Alcácer-Quivir, Battle of

(4 August 1578)
   Known to history also as "The Battle of the Three Kings," this event helped weaken Portugal, deprive the country of a non-Castilian legitimate male heir, and led to her loss of independence. The site of the battle, known in Arabic as Alcazar-el-Kebr, is southwest of Arzila, Morocco, some 32 kilometers (20 miles) from Tangier. It was here that the Portuguese armed forces under the command of the foolhardy young king, 24-year-old Sebastião I of Aviz, were defeated and dispersed by Muslim forces under the Sharif of Morocco. More than 8,000 Portuguese died, including the king, whose body was apparently buried in Alcácer. About 15,000 of the Portuguese and their allied forces became prisoners in Morocco and few managed to escape to Portuguese forts on the coast. As a result of the disappearance of Sebastião and the defeat of an important part of the country's defense forces, Portugal was more vulnerable to Spanish power than since the late 14th century. In Morocco and in Portugal, rumors grew into legends concerning the fate of the young king. The cult and mythology of Sebastianism arose out of the initial uncertainty concerning the monarch's fate and the tragic decline and defeat of Portugal. "Sebas-tianism" featured myths that the king had survived and would return on a foggy morning to Portugal to drive out the Spanish invaders and restore Portugal to its former greatness. A vast literature in poetry, stories, novels, songs, and folklore grew around the sentiment of "Se-bastianism." Beginning in the late 16th century in Portugal, persons posing as the returned Sebastian, there to save Portugal, began to appear.
   See also Sebastianism; Sebastião I.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.

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