Agostina (1788–1857)

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Agostina (1788–1857)

Spanish heroine. Name variations: The Maid of Saragossa or Zaragoza; Augustina. Born in 1788; died in 1857.

In 1808, during the French siege of the city of Saragossa, Spain, a Spaniard named Agostina moved through the streets. Dressed in white with flowing hair, she wore a cross and urged resistance. When Napoleon's army broke through a hole in the ancient walls protecting the city and the Spaniards were ready to desert, Agostina seized a flaming torch from the hand of a dying artillery soldier, took his place at the cannon, and shouted, "For so long as French are near, Saragossa has one defender!" Her courage rallied the men, the French were driven back, and the city was saved. Later, offered the rank of artillery soldier with pay and pension, Agostina gained the right to dress as a member of the military and bear arms. She was immortalized as "The Maid of Saragossa," in the first canto of Lord Byron's Childe Harold:

Her lover sinks—she sheds no ill-timed tear;
Her chief is slain—she fills his fatal post;
Her fellows flee—she checks their base career;
The foe retires—she heads the sallying host.

Agostina has also been the subject of a poem by Southey and a painting by Goya.