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Nature of Discovery
Discovery has startled the world more than Conquest. Scarcely
surprising than some discoveries is the fact that the world has so often and for so long a time seemed to call for a discoverer in vain.
Notably this is the case with the two most important discoveries that have ever been made, and both in the fifteenth century;
that of the art of printing and the finding of a new world. For thousands of years the world had transcribed its thought into permanent legible characters by means of the stylus, the stalk of the papyrus, or the chisel. Slow and laborious were these methods, yet the splendid civilizations of the great Eastern Empires, the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and the Medo-Persian, had produced their literature without the aid of the printing press, while the later civilizations of Greece and Rome; countries that gave to all coming time the noblest literatures, transcribed them by the painful process of the pen
The wonderful brain of the Greek could construct a Parthenon, the wonder of the age; and the Roman reared that pile, so noble in its simplicity—the Pantheon; yet neither could discern the little type that should make the rapid multiplying of letters easy, nor place in relief upon a block of wood the tracery of a single leaf; and the wonder is no less, but increases as we consider the fact that two vast continents, the half of an entire planet, had for so many centuries eluded the gaze of men who went down to the sea in ships, who for centuries had navigated an inland sea for two thousand miles,while from
Jutland intrepid mariners
and Buccaneers had plowed the ocean with their keels.
For nearly three centuries
Aristotle,following the teachings of the Pythagoreans,
had asserted the earth was round, and had declared that the great Asiatic Empire could be reached by sailing westwardly, a view that was confirmed by
Seneca, the Spaniard,
who affirmed that India could be reached in this way; and all down the centuries the probability of discovery, as we now look back upon those times, seems to be increasing; but, somehow, Discovery still refused to enter the open gate leading to the New World,
and this, notwithstanding the fact that the Canary and Madeira Islands had been discovered some years before, and the Portuguese navigators had followed the coast of Africa for thousands of miles, as far as the Cape of Good Hope,
Columbus himself having skirted the coast to the Cape of Storms.
The spheroidicity of the earth was generally accepted by enlightened men,
though the Copernican system was not known,
and it was believed that there must be a large unknown continent to the west. There was such a continent, two of them indeed, and they were nearer the African coast, along which Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian navigators had coursed, than the distance they had covered from the Pillars of Hercules
to the Cape of Good Hope. Yet, though the times wanted a discoverer, he was not to be found
WAS AMERICA DISCOVERED BY THE NORSEMEN ?
This has long been a disputed question.
Norse scholarship has always insisted upon the discovery; scholars looking upon the matter from the outside have disputed the claim. One of the principal chains of evidence offered heretofore has been supplied bythe Norse Sagas stories of mingled fact, romance and myth;
(complete legend e-book in CD-ROM exist but only for premium member)
but they have been distrusted, and up to recent time the preponderance of evidence has rather been against the Icelandic claim. But latterly new evidence has been brought to light, which seems to fully establish the fact of the discovery of America by the Norsemen from Iceland, about A. D. 1000.
To cite the testimony of the Sagas, one must suffice for evidence in that direction.
The Eyrbyggia Saga the oldest extant manuscript,remains of which date back to about the year 1300 has the following:
“After the reconciliation between
Steinhor and the people of Alpta-firth,
went to Greenland.Snorri went to Wineland (Vinland) the Good with Karlsefni;and when they were fighting with the Skrellings there in Wineland,
Thorbrand Snorrason, a most valiant man, was killed.” In the Icelandic Annals, also, the oldest of which is supposed to have been written in the south of Iceland about the year 1280, mention is made of Vinland.
In the year 1121 it is recorded that “Bishop Eric Uppsi sought Wineland.”
The same entry is found in the chronological lists. These would seem to supply historical references to the Norse discovery of America, set down in such a manner as to indicate that the knowledge of the fact was widely diffused.
One of the most interesting accounts taken from
the Norse records
Norsemen landing in Iceland
is that found in a parchment discovered in a Monastery library of the Island of Flato, and which was transferred to Copenhagen and submitted
inspection of Professor Rafn
and other noted Icelandic scholars. Professor Rafn reproduces the record in his “Antiquities.” The story is as follows: “In the year 996, while sailing from Iceland to Greenland,
was driven southward by a storm, when they came in sight of land they had never before seen. Biarne did not try to land, but put his ship about and eventually reached Greenland.
Four years after, in A. D. 1000,
the son of Eric the Red,
sailed from Brattahlid
in search of the land seen by Biarne. This land Leif soon discovered; he landed, it is supposed on the coast of Labrador La
which he named Helluland,
because of the numerous flat stones found there, from the word hella, a flat stone. Finding the shore inhospitable, he again set sail and soon reached a coast thence it is not far to Vinland.”
Still again and the evidence must end with this citation in an old manuscript, written according to the Icelandic scholar Dr. Vigfasson, as early as 1260–1280, referring to the date A. D. 1000, the manuscript records: “Wineland the Good found. That summer King Olaf
look king olaf ancient coin below
sent Leif to Greenland,
to proclaim Christianity there.
He sailed that summer to Greenland.
He found in the sea men upon a wreck, and helped them. There found he also Wineland the Good, and arrived in the autumn at Greenland.”
It is objected to the discovery of America from Greenland that no runic (Scandinavian) inscriptions have been found in any part of the North American continent.
But the answer to this objection is that the Northmen never pretended that they had colonized Vineland; they simply recounted their discovery of the country and their unsuccessful attempts to colonize it.
Runic inscriptions, therefore, and other archaeological remains, are not to be expected in a region where no permanent settlements were made. Besides, as Mr. Reeves points out, the rigorous application of the test would make the discovery of Iceland itself disputable.
In conclusion, as to this matter, we have only to add that the statements put forth seem not only to confirm what we meet with in the Sagas, but, taken by themselves alone, they seem to fully establish the fact of the discovery of America by the Icelanders, even had the Sagas never been written. And now leaving the Norsemen and their discoveries
Reverse Heyerdahl: Ancient-style reed boat tackles Atlantic
By Pat Reber Jul 7, 2007, 1:07 GMT
Washington/New York – Like the great Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl, a German biologist and amateur anthropologist is obsessed with ancient long-distance seafaring.
But while Heyerdahl’s 1947 Kon-Tiki and later Ra expeditions proved that ancients could have used trade winds and ocean currents to drift westward around the globe to South America and the South Pacific, Dominique Goerlitz wants to prove the opposite.
Goerlitz, 41, and a crew of eight plan to set sail Wednesday from New York in a prehistoric-style reed boat to show that people 6,000 to 14,000 years ago could have made the more complicated eastwardly journey from the New World to get back home again.
The reed boat – called the Abora III – is constructed along the lines of Heyerdahl’s Ra, out of 17 tonnes of reed papyrus that grows at the 3,800-metre-high Lake Titicaca on the border of Peru and Bolivia. Goerlitz in fact had some input from the late Norwegian explorer on some of his earlier boats launched in Europe.
Unlike the Ra, however, the Abora has 16 leeboards – or retractable foils – for steering, a refinement that will enable Abora to tack into the wind and carry it eastwards.
‘Why did I not see this?’ Goerlitz quoted Heyerdahl as saying after their first meeting in 1995 in Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Heyerdahl was referring to the keel-board evidence in ancient drawings that Goerlitz had found.
First stop on the Abora’s projected three-and-a-half-month journey is the Azore islands, where Goerlitz hopes to put in for fresh provisions by August 10, and then to Cadiz on Spain’s southern tip and the Canary Islands. The boat will be equipped with modern navigation and communications equipment.
One of the crew members, Bolivian Fermin Limachi, 38, the son of a man who worked on a Heyerdahl boat, helped build Goerlitz’s Abora. The Amyra Indians of the high Andes are the world’s only known people who still know how to form reeds into tight tapered bundles for sea- worthy vessels.
The idea that ancient people could have navigated and steered large vessels across vast oceans – not just drifted in wind and currents – flies in the face of all established academic knowledge.
That in fact is what spurs Goerlitz on – that, and the fact that people laughed at Heyerdahl, too.
‘We act as though the ancients were second class people,’ Goerlitz told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. ‘Yet they must have been advanced sailors, and I’m convinced they had advanced navigation.’
Goerlitz cites the evidence: Plants known to have originated exclusively in the New World, like **** and tobacco, were found in the tomb of the ancient Egyptian ruler Ramses II. Vintage 6,000-year- old rock drawings in Egypt’s Wadi Hammamat depict reed boats with keels on the side.
But what clinched Goerlitz’s conviction was a lowly plant called the bottle gourd.
Goerlitz, who says he makes his living as a freelance lecturer, is working on his doctorate in invasion biology at the University of Bonn.
For more than a decade, he has bugged his professors about how the bottle gourd, which was essential for the development of irrigation and agriculture across a world that had not yet discovered pottery, managed to spring as a full-blown domesticated plant within a relatively short time in Asia, the Americas and Africa.
The standard answer was that the seed was first domesticated in one place, and then floated to the other places.
‘I asked my botany professor, and he shrugged his shoulders,’ Goerlitz said. ”We assume it got there under its own power,’ I was told. ‘Ask the archeologists’.’
The archeologists didn’t know either, and they sent Goerlitz to the ethnologists, who also didn’t know.
Goerlitz was convinced that the answer lay in vibrant long- distance ocean voyages, carried out for trade or colonization long before historians believe was possible.
Goerlitz found confirmation in more recent molecular biology studies showing that the bottle gourd, in fact, grew 9,000 years ago in southern Africa, and yet also emerged as a full-blown domesticated plant, without any evidence of gradual cultivation, in the Americas about 6,000 to 10,000 years ago.
‘There’s amazing evidence that people could sail in every direction, and the evidence in the books must be completely wrong. People who spread agriculture … from Asia to Africa, these must have been advanced sailors,’ Goerlitz said.
The Abora’s website, www.abora3.de, will be posting live reports on the journey, estimated to cost more than 500,000 dollars.
© 2007 dpa – Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Though evidence against his theory grew, Kon-Tiki sailor Thor Heyerdahl never steered from his course.
By Richard Conniff
Smithsonian magazine, July 2002, Subscribe
One of the first lessons you learn going into the field as an anthropologist, archaeologist or journalist is never to come back empty-handed. The cost of the expedition, the need to gratify sponsors, the urge to make a name, all turn up the pressure to get the story. So it’s easy to forget the second great lesson of fieldwork: beware of a story that’s just a little too good.
Thor Heyerdahl, who died in April at the age of 87, spent much of an active and sometimes inspiring life in the thrall of one good story. He believed that, long before Columbus, early ocean travelers—tall, fair-skinned, redheaded Vikings much like himself—spread human culture to the most remote corners of the earth. Academics scoffed, particularly at his idea that the islands of the mid-Pacific had been colonized by way of South America, rather than by Polynesians from the western Pacific. In 1947, Heyerdahl risked his life attempting to prove his point. He built a balsa-log raft, the Kon-Tiki, and in one of the great ocean adventures of the 20th century, he and his small crew made the harrowing 4,300-mile voyage from Peru to French Polynesia.
