Temasek is the name given to Singapore in old Javanese and Malay literature. Tumasik is the name of a village on the island mentioned in the Nagarakretagama, a Javanese epic poem composed in 1365. The name appears twice in the Malay Annals before being replaced by "Singapura" with the arrival of Sang Nila Utama on the island.
According to one theory, the name "Singapura" was chosen as it sounds similar to the word "nila", which means "mysterious" or "unknown" in Sanskrit. Another theory is that the name was chosen because its sound resembles that of "singa", the Indonesian word for "phoenix". Yet another theory is that the name was chosen because it sounded like an alternative name for Java, which at the time was known as "Singaporo". The original inhabitants of the island were the Seang Naga people who called it Singapura because it resembled a bird's nest surrounded by water.
After the fall of the Hindu-Buddhist kingdom of Srivijaya in 1288, European merchants began to trade with Indonesia, especially with Java. One of them named Antonio de Morgantino arrived in 1511 and reported back to Spain that the king of Java had been asking him about a country called Singapura that was said to be full of gold. This report sparked the interest of Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch traders who started to explore Asia Pacific looking for gold.
Legend has it that while hunting, the Prince of Palembang of the Srivijaya Empire, known as Sang Nila Utama, noticed an island across the sea. Curiosity piqued, he inquired of his chief minister, who informed him that it was known as Temasek (Singapore's original name, which means "sea town" in Old Javanese). The prince ordered that the city be built on top of the hill overlooking the sea. Thus, Singapore was born.
The first settlers in what is now called Singapore were a tribe of Indonesian hunters called the Senoi. They arrived around A.D. 300 and began building their own villages on the coastal hillsides. Over time, these settlements became more permanent with houses made of wood and thatched with rice plants. The people grew crops including sugar cane, vegetables, and fruits such as pineapples in their own community orchardries. They also hunted buffalo, deer, and fish in the waters surrounding the island.
In 1186, Ang Mo Kio (the last ruler of the Kingdom of Singapura) surrendered to the invading forces of Melaka (present-day Malaysia). He was given peaceable passage out of Singapore with his family but was later captured and executed by the Malays. After this defeat, no member of the royal family was allowed to survive. So, the story goes that all the prisoners of war were killed to ensure there would be no future resistance to the Malay invasion.
Singapore was known as Temasek in the 13th and 14th centuries, a name also documented in Chinese records as Dan Ma Xi, a nation with two different settlements—Long Ya Men and Ban Zu. Perhaps at the end of the 14th century, it changed its name to Singapura. This name first appeared in an English document in 1511 and has been used ever since.
Singapore became part of the British Empire in 1819. The name "Singapore" comes from the Malay word for sea star, which is used metaphorically to mean "city-state". Before this date, it was known as Temasek.
In World War II, Singapore was one of the world's most important oil refineries. It also had factories that made tanks, guns, and other military equipment. In the final months of the war, Japanese forces invaded Singapore but were defeated by Allied troops who arrived too late to participate in the battle. After the war, Singapore was placed under the control of the United Nations. In 1965, Britain withdrew its support from Singapore, leaving it vulnerable to invasion by Communist forces in Malaysia. Many Singaporeans felt that withdrawing support from such a small country would be impossible to justify self-protectively, so the entire defense force was mobilized to stop the Malaysian army from being overrun.