(b. Genoa. Italy, 26 August, 31 October 1451; d. Valladolid, Spain, 20 May 1506)
Columbus was the eldest son of Domenico Colombo and Susanna Fontanarossa. Although there has been some debate about the site of his birth, several documents in the State Archives at Genoa confirm that city as his place of origin. Moreover, Columbus’ will of 22 February 1498 exhorts his eldest son to “make every effort… for the good, honor and increase of the city of Genoa, where… I was born” Christopher was the eldest of five children in this family of rather humble economic status. The other children were Giovanni Pellegrino (who died young), Bartolomeo, Jacopo (known later, in Spain, as Diego), and Bianchinetta. Bartolomeo and Diego accompanied Columbus on his voyages, the former displaying a forceful and energetic character that contrasted with Christopher’s indecision and his often excessive sub-missiveness under harsh circumstances. His two brothers proved very valuable to Columbus: in Haiti, Bartolomeo quelled a native rebellion; and in 1509 Diego replaced Nicolás de Ovando as governor of Santo Domingo.
Nothing certain is known about Columbus’ early years. According to a passage in the log of the first ocean crossing, he first went to sea at the age of eighteen; and in 1472 he referred to himself as a “Genoese wool draper.” Shortly afterward, in 1473, Columbus and his father moved to Savona, from which port Columbus made voyages on behalf of Genoese firms.
One of the many problems in modern Columbian literature is the alleged dependence of Columbus’ voyage plan on similar views held by the Florentine Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli (1397- 1482). Although a letter from Toscanelli to Ferdinando Martini has survived in a copy made by Columbus, there is no evidence of any direct correspondence between Columbus and Toscanelli. It is unreasonable to suppose that Columbus would have said that a letter was addressed to him when it was clearly headed “Ferdinando Martini canonico ulixiponensi Paulus physicus [dixit],” Moreover, Toscanelli favored a route on the Lisbon parallel, whereas Columbus held to that of the Canaries, fourteen degrees farther south; and when he reached Hispaniola he was convinced, after having traveled sixty degrees west, that he had arrived at Cipango (Japan). According to Toscanelli’s map, he would have been forty degrees away.
The principal theoretical assumptions drawn from classical sources (Aristotle, Strabo, Pliny the Elder, Seneca. Marinus of Tyre, Ptolemy), sHebrew (Esdras), Arab (al Ma’mun), and European sources (from Marco Polo to d’Ailly and Pius II) that made possible the discovery of the New World were two major but fortunate errors: an exaggerated extension of the inhabited landmass eastward and a considerable reduction in the terrestrial meridian, which was estimated to be about one-fourth less than it actually is. Columbus correlated Toscanelli’s data with ancient and medieval sources and arrived at a colossal miscalculation. As Samuel Eliot Mori-son (The European Discovery of America, p. 30) has indicated, the distance from the Canaries to Japan via Antilia. which Toscanelli estimated at 3,000 nautical miles (and Columbus whittled down to 2,400), is actually about 10,000 miles between their respective meridians, measured on latitude 28° north.
Toscanelli’s Canaries-to-Quinsay route of 5,000 miles (reduced by Columbus to 3,550) is actually about 11,766 nautical miles by air, Columbus seems to have reduced the length of a degree of longitude by one-quarter, stretching ptolemy’s estimate of the length of the Eurasian continent (Cape St. Vincent to eastern Asia) from 180 degrees to 225 degrees, adding 28 degrees for the discoveries of Marco Polo and 30 degrees for his estimated distance from the east coast of China to the east coast of Japan. He also saved another 9 degrees of westing by starting his ocean crossing from the outermost of the Canary Islands. This left only 68 degrees of ocean to cross before reaching Japan, yet Columbus reduced this figure as well. Arguing that the medieval calculators used too long a degree of longitude, he proposed to cross on latitude 28° north, where he thought the degree measured only forty nautical miles; thus he estimated that he had only 2,400 miles of water to traverse. In other words, his figures placed Japan in relation to Spain about where the West Indies actually are.
Columbus’ miscalculations should not be construed as a lack of the necessary nautical and cosmographical training. His observations on magnetic declination, its variation, and the daily movement of the lodestar around the pole reveal that he was a very competent navigator.
In order to place the evolution of Columbus’ plan within its proper time frame, one would have to know details of his life and work in Portugal: yet even the date of his arrival there is unknown. We know only that in July 1479 he was in Genoa, about to depart for Lisbon. Columbus apparently went to Madeira and then to Porto Santo, where he married Felipa Perestrello e Moniz. Once established in Madeira, he sailed with the Portuguese as far as Mina (Elmina, on the Gulf of Guinea), thus obtaining valuable maritime experience.
