Sebastião I, king

(1554-1578)
   The king of Portugal whose disappearance and death in battle in Morocco in 1578 led to a succession crisis and to Spain's annexation of Portugal in 1580. He is the person after whom the cult and mythology of Sebastianism is named. Sebastião succeeded to the throne of Portugal at the tender age of three, upon the death of his father King João III in 1557. With his great-uncle Cardinal Henrique, he was the only other surviving legitimate male member of the Aviz dynasty. The Spanish menace loomed on Portugal's eastern horizons, as Phillip II of Spain gathered more reasons to make good his own strong claims to the Portuguese throne. A headstrong youth, Sebastião dreamed of glory in battle against the Muslims and was certainly influenced by the example of the feats of Phillip II's half-brother Don Juan of Austria and the naval victory against the Turks at Lepanto in 1571.
   Sebastião's great project was a victory in Africa, and he ordered a major effort to raise a fleet and army to attack Morocco. His forces landed at Tangier and Arzila and marched to meet the Muslim armies. In early August 1578, at the battle of Alcácer- Quivir, Portugal's army was destroyed by Muslim forces, and the king himself was lost. Although he was undoubtedly killed, his body was never found. The result of this foolhardy enterprise changed the course of Portugal's history and gave rise to the cult and myth that Sebastião survived and would return one foggy morning to make Portugal great once again.

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

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