Luis Vaz de Camões (1524–1580) was born, probably in Lisbon, of a noble Galician family His father, a sea captain, died at Goa after a shipwreck en route to India. Banished from Lisbon in 1546 for an unknown transgression, he became a soldier at Ceuta in Morocco. There, he lost an eye in battle, learnt the tactics of war, and developed a lifelong hatred of his Moorish enemies. Returning to Lisbon in 1549, he was forced to join the king’s service in India three years later to avoid punishment for injuring a court official in a street brawl. He sailed to India in March 1553, as part of Fernão Alvares Cabral’s armada, and did not return for 17 years. He narrowly missed being shipwrecked en route to Goa, and served on numerous military expeditions to Malabar, Ormuz, the Moluccas, and Macao. Legend (and his own boast) has him swimming to safety, clutching the manuscript of Os Lusíadas, after a shipwreck in 1559 off the Mekong River in Thailand. In 1567, Camões determined to return home, though succeeding only through the help of his friends, Heitor de Silveira and the historian Diogo do Couto. Os Lusíadas was published in 1572, and King Sebastian signified his pleasure at the epic by awarding him a small pension, Camões’s primary source of income in his last years. He died of the plague in 1580, the very year in which Phillip II of Spain absorbed Portugal into the Spanish empire.
KeywordsPainted Fine Court Official Small Pension Savage Beast Spanish Empire
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