There appears to be little basis for the traditional notion that Columbus submitted his plan for a voyage of discovery to the Portuguese king. John II (1481-1495), who rejected it. In 1485 or 1486 Columbus moved to Spain, but little is known of his activities there. He returned to Portugal in the fall of 1488 and was present, on 2 December, at Bartolo-meu Dias’ return from his southern exploration of 1487- 1488. Although Dias had reached the southern tip of Africa and opened a new sea route to Asia, his voyage of 6,300 miles still left him far short of China. Doubtless this circumstance encouraged Columbus to place even greater reliance on his own views.
Nevertheless, Columbus was compelled to wait for favorable political and economic conditions in Spain, to which he had returned by 1492; on 17 April of that year he received the title of almirante mayor del mar oceano and was granted the viceroyalty and governorship of any lands he might discover. Two brothers, Martín Alonso and Vicente Yañez Pinzón, wealthy and expert ship outfitters, organized the expedition and prepared the flagship, the Santa Maria, at their own expense. Columbus’ first transatlantic voyage set sail on 3 August 1492 from Palos with the Santa Maria, the Pinta, the Niña (totaling 450 tons) and with a letter from the Spanish sovereigns addressed to the grand khan of China. He touched land on 12 October on a little island in the Bahamas that was called Guanahani by the natives. Christened San Salvador by Columbus, it was later renamed Watling Island by the British. He then sailed to the northern coast of Cuba, which he mistakenly took for Zipango (Cipango), still convinced that he would soon reach Marco Polo’s Quinsay (Hangchow). Sailing along the coast of Cuba, he came to believe that he had reached Cathay and dispatched an embassy to deliver Ferdinand and Isabella’s letter to the grand khan. The mission soon aborted, and he turned his attention to the large island of Babeque (Great Inagua Island), where the natives had assured him gold was to be found.
Moving west, Columbus touched the northwestern tip of Haiti, established a settlement on its north shore, and traded with the natives, who, he was sure, would lead him to gold. Unfortunately, the Santa Maria was lost through carelessness on Christmas night, and Columbus was obliged to postpone his departure for Spain. Leaving forty-eight of his companions at a fortress he had established—Villa de la Navidad, on Hispaniola—and charging them to study the island’s inhabitants and produce, Columbus left for Spain on 3 January 1493, convinced that he had reached Asia. Severe storms nearly ended the return voyage, but he reached Palos on 13 March, after stopping in Lisbon to confer with the Portuguese king. Although all of Spain welcomed him, the voyage had made the international situation increasingly precarious, for Columbus’ route had taken him through Portuguese waters, thereby violating the Treaty of Toledo (1480). Through remarkable diplomatic skill Columbus managed to overcome the difficulty.
Six months later a new expedition was outfitted with fourteen caravels and about 1,400 men. The voyage began on 25 September 1493 and again proceeded toward the islands on the southern edge of the Caribbean Sea, Columbus discovered the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico on his way to Haiti. At Hispaniola he found that all forty-eight men he had left at Villa de la Navidad were dead — their greed had moved the once friendly natives to murder. Columbus set sail again, discovering Jamaica (May 1494) and skirting the southern coast of Cuba. Returning to Haiti shortly afterward, he found the colony in confusion. Word of the colonists’ discontent had reached Spain, and Juan de Aguado had been dispatched in June 1495 to learn the reasons for the situation and to take the necessary measures. Before Aguado reached Haiti, however, Columbus returned to Spain (11 June 1495), leaving his brother Bartolomeo in charge. Columbus succeeded in winning the court’s confidence and had his privileges confirmed; in addition, he obtained the right to transmit titles and rights to his descendants.
Despite this vote of confidence, Columbus, prestige had diminished. Disappointment was only too evident in Spain, where great hopes had been frustrated by the low level of profit that the distant posts had yielded. In order to outfit a third voyage, Columbus had to sign on convicts, and the fleet was reduced to eight caravels (fitted out by Amerigo Vespucci on behalf of the house of Berardi). Two vessels left in January 1498; but the other six, with Columbus, did not sail from Sanlúcar until 30 May. Taking three caravels, Columbus followed a more southerly route than those previously adopted and reached Trinidad on 31 July. Subsequently he sailed across the mouth of the Orinoco, thus fully meriting recognition—often mistakenly denied him—as the discoverer of the American continent.
Columbus headed north to Haiti and landed on the south coast of Santo Domingo, to which Bartolomeo had transferred the island’s seat of government. Rebellion and intrigue had left the colony in such wretched condition that Columbus felt unable to settle matters without harsh disciplinary action and the interference of the Spanish government. The Spanish court immediately sent Francisco de Bobadilla to act as royal commissioner. He reached Santo Domingo on 23 August 1500 and was shocked to find that Columbus was making frequent use of the gallows. He put Columbus in chains and sent him back to Spain (November 1500) with his brothers Bartolomeo and Diego. Despite his disgrace, the Spanish sovereigns received Columbus and granted him permission for a fourth voyage, although they stripped him of his governorship of Hispaniola.
