(Photo of the central Chedi of Wat Mahathat, temple built by King Borommaracha I. Photo my own)
The city of Ayutthaya was, according to the 1807 “British Library” version of the Royal Chronicles, founded on March 4th, 1351 shortly after 9:00am by Prince U Thong of Lopburi.
In truth, the city had existed for centuries by that point, as an ambitious commercial port seeking to wrest control of the lucrative trade routes from the Malay world further south. Who U Thong was, and what the official “foundation” of the city represents, then, is unknown.
But from that official foundation on, Ayutthaya began to look towards the north and inland, as much as towards the sea. Vying for hegemony over the myriad Thai Muang, or city-states, a series of successive kings raided, sieged and captured town after town – with their own fair share of defeats – to capture booty, religious relics, and perhaps most importantly, people. Not conquests in any traditional sense, the victories won nevertheless strengthened Ayutthaya’s position relative to the other Muang, paving the way for a gradual transformation from regional hegemon to Kingdom-proper.