Fernão de Magalhães
|27 April 1521 (aged 40–41)
|Lost at war
Ferdinand Magellan (// mə-GHEL-ən or // mə-JEL-ən; Portuguese: Fernão de Magalhães, IPA: [fɨɾˈnɐ̃w̃ dɨ mɐɡɐˈʎɐ̃j̃ʃ]; Spanish: Fernando de Magallanes, IPA: [feɾˈnando ðe maɣaˈjanes]; c. 1480 – 27 April 1521) was a Portuguese mariner whose expedition was the first to circumnavigate the globe in 1519–22 in the service of Spain, and an explorer best known for having planned and led the 1519 Spanish expedition to the East Indies across the Pacific Ocean to open a maritime trade route, during which he discovered the interoceanic passage thereafter bearing his name and achieved the first European navigation to Asia via the Pacific Ocean, calling it the Mar Pacífico, which in Spanish and Portuguese means 'peaceful sea'.
During this voyage, Magellan was killed in the Battle of Mactan, Mactan Island, now Province of Cebu, Cebu group of islands in 1521 in the present-day Philippines, after running into resistance from the indigenous population led by Lapulapu, who consequently became a Philippine national symbol of resistance to colonialism. After Magellan's death, Juan Sebastián Elcano took the lead of the expedition, and with its few other surviving members in one of the two remaining ships, completed the first circumnavigation of Earth when they returned to Spain in 1522.
Born c. 1480 into a family of minor Portuguese nobility, Magellan became a skilled sailor and naval officer in service of the Portuguese Crown in Asia. King Manuel I refused to support Magellan's plan to reach the Maluku Islands (the "Spice Islands") by sailing westwards around the American continent. Magellan left Portugal and proposed the same expedition to King Charles I of Spain, who accepted it. In Seville he married, fathered two children, and organised the expedition. For his allegiance to the Hispanic monarchy, in 1518, Magellan was appointed an admiral of the Spanish fleet and given command of the expedition – the five-ship Armada of Molucca. He was also made Commander of the Order of Santiago, one of the highest military ranks of the Spanish Empire.
Granted special powers and privileges by the King, he led the Armada from Sanlucar de Barrameda southwest across the Atlantic Ocean, to the eastern coast of South America, and down to Patagonia. Despite a series of storms and mutinies, the expedition successfully passed through the Strait of Magellan (as it is now named) into the Mar del Sur, which Magellan renamed the Mar Pacifico (the modern Pacific Ocean). The expedition reached Guam and, shortly after, the Philippine islands. There Magellan was killed in the Battle of Mactan in April 1521. Under the command of captain Juan Sebastian Elcano, the expedition later reached the Spice Islands. To navigate back to Spain and avoid seizure by the Portuguese, the expedition's two remaining ships split, one attempting, unsuccessfully, to reach New Spain by sailing eastwards across the Pacific, while the other, commanded by Elcano, sailed westwards via the Indian Ocean and up the Atlantic coast of Africa, finally arriving at the expedition's port of departure and thereby accomplishing the first complete circuit of the globe.
While in the Kingdom of Portugal's service, Magellan had already reached the Malay Archipelago in Southeast Asia on previous voyages traveling east (from 1505 to 1511–1512). By visiting this area again but now traveling west, Magellan achieved a nearly complete personal circumnavigation of the globe for the first time in history.
Magellan was born in northern Portugal c. 1480.[note 1] His father, Pedro de Magalhães, was a minor member of Portuguese nobility and mayor of the town. His mother was Alda de Mezquita. Magellan's siblings included Diego de Sosa and Isabel Magellan. He was brought up as a page of Queen Eleanor, consort of King John II. In 1495 he entered the service of Manuel I, John's successor.
In March 1505, at the age of 25, Magellan enlisted in the fleet of 22 ships sent to host Francisco de Almeida as the first viceroy of Portuguese India. Although his name does not appear in the chronicles, it is known that he remained there eight years, in Goa, Cochin and Quilon. He participated in several battles, including the battle of Cannanore in 1506, where he was wounded, and the Battle of Diu in 1509.
He later sailed under Diogo Lopes de Sequeira in the first Portuguese embassy to Malacca, with Francisco Serrão, his friend and possibly cousin. In September, after arriving at Malacca, the expedition fell victim to a conspiracy and ended in retreat. Magellan had a crucial role, warning Sequeira and risking his life to rescue Francisco Serrão and others who had landed.
In 1511, under the new governor Afonso de Albuquerque, Magellan and Serrão participated in the conquest of Malacca. After the conquest their ways parted: Magellan was promoted, with a rich plunder. In the company of a Malay he had indentured and baptized, Enrique of Malacca, he returned to Portugal in 1512 or 1513. Serrão departed in the first expedition sent to find the "Spice Islands" in the Moluccas, where he remained. He married a woman from Amboina and became a military advisor to the Sultan of Ternate, Bayan Sirrullah. His letters to Magellan later proved decisive, giving information about the spice-producing territories.
