A "galley" from Madura, 1601. Notice the raised fighting platform, three forward-facing cannons, and at least one swivel gun located near the aft of the ship. It may be a rather awkward depiction of a lancaran or a comparable vessel.

Ghali, gali, or gale are a type of galley-like ships from the Nusantara archipelago. This type of ship only appeared after the 1530s. Before the appearance of this type of ship, several native galley-like ships already existed in the archipelago, some with outriggers. The design of ghali is the result of the impact made by Mediterranean shipbuilding techniques on native shipbuilding, introduced particularly by Arabs, Persians, Ottoman Turks, and Portuguese. The terms may also refer to Mediterranean vessels built by local people, or native vessels with Mediterranean influence.[1]


The word ghali and its variation come from the Portuguese word galé, which means galley.[2] The reason for the addition of the letter h is because it is written in Malay texts using jawi script, with an initial ghain (غ) as in ghurab.[1]: 163 

History and description

There are several types of vessels using similar names in the archipelago, but the description and construction of each vessel aren't necessarily the same.


Main article: Mendam Berahi

A Malay galley of the 16th centuries.

The Malay epic Hikayat Hang Tuah mentioned a Malaccan royal galley (ghali kenaikan raja) called Mendam Berahi (Malay for "Suppressed Passion"). It was 60 gaz (180 ft or 54.9 m)[note 1] long and 6 depa (36 ft or 11 m) wide.[3] It was armed with 7 meriam (native cannon).[4][5]: 180 [6]: 299 

However, Mendam Berahi was actually a fictional ship, because it was only mentioned in the fictional literature Hikayat Hang Tuah, and no other Malay manuscripts mentioned its existence.[7][8] Although HHT's story is set in the Malacca sultanate (1400–1511), it reflects events that occurred in the Johor sultanate in the 17th century, more specifically in Johor's golden age in the 1640s to 1670s. The main character, Hang Tuah, is a fictional character, but the story is based on the true story of Admiral Abd al-Jamil (Tun Abdul Jamil) from Johor.[9] Contemporary Portuguese records indicate that galleys appeared in the regional fleets during the late 1530s, before that the mainstay of the Malay fleet was the lancaran. It was not until the 1560s that the ghali became more widespread, mostly used by Acehnese people, not Malays. The word "ghali" itself is a loanword from the Portuguese language, so the existence of ghali during the heyday of the Malacca sultanate is an anachronism.[1]: 164 [10]: 77, 210–212 

The Malays prefer to use shallow draught, oared longships similar to the galley, such as lancaran, penjajap, and kelulus for their war fleet.[note 2] This is very different from the Javanese who prefer long-range, deep-draught round ships such as jong and malangbang. The reason for this difference is that the Malays operated their ships in riverine water, sheltered straits zone, and archipelagic environment, while the Javanese are often active in the open and high sea. After contact with Iberian people, both the Javanese and Malay fleets began to use the ghurab and ghali more frequently.[6]: 270–277, 290–291, 296–301 [1]: 148, 155 

Eastern Indonesia

A galley in full sail, at the west of the island of Gilolo (now Halmahera).

In eastern Indonesia, a type of vessel called galé (lit. galley) was adapted by the Spanish and the Portuguese for use in the Philippines and eastern Indonesia. The vessel narrowed considerably fore and aft. The length is 7 or 8 times its width. They have a deck that extends the length of the boat and was propelled by long oars. Fighting men is situated in a dedicated deck, and shields were placed along the whole length of the galley to protect the rowers and the soldiers.[13]: 378 


An Acehnese galley-like vessel towing a smaller boat, during the 1568 siege of Malacca. The ship has 3 masts and double quarter rudders, also propelled with 12 rows of oars. As it has 3 masts, it may be a "lancaran bertiang tiga" (three-masted lancaran).

The Sultanate of Aceh is famous for the use of Ottoman-derived galleys. Aceh's term for galley is ghali, which is derived from the Portuguese word galé, not from the Turkish term for it (Kadırga).[1]: 163  The Acehnese in the 1568 siege of Portuguese Malacca used 4 large galleys of about 40–50 meters long each with 190 rowers in 24 banks. They were armed with 12 large camelos (3 at each bow side, 4 at the stern), 1 basilisk (bow-mounted), 12 falcons, and 40 swivel guns.[1]: 164  By then cannons, firearms, and other war materials had come annually from Jeddah, and the Turks also sent military experts, galleys experts, and technicians.[14] The average Acehnese galley in the second half of the 16th century would have been about 50 meters long and had two masts that were equipped with square sails and topsails, not lateen sails like those of Portuguese galleys.[15]: 106–107 [16][1]: 165  It would have been propelled by 24 oars on each side, carrying about 200 men aboard, and armed with about 20 cannons (2 or 3 large ones at the bow, with the rest being swivel guns).[1]: 165 

