Which western power came to India first
Columbus: the discoverer of America
Exactly five hundred years ago, a man who had decisively changed the medieval view of the world died in the Spanish city of Valladolid: Admiral Christopher Columbus. Sick, poor and forgotten by many of his fellow men, the life of the great seafarer came to an end on May 20, 1506. Until his last day he had believed he had found the sea route west to Asia. Until his end, Columbus did not want to believe that he had discovered a new continent instead, namely America.
Who Was Christopher Columbus?
The date of birth of Christopher Columbus is not known to this day. Since he did not tell anyone during his lifetime where he really came from, nothing is known today about his place of birth or his family. Only his two wills from 1498 and 1506 and further evidence suggested that Christopher Columbus was born between August 25 and October 31, 1451 as the son of a wool weaver in the Italian port city of Genoa.
Like his father, Columbus learned the trade of wool weaver. But from an early age he was much more interested in reports from distant countries, in astronomy and navigation. He studied ancient writings and nautical charts, and as he read it the vision of the great adventure flared in him. His first voyages took him to the Mediterranean. On his tours he learned practical nautical skills.
Christopher Columbus' goal in life: to find the western route to India
When pirates attacked his ship off the Portuguese coast in mid-August 1476, Columbus saved himself by swimming on land. He made his way to Lisbon, where his brother Bartholomew lived. Portugal was the greatest sea power at the time: the king's ships opened up the coast of West Africa at that time. Very soon Columbus tried to get closer to the court - in order to find a sponsor for his life goal: to reach India on the western route. His wife Felipa Moniz Perestrello, a lady of the nobility, gave him the first necessary contacts.
A rocky road to the great expedition
After an intensive study of the maps, Columbus determined a route to the west and proposed it to the King of Portugal. This should finance Columbus' western crossing of the Atlantic. In his deliberations, Columbus adhered to the theories of Aristotle and Seneca. They were of the opinion that the earth was not a disk, but a sphere. In addition, calculations by the Italian astronomer Toscanelli had shown that the earth was smaller than previously thought, which should further shorten the travel distance.
Columbus' persistence wins
However, his application was denied. His and Toscanelli's calculations were wrong. Both estimated the circumference of the earth to be far too small. In addition, Portuguese ships were already on the way to find a sea route to Asia by circumnavigating Africa. The rejection was a hard blow for Columbus, and the struggle for donors would continue for years.
Disappointed in Portugal, after the death of his wife, Columbus turned to the Spanish royal family to once again express his ideas and wishes. But here, too, his plan was rejected by a royal commission. But Columbus did not give up and in April 1492 his persistence was rewarded: the King of Castile, Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella agreed to pay for the planned expedition.
Free ride ahead
On August 3, 1492, Columbus took three ships - Santa Maria, Pinta and Niña - from the port of Palos, heading west into the unknown. Travelers had reported on the treasures of Asia. In search of spices and silk, he and his team left the Catalonian coast on August 3, 1492 and headed south-west, with a course for the Canary Islands.
Land in sight
October 12, 1492. "The coast is not far", Christopher Columbus has been telling his impatient sailors for weeks. But so far he has not been able to keep his promise. The supplies were almost exhausted and the crew became more and more restless. A rebellion by the men could hardly be averted. Columbus was about to turn around, discouraged, when a sailor in the mainmast first discovered a reed, then a log and then - far in the distance - a strip of land. He rings the ship's bell excitedly. Cheers and joy on board. "At two o'clock in the morning the land came into view. We waited until daybreak, which was a Friday, on which we reached an island," wrote Columbus in his logbook. Columbus and his crew went ashore on one of the Bahama Islands, called Guanahani by the Indians who lived there. He declared it to be owned by the Spanish crown and baptized it San Salvador.
The first contact between Columbus and the natives
"Our eyes were presented with a landscape that was planted with green, glowing trees and rich in water and all kinds of fruits. The natives walk around naked, men and women. All those I saw were young in years because I saw no one , who was more than 30 years old. They are all very well built, have beautifully shaped, winning features. They have thick, shaggy hair that is almost like tails, which is cut short over the forehead except for a few strands of hair Throw it backwards and carry it full length without ever shortening it. Some of them are painted gray, others red, white or some other color; some only smear it on their face or only on their eyes or on their nose and others paint her whole body. "
His first encounters with the local people were peaceful. In his logbook he described the Indians as "innocent". He called them Indians because he believed he had arrived in India. Among other things, he had glass beads in his luggage as gifts. To his amazement, the islanders willingly accepted the trade and in turn gave cotton thread and parrots to the newcomers. But from the moment when Christopher Columbus entered the "New World", something began that the Portuguese on Africa's west coast had already demonstrated: the fight against the natives, their enslavement and exploitation.
Shipwreck of the Santa Maria
In the following weeks Columbus made further landings on Cuba and La Isla Española, today's Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic). According to Columbus, all of these islands were in the waters off the coast of East Asia. In December, the Santa María was shipwrecked off the coast. "La Navidad", a small settlement, was then built as a makeshift base from the rubble of the ship. Columbus left 40 men of the crew behind on Isla Española. The first Spanish colony was born. The ships Niña and Pinta began their journey home in January 1493. In March Columbus docked again in Palos and was enthusiastically received by the Spanish king. He was celebrated as a great seafarer on a triumphal procession through Spain.
Three more cruises by Columbus
By 1504, Christopher Columbus made three more voyages westwards, exploring the coast of Central and South America. Other sailors explored North America during Columbus' lifetime, Vasco da Gama sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and found the eastern sea route to India. However, Columbus never deviated from the belief that he had found the western route to India. He did not live to see the final refutation by Magellan's circumnavigation in 1522.
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