Portuguese Ceylon

present-day Sri Lanka

Portuguese Ceylon is the name given to the part of Ceylon, modern-day Sri-Lanka, controlled by the Portuguese Empire between 1597 and 1658.

Portuguese Ceylon
Ceilão Português (Portuguese)
පෘතුගීසි ලංකාව (Sinhalese)
போர்த்துக்கேய இலங்கை (Tamil)
Flag of Ceilão Português
of Ceilão Português
Coat of arms
Extent of Portuguese rule in Ceylon
Extent of Portuguese rule in Ceylon
Common languagesPortuguese
Roman Catholicism
King of Portugal 
• 1597–1598
Philip I
• 1598–1621
Philip II
• 1621–1640
Philip III
• 1640–1656
John IV
• 1656–1658
Afonso VI
• 1597–1614
Jerónimo de Azevedo
• 1656–1658
António de Amaral de Meneses
Historical eraColonialism
• Portuguese arrival
• Death of Dharmapala of Kotte
27 May 1597[1]
• Surrender of Jaffna
June 1658
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kingdom of Kotte
Kingdom of Jaffna
Dutch Ceylon
Today part of Sri Lanka

The first contact was established by Dom Lourenço de Almeida in 1505–6. It was largely accidental and it wasn't until 12 years later that the Portuguese sought to establish a fortified trading settlement.[2]

The Portuguese wanted to control commerce, not territory. They were later drawn into the internal politics of the island with the political upheaval of the Wijayaba Kollaya. They used this to their advantage during the Sinhalese–Portuguese War, first in an attempt to control the production of cinnamon. Direct Portuguese rule did not begin until after the death of Dharmapala of Kotte, who died without an heir, and had bequeathed the Kingdom of Kotte to the Portuguese monarch in 1580.[3] That allowed the Portuguese a claim to the Kingdom of Kotte upon Dharmapala's death in 1597. Portuguese rule began with much resistance by the local population.[2]

Eventually, the Kingdom of Kandy sought help from the Dutch East India Company, with whom they entered into agreement. After the collapse of the Iberian economy in 1627, the Dutch–Portuguese War saw the Dutch conquest of most of Portugal's Asian colonies - Ceylon included, between 1638 and 1658. Elements of Portuguese culture from this colonial period remain in Sri Lanka.


  1. Ceylon and the Portuguese, 1505-1658 (1920). Author: Pieris, P. E. (Paulus Edward), 1874-; Naish, Richard Bryant, 1891- Subject: Sri Lanka -- History p.140
  2. 2.0 2.1 De Silva (1981), p. 100
  3. De Silva (1981), p. 114