In the 1575 siege, Aceh used 40 two-masted galleys with Turkish captains carrying 200–300 soldiers of Turk, Arab, Deccanis, and Aceh origins. The state galleys (ghorab istana) of Aceh, Daya, and Pedir were said to carry 10 meriam, 50 lela, and 120 cecorong (excluding the istinggar). The smaller galley carried 5 meriam, 20 lela, and 50 cecorong.[17]: 165  Western and native sources mention that Aceh had 100–120 galleys at any time (excluding the smaller fusta and galiot), spread from Daya (west coast) to Pedir (east coast). One galley captured by the Portuguese in 1629 during Iskandar Muda's reign is very large, and it was reported there were a total of 47 of them. She reached 100 m in length and 17 m in width, had 3 masts with square sails and topsails, was propelled by 35 oars on each side, and was able to carry 700 men. It is armed with 98 guns: 18 large cannons (five 55-pounders at the bow, one 25-pounder at the stern, the rest were 17 and 18-pounders), 80 falcons, and many swivel guns. The ship is called "Espanto do Mundo" (terror of the universe), which is probably a translation from Cakradonya (Cakra Dunia). The Portuguese reported that it was bigger than anything ever built in the Christian world and the height of its castle could compete with the height of galleons.[1]: 166 


A galley from Banten, 1598. Four cetbang can be seen.

Two Dutch engravings from 1598 and 1601 depicted galley from Banten and Madura. They had two and one masts, respectively. The major difference from Mediterranean galleys, this galley had raised fighting platform called "balai" in which the soldier stood, a feature common in warships of the region.[18][1]: 165  Javanese galleys and galley-like vessels are built according to instruction from Turks living in Banten.[19]: 132 plate 27 [20]: 373 


A native galley engaging a Dutch galleon, west of the island of Ternate.

The Sultanate of Gowa of the mid-17th century had galle' (or galé) 40 m long and 6 m breadth, carrying 200–400 men. Other galle' of the kingdom varied between 23 and 35 m in length.[21]: 160 [22]: 85 [23] The ships were used by the king of Gowa to conduct voyages and sea trade between islands in the archipelago, both in the west (Malacca, Riau, Mempawah, Kalimantan) and in the east (Banda, Timor, Flores, Bima, Ternate, and North Australia).[24][22]: 85 

Ternatean galleys welcomed the arrival of Francis Drake.

Karaeng Matoaja, government director of Gowa and prince of Tallo, among other things, had nine galleys, which he had built in the year in which Buton was conquered (1626). The ships are called galé. Their dimensions are 20 depah (36.6 m) long and 3 depah (5.5 m) wide. They had three rudders: Two Indonesian rudders on either side of the stern, and a European axial rudder. It is not strange that Makassar had galleys in the 17th century. Gowa has maintained friendly relations with the Portuguese since 1528.[20]: 371–372 

This kind of ship is usually owned by the rich people and kings of Makassar. For inter-island trading, Makassarean gale ships were considered the most powerful ship, and therefore used by Makassar and Malayan noblemen to transport spices from the Moluccas. The usage of the gale improved the maritime trading in Gowa, as well as other ports in South Sulawesi, since the 16th century.[25][22]: 85 

