Battle of Chaul

Eumenis Megalopoulos | Nov 15, 2022

Table of Content


The Battle of Chaul was a naval battle between the Portuguese fleet and an Egyptian Mamluk fleet in 1508 in the port of Chaul in India. The battle ended in a Mamluk victory. It was followed by the siege of Cannanore (1507) in which a Portuguese garrison successfully resisted an attack by the South Indian rulers. It was the first Portuguese defeat at sea in the Indian Ocean. In the clash, the Lusitanian admiral, Lourenço de Almeida, son of the viceroy of India, Francisco de Almeida, also perished.

Previously, the Portuguese had been mainly active in Calicut, but the northern region of Gujarat was even more important for trade and an essential intermediary in East-West trade: the Gujaratis brought spices from the Moluccas and silk from China, and then sold them to the Egyptians and Arabs.

The Portuguese monopoly interventions, however, were seriously disrupting trade in the Indian Ocean, threatening Arab and Venetian interests, as it became possible for the Portuguese to sell out the Venetians in the spice trade in Europe. Venice broke diplomatic relations with Portugal and began looking for ways to counter its intervention in the Indian Ocean, sending an ambassador to the Egyptian court. Venice negotiated the lowering of Egyptian tariffs to facilitate competition with the Portuguese and suggested "swift and secret remedies" against the Portuguese. The ruler of Calicut, the Zamorin, had also sent an ambassador asking for help against the Portuguese.

Because the Mamluks had little naval power, they had to be supplied with lumber from the Black Sea to build the ships, about half of which was intercepted by the Hospitallers of St. John at Rhodes, so that only a fraction of the planned fleet could be assembled in Suez. The lumber was then brought overland by camel and assembled in Suez under the supervision of Venetian shipwrights.

The fleet left Suez in November 1505, 1100 strong, under the command of Kurdish Mamluk and former governor of Jeddah, Amir Hussain Al-Kurdi (pt. Mirocem). The expedition (which the Portuguese refer to by the generic term "Rūmi") included not only Egyptian Mamluks but also a large number of Turkish, Nubian and Ethiopian mercenaries, as well as Venetian artillerymen. Thus, most of the coalition's artillery was composed of archers that the Portuguese could easily overpower.

They were ordered to fortify Jeddah against a possible Portuguese attack and quell rebellions around Suakin and Mecca. They spent the monsoon season on Kamaran Island and landed in Aden, at the tip of the Red Sea, where they were involved in costly local politics with the emir of Tahirid, before finally crossing the Indian Ocean. So it was not until September 1507 that they reached Diu, a city at the mouth of the Gulf of Khambhat, on a voyage that could have taken as little as a month to complete under full sail. The Mamluk force consisted of 6 caracas and 6 galleys and, in addition to the fighters, included the ambassador of the Zamroin of Calicut, Mayimama Mārakkār.

The fleet was to join Malik Ayyaz (pt. Meliquiaz), a former archer and slave of possible Georgian or Dalmatian origin in the service of Sultan Mahmud Begada of Gujarat as governor of Diu. The fleet was also planning to join the Zamorin of Calicut to raid and destroy all Portuguese possessions on the Indian coast, but the Zamorin, which was waiting for the Mamluk fleet in 1507, had already departed.

Dom Lourenço de Almeida, son of Francisco de Almeida first viceroy of India, "Admiral of the sea of India" (pt. Capitão-mor do mar da Índia), was sent by his father to protect some ships, between Kochi (the then Lusitanian headquarters in Malabar) and Chaul. He commanded a fleet of eight ships (including 2 galleys and 5 caravels) captained by Pêro Barreto, Lobo Teixeira, Duarte de Melo, Gonçalo Pereira, Francisco de Anaia, Paio de Sousa, and Diogo Pires (the latter commanding the galleys). Along the way, they entered some ports, where they looted and burned most of the Moorish ships they encountered. Admiral Almeida found out about the arrival in Diu of the Rūmi fleet and decided to move to meet them.

Off Chaul Harbor, Almeida encountered Hussain's fleet that had moved toward him from Diu. According to reports, the Mamluk engagement exploited a misunderstanding on the part of the Portuguese: seeing the Muslims' "Western" vessels (caracas and galleys), Almeida believed it to be Alfonso de Albuquerque's squadron, returning from the conquest of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. So he suspected nothing until Mirocém entered the river with his ships and galleys, waving red flags with white moons, and as he passed the Portuguese ships he immediately attacked them with bombards, guns and arrows, going to drop anchor near the city. Reeling from the surprise, the Portuguese responded in the same way. Anchoring the enemy fleet, Dom Lourenço, despite having many wounded in all the ships, decided with his and Pêro Barreto's ships to ramm Mirocém's flagship and ordered the other captains to ramm the other enemy ships.

