History is made by those who, in their time, have come forth with extraordinary deeds and feats of various kind to conquer the oblivion of Time. Yet, one must be aware that many facts have either been overlooked, or not totally understood by those who were in charge of writing the History of their own times.
Professor Rainer Daehnhardt comes from a Prussian family that has moved to Portugal in 1706. Author of more than 60 books on the History and the feats of the Portuguese, this historian and collector of more than 500.000 swords, guns, canons, pommels, maps and manuscripts related to the Portuguese Discoveries, have kindly received me in his Family Manor House in the outskirts of Lisbon. Why would this man, whose original family name was Däenhardt,devoted his time and his fortune to build an immense collection of weaponry from the Portuguese Discoverers and from the peoples they met in their voyages?
Prof. Rainer Daehnhardt at his study desk.
Because the Portuguese were the first Europeans after the Dark Ages to engage in transcultural and transoceanic warfare, equipped with a blend of nautical knowledge, superior technology, incredible courage, very few men, and great swordsmanship that proved very efficient against the curved blades of the Turks and Moors.
It is known that the Portuguese, during their
Discoveries Period, from the XIV to the XVI Centuries have built
more than 800 fortresses from Africa to India, Malaysia and Macau.
Professor Daenhardt decided to name the untold or less known episodes from his research as Men, Weapons & Balls, and we shall see why a Prussian descendant did so in this vernacular way when you read A unique exchange of insults.
All these chronicles must be read and understood under the historical and social context of the times in which they took place, and the posting in my website of these accounts do not mean a xenophobic attitude, but an effort to provide historical information on a country that Hollywood and most people influenced by the dream industry, as well as those who create information chose to disregard in a most systematic way, despite what is revealed here. It remains to be understood why.
António Conceição Júnior
Spices and other goods such as silk, were
brought through the Silk Road and landed in Europe through Venice,
which distributed the goods throughout Europe with great profit
coming from the Monopoly they had through an arrangement with the
Arabs who traveled the Silk Road.
The Middle Ages were coming to an end, and with it the final consolidation of Portugal’s geographic boundaries. This left D. João I, the first King of Portugal’s second dynasty and Grand-Master of the Order of Avis, a the task to look into his country and marry Princess Phillipa of Lancaster. From this marriage were born the future king D. Duarte who would write “The Art of Riding” which would once more prove the great riders that the Portuguese still are, while Prince D. Fernando who would later be held captive in Morocco, taken prisoner after an expedition was launched against the Moors. But the man who would change the destiny of the country would be Henry, later known as the Navigator.
Prince Henry was a visionary who surrounded himself with mathematicians such as the great Pedro Nunes, astronomers, cartographers, pilots. Henry listened and studied all accounts about distant lands. Ultimately, what was at stake was to challenge the Greek legend of the Taprobana which was mentioned as the end of the world.
Ships were built, and it did not take long until the archipelagoes of Madeira and the Azores were discovered and populated. Little by little the Portuguese pilots ventured farther to the Western coast of Africa, correcting earlier maps, every voyage a step further towards the Taprobana.
Accounts spread that untold horrors, beasts and giants lived at Taprobana, terror to many a sailor who would be terrified with just the mention of the place.
However the Portuguese were not deterred by these tales, and Taprobana was crossed and the ancient legend was proved wrong.
Expeditions were sent to conquer and convert to the Catholic faith many cities along Africa’s western coast, while ambassadors were sent to the fabled land of the African Christian King known as Prestes João, that we know as Ethiopia.
The School of Sagres, set up by Henry the Navigator, developed ancient navigational instruments such as the astrolabe and perfected the design of vessels such as the latin sail caravel, the round caravel, and later the larger nau.
The stage was set up for the demise of Venice when Admiral Vasco da Gama discovered the Malabar Coast of India on May 18, 1498. Vasco da Gama, a Knight Commander of the Military Order of Christ, arrived 3 days later to Calicut. From that moment on the spices would arrive by sea to the new center of distribution: Lisbon.
António Conceição Júnior
This is the name given to a very dangerous
species of jelly fish. The real reason behind it resides in how
well equipped this creature is, and is a comparison to the way the
Portuguese ships fought in India.
When the King of Ormuz sent aboard an emissary to question Albuquerque, the great Commander told the messenger one phrase: Surrender yourselves !!!
This must have provoked an inner laugh from the messenger who left.
