already well known during the Malay Sultanate, under the domination of the Portuguese it became the centre between two commercial worlds- the countries of the Indian Ocean and the Far East. Barros called it the “ universal fair of the East” to the extent that all the vast, intense and profitable commercial trade routes which criss-crossed the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean were brought under the control of the Portuguese during that time. When Tome Pires claims that Melaka “…was made for merchandise fitter than any other cities in the world” (Cortesao, 1944:285), he may have consciously comparing it with 16-century European cities where the population of Naples or Paris exceed 100,000. It is assumed Melaka, at that time; have between 50,000-100,000 inhabitants (Reid, 1980:237). It could have been true in Pires’s day that whoever was the lord of Melaka had his hand on the throat of Venice (Cortesao, 1944:286).
One of the earliest descriptions of Melaka by Eredia (Mills, 1980) indicates that the A Formosa was square in plan, with walls eight feet thick with many bastions and cuirasses (Figure 1).
Figure 1 Plan of the “Fortaleza de Malaca” by Manuel de Faria e Souso before 1640. Source: National Museum.