500 years ago, the discoverer Magellan died in a battle with the natives

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500 years ago, the discoverer Magellan died in a battle with the natives
500 years ago, the discoverer Magellan died in a battle with the natives

On April 27, 1521, in a battle with the natives of the Philippine island of Mactan, the famous navigator Fernand Magellan was killed, who opened the strait from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. The commander of the expedition decided to support one of the local rulers in the internecine struggle with another, but did not calculate the forces of his detachment. The first ever voyage around the world was completed by Magellan's ally, Captain Juan Sebastian Elcano. Together with him, only a handful of sailors returned to Spain, greeted as heroes.

How Magellan sailed to the Pacific Ocean

A flotilla of five ships, led by the Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan (real name - Fernand de Magalhães), who switched to Spanish service, sailed from the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda on September 20, 1519. He managed to persuade King Charles I with the argument that it was faster to get to the Pacific Ocean, moving across the Atlantic to the west, and not around Africa, like the Portuguese. Believing in the version about the existence of a mysterious strait connecting two oceans, the monarch agreed to pay the team a two-year supply of food. More than 300 people sailed to the spice-rich Moluccas.

Magellan assumed the rank of captain-general and raised his flag on the Trinidad.

Already on November 29, 1519, the expedition reached the shores of Brazil. A little later, the Spaniards landed in Patagonia. They were quite surprised by the locals, who wore hay shoes in cold weather. For this, the sailors called them the Patagonians - "big-legged". To take some of the natives with them, the Spaniards resorted to trickery. Starting to present the Patagonians with food and beautiful fabrics, they offered to try on leg shackles. The natives did not understand the purpose of the object and allowed themselves to be fettered. True, all the Patagonians died of diseases even before the end of the voyage.

By March 1521, Magellan's expedition had reached the archipelago between present-day Indonesia and Taiwan. The captain-general called the group of islands "the archipelago of Saint Lazarus" (the Philippines received their modern name in 1543 in honor of the Spanish king Philip II). Magellan landed on one of the islands, setting up an infirmary for sick and wounded sailors.

Back in the middle of the 19th century, the German traveler Georg Hartwig drew attention to the cunning of the Spaniards. It seemed unacceptable to the cruel attitude of the members of the Magellan expedition to the population of the Philippines.

“By order of Magellan, two savages were captured and brought to the ship by force: barbaric cruelty, which the great seafarers then permitted themselves against savage peoples and which only rude whalers now allow themselves. These facts prove that the spirit of humanity has, however, made some progress in recent centuries, and give the friends of humanity solid hopes that it will improve over time,”wrote Hartwig in his book“Man and Nature on the Islands of the Great Ocean”. published in 1865.

Unlike the Portuguese, the Spaniards sought to subjugate all the newly discovered lands by military force and put them under their direct control.

Magellan managed to win the trust of one of the local rulers of Humabon - he was even baptized along with his family and several hundred subjects and agreed to recognize King Charles V as his lord on the condition that the Spanish monarch would raise him above all neighboring rulers. In the role of the patron saint of new Christians, Magellan intervened in the internecine war of the natives.

Legendary battle with Lapu-Lapu

Inspired by the conversion of his new friends to Christianity, Magellan demanded that Lapu-Lapu, the ruler of the small island of Mactan, immediately submit to Humabon.

After the refusal, the captain-general decided to demonstratively punish the native, and at the same time show the strength of the Spanish weapons.The Spaniards launched a punitive operation on Mactan.

“Magellan was so convinced of the power of his weapon that he ordered the ally to stay on the boats in order to watch the victory from there,” noted Hartwig. - With 49 people, he entered into a very unequal battle with 2,000 Indians, who prudently did not allow him to hand-to-hand combat, but lured him further and further, until finally the lack of gunpowder forced him to go back. Here, overcome by the multitude, he fell, pierced by a spear."

To a certain extent, the captain-general overestimated his influence and became a victim of his own ambitions, supporting one ruler in the struggle against another.

In the interpretation of the Soviet historian of geography Iosif Magidovich, the events on Mactan Island appear somewhat differently. According to this version, the Spanish boats were unable to land ashore because of the reefs. Then the leader of the expedition left about ten crossbowmen and musketeers in the boats, and he wade with 50 people.

They were already awaited at the village, attacking in three groups. Then the boats opened fire on the natives.

But arrows and bullets could not pierce the wooden shields. The subjects of Lapu-Lapu studied the weapons of the Spaniards well and moved quickly, not allowing the shooters to aim. They themselves sought to hit opponents in the legs unprotected by armor. Magellan ordered to set fire to the village, which infuriated the Maktans: they began to shower the Spaniards with arrows and stones, as well as throw spears at them.

According to the testimony of a member of the Italian expedition Antonio Pigafetta, most of the soldiers fled. Only 6-8 of the most loyal associates remained next to Magellan. Having recognized the enemy leader, the natives wanted to attack him. But, surrounded on all sides, the captain-general continued to fight back.

“Trying to pull out the sword, Magellan drew it only halfway, as he was wounded in the arm. One of the attackers wounded him in the left leg. The captain fell face down, and then they threw him spears and began to strike with the cleavers, until they killed him. He kept turning back to see if we all had time to plunge into the boats,”said Pigafetta.

In addition to Magellan, eight Spaniards and four allied natives were killed. Many of the surviving sailors were injured.

Humabon, who watched the battle from a safe distance, offered Lapu-Lap a ransom for the bodies of Magellan and the fallen Spaniards. However, the victors flatly refused to hand over the deceased "leader" of the Spaniards.

The team continued sailing without their commander and on September 6, 1522, completed the first ever sea voyage around the world. Of the five ships, three did not return to Spain. 34 members of the expedition on the ship "Victoria" under the command of Juan Sebastian Elcano, including four natives from the Moluccas, successfully reached the islands of Cape Verde. 13 of them were arrested by the Portuguese.

Therefore, only 17 Spaniards triumphantly arrived in Seville.

They provided irrefutable evidence that the Earth is a spinning ball and the seas are indivisible bodies of water. Thanks to the surviving sailors, the cartographic works of the ancient Greeks and Romans were swept away as untenable.

In 1529, the Treaty of Saragossa was signed, according to which the islands of the Pacific Ocean were largely withdrawn to Spain, and the countries of Southeast Asia to Portugal. So the Spaniards and the Portuguese divided the whole world among themselves.

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