Member: Ternate Heritage Society
VOC in Ternate
Ternate was ruled by a strong Sultanate who expelled the Portuguese from Ternate in the 16th century after various disputes. The Spanish occupied a former Portuguese fort in 1606 but the Ternate Sultanate drove out the Spanish with the help of the VOC the next year. As a reward the VOC were given permission by the sultan to build a new fort at the same location which they called Fort Oranje.
Fort Oranje was one of the first permanent bases of the VOC in Asia and became the seat of the VOC’s Council of the Indies and the Governor General in 1610. It was the de-facto center for the VOC in Asia until Jan Pieterszoon Coen moved the administration to Batavia in 1619. The VOC was later allowed to use and reinforce various other forts on Ternate island and signed several treaties with the Sultanate of Ternate until the the bankruptcy of the VOC in 1799.
The clove tree is a native species to the islands of Ternate and Tidore, which were the worlds major source of cloves. Through Arabic traders, and later the Portuguese, cloves were traded around the world bringing great riches to the islands.
Cloves were sold in Europe at many times the price in the Moluccas. Due to the profitable trade, the VOC helped the Sultanate of Ternate to expel the Spanish and Portuguese from Ternate in order to gain permission to trade cloves from the Sultanate. Their ultimate goal was to gain a monopoly over the world’s entire clove trade. Although they never succeeded completely it was one of the main spices on which the VOC built their fortunes.
Clove was shipped from Ternate to Batavia (Jakarta) where it was redistributed onto other ships that carried it to Asian regions and onto Europe. As prices of cloves slowly dropped in the 18th century the clove trade slowly declined.
Forts in Ternate
There are various forts that were used by the VOC that still remain on Ternate. The largest and historically most important is Fort Oranje, located in the crowded center of Ternate city. The fort has arrow-head bastions in each of its four corners named Zeebolwerk (the largest bastion on the southeast side near the sea), Klein Zeebolwerk, Gilolo and Rael. It is made of stone layers with an encircling ditch and the entrance gate is decorated with a crown on its top.
In 2008 and 2014 Fort Oranje underwent a revitalization program in which the moat and the buildings inside the fort were renovated. Fort Oranje is now used as a community space and there are plans for a spice museum to be set up.
Other remaining forts such as Fort Kalamata and Fort Tolukko, originally built by the Portuguese and later used and expanded by the VOC, give a fascinating glimpse into the contested spice trade.