The Portuguese Morocco Expedition, 1578

A.) Prehistory

Portugal had a foothold in North Africa, referred to as the 'Algarve beyond the seas', with Ceuta and Tangiers. In 1578 several claimants contended the throne of the Sultanate of Fez. King Sebastian of Portugal hurriedly collected a force, among them 2000 Italian mercenaries who had been signed up to support the Irish Rebellion 1579-1583, and, in support of one of the claimants, landed his force in North Africa.

B.) The War

Ignoring warnings of a strong Moroccan force nearby, King Sebastian, then 24 years old, fought the Battle of Ksar Kbir August 4th 1578 (= Battle of the Three Kings, of Alcasarquivir, Alcacer Quibir, al Qsar Kbir). Heavily outnumbered, the Portuguese force of 18,000 was annihilated. King Sebastian, as well as Sultan Abd el Malik died.

C.) The Legacy

The Saadian dynasty in Fez continued to rule Morocco. Portugal entered a crisis, as Sebastian had no sons; Portugal was ruled by his brother, Cardinal Henry. In 1580 Henry died, Spanish forces occupied Lisbon and Spanish king Philip II. added Portugal to the list of countries under his rule.
Portugal and her colonial possessions remained under separate Portuguese administration; the lack of a King of their own resulted in the weakening of the Portuguese colonial Empire. Most of Portugal's outposts in Morocco were lost; Ceuta was taken over by Spain.

History of Morocco, from Moroccan Ministry of Communication
Thomas Stucley, from Columbia Encyclopedia
Biography of Sebastian I., from ArteHistoria, in Spanish
Article Alcazarquivir, from Historiske Slag, in Danish
Francisco de Aldana, in Spanish
Sebastiao, from O Portal da Historia, in Portuguese; from Portugal - Dicionario Historico, in Portuguese

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on February 20th 2004, last revised on November 17th 2004

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