John Florens | Feb 7, 2023

Table of Content


King Ramathibodi I (Thai: สมเด็จพระรามาธิบดีที่ ๑? pronunciation), also called Uthong or U Thong (Thai: สมเด็จพระเจ้าอู่ทอง?) (Chiang Saen, March 10, 1315 - Ayutthaya, 1369) was a Siamese ruler. In 1350 he founded the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, which would rule the territory of present-day Thailand until 1767, when it was destroyed by the Burmese. He was the progenitor of the Uthong dynasty, which would die out in 1395 to make way for the Suphannaphum dynasty. In the 18 years he ruled, he was notable for conquests that enlarged his territories, for spreading Theravada Buddhism, and for the important laws he enacted.

Reports regarding his life are fragmentary and often unreliable, especially regarding his early years, his name at birth is unknown, and his origins are also a matter of dispute. He was named Prince Uthong after he married the daughter of the king of Uthong, a city-state that had expanded considerably in those years.

He was born on March 10, 1315 today a district in Chiang Rai Province in Northern Thailand, which at that time was a principality of the Lanna Kingdom. According to some sources, he was the son of the local prince and was related to the Lanna rulers, whose capital was in Chiang Rai.

He moved to the Kingdom of U Thong, a city-state located in today's Suphanburi area, where in 1331 he married the daughter of the local ruler and became Prince Uthong. That city, which is identified with the capital of the Suphannaphum Kingdom, had in those years greatly expanded its territory southward at the expense of the declining Sukhothai Kingdom. Ramathibodi's father-in-law had conquered much of the Malay Peninsula, annexing in 1325 the areas of Nakhon Si Thammarat, Ratchaburi, Phetchaburi, Tenasserim and Tavoy.

A few years later, Ramathibodi also married the daughter of the ruler of the Kingdom of Lavo, modern-day Lopburi, a principality that fell within the Khmer sphere of influence and controlled the southern part of the Chao Phraya River valley.

Ascent to the throne

He succeeded the king of Uthong when the latter died in 1347. After a smallpox epidemic had probably struck the city, Ramathibodi temporarily moved the capital to Wiang Lek, a settlement of Chinese merchants a few kilometers south of Ayutthaya, which did not yet exist at that time. He gave orders to build a new capital at the confluence of the Chao Phraya, Pa Sak and Lopburi rivers. The particular shape of that confluence, had generated an island that was difficult to attack militarily.

The new capital was ready in 1350 and was named Ayutthaya, named after a pre-existing Hindu Khmer settlement in the area, which had taken the name Ayodhya, the ancient holy city of India. It was in that city that, according to legend, Rāma, avatar of Vishnu and hero of the poem Rāmāyaṇa, a crucial deity in Hindu and Buddhist tradition, was born, after whom Ramathibodi was named. According to the ancient chronicles of Ayutthaya, the founding of the city corresponds to the beginning of the reign.

The king of Uthong had himself crowned ruler of the new Kingdom of Ayutthaya on March 4, 1351, and it was then that he assumed the royal name Ramathibodi I. Under his control were the vassal kingdoms of Uthong, which he left to his brother-in-law Khun Luang Pa Ngua under the title Borommaracha Chao, and Lavo, at whose head he placed his son Ramesuan.

Foreign Policy

King Ramathibodi I was a great conqueror. The most significant campaign of his reign, that against the Khmer Empire, which had dominated Indochina for centuries and in recent decades had entered a phase of decline, was the first undertaken as king of Ayutthaya. The Khmer rulers had lost the charisma that had characterized them in their heyday, the last kings were usurpers, and expansionist plans had given way to bloody fratricidal wars. On the periphery of the empire, new states had been emancipating themselves for over a century, first among them the tai kingdoms of Sukhothai and Lanna. Ayutthaya itself had been formed by absorbing the Kingdom of Lavo, the last western Khmer bastion. Great changes had also taken place culturally; the state religion had become Theravada Buddhism and the majestic building projects that had resulted in the masterpieces of Khmer architecture of previous centuries had been abandoned.