Spain’s precarious political and economic situation quelled much of the enthusiasm for Columbus’ explorations, especially in view of the successful expedition (1497) of Vasco da Gama, who returned to Lisbon in 1499 after having reached the southern tip of India. Nevertheless, Columbus, taking his brother Bartolomeo and his thirteen-year-old son, Fernando, sailed from Seville with a fleet of four caravels on 3 April 1502, still in search of a passage to the Indian Ocean. He stopped briefly at Santo Domingo to replace a damaged caravel; but Nicolas de Ovando, his successor as governor, refused his request for aid and denied him permission to land. Setting off again, Columbus sailed south of Jamaica and reached the Gulf of Darien. His discovery there of a Mayan canoe persuaded him that he was on the brink of finding a civilization more advanced than that of the natives previously encountered; and he sailed further south, convinced that he would soon reach the long-sought passage to India. He discovered Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia, from which hostile natives and malaria forced him to retreat. Columbus took refuge in Jamaica, his vessels unseaworthy and his crew on the verge of mutiny. Two of his officers, Diego Mendez and Bartolomeo Fieschi, outfitted a canoe and courageously paddled the 108 miles to Santo Domingo. It was nearly a year before they were granted permission by Ovando to outfit a ship, which rescued Columbus and his men on 28 June 1504. Returning to Spain broken and ill, Columbus died ignorant of the extent of his discoveries.
Columbus is credited with a number of writings, which are listed in J. H. Vignaud. Histoire critique de la grande entreprise de Christophe Colomb, 2 vols. (Paris, 1911).I 18, 21, 352-353, 547-548, 602, 672; and II, 6, 208, 242. There is still no adequate critical ed. to remove apocryphal material.
Much of our information on Columbus derives from two questionable sources: Historie della vita et dei fatti dell’ ammiraglio don Cristoforo Colombo— first published (Venice. 1571) under the name of Fernando, Columbus’ natural son, by Alfonso Ulloa (thirty-two years after the presumed, and still missing, original); and historia de lad Indias, by Bartolomeo de Las Casas (1474-1566). who began the work in 1527 and completed the final draft in 1553; it was finally published at Madrid in 1875-1876. The authorship and history of these two sources has long been debated. Henri Harrisse (1872) revealed many inconsistencies and contradictions in the Historie and concluded that it could not have been written by Fernando Columbus. His argument has been largely discredited, and Alberto Magnaghi has shown in the compilation of the Historie the responsibility of an anonymous author, probably Luis Colon, a descendant of Columbus who was exiled to Oran by Charles V. Various legendary details were inserted into the Columbian tradition: Columbus’ having graduated from the University of Pavia. the mention of other admirals in his family, and an account of a voyage to Tunis that portrays Columbus as a nautical buffoon and a shameless inventor of fairy tales. He also was reputed to have made an equally fanciful voyage to lceland and beyond in 1477. One must be wary in using these sources, for dates and personages often are confused.
The Columbian bibliography is constantly growing. Keeping pace with the critical study of the many complex questions that arise from tradition and from a facile appeal to innovative views that are not always adequate to the complexity and seriousness of the problems treated.
The following. cited in chronological order, offer useful guidance and background material for further research: J. B. Muñoz, Historia del nuevo mundo (Madrid, 1793); G.B. Spotorno, Codice diplomatico Colomboamericano (Genoa, 1823); M.Fernández de Navarrete. Colección de viajes y descubrimientos que lucieron pormar los españoles desde fines del siglo XV, 5 vols. (Madrid, 1825-1828):Washington lrving, History of the Life and Voyages of Columbus (London, 1828); A von Humboldt, Examen critique de I’histoire de la géographie du Nouveau Continent, 5 vols. (Paris, 1836-1839); H. Harrisse. Fernand Colomb. sa vie. ses oeuvres. Essai critique (Paris, 1872); Christophe Colomb, son origine. sa vie, ses voyages (Paris. 1884);Justin Winsor, Christopher Columbus and How He Reveived and imparted the Spirit of Discovery (Boston. 1891); H. Harrisse. Christophe Colomb devant I’histoire (Paris 1892); C. de Lollis, Cristoforo Colombu nella leggenda e nella storla (Milan. 1892); Italian Ministry of Education, Raccolta di documenti e studi pubblicati dalla R. Commissione colombiana. 15 vols. (Rome, 1892-1894); H. Harrisse, The Discovery of North America (Paris, 1897); J.Boyd Teacher, Christopher Columbus, His life, His work, His Remains, as Revealed by Original printed and Manuscript Records (New York, 1903); G. Nunn, The Geographical Conceptions of Columbus (New York, 1924); G. Pessagno. “Questioni colombiae,” in Atti della Società ligure di storia Patria,53 (1926), 539-691; L. Olschki, “Herman Pérez de Oliva’s Yistoria de Colon,” in Hispanic American Historical Review, 23 (1943), 165-196: Martín Torodash, “Columbus Historiography Since 1939,” ibid., 46 (1966), 409-428; and Antonio Rumeu de Armas. Hernando Colon. historiador del descubrimiento de America(Madrid. 1973).
