Explorers and Expeditions
Christopher Columbus

Who was Christopher Columbus and what did he do?

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2014-04-22 16:12:40

Christopher Columbus

(31 October 1451 - 20 May 1506) was an explorer, colonizer, and

navigator, born in the Republic of Genoa, in northwestern Italy.

Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed

four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that led to general European

awareness of the American continents in the Western Hemisphere.

Those voyages and his efforts to establish permanent settlements in

the island of Hispaniola initiated the process of Spanish

colonization, which foreshadowed the general European colonization

of the "New World."

In the context of emerging western imperialism and economic

competition between European kingdoms seeking wealth through the

establishment of trade routes and colonies, Columbus' far-fetched

proposal to reach the East Indies by sailing westward received the

support of the Spanish crown, which saw in it a promise, however

remote, of gaining the upper hand over rival powers in the contest

for the lucrative spice trade with Asia. During his first voyage in

1492, instead of reaching Japan as he had intended, Columbus landed

in the Bahamas archipelago, at a locale he named San Salvador. Over

the course of three more voyages, Columbus visited the Greater and

Lesser Antilles, as well as the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and

Central America, claiming them for the Spanish Empire.

Though Columbus was not the first European explorer to reach the

Americas (having been preceded by the Norse expedition led by Leif

Erickson,) Columbus's voyages led to the first lasting European

contact with America, inaugurating a period of European exploration

and colonization of foreign lands that lasted for several

centuries. They had, therefore, an enormous impact in the

historical development of the modern Western world. Columbus

himself saw his accomplishments primarily in the light of the

spreading of the Christian religion.

The name Christopher Columbus is the Anglicization of the Latin

Christophorus Columbus. His name in Italian is Kristoforo Colombo,

and in Spanish it is Cristobal Colon. Columbus was born between 25

August and 31 October 1451 in Genoa, part of modern Italy. His

father was Domenico Colombo, a middle-classed wool weaver who

worked both in Genoa and Savina and who also owned a cheese stand

at which young Christopher worked as a helper. Christopher's mother

was Susanna Fontanels. Bartolomeo, Giovanni Peregrine and Giacomo

were his brothers. Bartolomeo worked in a cartography workshop in

Lisbon for at least part of his adulthood.

Columbus never wrote in his native language, which is presumed

to have been a Genie's variety of Liberian. In one of his writings,

Columbus claims to have gone to the sea at the age of 10. In 1470,

the Columbus family moved to Savina, where Domenico took over a

tavern. In the same year, Columbus was on a Genoese ship hired in

the service of Renie I of Anjou to support his attempt to conquer

the Kingdom of Naples. Some modern historians have argued that

Columbus was not from Genoa, but instead, from Catalonia, Portugal,

or Spain. These competing hypotheses have generally been discounted

by mainstream scholars.

In May 1476, he took part in an armed convoy sent by Genoa to

carry a valuable cargo to northern Europe. He docked in Bristol,

England; Gala, Ireland and was possibly in Iceland in 1477. In 1479

Columbus reached his brother Bartolomeo in Lisbon, while continuing

trading for the Centurion's family. He married Felipa Monies

Priestley, daughter of the Porto Santogovernor and Portuguese

nobleman of Genoese origin Bartolomeo Peristyle. In 1479 or 1480,

his son Diego Columbus was born. Between 1482 and 1485 Columbus

traded along the coasts of West Africa, reaching the Portuguese

trading post of Alumina at the Guinea coast. Some records report

that Filippa died in 1485. It is also speculated that Columbus may

have simply left his first wife. In either case Columbus found a

mistress in Spain in 1487, a 20-year-old orphan named Beatriz

Enrique DE Adriana.

Columbus was not a scholarly man. Yet he studied these books,

made hundreds of marginal notations in them and came out with ideas

about the world that were characteristically simple and strong and

sometimes wrong kind of ideas that the self-educated person gains

from independent reading and clings to in defiance of what anyone

else tries to tell him.

