Great captain


Gonzalo Fernandez de Córdoba was born in Montilla (nowadays the city is part of the province of Córdoba) in 1453. He was the youngest son in the family of Pedro Fernández de Córdoba, Count de Aguilar, and could not count on a rich inheritance or on titles. To break into his life he had to either become a churchman or a military man. He chose the latter.

Bust of Gonzalo de Cordova

As a child, Gonzalo was sent to serve at the Castilian court, and in 1468 swore to Isabella of Castile, when she became the official heir to the Castilian throne. In 1474, Isabella declared herself the queen. An internecine war began in which Juan Beltraneha and her uncle became the opponents of the ruler (and since 1475 also her husband) Afonso V., the King of Portugal, Gonzalo successfully fought on the side of Isabella and gained a reputation as a brave and skilled warrior.

End of Reconquista

In 1482, de Cordoba received an army in his administration. In the same year, the Granada War began, in which Isabella I of Castile and her husband Ferdinand II of Aragon tried to retake Granada from the Muslims. The war lasted ten years and Gonzalo proved himself in it as an outstanding commander, inspiring soldiers with personal courage, fearlessness and courage. So, trying to take Montefrio, he was one of the first to climb with the help of the siege ladder on the city walls and fought face to face with their defenders.

Great Captain at the Battle of Montefrio

In 1486, Gonzalo heroically repulsed Illora after the city was attempted to return the Moors. When the Granada war fell in 1492 and the war (and with it the Reconquista) ended, Gonzalo was chosen as one of the generals who led the capitulation of the emirate. As a reward for his services on the battlefields, he received possession of land in the Granada city of Loja, as well as some income from the production of silk, which contributed to an increase in his condition.

In Italy

In 1495, already at the rank of one of the best generals of Castile, Gonzalo de Cordova was sent to Naples to help the Italians recapture the city from the French. The general was in the thick of the First Italian War, in which the king of France Charles VIII tried to take the Neapolitan kingdom from Alfonso II, guided by the fact that he had distant rights on these lands due to his kinship with the Anjou dynasty. In June 1495, the troops of the Aragon crown, united with the Neapolitan army, approached Calabria. In the place of the Seminar they were met by French troops, which included Swiss infantry and landsknechts. The French army, well armed, trained and possessing powerful artillery, defeated the light allied infantry.

Battle of the Seminar

The first defeat deeply affected General Gonzalo. However, the Spaniard decided not to despair, but to learn from it. And the main one was the need to reform the army so that it would be able to respond to the newest challenges of the time. With all his love for martial art, de Cordova soon began to modernize his subordinate formations.

The Spanish army at that time represented a rather motley picture: it consisted of adventurers, vagrants, renegades, as well as people forcibly taken under Spanish banners. From this motley "company" he managed to create a cohesive, disciplined infantry, acting strictly on the orders of his commander.

Since the number of his army was much lower than the French, Gonzalo began to use guerrilla war tactics in Italy. His soldiers began to make rapid attacks in the camp of the enemy, to destroy food supplies, and almost without a fight to return to their own camp. Thus, avoiding a new major battle, Gonzalo managed to demoralize the enemy. In 1496, the Spaniards managed to take the Duchy of Alvito, Atella, and then clear the entire south of Italy from the French, forcing their garrisons to surrender. The Neapolitan kingdom returned to the control of the Neapolitans, and Gonzalo de Cordova returned to his homeland, receiving thanks for the campaign from the Pope.

Give gunpowder

In 1500, Gonzalo was sent to Greece to participate in the next round of confrontation between the Republic of Venice and the Ottoman Empire. Once on the island of Kefalonia, he besieged the fortress of St. George, famous for its powerful stone walls. However, the Spanish general had a “key” to them. For a year under his command served as a Spanish military engineer Pedro Navarro. With the help of powder mines, he struck several gaps in the Turkish fortress, after which she managed to take it by storm.

Upon his return to Spain, de Cordova continued the reform of the army. He witnessed how gunpowder could change the course of the war in a matter of hours, and now he wanted this substance to serve its purpose. Gonzalo introduced into the wide use of the Spanish army powder guns - arquebus with a shoulder butt. This weapon seemed cumbersome and slow, but Gonzalo decided to place the shooters on the battlefield so that they could follow each other in rows without stopping the fire.

Back in naples

Soon General Gonzalo had the opportunity to work out his innovation. His army was sent to Italy, where the struggle for the kingdom of Naples resumed. In April 1503, his troops met with the French near the town of Cerignola. Using the arquebusiers entrenched in small trenches, Gonzalo Fernandez managed to break the decisive attack of the French cavalry and put the enemy to flight. By the skillful strategic location of the troops, the Great Captain ensured that the larger enemy army was defeated. The battle of Cerignola was the first major battle, the outcome of which was influenced by the use of handguns.

Battle of Garigliano

Taking Naples, the army of de Cordoba again met with the French near the river Garigliano. The commander of the French troops, the margrave of Saluzzo Lodovico II, was in no hurry to go on the attack, as he occupied comfortable positions and had a large supply of food. Gonzalo Fernandez, on the contrary, was in a hurry to give battle, receiving reinforcements. In order to put down the vigilance of the enemy, the general gave the order of a part of his troops to move east. Creating the appearance of retreat, de Cordova sent his soldiers to build bridges and crossings over Garigliano at night. On the morning of December 28, 1503 most of the Spanish troops quietly crossed the river and attacked the "missed" the French. Once again successfully deploying Arquebusiers, Gonzalo pounded the enemy in Gaeta, where, after a two-day siege, Lodovic II announced surrender. A month after that, Ferdinand II of Aragon signed a peace treaty with King Louis XII of France. According to him, the Neapolitan kingdom passed into the possession of Spain.


At the beginning of the XVI century, the French army was considered one of the strongest in Europe. Therefore, such a successful victory over it made the name of Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordova famous throughout the continent. He received the title of Viceroy of Naples, but lingered in the Italian kingdom for only three years. Ferdinand II, fearing further exaltation of the already famous general, ordered him to return to his homeland, resign from his office and resign. In 1507, Gonzalo settled in Loha, and at the end of his life he moved to Granada. Here he died of malaria on December 2, 1515.

Equestrian statue of Gonzalo in Cordoba

Gonzalo de Cordova was the creator of the Spanish army. He turned the infantry into a formidable force capable of deciding the outcome of the battle. Strict discipline during the battle, competent use of cold and firearms, strategically adjusted distribution of troops on the fronts - all these and many other transformations of Gonzalo allowed the Spanish army to gain the power that made numerous conquests and acquisitions of the Spanish crown possible in the 16th century. For another century and a half, the Spanish infantry justified its excellent military reputation, the foundations of which were laid by the “Great Captain”.

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