Noted for novelty of research and for the use of innovational and thorough criticism are the writings of Alberto Magnaghi, which led to a more accurate presentation of Columbus as man, sailor and discoverer. See, for example, his “I presunti errori che vengono attribuiti a Colombo nella determinazione della Latitiudine,” in Bollettino della Società geografica italiana,64 (1928), 459-494, 553-582; “Ancora dei pretesi errori chevengono attribuiti a Colombo nella determinazione delle latitudini,” ibid., 67 (1930), 457-515; “Questioni colombiane,” in Annali della istruzione media,6 (1930), 691-515; “Incertezze e contrasti delle fonti tradizionali sulle osservazioni attribuite a C. Colombo intorno ai fenomeni della declinazione magnetica,” in Bollettino della Società geografica italiana, 6th ser., 10(1933). 595-641; “Di una recente pubblicazione italiana su Cristoforo Columbo,” in Atti dell Accademia delle scienze (Turin. Classe di scienze morali. storiche e filologiche.74 (1938-1939). 69-141; “La nuova storia della scoperta dell’ America,” in Miscellanea della Facoltà di lettere e filosofia dell Universitä di Torino (1933), 1-Ill.
The most useful works in English are those of Samuel Eliot Morison: The Second Voyage of Christopher Columbus From Càdiz to Hispaniola and the Discovery of the lesser Antilles (Oxford, 1939); Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus, 2 vols. (Boston, 1942), in 2 eds.-in 2 vols. with copious footnotes and other scholarly apparatus and in 1 vol. for the general public; Christopher Columbus, Mariner (Boston, 1955; New York, 1956); Journals and Other Documents on the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, S. E. Morison, ed. and trans. (New York, 1963); and The European Discovery of America: The Southern Voyages 1492- 1616 (New York, 1974).
"Columbus, Christopher." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2830904854.html
"Columbus, Christopher." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 2008. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2830904854.html
The Italian navigator Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) was the discoverer of America. Though he had set out to find a westward route to Asia, his explorations proved to be as important as any alternate way to the riches of Cathay and India.
The archives of Genoa show that the famous discoverer was born Cristoforo Colombo (Spanish, Cristóbal Colón) there between August and October 1451. His father, Domenico Colombo, followed the weaver's craft, and his mother, Suzanna Fontanarossa, came of equally humble stock. Christopher was the eldest child, and two brothers make some appearance in history under their Hispanicized names, Bartolomé and Diego.
Columbus had a meager education and only later learned to read Latin and write Castilian. He evidently helped his father at work when he was a boy and went to sea early in a humble capacity. Since he aged early in appearance and contemporaries commonly took him for older than he really was, he was able to claim to have taken part in events before his time.
In 1475 Columbus made his first considerable voyage to the Aegean island of Chios, and in 1476 he sailed on a Genoese ship through the Strait of Gibraltar. Off Cape St. Vincent they were attacked by a French fleet, and the vessel in which Columbus sailed sank. He swam ashore and went to Lisbon, where his brother Bartolomé already lived. Columbus also visited Galway, in Ireland, and an English port, probably Bristol. If he ever sailed to Iceland, as he afterward claimed to have done, it must have been as a part of this voyage. He made his presumably last visit to Genoa in 1479 and there gave testimony in a lawsuit. Court procedure required him to tell his age, which he gave as "past 27," furnishing reasonable evidence of 1451 as his birth year.
Columbus returned to Portugal, where he married Felipa Perestrelo e Monis, daughter of Bartolomeu Perestrelo, deceased proprietor of the island of Porto Santo. The couple lived first in Lisbon, where Perestrelo's widow showed documents her husband had written or collected regarding possible western lands in the Atlantic, and these probably started Columbus thinking of a voyage of investigation. Later they moved to Porto Santo, where his wife died soon after the birth of Diego, the discoverer's only legitimate child.
