In his two-book epic poem, the Austrias carmen, Joannes Latinus (Juan Latino) chronicles the Battle of Lepanto and asserts himself as a worthy heir to Virgil. Along the way, the poet grapples with the age-old poetic question of how to narrate heroic actions undertaken to build or buttress empires. A former slave who gained fame as a Latin professor in Granada, Latinus crafted his epic in a manner that both celebrates the Holy League victory over the feared Ottoman navy and mourns war’s steep human toll. Unsettling opening verses invoke a militant Spanish Catholicism hardened during Granada’s bitter civil war, the Second Revolt of the Alpujarras (1568–1570). Yet as the poem focuses on Lepanto, it looks past the militant Catholicism of the day, highlighting cultural reference points that link Christians and Muslims across the Mediterranean. In fact, the poem’s emotional highpoint centers on the death of the admired Ottoman admiral, Ali Pasha. Spanish troops display his severed head as a trophy on the captured Turkish flagship. At this point, narrated action pauses as the poetic voice records the moment Ali Pasha’s two sons see this horrific sight. In the poem’s longest passage of direct discourse, the brothers lament their father’s death and ponder their own future as slaves of their Christian adversaries. This elegy for the fallen Turkish commander prompts closing reflections about how Latinus positions the Austrias carmen within the epic canon.


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pp. 71-92
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