island, not completing the task until 1658.  Malacca was captured by the Dutch in June of 1641, following a six-month blockade, although Batavia (Jakarta), on Java, was already eclipsing it in importance.  Of the original settlements on the Malabar Coast of India, only Goa remained in Portuguese hands, withstanding a 1639 bombardment by a Dutch fleet.  Cannonore fell to the Dutch in 1662, with Cranganore and Cochin surrendering the following year.

Sultan Baab's successful siege of Ternate exposed the weakness of their position long before the Dutch put an end to their ambitions in Asia and the East Indies. Their naval power allowed them to control strategic ports or transportation centers, but they had not ventured far inland with settlements. The preservation of Baab's head and its presentation to the Viceroy of Goa was perhaps a macabre reminder of Portugal's changing fortunes.  While it suggested that Portugal did not allow injuries to go unpunished, it did nothing to re-establish a Portuguese presence in the Mollucas.  Displaying the head in Goa did little to intimidate the inhabitants of islands thousands of miles away.  Even local demonstrations of barbarism failed to deter rebellion when a military force adequate to follow through on implied threats was lacking.  Captain Mesquita had expected the display of Sultan Hairun's head on a pike at Ternate to eliminate opposition.  Instead it enraged the populace, who discovered, under Baab's leadership, that their military position had grown stronger than that of the Portuguese.

If the loss of Ternate in 1575 suggested that the geographical limits of Portugal's empire had been reached, perhaps the question was whether the boundaries had been determined by economic or military forces.  Had Portugal overestimated the ability of the spice market to support the demands of an expanding empire, when she decided to explore the Straits of Malacca and the Banda Sea?  Or had she underestimated the demands new ventures would place on her military capabilities?  Had the ease with which she had defeated the Muslim navies in the Indian Ocean left her unprepared for the military requirements of an extended occupation in the Spice Islands?  Or was it some combination of economic and military factors?  Perhaps, having discovered that the spice trade was a profitable venture, Portugal was unwilling to cut into European profits by making the investments needed to maintain an empire.  She hoped to win victories without spending a lot of money.

There were signals, early-on, that the economic foundations of Portuguese power were somewhat shaky and were unlikely to permanently support a policy of expansion.  In 1505, just six year's after da Gama's return, the market for spices was saturated.  In May 1506, warehouses in Lisbon had surplus stocks of 40,000 hundredweight of spices.  The Casa da India, the state agency which both controlled distribution and fixed prices, on King Manuel's orders, was refusing to sell until its prices were met.  He relented in 1507 after merchants began refusing requests for new loans, used to finance the Indies ventures.

Similar conclusions could be inferred from Spain's actions in 1529.  King Charles of Spain renounced his claims to the Moluccas in a papal treaty.  Spain settled for Portuguese recognition of its sovereignty over the Philippines.  Charles may have been in a generous mood because he wanted to marry the sister of the Portuguese king, John.  But his actions had a lot to do with the fact that he needed money and was willing to sell his claims in return for a cash payment of 350,000 cruzados by the Portuguese crown.  Gold, a seemingly more reliable commodity than spices, was falling short of the promise of permanent economic security for Spain, some thirty-seven years after Columbus' discoveries.

While the Portuguese had established military dominance in the Indian Ocean, their position was more precarious beyond the Straits of Malacca.  Even in the Indian Ocean, where Arab shipping had suffered devastating losses, Portugal struggled.  In 1508 an Egyptian-Venetian fleet took the Portuguese by surprise off the Indian port of Chaul.  Thirteen Egyptian vessels, supported by over a hundred Indian and Arabian ships, were allowed to sail into the midst of a Portuguese fleet, mistaken for a friendly force.  Lourenço de Almeida, the son of Francisco, was among the more than 100 dead.

Almeida took revenge late in 1508, first by capturing the city of Dabal, and then destroying it. Its defenders, along with its inhabitants, were massacred and its walls and towers blown up.  This was followed by the destruction of the Egyptian-Venetian fleet at the port of Diu on February 2, 1509.  Despite these successes, Goa would have to be defended by Albuquerque against another Arab siege, on his return from the capture of Malacca.  Hormuz, captured in August 1507, could not be held, and Socotra, the island fortified in 1506 at the mouth of the Gulf of Aden, would be abandoned in 1514.

Portugal found itself imprisoned at Malacca. A fleet was needed to protect the city and to keep the straits open.  Across the waterway, on Sumatra, the sultanate of  Aceh (Atjeh), remained a constant threat.  It attacked the city in 1537, 1547, and 1551.  In August 1547, it had formed an alliance with Johore, a kingdom on the southern tip of the Malay peninsula, and Bintang, an island kingdom located to the southeast of present-day Singapore.  The Acehnese, in a fleet of fustas, sailed into Malacca's harbor at night, captured seven spice traders, and cut off their noses, ears, and feet.  They then sent a note to the commandant, written in the blood of the victims.  A Portuguese fleet of ten ships would finally defeat the raiding naval force on December 4th on the Malay peninsula, near the southern border of what is now Thailand.

The Acehnese undercut Malacca's economic value by competing for spices, capturing much of the pepper trade which had gone through Malacca.  Portuguese success also proved self-defeating in the clove market.  Buying by the Portuguese for the European market led to higher prices, motivating producers to develop new plantations on Banda and Ambon.  Javanese merchants shipped the cargo, not through Malacca, but through Brunei, on the northern coast of Borneo, eventually reaching India and China through alternate routes.

