For nearly 300 years Fort Rotterdam represented Dutch rule in Sulawesi. Construction of the present fort began in the 1670s, shortly after the defeat of the mighty Sultanate of Makassar at the hands of the combined forces of its Dutch, Bugis, Ambonese and Ternatan enemies. The fort, named after the birthplace of the conqueror of Makassar, Dutch admiral Cornelis Speelman, was built on the premises of an earlier, 16th-century fortress, erected under the rule of a local King. The first fortification, initially an earthen rampart that was rebuilt in brick in the 1630s, carried the name Ujung Pandang, ‘Screwpine Headland’. This appellation between 1971 and 1999 would again be used for the city of Makassar.
The layout of the Dutch fortress followed the then latest achievement of military architecture, the ‘star fort’, where a number of triangular bastions would outflank attackers before they could reach moat and walls. The resulting five-pronged shape inspired the nickname ‘Benteng Panyua’, ‘Turtle Fort’ in Makassarese.
The fortresses toughest test was a siege by a combined Bugis-Makassar army in 1739 that could eventually be repelled with a spirited counter-attack covered by the big guns on the bastions. The prison of Diponegoro, a senior prince of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta, can be visited in one of the fort’s buildings. Between 1825 and 1830 Diponegoro fought a guerrilla war against the newly instated colonial regime of the Dutch East-Indies. Captured despite a flag of truce, he was exiled to Makassar and imprisoned. Until the 1930s the Dutch colonial government used the fort as a military and administrative installation. In 1937 it was handed over to a foundation to serve as a centre for cultural and historic studies, amongst others accommodating an extensive library and collection of local manuscripts. During the Japanese occupation of Indonesia Fort Rotterdam served as a research facility for agricultural and linguistic topics. Today, the various buildings inside fortress house a museum and the offices of the regional Bureau for Cultural Heritage.
It is easy and pleasant to stroll around inside the fort on ground-level. Getting up onto the walls is possible via a ramp, although partly rather bumpy. We provide portable ramps for some few steps. For detailed information with photos about accessibility at Fort Rotterdam contact us.