Miguel Cervantes


Miguel Cervantes was born on September 29th, 1547. He lived in the university town of Alcala de Henares for the first six years of his life. His family was poor and his father, Rodrigo de Cervantes was an apothecary-Surgeon. In 1553 Rodrigo was imprisoned because of a debt he failed to pay off. As soon as he was freed he moved his family to Madrid. As a young boy in Madrid Cervantes was self educated, and spent all the time he could reading. He was so obsessed with reading that he would pick papers up off the streets just to read them.

Cervantes got his first real shot at school in 1569, when he attended the College of the City of Madrid. It was at this school that he wrote some of his first known writings that attracted attention to the public. His first writing came when his principle, Juan Lopez Hoyos, was commissioned by the city to write a book reviewing all the Solemnities that marked the death of Queen Isabel of Valios. In this book Cervantes was the author of several poems in the name of the whole college. Cervantes never received an academic Degree because his studies were to fragmented and irregular, so after 2 years of college Cervantes decided it was time to move on.

Loosing interest in Spain, Cervantes decided to travel to Italy. In Italy Cervantes served as an attendant of the Cardinal Giulio Acquaviva. During this time the King of Spain, the Pope, and the Seigniory of Venice were planning a naval expedition against the Turks. Eager to fight for his country Cervantes enlisted in the navy in 1571. Cervantes was one of 26,000 men aboard 208 galleys, seven galeasses, and 24 sailing vessels. On October 7, 1571 this mighty fleet met the Turks in the Gulf of Lepanto. Thus the battle of Lepanto took place. In this battle Cervantes, determined to fight for his country fought even though he was sick with a fever. Cervantes fought bravely and with courage throughout the battle and was wounded three times, twice he was shot in the chest, and his left hand was hit by a bullet, leaving his hand permanently crippled. It was a great victory for Spain and Italy as well as a great triumph for Cervantes.

After recovering from his wounds Cervantes thought he would be rewarded for his service in the battle of Lepanto. In 1575 Cervantes decided to leave Italy with his brother and return to Spain on the galley called Sol. As they were crossing the Mediterranean Sea their ship was attacked by Turkish pirates, and both Miguel and his brother were taken prisoner. They were both imprisoned in Algiers for 5 years. During this time Cervantes led four escape attempts, all of which failed. It was not until 1580 that Cervantes was set free again, when he and his brother were ransomed by their family. Cervantes then returned to Spain again thinking he would be rewarded for his services, but he was awarded practically nothing.

In 1584 Cervantes, at the age of 37 married a 19 year old girl named Catalina de Palacios. Cervantes relationship with his wife was irregular and he often spent long periods of time away from her. He had one child, a girl named Isabel Saavedra, who came from one of Cervantes affairs with other women. Then in 1585 Cervantes father died, leaving Cervantes as the man of the house, forcing him to find a new job. He took up the job as an agent requisitioning wheat, barley and oils for the kings armadas. This caused conflict among the crop owners because they had to sell their goods a t a cheaper price than normal. In two cases Cervantes had to requisition wheat from priests, this angered the priests and Cervantes was excommunicated. He was tried and imprisoned because his accounts were irregular.