According to James Emerson Tennent, Galle was the ancient seaport of Tarshish, from which King Solomon drew ivory, peacocks and other valuables. Cinnamon was exported from Sri Lanka as early as 1400 BC and the root of the word itself is Hebrew, so Galle may have been a main entrepot for the spice.
Galle had been a prominent seaport long before western rule in the country. Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans,Malays, Indians, and Chinese were doing business through Galle port. In 1411, the Galle Trilingual Inscription, a stone tablet inscription in three languages, Chinese, Tamil and Persian, was erected in Galle to commemorate the second visit to Sri Lanka by the Chinese admiral Zheng He.
The “modern” history of Galle starts in 1502, when a small fleet of Portuguese ships, under the command of Lourenço de Almeida, on their way to the Maldives, were blown off course by a storm. Realising that the king resided in Kotte close to Colombo Lourenço proceeded there after a brief stop in Galle.
In 1640, the Portuguese had to surrender to the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch built the present fort in the year 1663. They built a fortified wall, using solid granite, and built three bastions, known as “Sun”, “Moon” and “Star”.
After the British took over the country from the Dutch in the year 1796, they preserved the Fort unchanged, and used it as the administrative center of the district.