Ramathibodi took advantage of this weakening and entrusted an army in 1352 to his son Ramesuan, who marched on Angkor, the Khmer capital. The young Ramesuan's incompetence was fatal to this first expedition. The vanguard, consisting of 5,000 men, was routed and the rest of the army was pushed back. Informed of the incident, Ramathibodi dispatched a second army, led by Uthong Governor Borommaracha Chao, in support. The reinforcements leveled the defenses and the compact army laid siege to Angkor, which held out for a year before capitulating.

The Siamese entered the city in 1353 (according to Thai sources the second expedition and conquest of Angkor dates back to 1369), plundered it of the immense treasures it held and deported much of the population into slavery. King Lampong Reachea had died during the siege, and Ramathibodi turned the government over to his own son, Prince Chao Basath. The latter died two years later and was replaced by his brother Chao Baat, who died after three months and was in turn replaced by another son of Ramathibodi, Chao Kambang-Pisey. In this way the glorious Khmer Empire became a vassal state of Ayutthaya. The conquest of Angkor led to the annexation of several Khmer territories in today's Korat Plateau areas. Khmer deportees included bureaucrats, artisans and Brahmins who would exert influence in Siamese society.

The Khmer royal insignia was laid to safety by Prince Soriyotei and a group of aristocrats who fled to present-day Laos, from where they organized resistance to the Siamese. The following year, the Laotian principalities vassal to the Khmer would be unified by Fa Ngum, who thus became the founder of the Lan Xang Kingdom, the first great state of the Lao people. He had been financed and equipped in the enterprise by the Khmer ruler Lampong Reachea, who thereby sealed an alliance with the Lao people in an anti-Siamese capacity. Over the next three centuries, Lan Xang would be a severe obstacle to Ayutthaya's expansionist ambitions to the east. Soriyotei returned to Angkor in 1357, commanding an army organized with the help of King Fa Ngum, took back the throne by ousting the Siamese, whose viceroy Chao Kambang-Pisey was given up for lost.

In 1354 (according to some sources in 1347), Ramathibodi turned his attentions to the declining Sukhothai Kingdom, an army invaded its territory and seized the important town of Chainat. King Lithai of Sukhothai negotiated peace, Ramathibodi accepted the proposals made to him, and Chainat was returned. There are no reports regarding the terms of this agreement. In the following years, Ramathibodi further weakened Sukhothai, taking several territories in the Malay Peninsula from its control, continuing the work of his father-in-law the ruler of Uthong. He subjugated several principalities, including Singora, He extended Ayutthaya's influence all the way to Malacca in the far south of the peninsula.

King Fa Ngum of Lan Xang embarked on a military campaign that secured for him in 1357 the conquest of the Korat Plateau, with the northern subjugation of the principality of present-day Loei Province and the southern ones of Korat and Roi Et. He then helped Khmer prince Surya Daya drive out the Siamese and regain control of Angkor in 1359. Lan Xang's capital was Mueang Sua, today's Luang Prabang, which before the formation of the kingdom was the most powerful of the Laotian principalities. The old aristocracy of Mueang Sua was overshadowed by the one imposed by Fa Ngum, associated with the Khmer allies, and a clash had arisen between the two aristocratic factions.

The growing threat of Lan Xang was averted by Ramathibodi by granting his daughter Keo Lot Fa in marriage to Fa Ngum, whose first wife was the daughter of the former Khmer ruler. The arrival of the Siamese princess was greeted with joy by the old Mueang Sua aristocracy, which could henceforth count on Ayutthaya's support in the conflict against the pro-Khmer faction. Internal court strife caused the forced dismissal and exile of Fa Ngum in 1372, opening the first serious Lan Xang crisis that would last until the mid-15th century.

During Ramathibodi's reign, the instability of the Chinese Empire, whose Yuan dynasty had been showing signs of collapse for several years and had had to loosen its control over the periphery of the state to deal with various natural disasters and harsh internal uprisings, became more acute. The most serious was the Red Turban revolt, which began around 1352 and ended in 1368 with the collapse of the Yuan and the seizure of power by the Ming dynasty (1368-1644).

Upon Ramathibodi's death, the Ming emperors recognized the enormous growth of Ayutthaya, which became the main interlocutor for Southeast Asia, replacing the declining Sukhothai Kingdom.