Portugal's eroding economic empire vis-à-vis its Asian competitors was still a major prize to European competitors.  Toward the end of the century it found itself in a comparatively weaker military position when facing rivals such as the English and Dutch.  Technological advances in weaponry and ship design gave them the advantage.  In 1592, an English privateering fleet captured the Portuguese-Spanish ship 'Madre de Dios' near the Azores, notwithstanding the fact that she stood seven decks tall and carried a 600-man crew.  Her cargo was 537 tons of spices.  In 1602, the English ship 'Red Dragon' disabled the Portuguese carrack 'Santo Antonio,' with just six cannon shots.  The short engagement had taken place in the Straits of Malacca, not the English Channel.

What the Portuguese and Spanish in the East Indies were facing in the way of changes is illustrated by the experiences of the Dutch commander Olivier van Noort in his circumnavigation voyage.  The fact that he survived at all may be a testament to the sturdiness of his ships, since he apparently had no naval experience prior to beginning the voyage.  He was, in fact, a forty-four year old Rotterdam tavern keeper. He financed two ships on his own, out of a fleet of four, for the expedition and nominated himself as commander.  His was the fifth fleet of the 1598 Dutch voyages.  It left, after a false start, on September 13th from Goeree, reaching Port Desire, near the Straits of Magellan, a year later, on September 20, 1599. (It had reached Brazil in February, sailed toward St. Helena for the winter, and had wound up back in Brazil in June.)

On November 22nd, the fleet entered the Straits, on its fourth attempt. Three sailors were killed in native attacks in Patagonia.  In retaliation, the Dutch killed some forty Patagonians on one of the Penguin Islands.  On February 29, 1600 the fleet finally sailed out of the Straits into the Pacific.  On March 26th, the Spanish ship 'Buen Jesus,' watching for foreign ships, was captured north of the island of Santa Maria.  In May Noort left the central American coast near Panama and, on October 15th, reached the island of Luzon in the Philippines.  He then embarked on a campaign of piracy, attacking every Spanish and foreign ship encountered as he sailed toward Manilla.  On November 24th, he arrived at Manilla Bay, where he began intercepting incoming and outgoing shipping.  His plan to remain there until February was cut short on December 14th, when the Spaniards surprised the Dutch at anchor with two hastily outfitted galleons.

Noort's ships were undermanned, just fifty-five crew on the 'Mauritius,' and twenty-five on the 'Eendracht.'  The Spaniards, despite crews of close to 400 or 500 men, were disadvantaged by winds and waves which prevented them from opening their gun ports.  Nevertheless they managed to board both ships.  Noort, trapped below decks for six hours by the boarding party, could not get his crew to counter-attack until he threatened to set fire to the magazine. The Dutch then rushed out on the deck and drove the Spaniards off. The ships began an artillery bombardment, which set the 'Mauritius' on fire.  The forequarters of the Spanish ship 'San Antonio de Zebu' were blown off, causing her to take on water and begin sinking.

The Dutch managed to put out the fire, then turned their attention to the Spaniards in the water, some of which had swum over to the ship begging for help.  Those close to the ship were clubbed or speared.  Noort then ordered his ship to sail among them.  While some were killed with pikes, others died when the cannon were fired into their midst.  Spanish losses were around fifty dead, since many were rescued by boats from shore.  The 'Eendracht' was towed to Manilla and its captain and crew were executed for piracy.

One empire was being replaced by another, but the savagery which accompanied victory seemed to be a practice which continued from one administration to the next. Noort would eventually reach Amsterdam on August 26, 1601.

Suggestions for further reading.

Daniel Boorstin, "The Discovers: A History of Man's Search to Know His World and Himself," Random House, (New York, NY 1983).

Charles Corn, "The Scents of Eden: A Narrative of the Spice Trade," Kodansha America, Inc., (New York, NY 1998).

"The Encyclopedia Americana, International Edition," Grolier, (Danbury, CT 2002).

Richard Humble, "The Seafarers: The Explorers," Time-Life Books, Inc. (Alexandria, VA 1978).

Jonathan I. Israel, "The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall 1477-1806," Clarendon Press, (Oxford 1995).

Jonathan I. Israel, "The Emerging Empire: The Continental Perspective, 1650-1713" from "The Oxford History of the British Empire, (Volume I): The Origins of Empire: British Overseas Enterprise to the Close of the Seventeenth Century," Nicholas Canny, ed., Oxford University Press, (Oxford 1998).

John Keay, "The Honourable Company: A History of the English East India Company," Macmillan Publishing Company, (New York, NY 1991).

Angus Konstam, "Historical Atlas of Exploration: 1492-1600," Checkmark Books, (New York, 2000)

David S. Landes, "The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some Are So Poor," W. W. Norton & Company, (New York, NY 1999).

Giles Milton, "Nathaniel's Nutmeg or, The True and Incredible Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History," Farrar, Straus and  Giroux, (New York, NY 1999).

William Napier, "The Marshall Cavendish Illustrated Encyclopedia of Discovery and Exploration. Volume 5: "Lands of Spice and Treasure," Marshall Cavendish, Ltd. (New York, NY 1990).

Russell R. Ross and Andrea Matles Savada, eds., "Sri Lanka: A Country Study," Library of Congress (Washington, DC 1990).

Robert Silverberg, "The Longest Voyage: Circumnavigators in the Age of Discovery," The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. (New York, NY 1972).

Thomas Suárez, "Early Mapping of Southeast Asia," Periplus Editions Ltd., (Hong Kong 1999).

David Tomory, "Hello Goodnight: A Life of Goa," Lonely Planet Publications (Melbourne, Australia 2000).

Antony Wild, "The East India Company: Trade and Conquest from 1600," The Lyons Press, (New York, NY 2000).

Derek Wilson, "The Circumnavigators," M. Evans & Company, (New York, NY 1989).