Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, 1547 - 1616

portrait of Miguel de Cervantes
Portrait possibly by Juan Martinez de Jauregui y Aguilar (1600)
Miguel de Cervantes signature
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Born: 29 September 1547, Alcalá de Henares, Crown of Castile
Died: 23 April 1616, Madrid, Crown of Castile

Cervantes was certainly born close to the date referenced above, although there are no birth records. The date is assigned on the assumption that he was named for the saint on whose feast day he was born, San Miguel. His father was a barber-surgeon and apparently was not able to provide much education, although Cervantes did take to reading. In 1569 he went to Italy and served as chamberlain to the household of Cardinal Giulio Acquaviva at Rome, then joined a Spanish infantry regiment at Napoli. Spain, Venice, and the papacy were united against the Ottoman Empire and their naval forces met in the Gulf of Lepanto in September of 1571. Cervantes was taken below decks due to fever but he refused to stay, fighting bravely and taking three bullets, one of which cost him the use of his left hand. After recovering, he sailed for Spain but his ship was captured by Barbary pirates and he was held in Algiers for five years before being ransomed. This was the end of his adventuresome period, the rest of his life was involved in more pedestrian activities: acting as a buyer for the Armada and a tax collector. On two occasions, discrepancies in his records led to brief jail terms, the latter of which gave him time to write the first section of The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, he wrote the second part ten years later. In between he wrote a number of shorter stories, sixteen plays, and a number of poems, although he said himself that he wasn't a great poet. Don Quixote is often called the first modern novel, and the colorful metaphors that Cervantes used include a staggering number of phrases that are still in common use today.

Biography from Wikipedia and Biography.com

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