Domestic politics

In contrast to the Sukhothai Kingdom, where the ruler (raja) was a father figure who treated the people good-naturedly according to the teachings of Gautama Buddha (called Dhamma) and was therefore considered a Dhammaraja, Ramathibodi adopted the tradition in use in India and the Khmer Empire, according to which the ruler has divine prerogatives (Devaraja) and is to be worshipped as such. He then took the name of Rāma, a warrior deity and royal prince manifested to lift the moral fortunes of men, revered in both Hinduism and Buddhism as an incarnation of Vishnu and Buddha himself. This relationship between king and people would be maintained in the country's subsequent history, so much so that even Rama IX, King of Thailand from 1946 to 2016, was revered by many of his subjects as a deity.

According to the traditional system of government called mandala that was in place for many centuries in Southeast Asia, Ayutthaya was also not a centralized state. Ramathibodi granted a wide margin of autonomy to the conquered mueangs, at the head of which he left local rulers over whom he exercised relative control. He appointed ministers to help him administer the country, the khun klahng in charge of finance, the khun mueang for municipalities and the khun nah for agriculture.

Aware of Ayutthaya's strength and the difficulty of crossing the ring of water that surrounded it, Ramathibodi did not care about defenses and the city's perimeter wall was erected using only desiccated mud. The city buildings, including the royal palace, were built of wood. In 1357, the kingdom faced a severe cholera epidemic.

Ramathibodi also became famous for the set of laws he enacted, which were based on the code in force in the late Nanzhao Kingdom (737 A.D.-902), considered one of the cradles of Tai civilization, and on the concepts related to laws established in ancient India. Except for minor modifications, its system would remain in place until the late 19th century, when King Rama V promulgated a substantial set of new and revolutionary regulations. Among the most important laws introduced by Ramathibodi were the following:

He was a deeply religious ruler, professing Theravada Buddhism and making it the state religion in 1360. That faith had become established in Sukhothai during the reign of Ramkhamhaeng (1279-1298), in the northern Lanna Kingdom with Mengrai (1292-1317) and in Lan Xang with Fa Ngum (1354-1372). The Khmer Empire itself, which had previously spread Hinduism in the region, converted to Theravada Buddhism through King Indravarman III (1295-1308).

Ramathibodi conferred a kind of divine injunction on his code of laws by having it compiled in Pali, the liturgical language of that religion. He promoted its spread by inviting monks from the sangha of present-day Sri Lanka, the most important country in the Theravada tradition. With their help, new monks were trained and new monastic orders created. During his reign, important temples were built throughout the country.

When Ramathibodi died in 1369, a conflict over succession flared up between his son Ramesuan and his brother-in-law Borommaracha Chao of Uthong. Ramesuan ascended the throne but was forced to abdicate after only one year and was replaced by his uncle, who became the third ruler of Ayutthaya under the name Borommaracha I. Some sources report that the abdication took place peacefully, while others claim that it followed a bloody civil war.


  1. Uthong
  2. Ramathibodi I
  3. ^ a b c d Wood, William A.R. da pag. 66 a pag. 69
  4. Richard D. Cushman (Übersetzer): The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. Siam Society, Bangkok 2000, S. 10. Zitiert nach David K. Wyatt: Thailand. A Short History. 2. Auflage, Silkworm Books, Chiang Mai 2004, S. 54.
  5. Wyatt: Thailand. 2004, S. 54.
  6. ^ Baker, Chris; Phongpaichit, Pasuk (2017). A History of Ayutthaya: Siam in the Early Modern World. Cambridge University Press. p. 43. ISBN 978-1-316-64113-2.
  7. ^ Coedès, George (1968). Walter F. Vella (ed.). The Indianized States of Southeast Asia. trans.Susan Brown Cowing. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-0368-1.
  8. Xavier Galland, Histoire de la Thaïlande, vol. 1095, Presses universitaires de France, coll. « Que sais-je ? », 2017 (1re éd. 1998), 128 p. (ISBN 978-2-13-048669-5), Chapitre IV : AYUTTHAYA pages 40 à 73 (page 40)
  9. Michel Jacq-Hergoualc'h, Le Siam, Société d'édition Les Belles Lettres, coll. « Guide Belles Lettres des civilisations », 2004, 256 p. (ISBN 978-2-251-41023-4), ANNEXES : Repères biographiques : Rama Thibodi I (1351-1369) page 236

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?