Likely extent of Srivijaya's maritime empire


There is no reason to suppose that these early states possessed borders in anything like the modern sense. To begin with, centres of power were generally separated by geographical barriers - mountains, seas, jungles - which made the drawing of a line of demarcation unnecessary. The actual power of any ruler and court, moreover, fluctuated over time: even the transition between wet and dry seasons or the regular change in the direction of the monsoons could mean a difference in the practical extent of a ruler political authority. Southeast Asia, too, has been relatively sparsely populated throughout much of its history, and the control of people was at least as important as control of territory. This meant that rulers generally constructed their polities by means of an elaborate series of alliances with those who could deliver them support. And finally, the Hindu-Buddhist cosmology which the new rulers adopted emphasized the boundless dominion of the ruler, making them reluctant to set any formal geographical limit to their authority.

Further reading

Cœdès, George, The Indianized states of Southeast Asia. Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1975.

Cœdès, G., ‘Les inscriptions malaises de Çrivijaya’, Bulletin de l'Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient 30, nos.1-2 (Jan-Jun 1930), pp. 29-80.

Manguin, Pierre-Yves, ‘Palembang and Sriwijaya: an early Malay harbour-city rediscovered’ Journal of the Malaysian Branch, Royal Asiatic Society 66, pt.1, no.264 (1993), pp. 23-46.

McKinnon, E. Edwards, ‘Early polities in Southern Sumatra: some preliminary observations based on archaeological evidence’, Indonesia no.40 (Oct 1985), pp. 1-37.

Munoz, Paul Michel, Early kingdoms of the Indonesian archipelago and the Malay Peninsula  Singapore: Editions Didier Millet, 2006.

Hall, D.G.E., A History of South-East Asia. New York: St. Martin's Press, 4th ed.,1981.

Wheatley, Paul, The Golden Khersonese: studies in the historical geography of the Malay Peninsula before A.D. 1500. Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya Press, 1961.

Wolters, O.W., Early Indonesian commerce: a study of the origins of Srivijaya. Ithaca. N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1974.

Wolters, O.W., The fall of Srivijaya in Malay history. London, Lund Humphries, [1970]

Map number from Cribb, Historical Atlas of Indonesia (2000)


Year span

700 - 800