Formation of an Idea
After his wife's death, Columbus turned wholly to discovery plans and theories, among them the hope to discover a westward route to Asia. He learned of the legendary Irish St. Brandan and his marvelous adventures in the Atlantic and of the equally legendary island of Antilia. Seamen venturing west of Madeira and the Azores reported signs of land, and ancient authors, notably Seneca and Pliny, had theorized about the nearness of eastern Asia to western Europe, though it is not known just when Columbus read them. He acquired incunabular editions of Ptolemy, Marco Polo, and Pierre d'Ailly, but again it is uncertain how early he read them. He possibly first depended on what others said of their contents.
From Marco Polo, Columbus learned the names of Cathay (north China) and Cipango (Japan). The Venetian traveler had never visited Japan and erroneously placed it 1,500 miles east of China, thus bringing it closer to Europe. Furthermore, Columbus accepted two bad guesses by Ptolemy: his underestimate of the earth's circumference and his overestimate of Asia's eastward extension. With the earth's sphericity taken for granted, all Columbus's mistaken beliefs combined to make his idea seem feasible.
In 1474 the Florentine scientist Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli sent a letter and map to Fernao Martins of Lisbon, telling Martins that a western voyage in the Atlantic would be a shorter way of reaching the Orient than circumnavigation of Africa. Columbus obtained a copy of the letter and used it to clarify his own ideas.
In 1484 Columbus asked John II of Portugal for backing in the proposed voyage. Rejected, Columbus went to Spain with young Diego in 1485, and for nearly 7 years he sought the aid of Isabella of Castile and her husband, Ferdinand of Aragon. The sovereigns took no action but gave Columbus a small annuity that enabled him to live modestly. He found influential friends, including the powerful Duke of Medinaceli and Juan Pérez, prior of La Rábida monastery.
While waiting, the widowed Columbus had an affair with young Beatriz Enriquez de Harana of Cordova, who in 1488 bore his other son, Ferdinand, out of wedlock. He never married her, though he provided for her in his will and legitimatized the boy, as Castilian law permitted.
Preparations for the First Voyage
In 1492 Columbus resumed negotiations with the rulers. The discussions soon broke down, apparently because of the heavy demands by Columbus, who now prepared to abandon Spain and try Charles VIII of France. Father Pérez saved Columbus from this probably fruitless endeavor by an eloquent appeal to the Queen. Columbus was called back, and in April he and the rulers agreed to the Capitulations of Santa Fe, by which they guaranteed him more than half the future profits and promised his family the hereditary governorship of all lands annexed to Castile.
Financing proved difficult, but three ships were prepared in the harbor of Palos. The largest, the 100-ton Santa Maria, was a round-bottomed nao with both square and lateen sails; the caravel Pinta was square-rigged; and the small Niña, also a caravel, had lateen sails. Recruitment proved hard, and sailing might have been delayed had not the Pinzón brothers, mariners and leading citizens of Palos, come to Columbus's aid and persuaded seamen to enlist. The eldest brother, Martin Alonso, took command of the Pinta, and a younger brother, Vicente Yañez, commanded the Niña.
The fleet left Palos on Aug. 3, 1492, and, visiting the Canaries, followed the parallel of Gomera westward. Weather remained good during the entire crossing, "like April in Andalusia," as Columbus wrote in his diary, and contrary to popular tales, there was no serious threat of mutiny.
By mid-Atlantic, Columbus evidently concluded he had missed Antilia, so Cipango became his next goal. Landfall came at dawn of October 12, at the Bahama island of Guanahani, straightway renamed San Salvador by Columbus (probably modern San Salvador, or Watlings Island). Arawak natives flocked to the shore and made friends with the Spaniards as they landed. Believing himself in the East Indies, Columbus called them "Indians," a name ultimately applied to all New World aborigines.
The ships next passed among other Bahamas to Colba (Cuba), where the gold available proved disappointing. Turning eastward, Columbus crossed to Quisqueya, renamed Española (Hispaniola), where on Christmas Eve the Santa Maria ran aground near Cap-Haitien. No lives were lost and most of the equipment was salvaged. As relations with the local Taino Arawaks seemed good and Columbus wished to return to Spain immediately, he built a settlement named Navidad for the Santa Maria's crew and left, promising to return in a few months.
Columbus recrossed the Atlantic by a more northerly route than on his outward passage and reached Europe safely. He had an interview with John II of Portugal, who, by a farfetched interpretation of an old treaty with Castile, claimed the new western islands for himself. Columbus then sailed to Palos and crossed Spain to the court at Barcelona, bearing the artifacts he had brought from Hispaniola and conducting several natives he had induced or forced to accompany him. Strong evidence also suggests that his crew brought syphilis, apparently never reported in Europe before and known to have been endemic in mild form among the Arawaks.
