Temasek ('Sea Town' in Old Javanese, pronounced Tumasik) was the name of an early city on the site of modern Singapore. It is written as 淡马锡 in Hokkien (pronounced Danmaxi in Mandarin). From the 14th century, the island has also been known as Singapura, which is derived from Sanskrit and means "Lion City". Legend has it that the name was given by Sang Nila Utama when he visited the island in 1299 and saw an unknown creature, which looked like a lion.
While the early history of Singapore is obscured by myth and legend, some conclusions can be drawn from archaeological evidence and from written references by travellers. Archaeology points to an urbanised settlement on the site by the 14th century. Allusions by travellers give some evidence that there may have been a city or town present as early as the 2nd century. At its height, the city boasted a large earthen city wall and moat; many of the buildings were built with stone and brick foundations. Remains of old pottery, coins, jewellery and other artifacts have been found, with many of these artifacts believed to be imported from various parts of China, India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. These are sometimes seen as evidence of the city's status as a regional trade centre. An aquatic route which is part of the larger Silk route, passes through Temasek.
From the 7th to the 13th centuries, the island of Singapore was controlled by the Srivijaya empire based in Sumatra. By the emergence of Temasek as a fortified city and trading centre in the 14th century, the Srivijaya empire was in a long period of decline. The city was nearly conquered by the Majapahit empire in 1401 and came under the influence of the Sultanate of Malacca, in the 15th century. After the fall of Malacca to the Portuguese in 1511, the island came under the control of the Malay Sultanate of Johor. When overtaken by the British, the King of Siam ordered the Garrison of Temasik to return rather than create an incident the British could use to acquire more of Siam's Western border.