Setting: Portuguese empire late 15-16thc
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* Nicolle/Embleton 2012 p13-14
"From the mid-15th century onwards, the lower and middle-ranking leadership of Portuguese expeditions and of the resulting overseas outposts were the fidalgos -- gentlemen descended from the old knightly class. The importance of such men was highlighted by Azurara (Gomes Eanes de Zurara) during the second half of the 15th century. His Chronicle of the King Dom João I described the force assembled to attack Ceuta, the most enthusiastic being younger men who 'ardently desired to acquire the merits of those who had given them life [their fathers], and following their example, to furnish proofs of their courage and loyalty'.
"Success led to a rapid expansion of a class known as the 'nobility of service', so that by the 16th century numerous fidalgos from minor and often poor aristocratic families would hang around the royal court, eager for a chance to show their worth. Consequently, the Portuguese government was able to employ large numbers in its armadas and overseas captaincies, their exploits filling the 16th century chronicles and literature."
* Crowley 2015 p168
"The Dabul incident cast a long shadow. The historian João de Barros summarized its consequences for captains and commanders: 'that in decisions about whether to fight ... so that honorable deeds may be done, even if dangerous, they must not raise objections based on the personal safety of their lives.' Henceforward prudence was impossible. No one felt able to refuse an engagement, however rash, without accusations of cowardice. Only bravery of the most explicit kind would suffice. The honor code of the fidalgos was accentuated to the extent of an emphasis on hand-to-hand combat over the distant destruction of cannon fire."
* Crowley 2015 p228
"The military code of the fidalgos valued heroic personal deeds over tactics, the taking of booty and prizes over the achievement of strategic objectives. Men-at-arms were tied by personal and economic loyalties to their aristocratic leaders rather than to an overall commander. Victories were gained by acts of individual valor rather than rational planning. The Portuguese fought with a ferocity that stunned the peoples of the Indian Ocean, but their methods were medieval and chaotic and, not infrequently, suicidal."
* Newitt 2009 p46
"The activities of Portuguese seamen between 1420 and 1520 in opening the sea routes of the world are the best-known and most frequently described aspect of Portuguese history. In outline the story is well known; Portuguese navigators mapped the coasts of West Africa between 1430 and 1490 and discovered the sea route round the Cape of Good Hope. Between 1490 and 1420 they sailed from Europe to India, Indonesia and China, and discovered and charted the coasts of Brazil. Moreover Columbus, a Genoese in Castilian service, must in many respects be seen as a product of the Portuguese maritime community. He and his brother had lived in Lisbon, and he had married the daughter of the governor of Porto Santo, from where he had probably made a voyage to the Mina coast. His navigational knowledge and skills were all learned from the Portuguese. "In addition to these well-known achievements, Portuguese seamen explored the coasts of Newfoundland and North America, the mouth of the Río de la Plata and the coasts of Madagascar, East Africa, the Arabian peninsula and the Indian Ocean islands, scattering the world map with the names they bestowed on their discoveries -- Labrador, Lagos, Cameroon, Natal, the Mascarenes, Tristan da Cunha, Formosa and many more. Meanwhile in 1502 Portuguese cartographers made the Cantino map, the first recognizably modern map of the world and in 1520 Fernão de Maghalhães discovered the Magellan Strait and made the first crossing of the Pacific. It seemed there was nowhere the Portuguese could not sail and nowhere they did not attempt to explore. For a poor and remote kingdom, far from the centres of European civilization, learning and commerce, this has always seemed not only a remarkable but an almost inexplicable achievement. However, if the history of fifteenth-century Portugal is studied, a narrative unfolds that is at the same time more pedestrian and more believable."
* Museu Militar
"MONTANTE OU ESPADA DE DUAS MÃOS [...] Contrariamente ao que se possa pensar, o montante pertence cronologicamente ao Renascimento (surge no final do século XV, primeira metade do século XVI), era usado pelas tropas de infanteria (a pé) e o seu peso raramente ultrapassava os 2,1kg.
"Estas espadas foram desenvolvidas e utilizadas para enfrentar as formações de piques (lanças compridas) que começaram a ser utilizadas nos campos de batalha europeus no final da Idade Média. Os portadores destas longas espadas precediam o resto das tropas e, manobrando-as com amplos e rápidos movimentos, quebravam as pontas dos piques inimigos abrindo assim passagens para que se pudesse penetrar nas formações inimigas. Eram usadas com ambas as mãos e só muito raramente possuIam bainha, sendo transportadas ao ombro. Os soldados que as usavam espadas recebiam o dobro dos soldados normais. "'Espadas de parada' como esta são uma excepção -- como apenas tinham funções cerimoniais podiam chegar a pesar 6,8kg."
* Crowley 2015 p278 (describing fidalgos at Goa, 1512)
"[T]he nobles wished to wield their enormous two-handed swords in heroic single combat, winning booty and polishing their reputations...."
* Crowley 2015 p194
"Among the fidalgos, a man's beard was a sacrosanct symbol of his manhood, status, and martial prowess. Paintings of the great Portuguese conquistadors portray these men standing proudly in almost identical postures: arms akimbo, dressed in black velvet and sleeves slashed with colored silk, their coats of arms and attributed titles painted in the backdrop, looking stern beneath long black beards like Mars, the Roman god of war."
* Russell-Wood 1998