Regarding John II's territorial claims, Isabella and Ferdinand appealed to Pope Alexander VI, an Aragonese Spaniard, for confirmation of their rights, and in 1493 the Pope obliged, granting Castile complete rights west of a line from pole to pole in the Atlantic. But the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494) established a new line, from pole to pole, 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands. Spain was entitled to claim and occupy all non-Christian lands west of the line, and Portugal all those to the east.
Following an enthusiastic reception by Ferdinand and Isabella, "Admiral" Columbus prepared for a second voyage. He sailed from Cadiz with 17 ships and about 1,200 men in September 1493. Columbus entered the West Indies near Dominica, which he discovered and named. Passing westward and touching Marie Galante, Guadeloupe, and other Lesser Antilles, the fleet came to large Borinquén (modern Puerto Rico).
On reaching the Navidad settlement on Hispaniola, Columbus found the place destroyed. The Spaniards had made themselves so hated in their quest of gold and women that Chief Caonabo, more warlike than the others, had exterminated them. Another settlement, Isabela, proved an equally unfortunate location, and in 1495 or 1496 Bartolomé Columbus founded Santo Domingo on the south side of Hispaniola.
From Isabela the Admiral sent home most of the ships, though retaining the bulk of the men. He dispatched expeditions into the center of the island in search of gold and accompanied one in person. Meanwhile, he installed himself as governor of Hispaniola, intending it to be a trading post for commerce with the rich Oriental empires he expected soon to discover.
Exploration in the Caribbean
Columbus now decided to explore Cuba further by tracing the island's southern coast. With three ships, including his favorite Niña, he left Isabela in the spring of 1494 and followed the Cuban coast nearly to its western end. Indians told him of Jamaica not far to the south, and the Admiral turned that way, discovered the island, and had several fights with hostile natives. Returning to the Cuban shore, Columbus sailed to Bahía Cortés, where leaky ships and sailors' complaints forced him to put back.
Back in Hispaniola, Columbus found the Spanish settlers unruly and nearly impossible to govern. Complaints against Columbus reached the Castilian court in such numbers that he at last decided to go to Spain to clear his name. He left in the Niña in March 1496 and reached Cadiz in June. Bartolomé, with the rank of adelantado, remained to govern the colony in his absence.
The Admiral's reception at court was visibly cooler, but Vasco da Gama's departure from Portugal for India in 1497 caused the Spanish rulers to dispatch Columbus again the following year. There were reports of a great continent south of the Admiral's previous discoveries, and Columbus left Sanlúcar de Barrameda with six ships late in May 1498.
The first land sighted had three hills in view, which suggested the Holy Trinity, and Columbus promptly named the island Trinidad. Since it lies by the Gulf of Paria and the Venezuelan mainland, the Admiral became the discoverer of South America on Aug. 1, 1498. The welcome discovery of pearls from oysters in the shallow waters of offshore islands caused the name "Pearl Coast" to be applied for a time to Venezuela, which Columbus even then recognized as a land of continental proportions because of the volume of water flowing from one of its rivers.
Rebellion and Arrest
The Admiral had left Hispaniolan affairs in bad condition 2 years earlier and now hastened to return there and relieve his hard-pressed brother. On arrival he succeeded in partially quieting by compromise a revolt headed by Francisco Roldán, an officeholder, and resumed his governor-ship. But so many letters of complaint had gone back to Castile regarding the Columbus brothers that the rulers sent out a royal commissioner, Francisco de Bobadilla, with full powers to act as he saw best.
Bobadilla was honest and meant well, but he had already formed a bad opinion of the Columbus family. He put the Admiral and the adelantado in chains and sent them to Spain. Andrés Martin, commanding the ship in which they sailed, offered to remove the shackles, but the Admiral refused permission, as he meant to appear fettered before the sovereigns. On arrival in Cadiz in late November 1500, Columbus went to court to receive a kind welcome and assurance by the monarchs that the chains and imprisonment had not been by their orders.
In 1501 the Admiral began preparing for a fourth voyage. The fleet, consisting of four ships, left Cadiz on May 9, 1502, arriving in Santo Domingo on June 29. The Admiral next sailed to Guanaja Island off Honduras, then down the coast of Central America. When Columbus learned from the natives about another saltwater body, the Pacific, not far away, he felt certain that he was coasting the Malay Peninsula, of which he had learned through the writings of Ptolemy. A strait or open water should permit entry to the Indian Ocean. Although Columbus followed the coast nearly to the Gulf of Darien, he found no strait.
In April 1503 the ships left the mainland, but the hulls were thoroughly bored by teredos and had to be abandoned as unseaworthy in Jamaica. The Admiral and his crews were marooned in Jamaica for a year, during which time Diego Mendez and Bartolomeo Fieschi fetched a small caravel from Hispaniola. Columbus finally reached Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain, on Nov. 7, 1504.
