History of Portugal

Portuguese Conquest of Ceuta
Portuguese Conquest of Ceuta ©HistoryMaps
1415 Aug 21

Portuguese Conquest of Ceuta

Ceuta, Spain

In the early 1400s, Portugal cast an eye at gaining Ceuta. The prospect of taking of Ceuta offered the younger nobility an opportunity to win wealth and glory. The chief promoter of the Ceuta expedition was João Afonso, royal overseer of finance. Ceuta's position opposite the straits of Gibraltar gave it control of one of the main outlets of the trans-African Sudanese gold trade; and it could enable Portugal to flank its most dangerous rival, Castile.


On the morning of 21 August 1415, John I of Portugal led his sons and their assembled forces in a surprise assault on Ceuta, landing on Playa San Amaro. The battle itself was almost anticlimactic, because the 45,000 men who traveled on 200 Portuguese ships caught the defenders of Ceuta off guard. By nightfall the town was captured.


Possession of Ceuta would indirectly lead to further Portuguese expansion. The main area of Portuguese expansion, at this time, was the coast of Morocco, where there was grain, cattle, sugar, and textiles, as well as fish, hides, wax, and honey. Ceuta had to endure alone for 43 years, until the position of the city was consolidated with the taking of Ksar es-Seghir (1458), Arzila and Tangier (1471). The city was recognized as a Portuguese possession by the Treaty of Alcáçovas (1479) and by the Treaty of Tordesilhas (1494).

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Last Updated: Fri Jan 26 2024