Death of Magellan

Magellan had badly miscalculated the size and extent of the Pacific Ocean. His expedition barely made it across the vast ocean alive. They came ashore to much relief at Guam, but failed to find the hoped for spices there. They therefore continued to the present day Philippines. Magellan succeeded and gaining the support of a leader on Cebu and sailed on to Mactan where Magellan hoped he could gain the support of the local chief there.

One of the two chieftains of Mactan, Lapu Lapu, refused Magellan's invitiation to turn to Christianity and pay homage to the Portuguese throne and challenged Magellan to a fight. Determined to show the power of the Spanish armored warriors, and against the advice of his own men to engage in a needless battle, Magellan sailed to Mactan on Saturday, April 27, 1521. The coastal water was shallow, forcing the ships to anchor well offshore. The men had to wade through two crossbow flights of thigh-high water to reach the shore. In the "Battle of Mactan," forty-nine European musketeers and crossbowmen confronted three divisions of Mactan fighters, more than one thousand men, armed with arrows, bamboo spears tipped with iron, and fire-hardened stakes. Further inciting the islanders' wrath, Magellan ordered the burning of nearby homes. The fighting lasted about an hour, culminating, as Pigafetta describes it, with Magellan's death:

Which seeing [Magellan wounded in the arm], all those people threw themselves on him, and one of them with a large javelin . . . thrust it into his leg, whereby he fell face downward. On this all at once rushed upon him with lances of iron and of bamboo and with these javelins, so that they slew our mirror, our light, our comfort, and our true guide.

It was an undignified end, offshore, in water up to his knees. His hacked body pieces were kept by the Mactans as a memorial; no armor was ever recovered.

Timelines | 16th Century Timeline


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by Stephen Luscombe