Capture of Ormuz (1507)
|Capture of Ormuz|
The city and fortress of Ormuz, 17th century
|Portuguese Empire||Kingdom of Ormus|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Afonso de Albuquerque||
Coge Atar |
|4,000 men |
|Casualties and losses|
|11 Wounded||900 dead|
The Capture of Ormuz in 1507 occurred when the Portuguese Afonso de Albuquerque attacked Hormuz Island to establish the Fortress of Ormuz. This conquest gave the Portuguese full control of the trade between India and Europe passing through the Persian Gulf.
The campaign against Ormuz was a result of a plan by King Manuel I of Portugal, who in 1505 had resolved to thwart Muslim trade in the Indian Ocean by capturing Aden to block trade through the Red Sea and Alexandria; Ormuz, to block trade through Beirut; and Malacca to control trade with China. The Portuguese had reports indicating that the island of Socotra was inhabited by Nestorian Christians and might prove useful towards this endeavor. Socotra was then a dominion of the Banu Afrar clan of Qishn, in mainland Arabia, whom the Portuguese would refer in the 16th century as Fartaques.
Thus, in April 1506, two fleets totalizing 16 ships, under the overall command of Tristão da Cunha, were dispatched from Lisbon to capture Socotra and establish on it a fort. Cunha was assisted by Afonso de Albuquerque, who was nominated as captain-major of the sea of Arabia and tasked with blockading Muslim shipping in the Red Sea.
After a long journey of 12 months, 6 months longer than predicted, the fleet finally landed at Suq in Socotra in April 1507. The Portuguese took over the local fort, which was renamed São Miguel, and a tribute was imposed on the population to sustain it. Tristão da Cunha then proceeded to India in July, leaving Albuquerque with seven ships on the island.
After such a long journey though, Albuquerque had lost many men to disease, his ships and equipment were in need of repairs and had almost exhausted his food supplies. Socotra proved to be much poorer and remote than the Portuguese had anticipated, so the expedition soon ran the risk of starvation. Because of this, in August 10 Afonso de Albuquerque set sail to the Strait of Hormuz where, hopefully, he could acquire supplies by any means necessary, and accomplish his secret instructions to subjugate Hormuz - or "die like knights rather than starving little by little".
Portuguese conquest of Oman
In the early 16th century, the coastal cities of Oman were a dependency of the kingdom of Hormuz, ruled by its governors.
In August 22, 1507, the squadron of Albuquerque reached Qalhat, whose governor preferred to deliver fruits and exchange gifts with the Portuguese. Qurayyat further north however, erected stockades and attempted to resist, but the town was assaulted and sacked. Muscat was then governed by a eunuch and former slave of the King of Hormuz, who surrendered to Albuquerque, but the garrison overruled his decision, for which the town was likewise sacked.
Sohar was then the only town in Oman protected by a small fort, but it promptly capitulated at the sight of the Portuguese. The town was spared, gifts were exchanged, and in return for a pledge of vassalage, its governor was entrusted a Portuguese flag to hoist, and allowed keep the annual tribute for himself and his troops ahead of the fort.
Finally, Khor Fakkan also attempted to resist, but it was sacked. At Khor Fakkan, the Portuguese captured one of the three governors of the town - an elder who seemed so distinguished that he was brought before Albuquerque. Speaking courteous words, he claimed the Portuguese seemed "not inferior to the army of Alexander the Great". When questioned how he knew of Alexander, the man offered Albuquerque a crimson book written in Parsi of the life of Alexander. Most likely, this was the famous Eskandar Nameh written by Nizami Ganjavi, which Albuquerque "prized above anything else". Thus, the Portuguese conquered Oman.
First Conquest of Ormuz, 1507
Late in the evening of September 26, 1507, the Portuguese fleet made their approach into the harbour of Hormuz, properly adorned with flags and salvoing the city for half an hour.
News of the Portuguese conquest of Oman had sown considerable distress within the city, and rumour had spread that the Portuguese even ate people. Likely for this reason, Albuquerque was greeted by no emissaries, with whom he could start diplomatical talks. In such case, he summoned the captain of the largest vessel in the harbour – an 800 tuns Gujarati tradeship – to his ship instead, to act as a conveyor of his intentions to the sovereign of Hormuz. He declared to have come with orders from King Manuel of Portugal to vassalize Hormuz and take it under his protection, but he offered the city the chance to capitulate bloodlessly.
Hormuz was then ruled not by its sovereign, the young twelve year-old king Seyf Ad-Din, but by its powerful vizier, the Bengali eunuch Cogeatar (Hwaga Ata), who proved unintimidated by the comparatively small fleet. During the night, the Portuguese could hear men being ferried onto the ships and barricades erected, denouncing the viziers intention to resist.
The Portuguese were surrounded by some 50 armed merchant-ships on the land side and somewhere between 120 to 200 light oarcraft on the sea side. Albuquerque made no attempts to escape this encirclement; he would instead take advantage of the excessive number of enemy vessels specifically to allow the artillery to fire for greater effect.
By about 9 a.m. of the following day Albuquerque's flagship Cirne opened fire, and the rest of the fleet followed suit. Volleys were exchanged between the Hormuzi fleet and the Portuguese, with a clear advantage to the latter, and large clounds of smoke formed around the ships, greatly impairing visibility.
From the beaches, the inhabitants of Hormuz, the King included, observed the battle attentively; some were killed by stray cannonballs, and scattered.
