13th Century – Ternate Sultanate (1257–1914)


  • The oldest Muslim kingdoms in Indonesia,
  • Established by Baab Mashur Malamo in 1257.
  • Golden Age – Sultan Baabullah (1570–1583)
  • Encompassed the eastern part of Indonesia – southern Philippines.
  • Ternate was producer of cloves
  • Regional power from the 15th to 17th centuries.


Dried Cloves

  • Continues to the present, as does the Sultanate itself
  • Although it no longer holds any political power.

Pre-colonial period

  • Originally named the Kingdom of Gapi


Location of Ternate

  • Ternate and Tidore – world’s producer of cloves
  • Became the wealthiest and most powerful sultans in the Indonesian region.
  • Their wealth, however, was wasted fighting each other.
  • Until the Dutch completed the colonisation of Maluku in the 19th century, Ternate ruled empires – Ambon, Sulawesi and Papua.
  • Ternate – the earliest places in the region of Islam, coming from Java in the late 15th century.
  • Islam – restricted to Ternate’s small ruling family, spread slowly to the rest of the population.


  • The royal family of Ternate converted to Islam – the reign of King Marhum (1465–1486)
  • Zainal Abidin (1486–1500) – transformed the kingdom into an Islamic Sultanate
  • Title Kolano (king) was then replaced with Sultan.
  • The peak of Ternate’s – the end of the 16th century, under Sultan Baabullah (1570–1583).
  • It had influence – the eastern part of Sulawesi, Ambon, Seram area, Timor island, parts of southern Mindanao and parts of Papua.

16th century to the present

  • Francisco Serrão – the first Europeans to stay in Ternate during Portuguese expedition out of Malacca.


Francisco Serrão (died 1521) was a Portuguese explorer and a cousin of Ferdinand Magellan.


Seram area

  • In 1512, Sultan Bayanullah of Ternate (1500–1522) ally himself with Portuguese and brought them to Ternate.
  • In 1522, Portuguese were permitted to build a fort – Fort Kastella.
  • Ternateans and Portuguese were strained from the start.


Kastella ruins, Ternate’s Gamalama volcano, from 2012

  • In 1535 Sultan Tabariji was deposed, sent to Goa by the Portuguese, converted to Christianity and changed his name to Dom Manuel.
  • Declared innocent, Sultan Tabariji was sent back to re-assume his throne but died en route in Malacca in 1545.


Strait of Malacca

  • Sultan Tabariji entrusted the island of Ambon to his Portuguese godfather, Jordão de Freitas.


Location of Ambon

  • Ternateans expelled the Portuguese in 1575 after a 5 year siege because the murder of Sultan Hairun at the hands of the Portuguese.
  • Ambon became the new centre for Portuguese activities in Maluku.
  • Ternate expanding, fiercely Islamic and anti-Portuguese state under the rule of Sultan Baab Ullah (10 February 1528 – 1583), the 24th Sultan of Ternate  1570 – 1583 and his son Sultan Said.
  • Sultan Baab Ullah – the greatest sultan of Ternate – able to defeat Portuguese – bring Ternate to the golden age in the late 16th century.
  • Sultan Baabullah conquered the 72 islands of eastern Indonesia, south Mindanao and Marshall islands.


  • In 1606, Spanish forces captured the former Portuguese fort from the Ternatese, Ternate Sultan and his entourage deported to Manila.
  • In 1607 the Dutch came back to Ternate, where with the help of Ternateans they built a fort in Malayo.
  • The island was divided:
    • Spaniards were allied with Tidore
    • Dutch with their Ternaten.
  • Under Sultan Hamzah (1627–1648), Ternate expanded its territory and strengthened its control over the periphery.
  • Hamzah and his grandnephew and successor, Sultan Mandar Syah (1648–1675) did concede some regions to the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in exchange for help controlling rebellions there
  • But the Dutch influence over the kingdom was limited


  • The Spaniards abandoned Maluku in 1663.
  • Desiring to restore Ternate to its former glory and expel the western power, Sultan Sibori of Ternate (1675–1691) declared war to the Dutch
  • Power of Ternate had greatly reduced over the years
  • Sultan Sibori – lost – forced to concede more of his lands to the Dutch by an unjust treaty in 1683.
  • By this treaty, Ternate had lost its equal position with the Dutch and became a vassal.
  • However, the Sultans of Ternate and its people were never fully under Dutch control.


  • 18th century Ternate was the site of a VOC governorship, for all trade in the northern Moluccas.
  • By the 19th century, the spice trade had declined, but the Dutch maintained a presence in the region to prevent another colonial power from occupying it.
  • in 1800, VOC was nationalised by the Dutch government , Ternate became part of the Government of the Moluccas (Gouvernement der Molukken).
  • in 1810, Ternate was occupied by British forces  before being returned to Dutch control in 1817.
  • Sultan Haji Muhammad Usman (1896–1914) made a last attempt to drive out the Dutch by instigating revolts in the region but failed and was dethroned, his wealth being confiscated, and he was exiled to Bandung, where he lived his remaining years until 1927.
  • The throne of Ternate was left vacant from 1914 to 1927, until the board of ministers under the blessing of the Dutch created Crown Prince Iskandar Muhammad Jabir the next Sultan.

Related Pictures


ternate masjid

Sigi Lamo, the mosque of Ternate Sultanate.

ternate - Ingang_van_het_paleis_van_de_sultan_van_Ternate_TMnr_60018584

Ngara Lamo, the gate of Ternate’s palace in 1910-an.

ternate istana

The palace of Ternate in the foothill of mount Gamalama, Ternate.

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