Persian–Portuguese war, 1507-1622

Persian–Portuguese war took place between 1507 and 1622 and involved the Portuguese Empire and its vassal, the Kingdom of Ormus, on one side, and the Safavid Empirewith the help of the Kingdom of England on the other side. During this era, Portugal established its rule for about eighty years in Ormuz and Bahrain, capturing some other islands and ports such as Qeshm and Bandar Abbas for few years. The conflict came to an end when the Safavid king, Abbas I, conquered the Portuguese territories forcing them to leave the Persian Gulf.

In September 1507, the Portuguese Afonso de Albuquerque landed on the Hormoz. Portugal occupied Ormuz from 1515 to 1622. As a vassal of the Portuguese state, the Kingdom of Ormus jointly participated in the 1521 invasion of Bahrain that ended Jabrid rule of the Persian Gulf archipelago.

After the Portuguese made several abortive attempts to seize control of Basra, the Safavid ruler Abbas I conquered Ormus with the help of the English, and expelled the Portuguese from the rest of the Persian Gulf, with the exception of Muscat. The Portuguese returned to the Persian Gulf in the following year as allies of Afrasiyab, the Pasha of Basra, against the Persians.

Capture of Ormuz by Portuguese

The capture of Ormuz was a result of a plan by the king of Portugal, Manuel I, who in 1505 had resolved to thwart Muslim trade in the Indian Ocean by capturing Aden, to block trade through Alexandria; Ormuz, to block trade through Beirut; and Malacca to control trade with China. A fleet under Tristão da Cunha was sent to capture the Muslim fort onSocotra in order to control the entrance to the Red Sea; this was accomplished in 1507. The main part of the fleet then left for India, with a few ships remaining under Albuquerque.

Albuquerque disobeyed orders and left to capture the island of Ormuz. He 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 to build 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.

Capture of Bahrain

As a vassal of the Portuguese state, the Kingdom of Ormus jointly participated in the 1521 invasion of Bahrain that ended Jabrid rule of the Persian Gulf archipelago. The Jabrid ruler was nominally a vassal of Ormus, but the Jabrid King, Muqrin ibn Zamil, had refused to pay the tribute Ormus demanded, prompting the invasion under the command of the Portuguese conqueror, António Correia. In the fighting for Bahrain, most of the combat was carried out by Portuguese troops, while the Ormusi admiral, Reis Xarafo, looked on. The Portuguese ruled Bahrain through a series of Ormusi governors. However, the Sunni Ormusi were not popular with Bahrain’s Shia population which suffered religious disadvantages, prompting rebellion. In one case, the Ormusi governor was crucified by rebels, and Portuguese rule came to an end in 1602 after the Ormusi governor, who was a relative of the Ormusi king, started executing members of Bahrain’s leading families.

Persian reconquest

By the order of Abbas I, in 1602, the Persian army under the command of Imam-Quli Khan, managed to expel the Portuguese from Bahrain.

In 1612, the Portuguese Empire took the city of Gamrūn and transliterated the name to Comorão. Almost two years later (in 1615), Comorão was taken by ‘Abbās the Great after a naval battle with the Portuguese and renamed Bandar-e ‘Abbās, or “Port of ‘Abbās”. In 1622, with the help of four English ships, Abbas retook Hormuz from the Portuguese in the Capture of Ormuz (1622).

In 1622 when the Persians retook Hormuz, the Portuguese Empire was the one of the largest and one of the most powerful empires in the world. The defeat of the Portuguese had many consequences including defeat in the Mombasa war and the capture of Fort Jesus by the Imam of Muscat, supported by the Persian king.

With the Arab/Baluchi seizure of Portugal’s key foothold at Fort Jesus on Mombasa Island (now in Kenya) in 1698, the Portuguese Empire declined and lost most of its land in east Africa to the British. The British recognised the Persian empire as only sovereign of the entire Persian Gulf and it was mentioned in the article 5 of the Preliminary Treaty of Friendship and Alliance in 1809. This recognition would be modified in subsequent negotiations including the Definitive Treaty of Friendship and Alliance, 1812, and the Treaty of Tehran, 1814, and remained the framework of Anglo–Persian relations over the next half century.

Capture of Ormuz (1622)

In the 1622 Capture of Ormuz, an Anglo-Persian force combined to take over the Portuguese garrison at Hormuz Island after a ten week siege, thus opening upPersian trade with England in the Persian Gulf. Before the capture of Ormuz, the Portuguese had held the Castle of Ormuz for more than a century, since 1507 when Afonso de Albuquerque established it in the Capture of Ormuz, giving them full control of the trade between India and Europe through the Persian Gulf. “The capture of Ormuz by an Anglo-Persian force in 1622 entirely changed the balance of power and trade”.

Anglo-Persian alliance

The English side consisted of a force supplied by the English East India Company consisting of five warships and four pinnaces. The Persians had recently gone to war with the Portuguese, and a Persian army was besieging the Portuguese fort in Kishm, but English help was needed to capture Ormuz. Shah Abbaswished to obtain English support against the Portuguese, and the commander Imam Kuli Khan, son of Allahverdi Khan, negotiated with the English to obtain their support, promising the development of silk trade in their favour. An agreement was signed, providing for the sharing of spoils and customs dues at Hormuz, the repatriations of prisoners according to their faith, and the payment by the Persians of half of the supply costs for the fleet.


The English fleet first went to Kishm, some 15 miles away, to bombard the Portuguese position. The Portuguese quickly surrendered, and the English casualties were few, but included the famous explorer William Baffin.

The Anglo-Persian fleet then sailed to Ormuz and the Persians disembarked to capture the town. The English bombarded the castle and sank the Portuguese fleet, and Ormuz was finally captured on 22 April 1622. The Portuguese were forced to retreat to another base at Maskat.

Although Portugal and Spain were in a dynastic union between 1580–1640, England and Portugal were not at war, the Duke of Buckingham threatened to sue the Company, but he removed his claim when he received the sum of 10,000 pounds, supposedly 10% of the proceedings of the capture of Ormuz. James I also received the same sum when he complained “Did I deliver you from the complaint of the Spaniards, and do you return me nothing”.

The capture of Ormuz gave the opportunity to the Company to develop trade with Persia, attempting to exchange English cloth and other artifacts for silk, but only with difficulty. The English adventurer Robert Shirley also took an interest in developing this trade.

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