In 1573 Miguel de Cervantes was in Malta. In later life he would become world-famous for his Don Quixote but in that year he was serving as a rank-and-file soldier in one of two companies of Spanish soldiers stationed on the island. Malta had undergone a siege of epic proportions just eight years earlier and after the devastation of war came not only the reconstruction of what had been destroyed but also the commencement of the building of a brand new city. Nevertheless, despite the considerable resources being poured in from all over Europe and the frantic pace of construction, the consolidation of the island’s defences was still very much work-in-progress and the Ottoman threat was ever-present.
As had happened before the siege, in the years immediately after, Grand Master Jean de la Vallette had wanted to abandon the island and Viceroy Toledo had informed his sovereign, Kind Philip II, that if need be Imperial troops were to be posted to Malta to take the place of the Order. In the event the Order stayed on and to strengthen the Hospitallers’ resolve contingents of Imperial troops were periodically posted to Malta during periods of heightened tension in the confrontation with Ottoman Turkey. Cervantes belonged to one of these contingents.
Cervantes is best remembered for his groundbreaking literary work Don Quixote, often called the world’s first novel in the Western tradition of the term, and the present collection of essays mostly offers some insights into the considerable influence that this work had had on the writers of other nations, but this publication also contains a brief prologue on Cervantes’ life as a soldier so as to permit the reader to obtain a better picture of the man.