In the process, Heyerdahl established himself as an almost mythic hero. His best-selling book Kon-Tiki inspired a new generation of scholars—many of whom went on to systematically refute their hero’s great idea.
The trouble with a good story is that it has a way of distorting the facts: we see what we want to see and close our eyes to everything else. In the 1970s, scholars and filmmakers were so enraptured with the idea of peace-loving, Stone Age hunter-gatherers they failed to notice that the gentle Tasaday were a very modern Filipino hoax. In the harsher zeitgeist of more recent times, a hotly disputed book, Darkness in El Dorado, charges that anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon believed so firmly in the savagery of Venezuela’s Yanomami that he instigated the very bloodshed he went there to document. (Chagnon steadfastly denies the charge.)
A good story can be so compelling that teller and subject become entrapped together in its charms, and this was never more true than when Heyerdahl came swashbuckling onto Easter Island in 1955, determined to find hard evidence of South American origins.
He liked to be known to the islanders as Señor Kon-Tiki, and asked, among other things, for samples of old pottery, a technology known in South America but not in Polynesia. One enterprising islander promptly broke up a pot and buried the shards, a ruse Heyerdahl readily detected. “If there is a moral to all this,” another member of the expedition wrote later, “it is that archaeologists should be cautious about telling local, nonprofessionals what they would like to find.” Incautiously, Heyerdahl displayed a stuffed caiman from South America and the llama-like camel on a pack of cigarettes, to elicit the kinds of artifacts he sought.
His 1958 book, Aku-Aku, described just how brilliantly he succeeded. After discovering that the islanders had secret family caves full of “ancient” stone sculptures, Heyerdahl gained admission to them by invoking his own considerable spiritual aura, or aku-aku. By giving the islanders clothing, food and cigarettes, he persuaded them to hand over almost a thousand carvings, some of them redolent of South America: a penguin, llamas, a reed boat like the ones used on Lake Titicaca in Peru.
When I visited the islanders in 1992, they still clearly admired Señor Kon-Tiki, and they celebrated him as “good p.r. for Easter Island.” But they delighted in pointing out how selective and misleading he had been in the evidence he marshaled for his hypothesis.
One day I was talking with an island businessman in gold-rimmed glasses and a blue button-down shirt. “Thor knew I was a very good carver, and he came to see me,” he said. “He asked me to take out of my cave all the ancient objects that I had there, to sell to him. I told him I didn’t have anything, and he said, ‘I know exactly what you have. At the entrance to your cave, there is the head of a whale…’ And he started mentioning things that he insisted I had. I said I didn’t have them, and he said, ‘No, no, no! You have them and I’ll pay you for them.’ So I understood perfectly well that he was saying, ‘Carve them and I’ll pay you.’”
He thought about this for a moment, then added: “He was fooling the world. He was making his own spectacle….He was writing the book to make people say, ‘Ah!’ And it was good for the island in a certain way, because tourists came.”
The first time I heard this, I didn’t believe it: the islanders have a rich tradition of making up their own history, and they naturally wanted to seem like the shrewd ones in this relationship. But the implication that Aku-Aku was riddled with genial deceptions by Heyerdahl and the islanders, on one another and the world, came up over and over, with only minor variation.
One of the most interesting accounts came from a man whose secret cave was the source of 47 of the celebrated stone figures. In his 1975 book, The Art of Easter Island, Heyerdahl described at length how he determined their authenticity, concluding, “It was obvious to all of us that Pedro Pate could not have staged this cave. …” Pate, now deceased, was a 73-year-old fisherman and carver at the time of my visit, and he laughed at the idea of authenticity. When he’d first brought a sack of carvings to Heyerdahl’s camp, he said Heyerdahl refused to look at them. The venue was wrong. “He said, ‘No, no, no, you take these things to the caves,’” where Heyerdahl could discover them
At Pate’s cave, Heyerdahl wrote, he was particularly impressed with a carving of a two-masted reed boat, on which the dust lay a half-inch thick. He carried it out of the cave himself. To demonstrate that no modern islander could have produced such a masterpiece, Heyerdahl reported that one of the best carvers on the island had tried to create a replica; the result, he wrote, was clumsy and unconvincing.
I showed Pate a two-page photograph of the reed boat from Heyerdahl’s book, and he grinned. He’d carved the boat himself, he said. Dubious, I offered him $100 to carve such a boat now, 37 years later, and he accepted. When I visited him again, he was working in front of his house, with the half-formed sculpture propped up on a block of wood and his chisels, rasps and an adze laid out beneath him on a piece of corrugated cardboard.
A few days later, he presented me with the 18-inch-long reed boat he had carved. It was as good as the one in the book. I paid him, and as he wrapped the boat for me to take, he told me confidentially, like a shopkeeper suggesting a second pair of pants to go with a new suit, that he had actually carved two.
When I got the news, ten years later, that Heyerdahl had died, I retrieved that old carving from my yard. It’s broken into pieces now, and clotted with leaf litter and mud. I phoned an Easter Island archaeologist, William Ayres, who chairs the Pacific Island Studies program at the University of Oregon, and he confirmed that many of Heyerdahl’s cave carvings are now deemed modern. I leafed through my old notes from an interview with an islander who used to kid Heyerdahl in later years about the faked carvings. But Heyerdahl stuck by his story to the end. Once, at a conference, a colleague asked him how he could persist with the South American hypothesis when his own archaeologists had produced overwhelming evidence that the Easter Island culture had, in fact, come from Polynesia. Heyerdahl looked down at him like a giant crane peering down on a small worm, and he said, ‘‘Well, I have my audience.”
An audience is what everyone who works in the field ultimately wants: a chance to climb up out of the dust and make the world say, “Ah!” But at what cost? Turning over Pedro Pate’s sculpture and studying it under the light at my desk, it seemed to me that what I held in my hand was that titillating and very dangerous thing: a good story.
As a child, author Richard Conniff regarded Thor Heyerdahl as a hero
“ANCIENTS IN AMERICA”
The Far-Traveling Egyptians
Statues: In 1914, archaeologist M.A. Gonzales was excavating some Mayan ruins in the city of Acajutla, Mexico when he was surprised by the discovery of two statuettes that were clearly Egyptian. One male and one female, the carvings bore ancient Egyptian dress and cartouches. They are thought to depict Osiis and Isis.
Inscriptions: Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs have been found in New South Wales, Australia. Located on a rock cliff in the National Park forest of the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney, the enigmatic carvings have been known since the early 1900s. There are more than 250 carvings of familiar Egyptian gods and symbols, including a life-sized engraving of the god Anubis. The hieroglyphs tell the story of explorers who were shipwrecked in a strange and hostile land, and the untimely death of their royal leader, “Lord Djes-eb.” From this information, scholars have been able to date the voyage to somewhere between 1779 and 2748 BC.
Fossils: In 1982, archaeologists digging at Fayum, near the Siwa Oasis in Egypt uncovered fossils of kangaroos and other Australian marsupials.
Language: There are striking similarities between the languages of ancient Egypt and those of the Native Americans that inhabited the areas around Louisiana about the time of Christ. B. Fell, of the Epigraphic Society, has stated that the language of the Atakapas, and to a lesser extent those of the Tunica and Chitimacha tribes, have affinities with Nile Valley languages involving just those words one would associate with Egyptian trading communities of 2,000 years ago.
Artifacts: Near the Neapean River outside Penrith, New South Wales, a scarab beetle – a familair Egyptian symbol – carved from onyx was unearthed. Another was found in Queensland, Australia.
Tombs: The April 5, 1909 edition of The Phoenix Gazette carried a front-page article about the discovery and excavation of an Egyptian tomb in the Grand Canyon by none other that the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian has since denied knowledge of any such discovery.
The Scattered Tribes of Israel
In 1889, the Smithsonian’s Mound Survey project discovered a stone in a burial mound in eastern Tennessee on which is inscribed ancient Hebrew lettering. Known as The Bat Creek Stone, experts have identified its letters as being Paleo-Hebrew dating from the first or second century A.D. Some of the letters spell out: “for Judea.”
An abridged version of the Ten Commandments was found carved into the flat face of a large boulder resting on the side of Hidden Mountain near Los Lunas, New Mexico. Known as The Los Lunas Inscription, its language is Hebrew, and the script is the Old Hebrew alphabet with a few Greek letters mixed in.
In June, 1860, David Wyrick found an artifact on the general shape of a keystone near Newark, Ohio that is covered in four ancient Hebrew inscriptions translated as: “Holy of Holies,” “King of the Earth,” “The Law of God” and “The Word of God.”
In November of that same year, Wyrick found an inscribed stone in a burial mound about 10 miles south of of Newark, Ohio. The stone is inscribed on all sides with a condensed version of the Ten Commandments or Decalogue, in a peculiar form of post-Exilic square Hebrew letters. A robed and bearded figure on the front is identified as Moses in letters fanning over his head.
Asians on the West Coast
Indian traditions tell of many “houses” seen on Pacific waters. Could they have been ships from Asia?
Chinese history tells a charming account of voyages to the land of “Fusang.”
Old Spanish documents describe oriental ships off the Mexican coast in 1576.
Coins: In the summer of 1882, a miner in British Columbia found 30 Chinese coins 25 feet below the surface. The examined coins of this style were invented by the Emperor Huungt around 2637 B.C.
Japanese explorers and traders left steel blades in Alaska and their distinctive pottery in Ecuador.
Underwater explorations off the California coast have yielded stone artifacts that seem to be anchors and line weights. The style and type of stone point to Chinese origins.
Structures: California’s East Bay Walls, ancient low rock walls east of San Francisco Bay, have long been a mystery. No one knows who built them or why. In 1904, Dr. John Fryer, professor of Oriental languages at U.C. Berkeley, declared: “This is undoubtedly the work of Mongolians… the Chinese would naturally wall themselves in, as they do in all of their towns in China.”
Ponce De Leon Never Searched for the Fountain of Youth
How did this myth about the Spanish explorer even get its start?
By Matthew Shaer
Smithsonian magazine, June 2013, Subscribe
Ponce de Leon
Ponce de León’s name wasn’t tied to the Fountain of Youth until 14 years after his death. (The Granger Collection, NYC)
More from Smithsonian.com
Setting Sail: the 500th Anniversary of Juan Ponce de León’s Discovery of Florida
Half a millennium ago, in 1513, the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León departed Puerto Rico for the verdant island of “Bimini”—an uncharted land in what is now the Bahamas. He eventually landed instead in Florida, where he staked a claim for the Spanish Crown and ensured himself a spot in the annals of history.
As legend has it , and as scholars have maintained for centuries, Ponce was in search of the Fountain of Youth, a fabled wellspring thought to give everlasting life to whoever bathed in or drank from it. But new scholarship contradicts the old fable and suggests that Ponce was interested not in longevity but political gain.
The real story goes something like this: In 1511, messy political squabbling forced Ponce to surrender the governorship of Puerto Rico, an appointment he had held since 1509. As a consolation prize, King Ferdinand offered him Bimini, assuming the stalwart conquistador could finance an expedition and actually find it.