Ambitious, Columbus eventually learned Latin, as well as

Portuguese and Castilian and read widely about astronomy,

geography, and history, including the works of Ptolemy, Cardinal

Pierre Dilly'sImago Mind, the travels of Marco Polo and Sir John

Mandeville, Pliny's Natural History, and Pope Pius II's Historia

Rerum Ubique Gestarum. According to historian Edmund Morgan,

Columbus sailed for King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella of

Spain. On his first trip, Columbus led an expedition with three

ships, the Nina, the Pinta , and the Santa Maria (captained by

Columbus), and about 90 crew members. They set sail on Aug. 3, 1492

from Palls, Spain, and on October 11, 1492, spotted the Caribbean

islands off southeastern North America. They landed on an island

they called Guantanamo, but Columbus later renamed it San Salvador.

They were met by the local Taine Indians, many of whom were

captured by Columbus' men and later sold into slavery. Columbus

thought he had made it to Asia, and called this area the Indies,

and called its inhabitants Indians.

Throughout his life, Columbus also showed a keen interest in the

Bible and in biblical prophecies and would often quote biblical

texts in his letters and logs. For example, part of the argument

that he submitted to the Spanish Catholic Monarchs when he sought

their support for his proposed expedition to reach the Indies by

sailing west was based on his reading of the Second Book of Esdras

(see 2 Esdras 6:42), which Columbus took to mean that the Earth is

made of six parts of land to one of the water). Towards the end of

life, Columbus produced a Book of Prophecies in which his career as

an explorer is interpreted in the light of Christian eschatology

and apocalyptic.

While exploring the islands in the area and looking for gold to

loot, Columbus' men traveled to the islands of Hispaniola (now

divided into Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Cuba, and many

other smaller islands. On the return trip, the Santa Maria was

wrecked, and the captain of the Pinta sailed off on his own to try

to beat Columbus back. Columbus returned to Spain in the Nina,

arriving on March 15, 1493. Christopher Columbus also took the

Native Americans back to Europe, and they became slaves even

thought the Native Americans were nice and respectfully to Columbus

and his people. But Columbus didn't care how the Native Americans

acted to him and his group. All Columbus cared was how wealthy

their mother country was. There was also two people who joined

Christopher's voyage. They were the Pinzon Brothers. These brothers

were Spanish sailors, explorers and fishermen, natives of Palos de

la Frontera, Huelva, Spain. All three, Martin Alonso, Francisco

Martin and Vicente participated in Christopher Columbus's first

expedition to the New World (generally considered constituting the

discovery of the Americas by Europeans) and in other voyages of

discovery and exploration in the late 15th and early 16th


The brothers were sailors of great prestige along the coast of

Huelva, and thanks to their many commercial voyages and voyages

along the coast, they were famous and well off, respected along the

entire coast. The strategic position offered by the historic

Atlantic port of Palos, from which expeditions had set forth to the

African coasts as well as to the war against Portugal, for which

most of the armadas set forth from this town, organized, on many

occasions, by this family.

Martin Alonso and Vicente , captains of the caravels La Pinta

and La Nina, respectively on Columbus's first voyage, are the best

known of the brothers, but the third brother, the lesser-known

Francisco Martin, was aboard the Pinta as its master.

It was thanks to Martin Alonso that the seamen of the

Tinto-Odiel were motivated to participate in Columbus's

undertaking. He also supported the project economically, supplying

money from his personal fortune.

Francisco, master of the Pinta, appears to have participated in

Columbus's third and fourth voyages of discovery as well as in the

first, but because his name was a common one, the facts of his life

cannot be easily sorted out from those of contemporaries with the

same name.

Vicente the youngest of the three brothers, besides

participating in Columbus's first voyage, once Columbus's monopoly

on transatlantic trade was ended, made several voyages to the

Americas on his own account and is generally credited with the

discovery of Brazil.

Although they sometimes quarreled with Columbus, on several

occasions the Pinzin brothers were instrumental in preventing

mutiny against him, particularly during the first voyage. On 6

October, Martin intervened in a dispute between Columbus and the

crew by proposing an altered course (which Columbus eventually

accepted) and thus calmed simmering unrest. A few days later, on

the night of 9 October 1492, the brothers were forced to intercede

once again, and this time they proposed the compromise that if no

land was sighted during the next three days, the expedition would

return to Spain. On the morning of the 12th (there is some question

of the location): see Guanahani) was in fact sighted by Juan

Rodriguez Bermejo (also known as Rodrigo de Triana).

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