The Hormuzi light-oar ships, carrying a great number of mercenary Persian bowmen, maneuvered to attack the Portuguese fleet en masse. At this point, the Portuguese experienced some difficulties due to their lack of personnel, but the compact group of shallow enemy vessels made for an ideal target for Portuguese gunners: about a dozen were sunk and many more disabled, thus obstructing the path of the ones following.
As confusion and discoordination set in amongst the Hormuzis, the Portuguese passed on the offensive: Albuquerque had his ship grapple the great carrack of Gujarat, that was boarded and rendered after a stiff fight. One after the other, the Portuguese captured or burned most ships afloat. Finally, the Portuguese made a landing by the shipyards on the outskirts of Hormuz, which prompted the vizier Cogeatar to announce the surrender.
With no more than 500 men and six decaying ships, Albuquerque subdued the most powerful naval power in the Gulf.
Albuquerque obtained the submission of the local king to the king of Portugal, as well as the authorisation to build a fort using local labour. He started building a fort on 27 October 1507, and initially planned to man it with a garrison, but could not hold it because of local resistance and the defection to India of several of his Portuguese captains.
With the support of the sovereign of Ormuz, the rebellious captains fought the forces of Albuquerque in early January 1508. After a few days of battle, Albuquerque was forced to withdraw from the city, abandoning the fort under construction. He sailed away in April 1508 with the two remaining ships. He returned to Socotra where he found the Portuguese garrison starving. He remained in the Gulf of Aden to raid Muslim ships, and attacked and burnt the city of Kalhat (Calayate). He again returned to Ormuz, and then set sail to India.
Albuquerque vowed not to cut his beard until he had conquered Hormuz.
Second conquest of Ormuz, 1515
In March 1515, Albuquerque returned to Ormuz, leading a fleet of 27 vessels, with a strength of 1,500 soldiers and 700 malabaris, determined to regain it. He held the position of the ancient fortress on 1 April, referring to the building, now under a new name: Fort of Our Lady of the Conception.
In 1622, an Anglo–Persian force combined to take over the Portuguese garrison at Hormuz Island in the Capture of Ormuz (1622), thus opening up Persian trade with England. "The capture of Ormuz by an Anglo-Persian force in 1622 entirely changed the balance of power and trade".
- Fraser, p. 39
- João de Barros (1553) Décadas da Ásia, 1777 edition Vol II, p.121
- Sykes, p. 279
- Malabar manual by William Logan p. 312
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- The New Cambridge Modern History: The Reformation, 1520-1559 Geoffrey Rudolph Elton p. 662 
- Afonso de Albuquerque, in Cartas de Afonso de Albuquerque, Seguidas de Documentos que as Elucidam Volume I. Raymundo António de Bulhão Pato, Lisboa, Typ. da Academia Real das Sciencias de Lisboa 1884, p. 9
- In Portuguese: [...] e perdermonos antes como cavaleiros que andarmos morrendo de fame, poucos e poucos [...]Afonso de Albuquerque, in Cartas de Afonso de Albuquerque, Seguidas de Documentos que as Elucidam Volume III. Raymundo António de Bulhão Pato, Lisboa, Typ. da Academia Real das Sciencias de Lisboa 1884, p. 281
- Barros, João de, Década Segunda da Ásia p. 95
- Barros, pg 101
- Afonso de Albuquerque, in Cartas de Afonso de Albuquerque, Seguidas de Documentos que as Elucidam Volume I. Raymundo António de Bulhão Pato, Lisboa, Typ. da Academia Real das Sciencias de Lisboa 1884, pp. 9–10
- Afonso de Albuquerque, in Cartas de Afonso de Albuquerque, Seguidas de Documentos que as Elucidam Volume I. Raymundo António de Bulhão Pato, Lisboa, Typ. da Academia Real das Sciencias de Lisboa 1884, p. 10
- Brás de Albuquerque, The Commentaries of the Great Afonso de Albuquerque translation by Walter de Gray Birch, 1875 edition, Hakluyt Society, p. 99
- Saturnino Monteiro (2010): Portuguese Sea Battles - Volume I - The First World Sea Power 1139-1521 p.219-220
- Saturnino Monteiro (2010): Portuguese Sea Battles - Volume I - The First World Sea Power 1139-1521 p.220
- João de Barros (1553) Décadas da Ásia, 1777 edition Vol II, p.128
- Saturnino Monteiro (2010): Portuguese Sea Battles - Volume I - The First World Sea Power 1139-1521 p.223
- João de Barros Décadas da Ásia, 1777 edition, Vol II, p. 131
- Saturnino Monteiro (2010): Portuguese Sea Battles - Volume I - The First World Sea Power 1139-1521 p.224
- Saturnino Monteiro (2010): Portuguese Sea Battles - Volume I - The First World Sea Power 1139-1521 p.224-225
- Saturnino Monteiro (2010): Portuguese Sea Battles - Volume I - The First World Sea Power 1139-1521 p.225
- Albuquerque Henry Morse Stephens p. 54ff
- Foundations of the Portuguese empire, 1415-1580 Bailey Wallys Diffie p. 472 
- Henry Morse Stephens: Albuquerque p.60
- Chaudhuri, p. 64
- A History of Christianity in India by Stephen Neill p. 549
- Sir Percy Molesworth Sykes (1915). A History of Persia. Macmillan and Company, limited.
- James-Baillie Fraser (1825). Narrative of a Journey Into Khorasan, in the Years 1821 and 1822 (etc.). Longman.