Luis de Góngora y Argote was born in Córdova, Spain, on July 11, 1561. He was the son of Francisco de Argote and Leonor de Góngora. His use of his mother’s surname before his father’s, not an unusual practice in Spain, was a result of economic considerations and a desire to carry a more euphonic name (Góngora was extremely fond of proparoxytonic words). It seems that, coming from an aristocratic family, his father originally intended to make his son a lawyer and to place him, through various political connections, in the court of the Habsburg rulers. Consequently, the young Don Luis was sent to study at Salamanca, where he never completed his studies because he spent most of his time writing poems, flirting, and gambling. Góngora nevertheless was able to learn in depth Latin, Greek, and classical literature and mythology. His maternal uncle, who held a hereditary position at the Cathedral of Córdova, convinced the young poet to enter the church. Góngora became a deacon and in 1585 inherited his uncle’s position; he was not ordained as a priest until almost thirty years later.
The young poet was uncomfortable in his role as a churchman. There is a letter extant from the Bishop of Córdova accusing Góngora of not fulfilling his ecclesiastical duties and of preferring bullfights to the chorus. Gónora was also accused of writing profane poetry. He replied sarcastically to these accusations, and a small fine was imposed upon him. Thereafter, Góngora devoted himself to writing poetry, and his name became famous throughout Spain, especially because of his romances, which are included in many of the important collections of the time, such as the Flores of Pedro de Espinoza and the important Romancero general of 1600.
In 1613, with his culteranos, he became the central, if controversial, figure of Spanish poetry. The polemics and debates that his poems aroused, together with their success, moved him to abandon his native Córdova to settle in Madrid in 1617. His hopes of obtaining favors from the government proved futile, and this circumstance, combined with his passion for gambling and a luxurious lifestyle, soon consumed his limited capital. Sad, destitute, and frustrated, he returned to Córdova in 1627, where he died on May 23 of that year.