See also


  1. ^ 1 Malay gaz equals 33–35 inches or 3 feet. See "gaz". Kamus Dewan (4 ed.). Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Malaysia. 2017. p. 383.
  2. ^ During the 1511 Portuguese attack on Malacca Sultanate, the Malays use lancaran (lanchara) and penjajap (pangajaoa).[11] Kelulus (calaluz) was used on several expeditions before and after the fall of Malacca.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Manguin, Pierre-Yves (2012). Lancaran, Ghurab and Ghali: Mediterranean impact on war vessels in Early Modern Southeast Asia. In G. Wade & L. Tana (Eds.), Anthony Reid and the Study of the Southeast Asian Past (pp. 146–182). Singapore: ISEAS Publishing.
  2. ^ "English Translation of "galé" | Collins Portuguese-English Dictionary". www.collinsdictionary.com. Retrieved 2020-01-30.
  3. ^ Musa, Hashim (2019). Teknologi perkapalan Melayu tradisional: Jong dan Ghali meredah tujuh lautan. In: Persidangan Antarabangsa Manuskrip Melayu 2019, 15-17 Oktober 2019, Auditorium, Pepustakaan Negara Malaysia. p. 18.
  4. ^ Hikayat Hang Tuah, VIII: 165. Transcription: Maka Mendam Berahi pun di-suroh dayong ka-laut. Maka Laksamana memasang meriam tujoh kali. Maka kenaikan pun belayar lalu menarek layar (Then Mendam Berahi is ordered to be rowed to the sea. The Admiral equipped the cannon seven times. The crew then pull the sail).
  5. ^ Robson-McKillop, Rosemary (2010). The Epic of Hang Tuah. ITBM. ISBN 9789830687100.
  6. ^ a b Nugroho, Irawan Djoko (2011). Majapahit Peradaban Maritim. Suluh Nuswantara Bakti. ISBN 978-602-9346-00-8.
  7. ^ Institut Penyelidikan Matematik (2022). Akhirnya Kapal Hang Tuah - Mendam Berahi Akan di Bina Semula [Press release]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDyjjhhUoHI
  8. ^ Halimi, Ahmad Jelani (2023, June 20). Mendam Berahi: Antara Realiti dan Mitos [Seminar presentation]. Kapal Mendam Berahi: Realiti atau Mitos?, Melaka International Trade Centre (MITC), Malacca, Malaysia. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uq3OsSc56Kk
  9. ^ Braginsky, V.I. (1990). "Hikayat Hang Tuah; Malay epic and muslim mirror; Some considerations on its date, meaning and structure". Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde / Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia. 146 (4): 399–412. doi:10.1163/22134379-90003207. ISSN 0006-2294.
  10. ^ Reid, Anthony, ed. (1993). Southeast Asia in the Early Modern Era. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  11. ^ Birch, Walter de Gray (1875). The Commentaries of the Great Afonso Dalboquerque, Second Viceroy of India, translated from the Portuguese edition of 1774 Vol. III. London: The Hakluyt Society, page 68; and Albuquerque, Afonso de (1774). Commentários do Grande Afonso Dalbuquerque parte III. Lisboa: Na Regia Officina Typografica, page 80–81.
  12. ^ Manguin, Pierre-Yves (1993). 'The Vanishing Jong: Insular Southeast Asian Fleets in Trade and War (Fifteenth to Seventeenth Centuries)', in Anthony Reid (ed.), Southeast Asia in the Early Modern Era (Ithaca: Cornell University Press), page 212.
  13. ^ Tarling, Nicholas (1992). The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia: Volume 1, From Early Times to C.1800. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521355056.
  14. ^ Boxer, Charles Ralph (1964). “The Acehnese attack on Malacca in 1629, as described in contemporary Portuguese sources”. In J. Bastin and R. Roolvink (eds.). Malayan and Indonesian Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 105–121.
  15. ^ Beaulieu, Augustin de (1696). 'Mémoires du voyage aux Indes orientales du général Beaulieu dressés par luy-mesme'. In Relations de divers voyages curieux, publiées par M. Melchissédec Thévenot, vol. I. Paris: T. Moette. pp. 1–123.
  16. ^ Augustin de Beaulieu (1996). Mémoire d'un voyage aux Indes orientale (1619–1622). Un marchand normand à Sumatra, édité par Denys Lombard. Pérégrinations asiatiques I (Paris: École française d'Extrême-Orient).
  17. ^ Iskandar, Teuku (1958). De Hikajat Atjeh. ‘s-Gravenhage: KITLV. p. 175.
  18. ^ Jacob Cornelisz Neck (1601). Het tweede Boeck, journael oft dagh-register, inhoudende een warachtich verhael ende historische vertellinghe vande reyse gedaen door de acht schepen van Amstelredamme, gheseylt inden maent martij 1598 onder ‘t beleydt vanden admirael Iacob Cornelisz Neck ende Wybrant van Warwijck als vice-admirael etc. Amstelredamme: Cornelis Claesz. p. 17.
  19. ^ Rouffaer, G.P. (1915). De eerste schipvaart der Nederlanders naar Oost-Indië onder Cornelis de Houtman Vol. I. Den Haag: 'S-Gravenhage M. Nijhoff.
  20. ^ a b Noteboom, Christiaan (1952). "Galeien in Azië". Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde. 108: 365–380. doi:10.1163/22134379-90002424.
  21. ^ Tapala, La Side' Daéng (1975). "L'expansion du royaume de Goa et sa politique maritime aux XVIe et XVIIe siècles". Archipel. 10 (1): 159–171. doi:10.3406/arch.1975.1247. ISSN 0044-8613.
  22. ^ a b c Hadrawi, Muhlis (May 2018). "Sea Voyages and Occupancies of Malayan Peoples at the West Coast of South Sulawesi" (PDF). International Journal of Malay-Nusantara Studies. 1: 80–95.
  23. ^ Sidiq H. M., Muhammad (21 June 2019). "Kapal-Kapal di Wilayah Kesultanan Gowa Abad 17 M". IslamToday. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  24. ^ Chambert-Loir, Henri. 2011. Sultan, Pahlawan dan Hakim, Lima Teks Indonesia Lama. Naskah dan Dokumen Lama Seri XXIX. Jakarta: KPG, Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-Orient, MANASSA, Pusat Kajian Islam dan Masyarakat-UIN Jakarta.
  25. ^ Christian Pelras, Manusia Bugis. Jakarta: Nalar, Forum Jakarta-Paris Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-Orient. (Translation of The Bugis, Oxford: Blackwell, 2006, p. 67)