Columbus had 18 months of life remaining, and they were unhappy. Though only 53 he was physically an aged man, a sufferer from arthritis and the effects of a bout of malaria. But financially his position was good, as he had brought considerable gold from America and had a claim to much more in Hispaniola. He died in Valladolid on May 20, 1506.
The best works on Columbus are Samuel Eliot Morison, Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus (2 vols. and 1 vol. condensation, 1942), which concentrates on the nautical aspects, and, in Spanish, Antonio Ballesteros y Beretta, Cristóbal Colón y el descubrimiento de América (2 vols., 1945), which discusses all phases of Columbus's career. Invaluable as a source is the 1959 translation by Benjamin Keen of Fernando Colón, The Life of the Admiral Christopher Columbus by His Son Ferdinand (1571). Marianne Mahn-Lot, Columbus (1960; trans. 1961), gives a brief and accurate account of the discoverer's life.
More specialized works are Samuel Eliot Morison, The Second Voyage of Christopher Columbus (1939), which traces this voyage until the arrival at Hispaniola, and George E. Nunn, The Geographical Conceptions of Columbus: A Critical Consideration of Four Problems (1924), which has not found general acceptance. A more convincing work by Nunn is The Columbus and Magellan Concepts of South American Geography (1932). Columbus's voyages are discussed in Samuel Eliot Morison, The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages (1971). Older works that still have considerable value are Washington Irving, A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (3-and 4-vol. eds., 1828), and John Boyd Thacher, Christopher Columbus: His Life, His Work, His Remains (3 vols., 1903-1904).
Writings devoted to unusual theses are Henry Vignaud, Toscanelli and Columbus: The Letter and Chart of Toscanelli (1901; trans. 1902), which maintains that the Toscanelli letters were forgeries; Salvador de Madariaga, Christopher Columbus (1939; 2d ed. 1949), which proves to the author's satisfaction that Columbus was a Jew; and Edmundo O'Gorman, The Invention of America (1958; trans. 1961), which asserts that Columbus was not a discoverer because he had no intention of making a discovery and never thought he had made one. □
"Christopher Columbus." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404701470.html
"Christopher Columbus." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404701470.html
Christopher Columbus, Ital. Cristoforo Colombo (krēstô´fōrō kōlôm´bō), Span. Cristóbal Colón (krēstō´bäl kōlōn´), 1451–1506, European explorer, b. Genoa, Italy.
Columbus spent some of his early years at his father's trade of weaving and later became a sailor on the Mediterranean. Shipwrecked near the Portuguese coast in 1476, he made his way to Lisbon, where his younger brother, Bartholomew, an expert chart maker, lived. Columbus, too, became a chart maker for a brief time in that great maritime center during the golden era of Portuguese exploration. Engaged as a sugar buyer in the Portuguese islands off Africa (the Azores, Cape Verde, and Madeira) by a Genoese mercantile firm, he met pilots and navigators who believed in the existence of islands farther west. It was at this time that he made his last visit to his native city, but he always remained a Genoese, never becoming a naturalized citizen of any other country. Returning to Lisbon, he married (1479?) the well-born Dona Filipa Perestrello e Moniz.
By the time he was 31 or 32, Columbus had become a master mariner in the Portuguese merchant service. It is thought by some that he was greatly influenced by his brother, Bartholomew, who may have accompanied Bartholomew Diaz on his voyage to the Cape of Good Hope, and by Martín Alonso Pinzón, the pilot who commanded the Pinta on the first voyage. Columbus was but one among many who believed one could reach land by sailing west. His uniqueness lay rather in the persistence of his dream and his determination to realize this "Enterprise of the Indies," as he called his plan. Seeking support for it, he was repeatedly rebuffed, first at the court of John II of Portugal and then at the court of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. Finally, after eight years of supplication by Columbus, the Spanish monarchs, having conquered Granada, decided to risk the enterprise.
Voyages to the New World
On Aug. 3, 1492, Columbus sailed from Palos, Spain, with three small ships, the Santa María, commanded by Columbus himself, the Pinta under Martín Pinzón, and the Niña under Vicente Yáñez Pinzón. After halting at the Canary Islands, he sailed due west from Sept. 6 until Oct. 7, when he changed his course to the southwest. On Oct. 10 a small mutiny was quelled, and on Oct. 12 he landed on a small island (Watling Island; see San Salvador) in the Bahamas. He took possession for Spain and, with impressed natives aboard, discovered other islands in the neighborhood. On Oct. 27 he sighted Cuba and on Dec. 5 reached Hispaniola.
