Why and how exactly did the Siege of Ceuta (1694-1720) take so long? I was reading on sieges, and I am aware they are basically used to force a city into surrender by draining them of resources and blocking off supply lines, and etc.

But my question is, how did Ceuta survive for that long during a siege, and what was so important about Ceuta to justify such a heavy use of resources over a period of over two decades? It seems like at that point it would become more beneficial to give up and take another approach to conquering the city. Which suggests there is some very intentional reason that they didn't, and kept on going for that long. I am also just very curious how they managed to survive so long despite the constant assault on their walls and the capture of Gibraltar.

Does anyone know exactly why this is? Or is there really no reason except stubbornness (which I doubt it is, but sometimes historical events do just come down to that, so not going to completely leave it off the table).

Note: I did look it up myself on wikipedia, but it didn't really mention why, and all of the references were to specific historical books, which are not the easiest to keep one's hands on.

  • 1
    Looks like they could resupply by sea. Sieges are difficult to conclude if the defender can resupply.
    – MCW
    Aug 8, 2023 at 18:37
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    The reason sieges typically don't last that long is that one side (usually the defenders) runs out of food and/or water. If in fact the defenders have an open port that isn't blockaded, and can bring in all the food and water they need, and the besieging force starts farming the nearby countryside enough to fully supply themselves, then yeah it could theoretically go on indefinitely.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 8, 2023 at 19:14
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    That does answer how Ceuta survived, but my other question hasn't been answered. What was important enough to the Ottomans to justify them continuing it for that long? Seems that at some point they would consider it a lost cause and too much of a drain on resources and soldiers. Aug 8, 2023 at 22:17
  • Responders may wish to note that during the Dutch Eighty Years War of independence, the sieges of Ostend and Breda (1624) were also notable for length at respectively 3+ years and 14 months. Commonality between the three may be of interest to OP. Aug 8, 2023 at 23:29
  • @DanceroftheStars - We had that particular question asked and answered already. One of our higher-voted questions in fact. It was about bypassing fortresses/castles, but same principle.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 9, 2023 at 13:19

1 Answer 1


Resupply by sea

The Spanish were able to resupply Ceuta by sea. Moroccans were not capable of preventing that. At that time the Spanish navy was no longer the world's dominant sea power, but more than powerful enough to protect resupply runs.

When you read about extremely long sieges, lasting many years or even decades, it's always a resupply issue. As long as the besieged can get resupplied, there is no reason for them to surrender.

As to your other question, that was a matter of prestige, for both parties. The Spanish didn't want to loose their holdings in Africa. They certainly did not want to loose them to 'barbarians'. Don't forget that the entire north African coast was named Barbary Coast in that period.

For the other party it also was a matter of prestige. They wanted to kick the infidel invaders out. Just as Gibraltar today is a hot issue for Spain - which incidentally was captured in 1704, and greatly hindered resupply - Ceuta was and still is a hot issue for Morocco.


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