J. Michael Francis, a historian at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg who has spent decades studying the Spanish colonies in the Americas , says no mention of a Fountain of Youth occurs in any known documents from Ponce’s lifetime, including contracts and other official correspondence with the Crown. In fact, Ponce’s name did not become connected with the Fountain of Youth until many years after his death, and then only thanks to a Spanish court chronicler out to discredit him.
Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés disliked Ponce, contending that he was gullible, egocentric and dull-witted. The animosity probably had something to do with court politics: Oviedo aligned himself with Diego Columbus, who was the son of Christopher and the man who helped push Ponce out of Puerto Rico.
In Historia general y natural de las Indias, Oviedo’s account of the Spanish settling of the Americas, he relates a tale in which Ponce, deceived by Indians, goes tromping off on a futile hunt for the Fountain of Youth. It’s all a literary device intended to make Ponce appear foolish. Although visits to spas and mineral baths were common in the 16th century, actually believing water could reverse aging was apparently considered pretty silly.
Oviedo’s satiric version of Ponce’s travels stuck. “You’ve got this incredible story that started out as an invention,” Francis says, “and by the 17th century, it has become history.” (For what it’s worth, Ponce died at age 47 after being wounded by an arrow in a fight with an Indian tribe in Florida.)
Of course, not all tall tales are codified by the passing years into something approaching fact. Sherry Johnson, a historian at Florida International University, says the myth of Ponce de León and his magical fountain remain because of the romance. “Instinctively, we latch on to it—this idea that we might never get old,” she says. It also fits the self-made mythos of America, a young country where, we’re taught, anything is possible.
Florida continues to capitalize on what could be its greatest legend, with hundreds of tourists drinking each day from the stone well at St. Augustine’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. Despite debunking efforts by Francis and others, the story of Ponce’s fountain just won’t die.
It was the glory of Italy to furnish the greatest of the discoverers of the New World. Not only Columbus
, but Vespucci (or Vespucius)
, the Sebastian Cabots,
were born under Italian skies; yet singularly enough the country of the Caesars was to gain not a square foot of territory for herself where other nations divided majestic continents between them
AMERIGO (AMERICO) VESPUCCI
Amerigo Vespucci (1452-1512):
Account of His First Voyage, 1497
A M E R I G O VERPUCCI
Amerigo Vespucci (born in Florence in 1452), whose name was given to the American continents by Waldsmuller in 1507, worked in Seville (where he died) in the business house which fitted out Columbus’ second expedition. Here he gives an account of the first of his own four voyages. If his claims are accurate he reached the mainland of the Americas shortly before Cabot, and at least 14 months before Columbus.
Letter of Amerigo Vespucci
To Pier Soderini, Gonfalonier of the Republic of Florence
Magnificent Lord. After humble reverence and due commendations, etc. It may be that your Magnificence will be surprised by (this conjunction of) my rashness and your customary wisdom, in that I should so absurdly bestir myself to write to your Magnificence the present so-prolix letter: knowing (as I do) that your Magnificence is continually employed in high councils and affairs concerning the good government of this sublime Republic. And will hold me not only presumptuous, but also idlymeddlesome in setting myself to write things, neither suitable to your station, nor entertaining, and written in barbarous style, and outside of every canon of polite literature: but my confidence which I have in your virtues and in the truth of my writing, which are things (that) are not found written neither by the ancients nor by modern writers, as your Magnificence will in the sequel perceive, makes me bold. The chief cause which moved (me) to write to you, was at the request of the present bearer, who is named Benvenuto Benvenuti our Florentine (fellow-citizen), very much, as it is proven, your Magnificence’s servant, and my very good friend: who happening to be here in this city of Lisbon, begged that I should make communication to your Magnificence of the things seen by me in divers regions of the world, by virtue of four voyages which I have made in discovery of new lands: two by order of the king of Castile, King Don Ferrando VI, across the great gulf of the Ocean-sea, towards the west: and the other two by command of the puissant King Don Manuel King of Portugal, towards the south; telling me that your Magnificence would take pleasure thereof, and that herein he hoped to do you service: wherefore I set me to do it: because I am assured that your Magnificence holds me in the number of your servants, remembering that in the time of our youth I was your friend, and now (am your) servant: and (remembering our) going to hear the rudiments of grammar under the fair example and instruction of the venerable monk friar of Saint Mark Fra Giorgio Antonio Vespucci: whose counsels and teaching would to God that I had followed: for as saith Petrarch, I should be another man than what I am. Howbeit soever I grieve not: because I have ever taken delight in worthy matters: and although these trifles of mine may not be suitable to your virtues, I will say to you as said Pliny to Maecenas, you were sometime wont to take pleasure in my prattlings: even though your Magnificence be continuously busied in public affairs, you will take some hour of relaxation to consume a little time in frivolous or amusing things: and as fennel is customarily given atop of delicious viands to fit them for better digestion, so may you, for a relief from your so heavy occupations, order this letter of mine to be read: so that they may withdraw you somewhat from the continual anxiety and assiduous reflection upon public affairs: and if I shall be prolix, I crave pardon, my Magnificent Lord. Your Magnificence shall know that the motive of my coming into his realm of Spain was to traffic in merchandise: and that I pursued this intent about four years: during which I saw and knew the inconstant shiftings of Fortune: and how she kept changing those frail and transitory benefits: and how at one time she holds man on the summit of the wheel, and at another time drives him back from her, and despoils him of what may be called his borrowed riches: so that, knowing the continuous toil which main undergoes to win them, submitting himself to so many anxieties and risks, I resolved to abandon trade, and to fix my aim upon something more praiseworthy and stable: whence it was that I made preparation for going to see part of the world and its wonders: and herefor the time and place presented themselves most opportunely to me: which was that the King Don Ferrando of Castile being about to despatch four ships to discover new lands towards the west, I was chosen by his Highness to go in that fleet to aid in making discovery: and we set out from the port of Cadiz on the 10th day of May 1497, and took our route through the great gulf of the Ocean-sea: in which voyage we were eighteen months (engaged): and discovered much continental land and innumerable islands, and great part of them inhabited: whereas there is no mention made by the ancient writers of them: I believe, because they had no knowledge thereof: for, if I remember well, I have read in some one (of those writers) that he considered that this Ocean-sea was an unpeopled sea: and of this opinion was Dante our poet in the xxvi. chapter of the Inferno, where he feigns the death of Ulysses, in which voyage I beheld things of great wondrousness, as your Magnificence shall understand. As I said above, we left the port of Cadiz four consort ships: and began our voyage in direct course to the Fortunates Isles which are called to-day la gran Canaria, which are situated in the Ocean-sea at the extremity of the inhabited west, (and) set in the third climate: over which the North Pole has an elevation of 27 and a half degrees beyond their horizon [note 1: That is, which are situate at 27 1/2 degrees north latitude.] and they are 280 leagues distant from this city of Lisbon, by the wind between mezzo di and libeccio. [note 2: South-south-west. It is to be remarked that Vespucci always uses the word wind to signify the course in which it blows, not the quarter from which it rises.] where we remained eight days, taking in provision of water, and wood and other necessary things: and from here, having said our prayers, we weighed anchor, and gave the sails to the wind, beginning our course to westward, taking one quarter by southwest [note 3: West and a quarter by south-west.]: and so we sailed on till at the end of 37 days we reached a land which we deemed to be a continent: which is distant westwardly from the isles of Canary about a thousand leagues beyond the inhabited region [note 4: This phrase is merely equivalent to a repetition of from the Canaries, these islands having been already designated the extreme western limit of inhabited land.] within the torrid zone: for we found the North Pole at an elevation of 16 degrees above its horizon, [note 5: That is, 16 degrees north latitude.] and (it was) westward, according to the shewing of our instruments, 75 degrees from the isles of Canary: whereat we anchored with our ships a league and a half from land; and we put out our boats freighted with men and arms: we made towards the land, and before we reached it, had sight of a great number of people who were going along the shore: by which we were much rejoiced: and we observed that they were a naked race: they shewed themselves to stand in fear of us: I believe (it was) because they saw us clothed and of other appearance (than their own): they all withdrew to a hill, and for whatsoever signals we made to them of peace and of friendliness, they would not come to parley with us: so that, as the night was now coming on, and as the ships were anchored in a dangerous place, being on a rough and shelterless coast, we decided to remove from there the next day, and to go in search of some harbour or bay, where we might place our ships in safety: and we sailed with the maestrale wind, [note 6: North-west] thus running along the coast with the land ever in sight, continually in our course observing people along the shore: till after having navigated for two days, we found a place sufficiently secure for the ships, and anchored half a league from land, on which we saw a very great number of people: and this same day we put to land with the boats, and sprang on shore full 40 men in good trim: and still the land’s people appeared shy of converse with us, and we were unable to encourage them so much as to make them come to speak with us: and this day we laboured so greatly in giving them of our wares, such as rattles and mirrors, beads, spalline, and other trifles, that some of them took confidence and came to discourse with us: and after having made good friends with them, the night coming on, we took our leave of them and returned to the ships: and the next day when the dawn appeared we saw that there were infinite numbers of people upon the beach, and they had their women and children with them: we went, ashore, and found that they were all laden with their worldly goods [note 7: Mantenimenti. The word “all” (tucte) is feminine, and probably refers only to the women.] which are suchlike as, in its (proper) place, shall be related: and before we reached the land, many of them jumped into the sea and came swimming to receive us at a bowshot’s length (from the shore), for they are very great swimmers, with as much confidence as if they had for a long time been acquainted with us: and we were pleased with this their confidence. For so much as we learned of their manner of life and customs, it was that they go entirely naked, as well the men as the women. . . . They are of medium stature, very well proportioned: their flesh is of a colour the verges into red like a lion’s mane: and I believe that if they went clothed, they would be as white as we: they have not any hair upon the body, except the hair of the head which is long and black, and especially in the women, whom it renders handsome: in aspect they are not very good-looking, because they have broad faces, so that they would seem Tartar-like: they let no hair grow on their eyebrows, nor on their eyelids, nor elsewhere, except the hair of the head: for they hold hairiness to be a filthy thing: they are very light footed in walking and in running, as well the men as the women: so that a woman recks nothing of running a league or two, as many times we saw them do: and herein they have a very great advantage over us Christians: they swim (with an expertness) beyond all belief, and the women better than the men: for we have many times found and seen them swimming two leagues out at sea without anything to rest upon. Their arms are bows and arrows very well made, save that (the arrows) are not (tipped) with iron nor any other kind of hard metal: and instead of iron they put animals’ or fishes’ teeth, or a spike of tough wood, with the point hardened by fire: they are sure marksmen, for they hit whatever they aim at: and in some places the women use these bows: they have other weapons, such as fire-hardened spears, and also clubs with knobs, beautifully carved. Warfare is used amongst them, which they carry on against people not of their own language, very cruelly, without granting life to any one, except (to reserve him) for greater suffering. When they go to war, they take their women with them, not that these may fight, but because they carry behind them their worldly goods, for a woman carries on her back for thirty or forty leagues a load which no man could bear: as we have many times seen them do. They are not accustomed to have any Captain, nor do they go in any ordered array, for every one is lord of himself: and the cause of their wars is not for lust of dominion, nor of extending their frontiers, no for inordinate covetousness, but for some ancient enmity which in by-gone times arose amongst them: and when asked why they made war, they knew not any other reason to give than that they did so to avenge the death of their ancestors, or of their parents: these people have neither King, nor Lord, nor do they yield obedience to any one, for they live in their own liberty: and how they be stirred up to go to war is (this) that when the enemies have slain or captured any of them, his oldest kinsman rises up and goes about the highways haranguing them to go with him and avenge the death of such his kinsman: and so are they stirred up by fellow-feeling: they have no judicial system, nor do they punish the ill-doer: nor does the father, nor the mother chastise the children and marvelously (seldom) or never did we see any dispute among them: in their conversation they appear simple, and they are very cunning and acute in that which concerns them: they speak little and in a low tone: they use the same articulations as we, since they form their utterances either with the palate, or with the teeth, or on the lips: [note 8: He means that they have no sounds in their language unknown to European organs of speech, all being either palatals or dentals of labials.] except that they give different names to things. Many are the varieties of tongues: for in every 100 leagues we found a change of language, so that they are not understandable each to the other. The manner of their living is very barbarous, for they do not eat at certain hours, and as often-times as they will: and it is not much of a boon to them [note 9: I have translated “et non si da loro molto” as “it is not much of a boon to them,.” but may be “it matters not much to them.”] that the will may come more at midnight than by day, for they eat at all hours: and they eat upon the ground without a table-cloth or any other cover, for they have their meats either in earthen basins which they make themselves, or in the halves of pumpkins: they sleep in certain very large nettings made of cotton, suspended in the air: and although this their (fashion of) sleeping may seem uncomfortable, I say that it is sweet to sleep in those (nettings): and we slept better in them than in the counterpanes. They are a people smooth and clean of body, because of so continually washing themselves as they do. . .
