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Ferdinand Magellan Dies During A Skirmish On Mactan Island

Today on April 27, 1521, Portuguese-explorer Ferdinand Magellan was killed during a skirmish with an indigenous tribe on Mactan Island.

The expedition led by Ferdinand Magellan was the first to successfully circumnavigate the world, making him one of the most influential explorers in history. In 1517, he offered his services to the Spanish government after quarreling with King Manuel of Portugal over his pension. As a result, King Charles I of Spain, known as Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire, decided to recruit Magellan for a new expedition to the East Indies. A couple of decades earlier, Spain and Portugal agreed to divide up the world into two spheres of influence. An imaginary line was drawn up across the Atlantic Ocean, which granted Spain the right to any new territory to the west. The agreement brokered by Pope Alexander VI explains why Spain dominated much of central and southern America.

However, the Spanish quickly became jealous of Portugal's discoveries in Southeast Asia, especially the Indonesian spice islands. Being the clever man that Magellan was, he proposed that a Spanish expedition sail westward through South America in the hopes of stumbling upon the treasured spice Islands. Magellan knew the world was round, but severely underestimated the distance and time it would take to reach the Pacific. He crafted a detailed plan that was quickly accepted by King Charles. On September 20, 1519, the expedition of five ships and nearly 300 men set sail from Spain.

After crushing a series of mutinies, the crew finally reached what is now known as the Strait of Magellan in South America. The fleet navigated the treacherous strait and reached Guam within a few weeks. Magellan sailed towards the Philippines and anchored off the island of Cebu. He converted a local chief to Christianity and agreed to help him conquer a neighboring rival tribe on Mactan Island. A battle broke out on the beach, and a poison-tipped arrow struck Magellan. His Spanish comrades hastily retreated and left their captain to die on the beach. The expedition carried on sailing to the spice islands, with only one of the original five ships making it back to Spain.


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