Annie Trentman ’22: Book VI, Chapter XLIV (About Some Captains Memorable for the True Worth of Their Persons, and All of Them One-Eyed)

Book VI, Chapter XLIV

About some captains memorable for the true worth of their persons, and all of them one-eyed.

 Translated by Meredith (Annie) Trentman ’22

Like in other parts of this Book VI or book of the repositories, I have named and made mention of a new treatise compiled and written by that knowledgeable and learned gentleman, Pedro Mexía, a native of the powerful and illustrious city of Seville, the name of which is Silva de varia lección; I find that the same name can be given to this book, in which I gather these repositories and history of the Indies. Among the remarkable things that this gentleman recalls at great length as similar things happening in different places—more frequently perhaps in some places than in others and in some lands and with some men—he touches upon certain captains and says this: “These were excellent captains, Hannibal of Carthage, and King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, and King Antigonus, father of Demetrius, and the Roman Sertorius, and the Spanish Viriato, and in our times Frederico, Duke of Urbino, and there may even be resemblances between them in their ways and approaches to war, but in one thing they were all proven equal: that all were one-eyed and had lost one of their eyes through a disaster. I could being that number to seven, if credit is to be given to that treatise titled Suplementum chronicarum[1], which states that the laws of Lycurgus, Prince of Lacedaemon, prohibited eagerness in gathering too many riches; this is why some say the rich rose up against him, and he was the object of many depredations, such as their taking out one of his eyes. So, if Lycurgus was one-eyed, I don’t know how this could have been forgotten, since he was one of the world’s most famous men.” With regard to one-eyed men, I say that they could very well add to the names of these great one-eyed captains that author has discussed one of our Spaniards, equal to them in misery, who lost one eye in a battle of which he emerged victorious, and who is the Adelantado don Diego de Almagro.

But this seventh one-eyed man had a great advantage over the other six in two particular ways: the first is that he endured greater and more severe travails than any of the others in his endeavors, and that he overcame them and succeeded in them, comporting himself in these affairs as a courageous captain, even though these affairs were more dangerous and risky in the Indies than those Caton experienced in Africa; and the other way in which he was above and beyond the others was that his liberality and honesty was so great that he never allowed a day to pass without doing a kindness (after his circumstances allowed him to do so), nor allowing any man to leave him dissatisfied if he required his help: even without having to be asked, he was so assiduous in his generosity that he considered time wasted unless he was offered the opportunity to distribute what he had among his fellow officers and friends, both present and absent, and to all of those he could help. Leaving aside the kings, who can and often do grant states, provinces, and vassals to those who serve and please them, which I do not intend to compare to other grand examples of particular mercies, like those given by the King Don Juan, II of that name in Castilla to Don Alvaro de Luna (whom he made constable of Castile and master of the Order of Santiago, and gave many towns and castles to him and his heirs); or King Don Enrique IV, his son, who made Don Juan Pacheco Marquis of Villena and master of Santiago, and Don Beltrán de la Cueva Duke of Alburquerque and Count of Ledesma, and so I could say of other princes who made others into lords; but I will say that the one area in which the adelantado seems to me to be ahead of both these modern and ancient people is in what he gave away in gold, silver, and jewels, being quite simply all that life had given him, and which made it possible for him to have something to give. And I say after he had things to give, because I knew him as a poor companion without gold or silver, and then things transpired in a way that allowed him and his companion, the Adelantado Don Francisco Pizarro, to achieve so much that the world has never known, nor do I think there ever were, two other men (who, without being kings) were as rich as them, nor as able to give so much gold and silver to whoever they wanted to: being such different people, with such disparate motivations and characters, as different from each other when they were friends and in agreement, being poor, as when they became enemies in their prosperity, the one as selfish as the other is generous. So between their differences and the ill will spread by third parties who came between them, both the one and the other reached sad ends, as this history will tell at greater length in its third part, where the events revolving around each of them will be more to the purpose. What has been said here was only brought to mind by the number of one-eyed men the above-named author brought up in his discussion of the six notable men, and because the adelantado is without a doubt worthy of being added to the number of such notable one-eyed captains and princes, making the seventh or eighth. Since the misfortune of his death was caused by his enemies, and more out of envy than out of the faults or merits of his person, he died as a Catholic crying for a very unjust justice, with the one who killed him not being a judge capable of condemning him to a death others have used for their own purposes, and some still hope will prove useful to more people.

[1] Book IV. [GFO]

Image retrieved from John Carter Brown Library at Brown University