Mirocém, fearing to fight without the support of Meliquiaz's galleys that had not yet arrived, ordered a massive firing against the Lusitanians. The first day of fighting ended without the Portuguese, betrayed by the wind, managing to board the enemy ships: caravels, caracas and galleys were, however, so close together that on both sides men were targeting each other (which benefited Hussain being his taller ship). In between exchanging bullets, Almeida was hit by two arrows (the second in the face). Barreto succeeded in ramming one of the enemy ships and capturing it. Pires and two other captains succeeded in ramming three other ships. Spurred on by these successes, despite being wounded, Dom Lourenço wanted to return to attack Mirocém's flagship but his captains dissuaded him. The next day, Miliquiaz entered the Chaul River. He anchored next to Mirhocem and sent three advance hulks, which were, however, passed off by the galleys of Sousa and Pires.

Now reduced to their lowest ebb, the Portuguese opted for a retreat. At first light of dawn on the third day, Miliquiaz's hulks surrounded Almeida's flagship and pelted it with bombs: one of the ordnance caused a breach in the hull and the ship ran aground. Miliquiaz dispatched other hulks on the usta of Sousa's galley, which managed to elude them, however. When Sousa reached the rendezvous point with the fleet and the captains realized that the admiral had not caught up with them, they dropped anchor. Almeida's ship, meanwhile, was under enemy fire. Dom Lourenço refused to board the lifeboat prepared for him, even after one bombardment tore off half his thigh, until another killed him. His ship was now almost sunk and the enemies, who surrounded it from all sides, rammed and boarded it three times, always being repulsed. The fourth assault was finally favorable to the Muslims but Miliquiaz ordered the last twenty Portuguese left alive on board to be spared. Eighty Portuguese, including captains and sailors, perished in the fight.

In all, between Almeida's ship and the others, one hundred and forty Portuguese died and one hundred and twenty-four were wounded. The Muslims lost between 600 and 700 men in all. Lourenço de Almeida's death would later be cited by Luís de Camões as an example of heroism in his epic work The Lusiads (canto X, 29-32).

Hussain barely survived the confrontation because of Malik Ayyaz's delay. Hussain had no choice but to return to Diu with Malik Ayyaz and prepare for a Portuguese reprisal. Hussain reported the clash he had with Admiral Almeida in Cairo as a great victory, however, the Mirat Sikandari, a contemporary Persian account of the Gujarat Kingdom, describes the battle of Chaul as a minor skirmish.

In Kochi, after learning of his only son's death from Chaul's surviving captains, Dom Francisco de Almeida was struck to the heart: he retreated to his quarters for three days, refusing to see anyone. The presence of a Mamluk fleet in India posed a serious threat to the Portuguese, but the viceroy was thinking only of personal revenge for the death of his son at the hands of Mirocem. However, the monsoon was approaching and with it the storms that inhibited navigation in the Indian Ocean until September. Only then could the viceroy recall all available Portuguese ships for dry dock repairs and assemble his forces in Kochi. Before Almeida could leave, however, Alfonso de Albuquerque arrived in Cannanore from the Persian Gulf on December 6 with a regiment from King Manuel I of Portugal appointing him as the new governor to replace Almeida. Dom Francisco, already resentful with Albuquerque who had had the Egyptian fleet paraded under his nose without noticing it and determined to take revenge for the grief he had suffered, refused to allow his designated successor to take office: he rebelled against royal authority and continued to rule Portuguese India for another year. On December 9, Almeida's fleet sailed to Diu o defeated Mirocem's Muslim fleet in one of the battles that changed the course of history.


  1. Battle of Chaul
  2. Battaglia di Chaul
  3. ^ a b c d e f (EN) Padfield P, Tide of Empires: 1481–1654, p. 62ff.
  4. ^ Diffie 1977, p. 232.
  5. ^ a b Crowley 2015, p. 219.
  6. a b c d Tide of Empires: 1481–1654 Peter Padfield p.62ff
  7. a b c d Foundations of the Portuguese empire, 1415–1580 Bailey Wallys Diffie p.234ff
  8. Foundations of the Portuguese empire, 1415–1580 Bailey Wallys Diffie p.230ff
  9. a b c Logan, William (2000). Malabar manual (3rd AES reprint edición). Asian Educational Services. ISBN 81-206-0446-6. OCLC 50117065. Consultado el 24 de julio de 2022.
  10. a b c d e et f Tide of Empires: 1481–1654 Peter Padfield p. 62ff lire en ligne
  11. Foundations of the Portuguese empire, 1415–1580 by Bailey Wallys Diffie p.232 lire en ligne
  12. ^ a b c d e f Tide of Empires: 1481–1654 Peter Padfield p.62ff
  13. ^ Foundations of the Portuguese empire, 1415–1580 by Bailey Wallys Diffie p.232 [1]

Please Disable Ddblocker

We are sorry, but it looks like you have an dblocker enabled.

Our only way to maintain this website is by serving a minimum ammount of ads

Please disable your adblocker in order to continue.

Dafato needs your help!

Dafato is a non-profit website that aims to record and present historical events without bias.

The continuous and uninterrupted operation of the site relies on donations from generous readers like you.

Your donation, no matter the size will help to continue providing articles to readers like you.

Will you consider making a donation today?