Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the father of the modern novel and innovative Spanish author, was also a distinguished soldier and Humanist. Born September 29, 1547 in Alcalá de Henares, Spain to apothecary-surgeon Rodrigo de Cervantes and Leonor de Cortinas, he grew up in Córdoba, Cabra and Seville. Much of his life is undocumented, so dates and events have been surmised by scholars. Cervantes studied under Lopez de Hoyos at the Estudio de la Villa in Madrid. Hoyos was fond of his student and commissioned him to write poems for inclusion in a volume commemorating the death of Elizabeth of Valiois. Cervantes studied Humanism, the Renaissance idea that scholars should use written text as a source of information to form arguments and build on the ideas the text contained. Cervantes adopted this concept, concsideed radical at that time, and was shrewd in couching ideas in such a way they could be interpreted as both criticism and compliment.
Alongside his literary career Miguel de Cervantes was a distinguished soldier serving in the Ottoman-Habsburg wars. He enlisted in 1570 and participated in the Holy League’s naval victory of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. Fighting aboard the ship Marquesa he requested assignment in a particularly dangerous area. Over the course of the battle he received two harquebus wounds in the chest and a third in his left hand leaving it so badly maimed he never regained the use of it. After recovering from his wounds Cervantes participated in at least two more battles. Preparing to be promoted to captain he was granted permission to sail to Spain in search of commissions; he and his brother Rodrigo sailed from Naples in September 1575.
On September 26 their ship, the Sol, was attacked by three Turkish galleys and captured; everyone on board was taken captive and sent to Algiers. Miguel de Cervantes had his letters of recommendation with him, marking him as a high-ranking person and causing his captors to watch him carefully. Held for five years, he refused to acquiesce to the Berbers. His courage inspired the other prisoners to work with him, making at least three attempts to escape, all of which failed. Cervantes did not allow any threats to dissuade him from his quest for freedom and repeatedly took responsibility for the attempts sparing other captives from punishment. By 1580 his family managed to raise money for his freedom, but it was not enough. When the Trinitarian monks reached Algiers, Christian merchants in the city raised enough money to satisfy his captors and on September 19, 1580 Cervantes was released. His behavior and bravery during captivity lead to near legendary status among soldiers and sailors serving at that time.
Miguel de Cervantes had an affair with Ana Franca de Rojas around 1582, resulting in the birth of Isabel de Saavedra, who cared for him in later years. On December 12, 1584 Cervantes married a woman 18 years younger, Dona Catalina de Palacios Salazar y Vozmediano. There were no children...