When the battle begun, Albuquerque made his fleet circle like a carrousel and destroyed most of the ships. He then proceeded to conquer Ormuz with 400 men.
How could this be achieved one must ask. The technical explanation may make some sense, but will not explain the courage of taking such a risk.
In fact we all know that during the U.S.Civil War, canons had to be loaded from their mouths. This was in the XIX Century. However Albuquerque’s canons were equipped with breeches that did not require the canons to be brought backwards to be loaded. It meant that while the enemy’s canons fired a shot, the Portuguese canons could fire six with a range of 1.800 meters against 700 meters of the enemy’s canons. The next issue is that the Portuguese artillery men had discovered the propulsive effect of water. If you throw a stone at a low angle near the surface of the water, the stone will be propelled by the water’s surface and gain more speed.
The second row of canons were placed very near the floating line and the stronger fire power was further enhanced by the water effect, causing the steel balls to not only hit the ship but hit the one behind the first one. Being fired at close to the floating line, the ships would start sinking very fast.
Then one must be aware that the Portuguese knew they were always outnumbered, a certainty that led them to employ all their courage and determination in the fights and battles they engaged.
The breech in one of the Portuguese canons that dates from the XVI century. Rainer Daehnhardt Collection.
One of the techniques that the Portuguese
warriors employed against their enemies who held the Moorish bow
was just more than unusual.
The Portuguese knew about the 50 meters bow effectiveness and that their only hope was to run frontward to cut that distance, after which their highly seasoned maneuver of the rapier and the left handler would destroy the tulwar in no time, one after the other. One blade would stop the tulwar strike and the other would dispatch the enemy, and this was one methodically in no time.
In 1537 some Portuguese sailors committed a crime, considered a grave diplomatic offense.
In front of the city of Diu, the Sultan Bahadur Shah was received on a Portuguese ship. The diplomatic conversations did not go well and the Sultan and his entourage left angrily.
Some less disciplined Portuguese sailors made the Sultan’s boarding the small boat that would take him back a pretty difficult task, one of them managed to hit the Sultan’s head with an oar which caused him to drown.
The shameful action caused an outcry of indignation and revenge which echoed from the Muslim kingdoms of the Gulf of Cambay to Egypt and Constantinople. The Sultan’s widow offered all of her fortune to finance a punitive expedition against the Portuguese.
The Portuguese fortress of Diu had a garrison of 600 Portuguese commanded by D. António da Silveira.
The Turk Suleiman Pasha and the Sultan of
Cambay united their armies, and arrived at Diu with 70 Turkish
galleys and a land army of 23.000 men. Having taken some
Portuguese as prisoners, Suleiman Pasha sent a letter by one of
the prisoners to be delivered to D. António da Silveira.
When António da Silveira received the letter
from the Turk, he turned to his companions saying: Let us see
what does the castrated dog has to say, and read the letter in
D. António da Silveira ordered paper and ink
to be brought forward, and in the presence of all, dictated the
reply to the Pasha:
A bigger insult could not be imagined. The Pasha was furious and ordered that the remaining prisoners were killed, and a fight of giants begun.
During more then a month António da Silveira fought bravely, remaining only less than 40 Portuguese capable of fighting, but causing so many casualties to the Turks that these gave up the siege and retired from Diu.
(in Gaspar Correia: “Chronicle of the Feats in India”, vol. IV, pages 34-36)
It is sometimes in chronicles written by foreigners that for some centuries have studied Portuguese History, that some interesting details are found.
A Dutch priest, Philippus Baldaeus, who
accompanied the Dutch fleets that fought the Portuguese in the
Indic Ocean, tells a most interesting story:
Phillipus Baldaeus: “A Description of ye East India Coasts of Malabar and Coromandel” chapter X, page 533 of the English translation.
To organize the expedition to Ceuta ships were rented while others were built in Portugal to carry the expeditionary forces that were formed by the King’s vassals and by men supplied by the nobles. The enthusiasm was so great and so great was the impatience to serve, that a nobleman aged 90 years old presented himself with his troops.
Fernão Lopes de Andrade, with a fleet of 17 sails manned by 350 Portuguese and some Malays attacks the fleet of Pate-Onuz that was coming from Malacca, composed of 90 sails and a garrison of 12.000 men. After a brave fight that took many hours, victory descended at the hands of the Portuguese, at whose hands many ships fell, while others were burnt or sunk. This battle, which filled with terror the various kingdoms of the region, was one of the most outstanding victory the Portuguese achieved in India.