Amongst those people we did not learn that they had any law, nor can they be called Moors nor Jews, and (they are) worse than pagans: because we did not observe that they offered any sacrifice: nor even had they a house of prayer: their manner of living I judge to be Epicurean: their dwellings are in common: and their houses (are) made in the style of huts, but strongly made, and constructed with very large trees, and covered over with palm-leaves, secure against storms and winds: and in some places (they are) of so great breadth and length, that in one single house we found there were 600 souls: and we saw a village of only thirteen houses where there were four thousand souls: every eight or ten years they change their habitations: and when asked why they did so: (they said it was) because of the soil which, from its filthiness, was already unhealthy and corrupted, and that it bred aches in their bodies, which seemed to us a good reason: their riches consist of bird’s plumes of many colours, or of rosaries which they make from fishbones, or of white or green stones which they put in their cheeks and in their lips and ears, and of many other things which we in no wise value: they use no trade, they neither buy nor sell. In fine, they live and are contended with that which nature gives them. The wealth that we enjoy in this our Europe and elsewhere, such as gold, jewels, pearls, and other riches, they hold as nothing; and although they have them in their own lands, they do not labour to obtain them, nor do they value them. They are liberal in giving, for it is rarely they deny you anything: and on the other hand, liberal in asking, when they shew themselves your friends. . . .
When they die, they use divers manners of obsequies, and some they bury with water and victuals at their heads: thinking that they shall have (whereof) to eat: they have not nor do they use ceremonies of torches nor of lamentation. In some other places, they use the most barbarous and inhuman burial, which is that when a suffering or infirm (person) is as it were at the last pass of death, his kinsmen carry him into a large forest, and attach one of those nets, of theirs, in which they sleep, to two trees, and then put him in it, and dance around him for a whole day: and when the night comes on they place at his bolster, water with other victuals, so that he may be able to subsist for four or six days: and then they leave him alone and return to the village: and if the sick man helps himself, and eats, and drinks, and survives, he returns to the village, and his (friends) receive him with ceremony: but few are they who escape: without receiving any further visit they die, and that is their sepulture: and they have many other customs which for prolixity are not related. They use in their sicknesses various forms of medicines, [note 10: That is, “medical treatment.”] so different from ours that we marvelled how any one escaped: for many times I saw that with a man sick of fever, when it heightened upon him, they bathed him from head to foot with a large quantity of cold water: then they lit a great fire around him, making him turn and turn again every two hours, until they tired him and left him to sleep, and many were (thus) cured: with this they make use of dieting, for they remain three days without eating, and also of blood-letting, but not from the arm, only from the thighs and the loins and the calf of the leg: also they provoke vomiting with their herbs which are put into the mouth: and they use many other remedies which it would be long to relate: they are much vitiated in the phlegm and in the blood because of their food which consists chiefly of roots of herbs, and fruits and fish: they have no seed of wheat nor other grain: and for their ordinary use and feeding, they have a root of a tree, from which they make flour, tolerably good, and they call it Iuca, and another which they call Cazabi, and another Ignami: they eat little flesh except human flesh: for your Magnificence must know that herein they are so inhuman that they outdo every custom (even) of beasts; for they eat all their enemies whom they kill or capture, as well females as males with so much savagery, that (merely) to relate it appears a horrible thing: how much more so to see it, as, infinite times and in many places, it was my hap to see it: and they wondered to hear us say that we did not eat our enemies: and this your Magnificence may take for certain, that their other barbarous customs are such that expression is too weak for the reality: and as in these four voyages I have seen so many things diverse from our customs, I prepared to write a common-place-book which I name Le quattro Giornate: in which I have set down the greater part of the things which I saw, sufficiently in detail, so far as my feeble wit has allowed me: which I have not yet published, because I have so ill a taste for my own things that I do not relish those which I have written, notwithstanding that many encourage me to publish it: therein everything will be seen in detail: so that I shall not enlarge further in this chapter: as in the course of the letter we shall come to many other things which are particular: let this suffice for the general. At this beginning, we saw nothing in the land of much profit, except some show of gold: I believe the cause of it was that we did not know the language: but in so far as concerns the situation and condition of the land, it could not be better: we decided to leave that place, and to go further on, continuously coasting the shore: upon which we made frequent descents, and held converse with a great number of people: and at the end of some days we went into a harbour where we underwent very great danger: and it pleased the Holy Ghost to save us: and it was in this wise. We landed in a harbour, where we found a village built like Venice upon the water: there were about 44 large dwellings in the form of huts erected upon very thick piles, and they had their doors or entrances in the style of drawbridges: and from each house one could pass through all, by means of the drawbridges which stretched from house to house: and when the people thereof had seen us, they appeared to be afraid of us, and immediately drew up all the bridges: and while we were looking at this strange action, we saw coming across the sea about 22 canoes, which are a kind of boats of theirs, constructed from a single tree: which came towards our boats, as they had been surprised by our appearance and clothes, and kept wide of us: and thus remaining, we made signals to them that they should approach us, encouraging them will every token of friendliness: and seeing that they did not come, we went to them, and they did not stay for us, but made to the land, and, by signs, told us to wait, and that they should soon return: and they went to a hill in the background, and did not delay long: when they returned, they led with them 16 of their girls, and entered with these into their canoes, and came to the boats: and in each boat they put 4 of the girls. That we marvelled at this behavior your Magnificence can imagine how much, and they placed themselves with their canoes among our boats, coming to speak with us: insomuch that we deemed it a mark of friendliness: and while thus engaged, we beheld a great number of people advance swimming towards us across the sea, who came from the houses: and as they were drawing near to us without any apprehension: just then there appeared at the doors of the houses certain old women, uttering very loud cries and tearing their hair to exhibit grief: whereby they made us suspicious, and we each betook ourselves to arms: and instantly the girls whom we had in the boats, threw themselves into the sea, and the men of the canoes drew away from us, and began with their bows to shoot arrows at us: and those who were swimming each carried a lance held, as covertly as they could, beneath the water: so that, recognizing the treachery, we engaged with them, not merely to defend ourselves, but to attack them vigorously, and we overturned with our boats many of their almadie or canoes, for so they call them, we made a slaughter (of them), and they all flung themselves into the water to swim, leaving their canoes abandoned, with considerable loss on their side, they went swimming away to the shore: there died of them about 15 or 20, and many were left wounded: and of ours 5 were wounded, and all, by the grace of God, escaped (death): we captured two of the girls and two men: and we proceeded to their houses, and entered therein, and in them all we found nothing else than two old women and a sick man: we took away from them many things, but of small value: and we would not burn their houses, because it seemed to us (as though that would be) a burden upon our conscience: and we returned to our boats with five prisoners: and betook ourselves to the ships, and put a pair of irons on the feet of each of the captives, except the little girls: and when the night came on, the two girls and one of the men fled away in the most subtle manner possible: and next day we decided to quit that harbour and go further onwards: we proceeded continuously skirting the coast, (until) we had sight of another tribe distant perhaps some 80 leagues from the former tribe: and we found them very different in speech and customs: we resolved to cast anchor, and went ashore with the boats, and we saw on the beach a great number of people amounting probably to 4000 souls: and when we had reached the shore, they did not stay for us, but betook themselves to flight through the forests, abandoning their things: we jumped on land, and took a pathway that led to the forest: and at the distance of a bow-shot we found their tents, where they had made very large fires, and two (of them) were cooking their victuals, and roasting several animals, and fish of many kinds: where we saw that they were roasting a certain animal which seemed to be a serpent, save that it had not wings, and was in its appearance so loathsome that we marvelled much at its savageness: Thus went we on through their houses, or rather tents, and found many of those serpents alive, and they were tied by the feet and had a cord around their snouts, so that they could not open their mouths, as is done (in Europe) with mastiff-dogs so that they may not bite: they were of such savage aspect that none of us dared to take one away, thinking that they were poisonous: they are of the bigness of a kid, and in length an ell and a half: [note 11: This animal was the iguana.] their feet are long and thick, and armed with big claws: they have a hard skin, and are of various colours: they have the muzzle and face of a serpent: and from their snouts there rises a crest like a saw which extends along the middle of the back as far as the tip of the tail: in fine we deemed them to be serpents and venomous, and (nevertheless, those people) ate them: we found that they made bread out of little fishes which they took from the sea, first boiling them, (then) pounding them, and making thereof a paste, or bread, and they baked them on the embers: thus did they eat them: we tried it, and found that it was good: they had so many other kinds of eatables, and especially of fruits and roots, that it would be a large matter to describe them in detail: and seeing that the people did not return, we decided not to touch nor take away anything of theirs, so as better to reassure them: and we left in the tents for them many of our things, placed where they should see them, and returned by night to our ships: and the next day, when it was light, we saw on the beach an infinite number of people: and we landed: and although they appeared timorous towards us, they took courage nevertheless to hold converse with us, giving us whatever we asked of them: and shewing themselves very friendly towards us, they told us that those were their dwellings, and that they had come hither for the purpose of fishing: and they begged that we would visit their dwellings and villages, because they desired to receive us as friends: and they engaged in such friendship because of the two captured men whom we had with us, as these were their enemies: insomuch that, in view of such importunity on their part, holding a council, we determined that 28 of us Christians in good array should go with them, and in the firm resolve to die if it should be necessary: and after we had been here some three days, we went with them inland: and at three leagues from the coast we came to a village of many people and few houses, for there were no more than nine (of these): where we were received with such and so many barbarous ceremonies that the pen suffices not to write them down: for there were dances, and songs, and lamentations mingled with rejoicing, and great quantities of food: and here we remained the night: . . . and after having been here that night and half the next day, so great was the number of people who came wondering to behold us that they were beyond counting: and the most aged begged us to go with them to other villages which were further inland, making display of doing us the greatest honour: