When Cervantes fought at the Battle of Lepanto
| Reading time: 3 minutes
Autumn 1571. So that his hand is not chopped off, Miguel de Cervantes has joined the navy. On the day of the Battle of Lepanto, although he is feverish, he still buys a Turkish ship.
AOn October 7, 1571, the Occident was once again saved in the Ionian Sea – as in 732, when Charles Martell defeated the Arabs in Tours and Poitiers, or in 1529 or 1683, when the siege of Vienna failed twice. The naval battle of Lepanto ended the brief Turkish naval rule in the Mediterranean and made this again the "Sea of the Romans", as the Muslims called it.
In the middle of the tumult of battle, when a motley armada of Spaniards, Venetians, Genoese and Maltese destroyed the fleet of the Ottoman Empire, a man struggled to ridicule heroism and battle in one of the greatest novels of world literature: Miguel de Cervantes.
The descendant of an impoverished Spanish noble family was not quite there voluntarily. He is said to have injured a master mason in a duel. Because he wanted to chop off his right hand as a punishment, he fled and hired in Naples together with his brother Rodrigo at the Infantería de Marina. These soldiers had to board in sea battles of the Rambade, a platform at the bow, from enemy ships and down the opponents.
"Neptune's Deep Maw"
Cervantes has vividly described the severity of such a man-to-man struggle later in "Don Quixote": "When two galleys collide in the middle of the vast sea and wedge and bite nose to nose, leaving only two feet wide for the soldier Rammsporn remains … and beckons at the slightest misstep already Neptune's deep throat, he offers himself despite all bold heart and driven only by the honor and winged as the target of all the firing ports and goes over the narrow ridge to the enemy ship. "
On the day of the Battle of Lepanto, Cervantes was sick with fever. But to have declared that he would rather die for God and King than to hide on such a day. He almost succeeded in doing that: he got two bullets: one in the chest, the other shattered his left hand. After all, he did not belong to the 8000 Christians of the "Holy League" who fell.
The deaths of the Turks were even greater: 30,000 of them died. Thanks to the fate of their admiral, the Regensburg-born Juan de Austria, an illegitimate brother of the King, and thanks to the superior firepower of the Spanish galleys, oversized galleys of 30 guns, the Spanish sank 110 Ottoman ships and captured 150 others.
The glory of the right hand
Miguel and Rodrigo of Cervantes were able to cheer up in the hospital that Juan de Austria had his share of the war booty distributed among the injured. But the consolation did not last forever: on the return journey to Spain, her ship was captured by Muslim pirates. The men were taken to Algiers to sell as slaves. Only five years later, after numerous failed escape attempts, Cervantes was released for ransom.
The life of Cervantes was so adventurous that it was filmed several times; 1967 with the most unlikely candidate for the role of a Spanish Baroque poet: Horst Buchholz.
Later Cervantes tried to give meaning to the early loss of his hand and to stylize the battle as the birth of his art. He had "lost the ability to move his left hand to the glory of his right." The Occident thus won not only a battle on October day of Lepanto, but also one of its greatest writers.
All writer life is paper, they say. In this series, we counter the evidence.
(t) Heine-Matthias (t) Cervantes (t) Miguel de (t) Literary life (t) Tour (t) Maltese (t) Music (t) Poitier (t) Ottoman Empire (t) Lepanto (t) Sea (t) Venetians (t) Horst Buchholz (t) Miguel de Cervantes (t) Natalia Ginzburg (t) Vienna (t) Mediterranean (t) Don Quixote (t) Karl Martell