After taking a leave without permission, Magellan fell out of favour. Serving in Morocco, he was wounded, resulting in a permanent limp. He was accused of trading illegally with the Moors. The accusations were proven false, but he received no further offers of employment after 15 May 1514. Later in 1515, he was offered employment as a crew member on a Portuguese ship, but rejected this. In 1517, after a quarrel with Manuel I of Portugal, who denied his persistent requests to lead an expedition to reach the Spice Islands from the east (i.e., while sailing westwards, thus avoiding the need to sail around the tip of Africa), he left for Spain. In Seville he befriended his countryman Diogo Barbosa and soon married the daughter of Diogo's second wife, Maria Caldera Beatriz Barbosa. They had two children: Rodrigo de Magallanes and Carlos de Magallanes, both of whom died at a young age. His wife died in Seville around 1521.
Meanwhile, Magellan devoted himself to studying the most recent charts, investigating, in partnership with cosmographer Rui Faleiro, a gateway from the Atlantic to the South Pacific and the possibility that the Moluccas were Spanish under the demarcations of the Treaty of Tordesillas.
Further information: Battle of Mactan
After several weeks in the Philippines, Magellan had converted as many as 2,200 locals to Christianity, including Rajah Humabon of Cebu and most leaders of the islands around Cebu. However, Lapulapu, the leader of Mactan, resisted conversion. In order to gain the trust of Rajah Humabon, Magellan sailed to Mactan with a small force on the morning of 27 April 1521. During the resulting battle against Lapulapu's troops, Magellan was struck by a "bamboo" spear (bangkaw, which are actually metal-tipped fire-hardened rattan), and later surrounded and finished off with other weapons.
Antonio Pigafetta and Ginés de Mafra provided written documents of the events culminating in Magellan's death:
When morning came forty-nine of us leaped into the water up to our thighs, and walked through water for more than two crossbow flights before we could reach the shore. The boats could not approach nearer because of certain rocks in the water. The other eleven men remained behind to guard the boats. When we reached land, those men had formed in three divisions to the number of more than one thousand five hundred persons. When they saw us, they charged down upon us with exceeding loud cries.... The musketeers and crossbowmen shot from a distance for about a half-hour, but uselessly; for the shots only passed through the shields.... Recognizing the captain, so many turned upon him that they knocked his helmet off his head twice.... An Indian hurled a bamboo spear into the captain's face, but the latter immediately killed him with his lance, which he left in the Indian's body. Then, trying to lay hand on sword, he could draw it out but halfway, because he had been wounded in the arm with a bamboo spear. When the natives saw that, they all hurled themselves upon him. One of them wounded him on the left leg with a large cutlass, which resembles a scimitar, only being larger. That caused the captain to fall face downward, when immediately they rushed upon him with iron and bamboo spears and with their cutlasses, until they killed our mirror, our light, our comfort, and our true guide.— Antonio Pigafetta: 173–177
Nothing of Magellan's body survived; that afternoon the grieving rajah-king, hoping to recover his remains, offered Mactan's victorious chief a handsome ransom of copper and iron for them, but Datu Lapulapu refused. He intended to keep the body as a war trophy. Since his wife and child died in Seville before any member of the expedition could return to Spain, it seemed that every evidence of Ferdinand Magellan's existence had vanished from the earth.— Ginés de Mafra
Magellan has come to be renowned for his navigational skill and tenacity. The first circumnavigation has been called "the greatest sea voyage in the Age of Discovery", and even "the most important maritime voyage ever undertaken". Appreciation of Magellan's accomplishments may have been enhanced over time by the failure of subsequent expeditions which attempted to retrace his route, beginning with the Loaísa expedition in 1525 (which featured Juan Sebastián Elcano as second-in-command). The next expedition to complete a circumnavigation, led by Francis Drake, was not until 58 years after the return of the Victoria, in 1580.
Magellan named the Pacific Ocean (which was sometimes referred to as the Sea of Magellan, in his honor, until the 18th century) and lends his name to the Strait of Magellan. His name has also since been applied to a variety of other entities, including the Magellanic Clouds (two dwarf galaxies visible in the night sky of the southern hemisphere), Project Magellan (a Cold War-era US Navy project to circumnavigate the world by submarine), and NASA's Magellan spacecraft.
Even though Magellan did not survive the trip, he has received more recognition for the expedition than Elcano has. Since Magellan was the one who began it, Portugal wanted to recognize a Portuguese explorer, although Spain wanted to recognize the role of Elcano and the funding of the Spanish King in the expedition. In 2019, the 500th anniversary of the voyage, Spain and Magellan's native Portugal submitted a new joint application to UNESCO to honour the circumnavigation route. Commemorations of the circumnavigation include:
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