wherefore we decided to go: and it would be impossible to tell you how much honour they did us: and we went to several villages, so that we were nine days journeying, so that our Christians who had remained with the ships were already apprehensive concerning us: and when we were about 18 leagues in the interior of the land, we resolved to return to the ships: and on our way back, such was the number of people, as well men as women, that came with us as far as the sea, that it was a wondrous thing: and if any of us became weary of the march, they carried us in their nets very refreshingly: and in crossing the rivers, which are many and very large, they passed us over by skilful means so securely that we ran no danger whatever, and many of them came laden with the things which they had given us, which consisted in their sleeping-nets, and very rich feathers, many bows and arrows, innumerable popinjays of divers colours: and others brought with them loads of their household goods, and of animals: but a greater marvel will I tell you, that, when we had to cross a river, he deemed himself lucky who was able to carry us on his back: and when we reached the sea, our boats having arrived, we entered into them: and so great was the struggle which they made to get into our boats, and to come to see our ships, that we marvelled (thereat): and in our boats we took as many of them as we could, and made our way to the ships, and so many (others) came swimming that we found ourselves embarrassed in seeing so many people in the ships, for there were over a thousand persons all naked and unarmed: they were amazed by our (nautical) gear and contrivances, and the size of the ships: and with them there occurred to us a very laughable affair, which was that we decided to fire off some of our great guns, and when the explosion took place, most of them through fear cast themselves (into the sea) to swim, not otherwise than frogs on the margins of a pond, when they see something that frightens them, will jump into the water, just so did those people: and those who remained in the ships were so terrified that we regretted our action: however we reassured them by telling them that with those arms we slew our enemies: and when they had amused themselves in the ships the whole day, we told them to go away because we desired to depart that night, and so separating from us with much friendship and love, they went away to land. Amongst that people and in their land, I knew and beheld so many of their customs and ways of living, that I do not care to enlarge upon them: for Your Magnificence must know that in each of my voyages I have noted the most wonderful things, and I have indited it all in a volume after the manner of a geography: and I entitle it Le Quattro Giornate: in which work the things are comprised in detail, and as yet there is no copy of it given out, as it is necessary for me to revise it. This land is very populous, and full of inhabitants, and of numberless rivers, (and) animals: few (of which) resemble ours, excepting lions, panthers, stags, pigs, goats, and deer: and even these have some dissimilarities of form: they have no horses nor mules, nor, saving your reverence, asses nor dogs, nor any kind of sheep or oxen: but so numerous are the other animals which they have, and all are savage, and of none do they make use for their service, that they could not be counted. What shall we say of others (such as) birds? which are so numerous, and of so many kinds, and of such various-coloured plumages, that it is a marvel to behold them. The soil is very pleasant and fruitful, full of immense woods and forests: and it is always green, for the foliage never drops off. The fruits are so many that they are numberless and entirely different from ours. This land is within the torrid zone, close to or just under the parallel described by the Tropic of Cancer: where the pole of the horizon has an elevation of 23 degrees, at the extremity of the second climate. [note 12: That is, 23 degrees north latitude.] Many tribes came to see us, and wondered at our faces and our whiteness: and they asked us whence we came: and we gave them to understand that we had come from heaven, and that we were going to see the world, and they believed it. In this land we placed baptismal fonts, and an infinite (number of) people were baptised, and they called us in their language Carabi, which means men of great wisdom. We took our dhparture from that port: and the province is called Lariab: and we navigated along the coast, always in sight of land, until we had run 870 leagues of it, still going in the direction of the maestrale (north-west) making in our course many halts, and holding intercourse with many peoples: and in several places we obtained gold by barter but not much in quantity, for we had done enough in discovering the land and learning that they had gold. We had now been thirteen months on the voyage: and the vessels and the tackling were already much damaged, and the men worn out by fatigue: we decided by general council to haul our ships on land and examine them for the purpose of stanching leaks, as they made much water, and of caulking and tarring them afresh, and (then) returning towards Spain: and when we came to this determination, we were close to a harbour the best in the world: into which we entered with our vessels: where we found an immense number of people: who received us with much friendliness: and on the shore we made a bastion [note 13: Fort or barricade] with our boats and with barrels and casks, and our artillery, which commanded every point: and our ships having been unloaded and lightened, we drew them upon land, and repaired them in everything that was needful: and the land’s people gave us very great assistance: and continually furnished us with their victuals: so that in this port we tasted little of our own, which suited our game well: for the stock of provisions which we had for our return-passage was little and of sorry kind: where (i.e., there) we remained 37 days: and went many times to their villages: where they paid us the greatest honour: and (now) desiring to depart upon our voyage, they made complaint to us how at certain times of the year there came from over the sea to this their land, a race of people very cruel, and enemies of theirs: and (who) by means of treachery or of violence slew many of them, and ate them: and some they made captives, and carried them away to their houses, or country: and how they could scarcely contrive to defend themselves from them, making signs to us that (those) were an island-people and lived out in the sea about a hundred leagues away: and so piteously did they tell us this that we believed them: and we promised to avenge them of so much wrong: and they remained overjoyed herewith: and many of them offered to come along with us, but we did not wish to take them for many reasons, save that we took seven of them, on condition that they should come (i.e., return home) afterwards in (their own) canoes because we did not desire to be obliged to take them back to their country: and they were contented: and so we departed from those people, leaving them very friendly towards us: and having repaired our ships, and sailing for seven days out to sea between northeast and east: and at the end of the seven days we came upon the islands, which were many, some (of them) inhabited, and others deserted: and we anchored at one of them: where we saw a numerous people who called it Iti: and having manned our boats with strong crews, and (taken ammunition for) three cannon shots in each, we made for land: where we found (assembled) about 400 men, and many women, and all naked like the former (peoples). They were of good bodily presence, and seemed right warlike men: for they were armed with their weapons, which are bows, arrows, and lances: and most of them had square wooden targets: and bore them in such wise that they did not impede the drawing of the bow: and when we had come with our boats to about a bowshot of the land, they all sprang into the water to shoot their arrows at us and to prevent us from leaping upon shore: and they all had their bodies painted of various colours, and (were) plumed with feathers: and the interpreters who were with us told us that when (those) displayed themselves so painted and plumed, it was to betoken that they wanted to fight: and so much did they persist in preventing us from landing, that we were compelled to play with our artillery: and when they heard the explosion, and saw one of them fall dead, they all drew back to the land: wherefore, forming our council, we resolved that 42 of our men should spring on shore, and, if they waited for us, fight them: thus having leaped to land with our weapons, they advanced towards us, and we fought for about an hour, for we had but little advantage of them, except that our arbalasters and gunners killed some of them, and they wounded certain of our men: and this was because they did not stand to receive us within reach of lance-thrust or sword-blow: and so much vigour did we put forth at last, that we came to sword-play, and when they tasted our weapons, they betook themselves to flight through the mountains and the forests, and left us conquerors of the field with many of them dead and a good number wounded: and for that day we’ took no other pains to pursue them, because we were very weary, and we returned to our ships, with so much gladness on the part of the seven men who had come with us that they could not contain themselves (for joy): and when the next day arrived, we beheld coming across the land a great number of people, with signals of battle, continually sounding horns, and various other instruments which they use in their wars: and all (of them) painted and feathered, so that it was a very strange sight to behold them: wherefore all the ships held council, and it was resolved that since this people desired hostility with us, we should proceed to encounter them and try by every means to make them friends: in case they would not have our friendship, that we should treat them as foes, and so many of them as we might be able to capture should all be our slaves: and having armed ourselves as best we could, we advanced towards the shore, and they sought not to hinder us from landing, I believe from fear of the cannons: and we jumped on land, 57 men in four squadrons, each one (consisting of) a captain and his company: and we came to blows with them: and after a long battle (in which) many of them (were) slain, we put them to flight, and pursued them to a village, having made about 250 of them captives, and we burnt the village, and returned to our ships with victory and 250 prisoners, leaving many of them dead and wounded, and of ours there were no more than one killed and 22 wounded, who all escaped (i.e., recovered), God be thanked. We arranged our departure, and seven men, of whom five were wounded, took an island-canoe, and with seven prisoners that we gave them, four women and three men, returned to their (own) country full of gladness, wondering at our strength: and we thereon made sail for Spain with 222 captive slaves: and reached the port of Calis (Cadiz) on the 15th day of October, 1498, where we were well received and sold our slaves. Such is what befell me, most noteworthy, in this my first voyage.
Translation from Vespucci’s Italian, published at Florence in 1505-6, by “M. K.”, for Quaritch’s edition, London, 1885.
Amerigo Vespucci (March 9, 1454 -February 22, 1512) was an Italian merchant, explorer and cartographer. He played a senior role in two voyages which explored the east coast of South America between 1499 and 1502. On the second of these voyages he discovered that South America extended much further south than previously known by Europeans. This convinced him that this land was part of a new continent, a bold contention at a time when other European explorers crossing the Atlantic thought they were reaching Asia (the “Indies”).
Vespucci’s voyages became widely known in Europe after two accounts attributed to him were published between 1502 and 1504. In 1507, Martin Waldseemüller produced a world map on which he named the new continent “America” after Vespucci’s first name, Amerigo. In an accompanying book, Waldseemüller published one of the Vespucci accounts, which led to criticism that Vespucci was trying to usurp Christopher Columbus’s glory. However, the rediscovery in the 18th century of other letters by Vespucci has led to the view that the early published accounts were fabrications, not by Vespucci, but by others.
Vespucci was born in Florence, as the third child of a respected family. His father was a notary for the Money Changers’ Guild of Florence. Amerigo Vespucci worked for Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici and his brother Giovanni and in 1492 they sent him to work at their agency in Seville, Spain. In 1508, after only two voyages to the Americas, the position of pilot major (chief of navigation) of Spain was created for Vespucci, with the responsibility of training pilots for ocean voyages. He died of malaria on the date February 22, 1512 in Seville, Spain.