The King of Fez, having placed siege on the
Portuguese fortress of Arzilla with 100.000 men is forced
to abandon the siege.
Conquered by the great Afonso de Albuquerque, the famous city of Malacca grew in trade, and the oppulence of its citizens and the grandiosity of its buildings excited the neighbouring princes and the wish for its dominance. Many tried to after the Portuguese Arm showed it was not invincible. Of all, Mahamet, now king of Bintan learnt from spies that the fortress had only a garrison of 200 men, many of whom were sick. Grabbing the opportunity of such a situation and its timing, Mahamet came with 1.500 chosen infantry men and many well armed elephants, and by sea a fleet of 60 ships full of men and of instruments of expugnation.
Here a Nature’s wonder happened. Once the alarm was sounded and word passed around that the enemy was at sight, it happened that the sick soldiers, excited by the military preparations, tried to get up and suddenly the fevers that opressed and tied them to their sickbeds left them and they ran to the walls, mixing with the healthy ones, and with noble pride and unique bravery faced the furious assault.
Many have witnessed a bullet remove the head of a Portuguese and his body remaining still for a space of time. Mahamet kept fighting for 20 days, yet all the assaults on the fortress were bravely repelled, until, all hope lost and having suffered 330 casualties, the assault was ended and the King returned home.
This glorious event costed the lives of 18
Lopo Vaz de Sampaio, with a fleet of 6
galleons and 13 light ships defeats the Samorim’s fleet of 130
The pirate known as Pate-Marcar that infested the Indian seas with 50 ships and 8.000 men disembarked at Beadalla. There, Martim Affonso de Sousa with 400 Portuguese attacks and defeats the pirate. Of the enemy’s fleet that was anchoured, 25 sails were set on fire while the remaining where taken as well as 400 canons and 1.500 guns.
The illustrious Nuno da Cunha, Governor of India, to rescue the fortress of Diu that the Turks have dangerously surrounded, resorted to a most unique artifice. Having sent some ships to give battle, in each of them had four torches placed before arriving by night. The small fleet started firing their artillery, among war cries and shouts which caused great effect among the turks who though the lights corresponded to a much bigger fleet, seeming like the whole of Portuguese India was after them, immediately raised the siege, not wanting to taste their fortune against the Portuguese.
In the second siege of Diu, the place became so narrow that the captain-major of the fortress proposed to his council that they got out of the fortress, and at the enemy’s ground would give them battle and die over the bodies of the turks. The enemy did not ignore the state of the fortress, deciding on a final assault, hoping for a most certain victory. Exploding a mine that they have placed below the tower of St.Thomas which was destroyed, the Turks attacked from all sides with such migh that the Portuguese resisted in a very costly way. The battle was burning everywhere, often with the enemy riding on the fortress walls, fighting at close quarters. Many fell, but more took their place, and it was such the fire that the Turks threw that the Portuguese had to fight among the flames.
The captain-major ordered that some basins of water were brought so that the soldiers could refresh their bodies from the heath of the fire that surrounded them. At the occasion of this providence an unusual case took place that is worthy of note. Antonio Moniz Barreto commanded the defense of a tower, and was lowering towards a basin to refresh himself, was pulled by an arm by a soldier who shouted: how come? Do you want to loose His Majesty’s tower? Barreto replied: I am burning, I must refresh myself. The soldier shouted again if the arms are good, the rest is nothing! Antonio Moniz Barreto heard the admonishment of that courageous soldier that later gave him all sort of favours and named him the fire soldier.
Death of the celebrated D. Pedro de Menezes,
captain of Tangere.
The Prince of Chembe with an army of 30.000 men is defeated by 4.000 Portuguese comanded by the Vice-Roy D. Affonso de Noronha.
A Portuguese fleet of six sails manned by 200 soldiers defeats another from the Samorim, composed of thirteen sails and a garrison of 2.000 fighting men.
The kings of Malabar, joined against the Portuguese, attack the fortress of Cananor with a mighty army. The besieged, with the aid of 400 Portuguese that arrived in a small fleet, defeat the enemy who lost 15.000 men. The battle lasted from 3 hours in the morning until 4 hours in the afternoon.
These accounts were published in “O Panorama” 1840 edition, vol. I and IV.