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sábado, 19 de março de 2016

The first European Military Mission to Ethiopia

Cristóvão (or Christopher) da Gama was the son of Vasco da Gama and younger brother of Estêvão da Gama

He first came to India in 1532 with his brother; returned to Portugal in 1535, then joined Garcia de Noronha in sailing to Diu 6 April 1538. Many times in these travels he demonstrated a quick mind that saved his companions. In recognition of his valour, in 1541, his brother Estêvão, then Viceroy of India, gave him command of a ship in the fleet Estêvão led into the Red Sea against the Ottoman naval base at Suez.

Between 1528 and 1540, the army of Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi, mainly composed of Somalis, Afari, Arabs and Ottoman Turks, had entered Ethiopia, overrunning the Abyssinian Kingdom.

The Emperor took refuge in the remotely located mountain fortresses, and turned to the Portuguese for help.

João Bermudes, a subordinate member of the Portuguese mission of 1520, who had remained in the country after the departure of the embassy, was sent to Lisbon. 

Subsequentely, a Portuguese fleet under the command of Estêvão da Gama, was sent from India and arrived at Massawa in February 1541.
Here he received an ambassador from the Emperor beseeching him to send help against the Muslims. In the following July, a force of 400 musketeers, under the command of Dom  Cristóvão da Gama, marched into the interior, and  joined the native troops.

Alongside his Ethiopian allies, Dom Cristóvão was victorious against larger forces in four battles, but was seriously wounded in the last one, the Battle of Wofla (28 August 1542). His arm broken by a bullet, he was captured on that very night by followers of Imam Ahmad, and brought to his presence.
The Imam tortured his captured opponent, in an attempt to force him to convert to Islam.

Frustrated by da Gama´s fortitude,  the Imam eventually drew his sword and beheaded him.

On February 21, 1543, however, Iman Al-Ghazi was shot and killed in the Battle of Wayna Daga by one of da Gama´s arquebusiers, and his forces were totally routed.

 Sir Richard Burton, in his First Footsteps in East Africa, referred to him as "the most chivalrous soldier of a chivalrous age." His actions were essential for the survival of Christianity in Ethiopia.

 An account of this campaign in the Ethiopian highlands was later written by Miguel de Castanhoso, who accompanied da Gama and was an eye-witness to almost everything he recorded. The 1564 edition of his book "Historia das cousas que o muy esforçado capitão Dom Christouão da Gama fez nos Reynos do Preste Ioão com quatroce[n]tos portugueses que consigo leuou"  can be found here (in Portuguese)

Miguel de Castanhoso´s book cover - 1564 edition

Excerpt from "Historia das cousas..." by Castanhoso
Castanhoso describes Dom Cristóvão´s forces flags, 
" ... the Captains with their soldiers, all with arquebuses, with their blue and white damask banners with red crosses, and the Royal Flag of  carmine and white damask, with the Cross of Christ.
(I found both, excellently drawn and painted here)

Castanhoso also describes da Gama´s clothing when he first met the Ethiopian Queen:  "And the Capitão-Mor (was) very gentlemanly dressed, wearing gold and purple satin trousers and doublet  with many plaits, and a French cape of fine black cloth, all quilted with gold, and a black cap with a  very rich gold medal".

domingo, 13 de março de 2016

The Poles of the Sierra

In July 1832, a place of prayer and seclusion turned into a bloody battlefield. 

 During the Civil War, the monks at the Serra do Pilar Monastery learned of the arrival at Porto of the liberal troops, commanded by D. Pedro, and  abandonned the immense convent, located on the southern bank of the River Douro, in Vila Nova de Gaia – a strategical positon, overlooking both Porto and Gaia. 


In following August, the convent was occupied by some liberal troops and on the 8th September, the then Colonel – future General - José Antonio da Silva Torres was appointed Commander of the stronghold. 

  On that very same day, the liberal troops repelled the first attack of the enemy forces – the Absolutist Army. The Commander of the liberal troops, then Colonel Bernardo de Sá Nogueira, was seriously wounded by a bullet in the right arm – which he lost - and had to hand over command to Major Bravo, which, though always repelling the enemy, had to take refuge in the Convent. 

- Serra do Pilar in 1833 - by Joaquim Villanova
As the troops of D. Miguel approached the convent, a large group of Gaienses (inhabitants of Gaia) led by Major Fontoura, went to the Convent to help the liberal defenders.

After a vicious and bloody struggle, which lasted for 7 hours, the “Miguelistas” had to withdraw. On the next day, September 9, a new attack was inflicted on the stronghold of the Pilar, which was immediately repealled, with bold enthusiasm and courage. 

 On the right side: a soldier of the 3rd Mobile Battallion - Serra do Pilar - nicknamed "The Poles" - as seen in the XIX Century book "History of the Siege of Porto" by Luz Soriano.


On the 29th of the same month, three “Miguelista”columns attacked at full strenght the Gaiense stronghold, but, again had to withdraw, after six hours of fierce combat.On October 13th, at six o'clock in the morning, the “Miguelistas” started a vicious artillery barrage, constantly  firing five batteries against the mountain convent building. It lasted for 33 hours.At end of the bombardment, in the afternoon of the 14th October 1832, the troops of D. Miguel, divided into three columns, assaulted the liberal trenches on 3 differnet locations - Eira,  Cerca and Calçada.

The defenders of the Convent, amongst them many Gaienses, vigorously repelled the attackers, who for six times, tried, again and again, to overcome them. After three hours of bloodshed and vicious hand to hand fighting, the Miguelistas began to leave the field, already covered with six hundred dead and wouded.
This liberal victory was the largest military contribution to the triumph of Don Pedro. Some say it was him who, being told of the heroism of the Serra do Pilar fighters, gave them the honorable epithet of Poles, equaling them to the heroic Sons of Poland, who had so bravely and recently fought against the Russian Army for the freedom of their country in the November Uprising.

A very interesting and informative text, included in a .pdf file published by the Polish Embassy in Portugal, describing the contacts and friendship between Portugal and Poland along the centuries. Link here

 Viva Portugal!

  Viva El-Rei!

Viva a Constituição!

Dedykowane do mojego przyjaciela Michał  który jest prawdziwy Polak! :D

sábado, 5 de março de 2016

House of Aviz

The House of Aviz was the second dynasty of the kings of Portugal, established as a result of the dynastic crisis following the 1383 death of King D. Fernando.

 In April 1385, amidst popular revolt and civil war, the Cortes of Coimbra declared John, Master of Aviz, as king John I of Portugal. He was Fernando´s half-brother and natural son of Fernando's father and predecessor, Pedro I.

The following period of Portuguese history saw the ascent of Portugal to the status of a European and world power.

The conquest of Ceuta in 1415 was its first venture in colonial expansion, followed by a great outpouring of national energy and capital investment in the exploration of Africa, Asia and Brazil with the founding of colonies to exploit their resources commercially. 

The period also includes the zenith of the  Portuguese Empire during the reign of Manuel I and the beginning of its decline during John III´s reign.

 The House of Aviz would rule Portugal until Philip II of Spain annexed Portugal in 1580.

 In the background, behind this proud - and slightly overweight - Herald, a parcial view of the Pastrana Tapestry.

Commissioned by King Afonso V (1432-1481) and expertly woven in Belgium's Tournai workshops in the late 1400s, the Pastrana Tapestries are singular for their depiction of a contemporary subject: Afonso's military campaigns in North Africa - notably, the conquest of Arzila, on 24 of August, 1471. 

Dedicado à Cristina Braz, apreciadora de História e incansável divulgadora deste modesto blogue  :)