Two letters attributed to Vespucci were published during his lifetime. Mundus Novus (“New World”) was a Latin translation of a lost Italian letter sent from Lisbon to Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici. It describes a voyage to South America in 1501-1502. Mundus Novus was published in late 1502 or early 1503 and soon reprinted and distributed in numerous European countries. Lettera di Amerigo Vespucci delle isole nuovamente trovate in quattro suoi viaggi (“Letter of Amerigo Vespucci concerning the isles newly discovered on his four voyages”), known as Lettera al Soderini or just Lettera, was a letter in Italian addressed to Piero Soderini. Printed in 1504 or 1505, it claimed to be an account of four voyages to the Americas made by Vespucci between 1497 and 1504. A Latin translation was published by the German Martin Waldseemüller in 1507 in Cosmographiae Introductio, a book on cosmography and geography, as Quattuor Americi Vespuccij navigationes (“Four Voyages of Amerigo Vespucci”). In the 18th century three unpublished “familiar” letters from vdVespucci to Lorenzo de’ Medici were rediscovered. One describes a voyage made in 1499-1500 which corresponds with the second of the “four voyages”. Another was written from Cape Verde in 1501 in the early part of the third of the “four voyages”, before crossing the Atlantic. The third letter was sent from Lisbon after the completion of that voyage.` Some have suggested that Vespucci, in the two letters published in his lifetime, was exaggerating his role and constructed deliberate fabrications. However, many scholars now believe that the two letters were not written by him but were fabrications by others based in part on genuine letters by Vespucci. It was the publication and widespread circulation of the letters that led Martin Waldseemüller to name the new continent America on his world map of 1507 in Lorraine. Vespucci used a Latinised form of his name, Americus Vespucius, in his Latin writings, which Waldseemüller used as a base for the new name, taking the feminine form America. (See also Naming of America.) Amerigo itself is an Italian form of the medieval Latin Emericus (see also Saint Emeric of Hungary), which through the German form Heinrich (in English, Henry) derived from the Germanic name Haimirich. The two disputed letters claim that Vespucci made four voyages to America, while at most two can be verified from other sources. at the moment there is a dispute between historians on when Vespucci visited main land the first time. Some great historians like German Arciniegas and Gabriel Camargo Perez think that his first voyage was done in June 1497 with the Spanish Juan de la Cosa. Little is known of his last voyage in 1503–1504 or even whether it actually took place. Vespucci’s real historical importance may well be more in his letters, whether he wrote them all or not, than in his discoveries. From these letters, the European public learned about the newly discovered continent of the Americas for the first time; its existence became generally known throughout Europe within a few years of the letters’ publication.
According to great and famous historians like Martin Fernandez de Navarrete, Germàn Arciniegas and Gabriel Camargo Perez, the first voyage of Amerigo Vespucci took place in 1497, probably in a trip organized by the King Ferdinando, who wanted to clarify if the main land was far away from the Hispaniola Island discovered by the Genoese Christopher Columbus. The captain of this trip that sailed in May 1497 was possibly Juan Dias the Solis. With Vespucci, there was pilot and cartographer Juan de la Cosa (the then-famous captain who had sailed with Columbus in 1492). According to the first letter of Amerigo Vespucci, they landed in a main land at the 16 degrees latitude, probably the coast of La Guajira peninsula in present Colombia or the coast of Nicaragua. Then they were following the coastal land mass of central America, and they returned to the Atlantic Ocean, crossing the strait of Florida between Florida and Cuba. In his letters, Amerigo Vespucci described this trip, and once Juan de la Cosa returned to Spain, so did the famous world map in which Cuba is represented like an island. In about 1499–1500, Vespucci joined an expedition in the service of Spain, with Alonso de Ojeda (or Hojeda) as the fleet commander. The intention was to sail around the southern end of the African mainland into the Indian Ocean. After hitting land at the coast of what is now Guyana, the two seem to have separated. Vespucci sailed southward, discovering the mouth of the Amazon River and reaching 6°S, before turning around and seeing Trinidad and the Orinoco River and returning to Spain by way of Hispaniola. The letter, to Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici, claims that Vespucci determined his longitude celestially  on August 23, 1499, while on this voyage. However, that claim might be fraudulent, which could cast doubt on the letter’s credibility. His last certain voyage was one led by Gonçalo Coelho in 1501–1502 in the service of Portugal. Departing from Lisbon, the fleet sailed first to Cape Verde where they met two of Pedro Álvares Cabral’s ships returning from India. In a letter from Cape Verde, Vespucci says that he hopes to visit the same lands that Álvares Cabral had explored, suggesting that the intention is to sail west to Asia, as on the 1499-1500 voyage. On reaching the coast of Brazil, they sailed south along the coast of South America to Rio de Janeiro’s bay. If his own account is to be believed, he reached the latitude of Patagonia before turning back; although this also seems doubtful, since his account does not mention the broad estuary of the Río de la Plata, which he must have seen if he had gotten that far south. Portuguese maps of South America, created after the voyage of Coelho and Vespucci, do not show any land south of present-day Cananéia at 25º S, so this may represent the southernmost extent of their voyages. During the first half of this expedition in 1501, Vespucci mapped the two stars, Alpha Centauri and Beta Centauri as well as the stars of the constellation Crux. Although these stars were known to the ancient Greeks, gradual precession had lowered them below the European skyline so that they were forgotten. On return to Lisbon, Vespucci wrote in a letter to de’ Medici that the land masses they explored were much larger than anticipated and different from the Asia described by earlier Europeans and, therefore, must be a New World, that is, a previously unknown fourth continent, after Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Named after Amerigo Vespucci :
Amerigo Vespucci Airport, Florence, Italy
Amerigo Vespucci (ship), an Italian tall ship
The Americas, geographic region including the continents of South America and North America
Naming of America
Formisano, Luciano (Ed.) (1992). Letters from a New World: Amerigo Vespucci’s Discovery of America. New York: Marsilio. ISBN 0-941419-62-2. Pp. xix-xxvi.
” On a clear night with calm seas, stars could be identified near the horizon to judge latitude/longitude celestially. Although South America’s continental shelf drops quickly into the deep ocean beyond the Orinoco River, the mouth is on the shelf, avoiding the ocean swells and waves which hinder visibility of stars near the horizon. Seamen who could navigate from Europe to America and back could chart stars on the horizon, especially for a cartographer like Vespucci. ”
Amerigo: the Man Who Gave His Name to America by Fernández-Armesto, Felipe; Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Archaeologist has found evidence of De Soto’s expedition
Ethan White, 15, left, uses a screen to sift sand at the circa 1606-1608 San Buenaventura de Potano Spanish mission location at his familyÃs property in north Marion County while his father, archaeologist Ashley White, feeds sand from one of the many excavation holes at the site, which includes a nearby area where Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto camped in August 1539.
Doug Engle/ Ocala Star-Banner
By FRED HIERS
Published: Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 7:56 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 7:56 a.m.
Hernando De Soto’s route through Florida is as elusive to modern archaeologists as the gold the famed Spanish explorer sought throughout the southeastern United States.
Ever since De Soto’s 600 men set foot on the shores of Tampa Bay, arriving from Cuba almost 500 years ago, historians have debated the exact direction of his failed treasure-hunting expeditions as far north as Tennessee and North Carolina.
But in north Marion County, an archaeologist has found what his contemporaries deem rarer than the gold De Soto was seeking — physical evidence of the explorer’s precise journey through Marion County and enough information to redraw Florida De Soto maps and fuel many more archaeological digs based on his findings.
“It gets rid of the guesswork now on the route through Marion County,” said Ashley White, a local archaeologist who found the site. “Now, we know for sure he came up through the Black Sink Prairie to Orange Lake and looped around through Micanopy.”
From the De Soto site, which sits on the one-time Indian town known as Potano, De Soto eventually marched to Utinamocharra in present day Gainesville and later to Tallahassee for the winter.
Archaeologists who study Spain’s settlement of Florida and De Soto’s exploration into the Southeast United States, regard White’s find as priceless and have little doubt as to the site’s authenticity.
“I looked at the archaeological evidence. There is absolutely no doubt that is a De Soto contact site, and I am 99.99 percent sure this is the town of Potano, the major Indian town,” said Jerald Milanich, the author of multiple books about De Soto’s expedition and curator emeritus in archaeology of the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida.
“Until now, we really had no one location until all the way up to Tallahassee. Now we have a midway place.”
White’s initial discovery was less a product of painstaking exploration than dumb luck.
Historians before White had dug thousands of pits into Florida’s backwoods and sifted tons of dirt in hopes of finding artifacts linked to the explorer, without success. The only confirmed De Soto site in Florida is in Tallahassee, where De Soto’s men wintered for five months.
White himself had walked his family’s property for two years looking for remnants of what he thought was a 17th century Spanish cattle ranch. He found little more than Indian artifacts.
Then in 2005, a series of hurricanes and storms inundated the 700-acre property owned by his wife, Michelle White, a bioarchaeologist.
“There is a lot of drainage (on the ranch) … and all this sand broke loose and we had artifacts just lying on top of the ground,” Ashley White said.
One was a coin minted before De Soto’s 1539 expedition. It was in a clump of pines near Black Sink Prairie.
At the time, however, White’s attention was riveted on the remains of a 16th century structure he discovered a couple of hundred yards away.
That structure turned out to be the mission of San Buenaventura de Potano, which was established some years after De Soto came through. There, White’s family found copper coins of the era and brown streaks from what remained of the posts that anchored the church. It was enough to make him put the other site on the back burner.
White didn’t know it at the time, but the first site was what other historians had been looking for: physical evidence of De Soto’s exploration.
Meanwhile, the second site yielded its own archaeological treasure trove — about 100 medieval coins, the largest cache from that era in North America.
“Still, the original thought was that it was a Spanish ranch outpost, and that was our hypothesis for probably two years of the work here,” White said. “(The De Soto) trail, it’s not the first thing on your mind in Central Florida archaeology.”
White’s hypothesis began to change as he examined the scant remains of the building and nearby artifacts and realized they shared similar architectural characteristics with other Florida mission buildings along Indian trails. Among those artifacts were colorful, handmade glass beads from the late 16th century, coins, pieces of pottery and nails.
Gifford Waters, historical archaeology collections manager of the Florida Museum of Natural History and an expert on Spanish missions, said finding the mission remains so close to the De Soto site reinforces the legitimacy of White’s discovery.
Missionaries would have used De Soto’s records to establish their churches along Indian trails and towns, Waters said.
“This (the De Soto site) is an extremely important site, historically and archaeologically,” he said.
With some more archaeology, the White site “will be accepted as strongly as the Martin site in Tallahassee,” Waters said. “It helps us to learn more about the Spanish expedition, but also more about the Indians.”
PIECES OF THE PAST
When White returned to his first site, where he found the oldest coin, he found two more coins. Both were minted before De Soto’s Florida exploration began and were much older than those at the mission site. He also found glass beads, made near present day Venice, Italy, that were more complex and older than those found at the mission site.
Then White found a few links of iron chain mail from Spain, with designs De Soto’s men would have woven onto their garments to protect them from Indian spears and arrows. The way the chain mail was linked predated the mission.
He also unearthed a pig jaw, unique to the domesticated herd of European animals De Soto brought to help feed his men.
There had been other Spanish explorers, such as Panfilo de Narvaez, but they had not brought old world pigs, nor had they traveled as far inland.
Other archaeologists such as Milanich say the collection of artifacts represented a town on the move.
In their book, Milanich and archaeologist Charles Hudson had laid historical groundwork for the De Soto site more than 20 years ago. They attempted to map De Soto’s trail based on written records and artifacts. Hudson is a professor of anthropology and history emeritus at the University of Georgia and author of many books on the history and culture of the Indians of the Southeast.
