Sodomy Trial of Magellan’s Crew

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The sodomy trial of Magellan’s crew occurred during the Magellan-Elcano First Circumnavigation of the World in 1519. Victoria’s boatswain Antón Salamón was caught in an act of sodomy with a cabin boy Antonio Ginovés. The former was executed by strangulation after the trial, while the latter committed suicide. The event was followed by a series of failed mutinies by Magellan’s captains who had questioned his naval decision and leadership.

Sodomy in the 16th Century

Homosexuality was not looked upon kindly in much of Europe in the 16th century. According to historian Charles Edward Nowell, sodomy was considered a crime in Spain and was punishable by death.

The rule against it was meant to be extended to ships and their crew, but since it was somewhat a common occurrence especially on long naval voyages, the punishment was generally overlooked. According to Luis Molla, captain of the ship and author of the work on the circumnavigation La Fleet de las Especias, sodomy relationships occurred at sea as sailors had no leisure; when they had time, everything was forbidden. Sometimes, the men caught would get a flogging but not much else.

The Trial

Salamón and Ginovés were of Italian origin and were working at the Victoria. Their sin was discovered on the journey from Tenerife to the Bay of Santa Lucía (in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), after leaving Sanlúcar de Barrameda in September 1519.

Ferdinand Magellan had the impression that his crew was not disciplined enough and had it in mind to change them. When he learned that Salamón was caught with Ginovés, he had the chance to make an example of the men. The two were put on a full trial on board the Trinidad, which was well-attended by other captains of the fleet.

Juan de Cartagena, a Spanish accountant and captain of one of the five ships, wanted to punish the Italians with lashes but Magellan amended the plan and punished the master to the maximum penalty. Salamón was found guilty and was executed by strangulation on 20 December 1519 when the ships docked in Brazil. Although Magellan forgave Ginovés, the latter committed suicide on 27 April 1520. Other accounts said that he was thrown overboard.


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