Garcilaso de la Vega

/gahr'seuh lah"soh deuh leuh vay"geuh/; Sp. /gahrdd'thee lah"saw dhe lah ve"gah, gahrdd'see-/
1. 1503?-36, Spanish poet.
2. ("el Inca") 1539?-1616, Peruvian historian and author in Spain.

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known as El Inca

born April 12, 1539, Cuzco, Peru
died April 24, 1616, Córdoba, Spain

One of the great Spanish chroniclers of the 16th century.

Garcilaso was the illegitimate son of a conquistador and an Inca noblewoman. Raised in his father's household on a vast estate in Peru, he absorbed the traditions of both cultures. After going to Spain in 1560, he served as captain in the Spanish army against the Moors, and then he entered the priesthood. He is best known for La Florida del Ynca (an account of Hernando de Soto's expeditions north of Mexico) and his history of Peru. He was related to his namesake, the Spanish Golden Age poet Garcilaso de la Vega (b. 1503, Toledo, Spain
d. Oct. 14, 1536, Nice, duchy of Savoy).

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▪ Spanish chronicler
also called  El Inca  
born April 12, 1539, Cuzco, Peru
died April 24, 1616, Córdoba, Spain

      one of the great Spanish chroniclers of the 16th century, noted as the author of distinguished works on the history of the Indians in South America and the expeditions of the Spanish conquistadors.

      Garcilaso was the illegitimate son of a Spanish conquistador, Sebastian Garcilaso de la Vega, and an Inca Indian princess. Raised in his father's household in Peru, he absorbed both the traditions of the Incas and the stories told by his father's Spanish associates. He learned Spanish and Latin and was an eyewitness to the civil wars then raging in Peru, which he later recorded in his chronicles.

      A highly intelligent youth, he was used by his father as a scribe and agent to govern his vast estates in Peru. In the fall of 1560 he arrived in Spain and came under the protection of his father's brother. In the 1560s he served in the Spanish armies, in which he reached the rank of captain. Later he entered the priesthood, becoming a minor ecclesiastic in 1597.

      Garcilaso's literary career started with his translation into Spanish of the Italian Neoplatonic dialogue, Dialoghi di amore (“Dialogues of Love”), by the Jewish humanist Léon Hebreo, which was published in 1588. Garcilaso is best known for La Florida del Ynca (an account of Hernando de Soto's expeditions north of Mexico) and his history of Peru, describing the civil wars that broke out among the Spanish conquerors of Peru (Part I, 1608/09; Part II, 1617). Garcilaso's writing places him within the currents of Spanish Renaissance literature, but he should not be confused with the great early 16th-century poet (Garcilaso de la Vega) of the same name, to whom he was related.

▪ Spanish poet
born 1503, Toledo, Spain
died Oct. 14, 1536, Nice, duchy of Savoy [now in France]

      the first major poet in the Golden Age of Spanish literature (c. 1500–1650).

      Garcilaso was born into an aristocratic family that had been prominent in Spanish letters and politics for several centuries. Entering court life at an early age, he distinguished himself as a soldier, serving Emperor Charles V in Rhodes, Tunis, and Pavia. After a brief imprisonment in 1532 for conspiring to marry his brother's son to a prominent lady-in-waiting against the emperor's wishes, he was released into the service of the viceroy, the Marqués de Villafranca. Serving under the viceroy in southern France, he was mortally wounded in an assault on a fortified position and died several days later.

      After writing poetry in rather conventional Spanish metres for a short period, Garcilaso had become acquainted with the poet Juan Boscán Almogáver (Boscán, Juan), who quickly introduced him to Italianate metres, to the use of which he was further attracted by his close study of such Italian Renaissance poets as Petrarch, Giovanni Boccaccio, and Jacopo Sannazzaro. Garcilaso was a consummate craftsman, and he transformed the Italianate metres into Spanish verse of high lyric quality. His most important innovations in this regard were the verse stanzas of the silva and liva (both using combinations of 7- and 11-syllable lines), which allowed him a new concern with the analytical expression of thought and emotion. Garcilaso's major theme is the melancholy laments and misfortunes of romantic love as conventionally portrayed in pastoral poetry. He continually rewrote and polished his poetry, lifting his work high above that of his contemporaries and profoundly influencing the development of Spanish verse.

      Garcilaso's small body of work—38 sonnets, 5 canciones, 3 eclogues, 2 elegies, 1 epistle, and 8 coplas (songs)—was published with that of Boscán, by the latter's widow, in 1543. These works were soon accepted as classics and largely determined the course of lyric poetry throughout Spain's Golden Age.

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Universalium. 2010.

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