Those written records, which include at least three accounts written at the time by men who traveled with De Soto, put the explorer at the White site beginning on Aug. 11, 1539, and for the next three weeks.
Thousands of Potano Indians lived in the town and along lakes and rivers up into present day Alachua County. The Potano Indians were a subset of the Timucua Indians who called North Central Florida home.
Milanich based some of his theories about De Soto’s routes on Indian trails, many of which became modern highways and railroads.
“And we knew the trails led to Indian towns and knew De Soto in 1539 traveled on the Indian trails to get food and looking for wealth,” Milanich said.
But the written records of those who traveled with De Soto were difficult to decipher. Geographical locations recorded hundreds of years ago using only descriptions of marshes, rivers and wetlands left many archaeologists like Milanich uncertain.
“As an archaeologist, I’d like to tell you we know everything, but we don’t. We just have bits and scraps of information,” he said.
Like bread crumbs marking a trail, archaeologists have to depend on things explorers left behind, such as the beads and coins.
“Like other Spanish explorers, the De Soto expedition brought trade goods they could give to the Indians to get them to be their friends, to pay them off, to provide bearers to carry their supplies, to get food and even get women, to get consorts,” Milanich said.
It was that search for food that drove De Soto to White’s location in 1539.
“Food was always a problem. If you’re not eating, forget it,” Milanich said. “And it was a huge operation going through central Marion County.”
Unsure when winter would begin in Florida, De Soto was looking for a town to occupy with enough food to feed his troops.
Potano likely had a central communal wooden building, a plaza, a chief’s home and several huts where other Indians lived.
But De Soto and the Indians didn’t always coexist peacefully.
The Spaniard plundered towns that didn’t cooperate and killed Indians who refused to help, often in a spectacle that served as a warning to other Indians.
The Europeans also exposed the indigenous people to diseases against which they had no immunity. Thirty years later, when the French met the Potano, the population had plummeted from as many as 30,000 to about 3,000 people.
Most of the Indians were happy to see De Soto leave, urging him on with tales of gold to the north, Milanich said. As soon as a route was staked out, De Soto sent word to his men scattered in a long trail behind him to follow.
In 1539, the Indians rebelled against De Soto’s brutality and the diseases his expedition spread. They killed De Soto’s men when they could get away with it as the Spaniards marched north. Captured Indian guides made the exploration as difficult as possible, sending the Spaniards wandering aimlessly in the hot, humid Florida summer.
De Soto finally marched to Tallahassee and wintered there into 1540.
“De Soto makes it all the way into Arkansas and they spend the next year running around looking for gold. There is none. There is no wealth,” Milanich said.
“He had invested his fortune, his reputation and that of his family and his relatives and everything else. So he must have felt he couldn’t get out at the time. He couldn’t give up,” Milanich said.
De Soto died in 1542 on the banks of the Mississippi and was interred in those waters.
Sixty-four years after his death, the Spanish built the mission of San Buenaventura de Potano just across a creek from White’s De Soto site.
“The discovery of the (Potano) site is really a beginning, not an end,” Milanich said. “The start of a lot more research, of learning about the area. It helps us to understand what things were like on a summer day in 1539, and I’m sure it’s very exciting for people to realize that they had a very important bit of history right in their own backyard.”
SEBASTIANO CABOTO (Sebastian Cabot)
Sebastian Cabot (c. 1484 – 1557, or soon after), originally Sebastiano Caboto, was an Italian explorer, born probably in Venice. Sebastian Cabot told Englishman Richard Eden that he was born in Bristol and carried to Venice at four years of age. However, he also told Gasparo Contarini, the Venetian ambassador at the court of Charles V that he was Venetian, educated in England. Contarini noted it in his diary.
Voyage to Newfoundland
He may have sailed with his father John Cabot (who is variously credited with Genoese, Venetian or Gaetan origins), in the service of England, in May, 1497. John Cabot and perhaps Sebastian, sailing from Bristol, took their small fleet along the coasts of a “New Found Land”. There is much controversy over where exactly Cabot landed, but two likely locations that are often suggested are Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Cabot and his crew (including perhaps Sebastian) mistook this place for China, without finding the passage to the east they were looking for. Some scholars maintain that the name America comes from Richard Amerik, a Bristol merchant and customs officer, who is claimed on very slender evidence to have helped finance the Cabot voyages.
Early employment with England and Spain
By 1512 Sebastian was certainly employed by Henry VIII as a cartographer at Greenwich. In the same year he accompanied Willoughby to Spain, where he was made captain by Ferdinand V. After Ferdinand’s death he returned to England, where, in 1517, he tried fruitlessly to win the support of Vice-Admiral Perte for a new expedition. In 1522, although once more in the employ of Spain as a member of the “Council of the Indies” and holding the rank of pilot-major, he secretly offered his services to Venice, undertaking to find the Northwest Passage to China.
Voyages to America
Finally, he received the rank of captain general from Spain, and was entrusted on March 4, 1525, with the command of a fleet which was to find Tarshish, Ophir, and Cathay, along with a new route to the Moluccas. The expedition consisted of three ships with 150 men, and set sail from Cádiz on April 5, 1526, but only went as far as the mouth of the Río de la Plata.
Cabot went ashore and left behind his companions, Francisco de Rojas, Martin Méndez, and Miguel de Rodas, with whom he had quarrelled. He explored the Paraná River as far as its junction with the Paraguay and built two forts. The first one, called Sancti Spiritu, was the first Spanish settlement in present-day Argentina; near its former location lies the town of Gaboto (Santa Fe Province), named after the explorer.
In August 1530, Cabot returned to Spain, where he was at once indicted for his conduct towards his fellow commanders and his lack of success, and was banished as of February 1, 1532 to Oran in Morocco. After a year, he was pardoned and went to Seville; he remained pilot-major of Spain until 1547, when without losing either the title or the pension, he left Spain and returned to England, where he received a salary with the title of great pilot.
In the year 1553 Charles V made unsuccessful attempts to win him back. In the meantime Cabot had reopened negotiations with Venice, but he reached no agreement with that city. After this he aided both with information and advice the expedition of Willoughby and Chancellor, was made life-governor of the “Company of Merchant Adventurers”, and equipped (1557) the expedition of Borough. After this, nothing more is heard of him; he probably died soon afterwards.
Accounts of journeys
The account of Cabot’s journeys written by himself has been lost. All that remains of his personal work is a map of
the world drawn in 1544; one copy of this was found in Bavaria, and is still preserved in the Bibliotheque National in Paris. This map is especially important for the light it throws on the first journey of John Cabot. The accounts of the journeys of John and Sebastian Cabot were collected by Richard Hakluyt.
THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF COLUMBUS
In treating our subject we naturally begin at the starting point of biography, the birthplace. The generally accepted statement has been that Columbus was born at Genoa, especially as Columbus begins his will with the well known declaration,
” I, being born in Genoa.”
But it has been asserted by numerous writers that in this Columbus was mistaken, just as for a long time
General Sheridan was mistaken in supposing himself to have been born in a
little Ohio town,
Nelsonville Ohio town square
when he learned, within a year or two of his death, that he was born in Albany, N.Y.
But passing this, it remains to be said that the evidence of the Genoese birth of Columbus may now be considered as fully established. As to the time of his birth there has been not a little question.
Henry Harrisse, the American scholar
already referred to, placed it between March 25th, 1446, and March 20th, 1447. This, however, we can hardly accept, especially as it would make Columbus at the time of his first naval venture only thirteen years of age.
gives 1435 or 1436 as the year of his birth. This is also the date given by
and it would seem to be the most probable. This is the almost decisive testimony of
Andres Bernaldez,better known as
the Curate of Los Palacios,
who was most intimate with Columbus and had him a great deal in his house. He says the death of Columbus took place in his seventieth year.
His death occurred May 20th, 1506, which would make the year of his birth probably about 1436. And now starting with Genoa as the birthplace of Columbus and about the year 1435 or 1436 as the time of his birth, we proceed with our story.
Christopher Columbus (or Columbo in Italian) was the son of
Dominico Columbo and
Susannah Fontanarossa his wife.
The father was a wool carder, a business which seems to have been followed by the family through several generations. He was the oldest of four children, having two brothers.
Bartholomew who joined his brother exploration
Giacomo (James in English, in Spanish, Diego),and one colombus sister.Of the early years of Columbus little is known. It is asserted by some that Columbus was a wool comber – no mean occupation in that day – and did not follow the sea.
On the other hand, it is insisted and Tarducci and Harrisse hold to that view that, whether or not he enlisted in
tarducci expeditions against the Venetians and Neapolitans
(and the whole record is misty and uncertain), Columbus at an early age showed a marked inclination for the sea, and his education was largely directed along the lines of his tastes, and included such studies as geography, astronomy, and navigation. It is certain that when
Columbus arrived at Lisbon
he was one of the best geographers and cosmographers of his age, and was accustomed to the sea from infancy. Happily his was an age favorable for discovery. The works of travel were brought to the front. The closing decade of the fifteenth century was a time of heroism, of deeds of daring, and discovery.
Rude and unlettered to some extent, yet it was far more fruitful, and brought greater blessings to the world than are bestowed by the effeminate luxury which often characterizes a civilization too daintily pampered, too tenderly reared. Life then was at least seriou
Improvement in Navigation Tools Right here it may be in place to state how invention promoted Columbian discovery.
The compass had been known for six hundred years.
But at this time the quadrant and sextant were unknown; it became necessary to discover some means for finding the altitude of the sun, to ascertain one’s distance from the equator.
This was accomplished by utilizing
, an instrument only lately used by astronomers in their stellar work. This invention gave an entirely new direction to navigation, delivering seamen from the necessity of always keeping near the shore, and permitting the little ships to sail free amidst the immensity of the sea, so that a ship that had lost its course, formerly obliged to grope its way back by the uncertain guidance of the stars, could now, by aid of compass and astralobe, retrace its course with ease. Much has justly been ascribed to the compass as a promoter of navigation, but the astralobe was surely just as important.
Columbus Approaches the King of Portugal
The best authorities place the arrival of Columbus at Lisbon about the year 1470. It is probable Columbus was known by reputation to
Alfonso V, King of Portugal.
It is unquestionable that Columbus was attracted to Portugal by the spirit of discovery which prevailed throughout the Iberian peninsula,fruits of which were just beginning to be gathered.
Prince Henry of Portugal,who was one of the very first of navigators, if not the foremost explorer of his day, had established a Naval College and Observatory,
to which the most learned men were invited,
while under the Portuguese flag
the greater part of the African coast had been already explored.
Having settled in Lisbon, at the Convent of All Saints, Columbus formed an acquaintance with
Felipa Monis de Perestrello, daughter of Bartholomew de Perestrello,
Bartholomew de Perestrello, an able navigator with whom Prince Henry had made his first discovery. The acquaintance soon ripened into love, and Columbus made her his wife.
Felipa’s father soon died, and then with his wife and her mother
Columbus moved to Porte Santo,
where a colombus son was born to them, whom they named Diego.
