SIEGE OF DIU: ANTÓNIO DA SILVEIRA INSULTS THE EUNUCH’S BALLS
In 1537, after failed diplomatic talks, some Portuguese sailors at Diu hit Sultan Bahadur of Gujarat over the head with an oar while he was boarding a boat, and he drowned. In retaliation, the Ottoman eunuch Suleiman Pasha, Governor of Egypt, brought 70 galleys and 23,000 soldiers to besiege the Portuguese fort, which had a garrison of 600, commanded by Don António da Silveira. Having taken some Portuguese hostage, Suleiman Pasha sent Don António a letter.
When Don António received the letter, he turned to his companions, saying: ‘Let’s see what the castrated dog has to say.’ Suleiman Pasha promised the Portuguese safe passage if they handed over the fortress and their weapons. He promised to skin them all alive if they did not obey his conditions, mentioning the size of his army, which included men who had captured Belgrade, Hungary, and Rhodes. Finally he asked da Silveira how he would defend the pig-sty with so few pigs!
Da Silveira, in the presence of all, dictated a reply:
“Most honoured Captain Pasha, I have read your letter carefully. If the knights in this pig-sty had been on Rhodes, I assure you, you would have not conquered it. Learn that here are Portuguese, used to killing Moors by the score, commanded by António da Silveira who has a pair of balls stronger than the balls of your cannons! And that all the Portuguese here have balls and don’t fear those who don’t have them.”
The Pasha was furious and ordered the hostages killed, and a titanic battle began. For more than a month the Portuguese fought bravely, till their effective forces dwindled to fewer than 40, but the Turks suffered such casualties that they raised the siege and retired from Diu.