Article II about the Enslavement of Christians in Literature:Cervantes and Algeria

| February 19, 2012 | Comments (4)

Western Christians enslaved by the Muslims between 1500-1800

Between 1500-1800 at least one million and even 1.25 million were enslaved.That is the conclusion of Robert Davis.His scholarly book on the theme is “Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy, 1500-1800 “(2004). It was the done by the Muslim Moroccans,Tunisians and Algerians.

About 90% of those enslaved were men, and the women were destined to be sex slaves in a harem.Only 5% of them, like Miguel de Cervantes and St. Vincent de Paul, were ransomed or escaped.

It is estimated that 600,000 Europeans were slaves in Algiers.

Here are articles about Davis’ book:

The title of the Spanish Language

Spanish is known as the “language of Cervantes” after its best writer, in the same way we have “the language of Moliere” for French, “the language of Shakespeare” for English, “the language of Dante “for Italian,” the language of Camoes’ for Portuguese, “the language of Goethe” for German “and” the language of Pushkin ” for Russian.

Who was Miguel de Cervantes?

Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) was a novelist, poet and playwright Spanish, universally famous for his novel “The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha”, recognized as the first modern novel.With Tolstoy,who wrote “War and Peace”, it is regarded as the greatest novel ever written. It is a parody of the chivalric novels of the timer and the creation of the mythical characters of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza made Cervantes the greatest figure in Spanish literature.

Don Quixote

The novel Don Quixote (1605 and 1615)

Cervantes wrote the 1000 pages of Don Quixote, where Don Quixote, is a nobleman on a horse,and represents idealism and Sancho Panza, his illiterate peasant squire, who is on a donkey, is the ideal of realism.

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza

To know all the details of the life of Cervantes and about “Don Quixote” read:

It is in French but can be translated using Google Translate:

Cervantes was a Muslim slave for 5 years

From 1575 to 1580,from the age of 28 to 33,he was a slave in Algiers,Algeria, and he tried to escape four times.That experience inspired three literary works of his:

“The story of the Captive”, Chapters 39-41 of Don Quixote

Don Quixote is with others in a gathering and suddenly a young Spanish man appears, with a beautiful Arab girl.He says his name is Ruy Pérez de Viedma and the girl’s name is Zoraida,and that they have very recently arrived in Spain.

1.Ruy Perez de Viedma says his father, seeing his 3 sons were adults,decided to give them money to start their independant lives.Our hero became a soldier and participated in the Battle of Lepanto, in 1571, near Greece.

This battle was the first great naval victory of the Christians against the Muslims.The Turks had 30,000 dead or wounded and the Christians 9,000 dead or wounded.And also 15,000 Christian slaves who were in the Muslim ships as galley slaves were released from their chains. Cervantes himself was at the battle and was wounded.

2.Ruy Perez de Viedma later becomes a slave of the Muslims in Algiers.

Curiously, Algeria, before being Muslim and Arab,was a country with a Latin culture, the homeland of Apuleius (125-170), born in Madaura (now called M’ Algeria), who wrote what is probably the best novel in Latin litteratue, “The Golden Ass or The Metamorphoses”, which have the very entertaining adventures of a man who is transformed into a donkey, through magic, and goes from owner to owner and sees many things.In the end he becomes a man again.

And it is also the homeland of Augustine (354-430), the most distinguished Christian thinker of Antiquity, author of “Confessions,” which is his autobiography, and “The City of God”.

3.Ruy Perez de Viedma is put in a prison which has a court that is next to the house of a rich Muslim.The house has a window which is above the court.

4.One day the very beautiful daughter of the rich Muslim sends money for his ransom through the window.She had fallen in love with him and he with her and for several months she sends him love letters and money for the ransom.

5.She gives him so much money that, in addition buying his freedom,he obtains that of his friends.

6.All of them, including Zoraida, decide to escape and to Spain.In addition Zoraida wants to become a Christian, she no longer believes in Islam.

7.All goes alright till Zoraida’s absense is discovered by her father, who they were forced to capture,take with them and later leave in a deserted island,where he curses them all.

Other works where Cervantes speaks of Christians as being Muslim slaves

“Los Tratos de Argel /The Treatments of Argel” (1580)

This is the first play of Cervantes and was inspired by his experience as a slave of the Muslims.

In it the Christian slaves Aurelio and Silvia fall in love and get their freedom from their Muslim masters Zahara and Yusuf with help from the Muslim king of Algiers. It describes the sufferings of Christian slaves in Algiers and they ask the king to improve their situation.

“Los Banos de Argel / The Baths of Algiers” (1615)

Another play,it is essentially the same story.

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