Felipa hence forth disappears from history; there is no further record of her.
At Porto Santo
Columbus supported his family and helped sustain his aged father.
Meanwhile Columbus was imbibing to the full the spirit of discovery so widely prevalent. It was not his wife who materially helped him at this time, but his mother-in-law, who, observing the deep interest that Columbus took in all matters of exploration and discovery, Bartholomew de Peretello,s wife gave him all the manuscripts and charts which her husband had made
. These, along with his own voyages to some recently discovered places, only renewed the burning desire for ,exploration and discovery.
But the sojourn at Portugal must be briefly passed over. The reports that came to his ears while living at Porto Santo only intensified his convictions of the existence of an empire to the West. He heard of great reeds and a bit of curiously carved wood seen at sea, floating from the West; and vague rumors reached him at different times, of “strange lands” in the Atlantic – most if not all of them mythical.
But they continued to stimulate interest as they show the state of public thought at that time respecting the Atlantic, whose western regions were all unknown. All the reports and all the utterances of the day Columbus watched with closest scrutiny. He secured old tomes for fullest information as to what the ancients had written or the moderns discovered.
All this served to keep the subject fresh in his mind, for his convictions were constantly strengthened by contemporary speculators.
Toscanelli, an Italian mathematician,
look his map below
at the instance of King Alfonso, instructions for a western route to Asia. With him Columbus entered into correspondence, which greatly strengthened his theories.
Constant thought and reflection resulted in his conception of a course to take, which, followed for a specific time, would result in the discovery of an empire. He would subdue a great trans-Atlantic empire, and from its riches he would secure the wealth to devote to expeditions for recovering the Holy Land, and so he would pay the Moors dearly for their invasion of the Iberian peninsula, a truly fanciful but not a wholly unreasonable conception, as the times were.
At last he found means to lay his project before the King of Portugal. But the royal councilors treated the attempt to cross the Atlantic as rash and dangerous, and the conditions required by Columbus as exorbitant.
The adventurous King, John II,
had more faith in his scheme than his wise men, and, with a dishonesty not creditable to him, attempted at this time to reap the benefit of Columbus’ studies and plans by sending out an expedition of his own in the direction and by the way traced in his charts. But the skill and daring of Columbus were wanting, and at the first trouble at sea the expedition sought safety in flight. It turned back to
the Cape de Verde islands,
and the officers took revenge for their disappointment by ridiculing the project of Columbus as the vision of a day dreamer.
Columbus’s brother Bartholomew had endeavored about this time to interest the British monarch in the project, but the first of the Tudors had too much to do in quelling insurrection at home, and in raising revenues by illegal means, to spend any moneys on visionary projects. Henry III would have none of him.
Columbus at the Franciscan Monastery
Meantime, indignant at the infamous treatment accorded him, and with his ties to Portugal already dampened by the death of his wife, he determined to shake the dust of Portugal off his feet, and seek the Court of Spain.
He would start at once for
Cordova, where the Spanish Court then was.
Leaving Lisbon secretly, near the close of 1484, he chose to follow the sea coast to Palos,
instead of taking the direct inland route, and most happily so; for, in so doing he was to gain a friend and a most important ally. Weary and foot sore, on his journey, he finally arrived at Palos, then a small port on the Atlantic, at
the mouth of the Tinto, in Andalusia
here hunger and want drove him to seek assistance from the charity of the Monks, and ascending the steep mountain road to
the Franciscan monastery of Santa Maria de La Rabida, he met the pious prior, Father Juan Perez, who, struck with his imposing presence, despite his sorry appearance, entered into conversation with him.
COLUMBUS’S ARRIVAL AT THE CONVENT OF LA RABIDA.
As the interview grew in interest to both the parties, Columbus was led to impart to the prior his great project, to the prior’s increasing wonder, for in Palos the spirit of exploration was as large as in Lisbon.
Columbus was invited to make the Convent his place of sojourn,
an invitation he was only too glad to accept.
Then Father Perez
sent for his friend, a well known geographer of Palos,
Palos and, deeply interested in all that related to exploration and the discovery of new lands, the three took the subject into earnest consideration, thorough discussion of the question being had. It was not long before Father Perez became deeply interested in the plans of Columbus.
To glorify God is the highest aim to which one can address himself; of that feeling Father Perez was thoroughly possessed; and how could he more fully glorify him than by aiding in the discovery of new lands and the spreading of Christianity there? Impelled by this feeling, he urged Columbus to proceed at once to Cordova, where the Spanish Court then was, giving him money for his journey, and a letter of commendation to his friend, the father prior of the monastery of
El Prado Fernando de Talavera,
the queen’s Confessor, and a person of great influence at Court. There was hope, and there was a period of long and weary waiting yet before him
Columbus Approaches the Spanish Court
Arriving at Cordova, Columbus found the city a great military camp, and all Spain aroused in a final effort to expel the Moors. Fernando, the Confessor, was a very different man from Perez, and instead of treating Columbus kindly, received him coolly, and for a long while actively prevented him from meeting the king.
The Copernican theory,
though held by some, was not at this time established.
At length, through the friendship of de Quintanilla,
Comptroller of the Castilian Treasury,
matheo Geraldini, the Pope’s nuncio,
and his brother, Allessandro , tutor of
the children of
Ferdinand and Isabella,
Columbus was made known to Cardinal Mendoza,
who introduced him to the king. Ferdinand listened to him patiently, and referred the whole matter to a council of learned men,
and it was not till 1491 (six years later) that the Commission reported the project “vain and impossible, and not becoming great princes to engage in on such slender grounds as had been adduced
Alessandro Geraldini (1455-1525)
Alessandro, who was Antonio’s younger brother, was born in the palace next to
He accompanied Antonio to Spain, where he became the tutor to the royal children. When Antonio died, he took over the support of Christopher Columbus and was influential in ensuring that the project went ahead.
Alessandro became chaplain to
Catherine of Aragon,
and accompanied her to England in 1501 for her marriage to
Arthur, Prince of Wales.
He was with her at
when Prince Arthur died a year later. Since he was of the view (unwelcome to Catherine’s parents) that the marriage had been consummated, he was recalled to Spain.
In 1516, Alessandro asked Pope Leo X
to send him to the episcopal see of Santo Domingo (now the capital of the Dominican Republic),
where he became the first Christian bishop in the New World. He was already 64 when he undertook the 200-day voyage to Santo Dominigo, and he stayed there until his death nine years later.
A wooden Crucifix that Pope John Paul II
the Duomo in 1986
is a copy of the one that Alessandro Geraldini installed in
the Cathedral of Santo Domingo in 1523,
and symbolises the evangelisation of the New World.
His portrait (16th century) is in the Pinacoteca
Columbus Before Queen Isabella and the Spanish Court
The report of the Commission seemed a death blow to the hopes of Columbus. Disappointed and sick at heart, and disgusted at six years of delay, Columbus turned his back on Spain,
“indignant at the thought of having been beguiled out of so many precious years of waning existence.” Determined to lay his project before
Charles VIII, of France,
he departed, and stopped over at
the little Monastery of La Rabida, from whose Prior,
six years before, he had departed with such sanguine hopes, for
The good friar was greatly moved. Finally he concluded to make another and final effort. Presuming upon his position as the queen’s Confessor, Perez made an appeal direct to Isabella, and this time with the result that an interview was arranged, at which Isabella was present. His proposals would have at once been accepted but that Columbus demanded powers* which even
pronounced “arbitrary and presumptuous,” though they were of like character with those conceded by Portugal to Vasco de Gamba.
Angered and indignant at the rejection of his terms, which were conditioned only upon his success, Columbus impulsively left the royal presence, and taking leave of his friends, set out for France, determined to offer his services to
* His principal stipulations were (1) that he should have, for himself during his life, and his heirs and successors forever, the office of admiral in all the lands and continents which he might discover or acquire in the ocean, with similar honors and prerogatives to those enjoyed by the high admiral of Castile in his district. (2)
That he should be viceroy and governor-general over all the said lands and continents, with the privilege of nominating three candidates for the government of each island or province, one of whom should be selected by the sovereigns. (3) That he should be entitled to reserve for himself one-tenth of all pearls, precious stones, gold, silver spices, and all other articles and merchandises, in whatever manner found, bought, bartered, or gained within his admiralty, the cost being first deducted. (4) That he, or his lieutenant, should be the sole judge in all causes and disputes arising out of traffic between those countries and Spain, provided the high admiral of Castile had similar jurisdiction in his district.
Isabella Agrees to Support Christopher Columbus’s Voyage
But no sooner had Columbus gone, than the queen, who we may believe regretted the loss of possible glory of discovery, hastily dispatched a messenger after him, who overtook him when two leagues away and brought him back.
Although Ferdinand was opposed to the project, Isabella concluded to yield to Columbus his terms and agreed to advance the cost,
about $7,000, from her own revenues, and so to Spain was saved the empire of a New World. On May 12 Columbus took leave of the king and queen to superintend the fitting out of the expedition at
the port of Palos. The hour and the man had at last met.
What thoughts and apprehensions filled the heart and mind of Columbus as he at last saw the yearning desires of years about to be met, may be to some extent conceived; they certainly cannot be expressed.
Not a general at the head of his great army who, at a critical moment in battle, sees the enemy make the false move which insures him the victory, could feel more exultant than Columbus must have felt when he left the presence of the Spanish Court, and, after seven years of weary and all but hopeless waiting at last saw the possibilities of the great unknown opening up before him, and beheld, in a vision to him as clear and radiant as the sun shining in the heavens,
a New World extending its arms and welcoming him to her embrace. It would seem as if everything now conspired to atone for the disappointing past.
His old tried friend, Perez, prior of
the La Rabida monastery, near Palos,
received him with open arms, and well he might, for had not his kind offices made success possible? And the authorities, as if to make good the disappointments of seven years, could not now do too much.
All public officials, of all ranks and conditions in the maritime borders of
Andalusia were commanded to furnish supplies and assistance of all kinds. Not only so, but as superstition and fear made ship owners reluctant to send their vessels on the expedition, the necessary ships and men were to be provided, if need be, by impressments, and it was in this way vessels and men were secured.
In three months the expedition was ready to sail. The courage of Columbus in setting sail in untried waters becomes more evident when we consider the size of the ships comprising the little expedition.
They were three in number;
the largest of them, the Santa Maria, was only ninety feet long, being about the size of our modern racing yachts.
Her smaller consorts, the Pinta and
were little caravels, very like our fishing smacks, without any deck to keep the water out. The Santa Maria had four masts, of which two were square rigged, and two fitted with lateen sails like those used on the Nile boats; this vessel Columbus commanded.
Martin Alonzo Pinzon commanded the Pinta, and his brother,
Vincente Yanez Pinzon, the Nina.
Look his stamps
The fleet was now all ready for sea; but before setting sail Columbus and most of his officers and crew confessed to
Friar Juan Perez,
and partook of the Sacrament. Surely such an enterprise needed the blessing of heaven, if any did
Christopher Columbus bidding farewell to the Queen of Spain on his departure for the New World, August 3, 1492