The Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra was baptized on October 9, 1547 in Alcalá de Henares near Madrid. His father Rodrigo de Cervantes, a surgeon, and his mother Leonor de Cortinas had seven children, with Miguel being the fourth. They belonged to impoverished nobility. Miguel de Cervantes studied theology in Salamanca and Madrid. In 1569 he fled from the Spanish justice system, initially going to Rome. Miguel de Cervantes became a valet in the service of Cardinal Giulio Acquavita and left Rome for Naples that same year.
While he was stationed there in the Spanish navy, Miguel de Cervantes participated in the battle of Lepanto in 1571, in which Juan de Austria fought against the Turks. Cervantes was injured and lost his left hand, giving him the nickname "El Manco de Lepanto" (The one-handed from Lepanto). Miguel de Cervantes continued to serve in the Spanish navy and in June 1575 was captured by Algerian pirates and taken to Algiers as a slave. After three unsuccessful attempts to flee in five years, Miguel de Cervantes was released to the Trinitarian order in 1580.
On September 19, 1580 Cervantes returned to Spain. Cervantes turned his experiences from captivity into a play entitled "Los tratos de Argel". In order to pay off his debt, Miguel de Cervantes tried to earn money as a writer. His first novel "La primera parte de la Galatea" appeared in 1584.
That same year Cervantes married Catalina de Salazar y Palacios, a well-off farmer's daughter, who was 18 years his junior. The marriage between Miguel de Cervantes and Catalina de Salazar y Palacios remained childless, but an affair with the actress Ana Franca de Rojas resulted in a daughter, Isabel de Saavedra. In the late 1580s Cervantes left his wife Catalina, and the marriage broke up.
In 1597-98 and 1602 Miguel de Cervantes was sent to prison again for having embezzled moneys as a tax collector. At that time, Cervantes began writing the first part of his significant novel "Don Quijote", which he published in 1605. In 1613 Cervantes wrote his "Novelas ejemplares" and in 1615 published the second part of "Don Quijote".
Cervantes achieved great respect and unimaginable acclaim for his works, but he lost all the money he had earned and died impoverished in Madrid on April 23, 1616.