On Christmas Eve the Santa María was wrecked on the north coast of Hispaniola, and Columbus, leaving men there to found a colony, hurried back to Spain on the Niña. His reception was all he could wish; according to his contract with the Spanish sovereigns he was made "admiral of the ocean sea" and governor-general of all new lands he had discovered or should discover.
Fitted out with a large fleet of 17 ships, with 1,500 colonists aboard, Columbus sailed from Cádiz in Oct., 1493. His landfall this time was made in the Lesser Antilles, and his new discoveries included the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico. The admiral arrived at Hispaniola to find the first colony destroyed by the indigenous natives. He founded a new colony nearby, then sailed off in the summer of 1494 to explore the southern coast of Cuba. After discovering Jamaica he returned to Hispaniola and found the colonists, interested only in finding gold, completely disorderly; his attempts to enforce strict discipline led some to seize vessels and return to Spain to complain of his administration. Leaving his brother Bartholomew in charge at Hispaniola, Columbus also returned to Spain in 1496.
On his third expedition, in 1498, Columbus was forced to transport convicts as colonists, because of the bad reports on conditions in Hispaniola and because the novelty of the New World was wearing off. He sailed still farther south and made his landfall on Trinidad. He sailed across the mouth of the Orinoco River (in present Venezuela) and realized that he saw a continent, but without further exploration he hurried back to Hispaniola to administer his colony. In 1500 an independent governor arrived, sent by Isabella and Ferdinand as the result of reports on the wretched conditions in the colony, and he sent Columbus back to Spain in chains. The admiral was immediately released, but his favor was on the wane; other navigators, including Amerigo Vespucci, had been in the New World and established much of the coast line of NE South America.
It was 1502 before Columbus finally gathered together four ships for a fourth expedition, by which he hoped to reestablish his reputation. If he could sail past the islands and far enough west, he hoped he might still find lands answering to the description of Asia or Japan. He struck the coast of Honduras in Central America and coasted southward along an inhospitable shore, suffering terrible hardships, until he reached the Gulf of Darién. Attempting to return to Hispaniola, he was marooned on Jamaica. After his rescue, he was forced to abandon his hopes and return to Spain. Although his voyages were of great importance, Columbus died in relative neglect, having had to petition King Ferdinand in an attempt to secure his promised titles and wealth.
Columbus was not the first European mariner to sail to the New World—the Vikings set up colonies (c.1000) in Greenland and Newfoundland (see Leif Ericsson and Thorfinn Karlsefni)—but his voyages mark the beginning of continuous European efforts to explore and colonize the Americas. Although historians for centuries disputed his skill as a navigator, it has been proved that with only dead reckoning Columbus was unsurpassed in charting and finding his way about unknown seas.
During the 1980s and 90s the long-standing image of Columbus as a hero was tarnished by criticism from Native Americans and revisionist historians. With the 500th anniversary of his first voyage in 1992, interpretations of his motives and impact varied. Although he was always judged to be vain, ambitious, desirous of wealth, and ruthless, traditional historians viewed his voyages as opening the New World to Western civilization and Christianity. For revisionist historians, however, his voyages symbolize the more brutal aspects of European colonization and represent the beginning of the destruction of Native American peoples and culture. All interpretations, however, agree that his voyages, which permanently linked the Old and New Worlds, were a turning point in history.
See biographies by S. E. Morison (1942), E. D. S. Bradford (1973), H. Koning (1982), and F. Fernández-Armesto (1991); J. M. Cohen, comp., The Four Voyages of Christopher Columbus (1969); J. Axtell, Beyond 1492 (1992); W. D. and C. R. Philips, The Worlds of Christopher Columbus (1992); M. Dugard, The Last Voyage of Columbus (2005); L. Bergren, The Four Voyages (2011); D. Hunter, The Race to the New World (2011).
"Columbus, Christopher." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-ColumbusC.html
"Columbus, Christopher." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-ColumbusC.html
Columbus, Christopher (1451–1506)
Columbus, Christopher (1451–1506)
Italian navigator who led the first European expeditions to the coasts and islands of the Caribbean Sea and South America. Born in Genoa as Christoforo Colombo, he was the son of a weaver, Domenico Colombo, and Susanna Fontanarossa. He received some education and learned Latin and Greek, and may have apprenticed with his father as a weaver. But finding a stronger taste for adventure and the sailor's life, Columbus joined the fleet of Rene of Anjou, a contestant for the throne of Naples, and then enlisted as a sailor for his native city of Genoa, at that time one of Europe's wealthiest merchant cities. He was wounded off the coast of Portugal in 1476; taking shelter in Lisbon, he joined his brother, who was a mapmaker, and began conceiving the idea of a western expedition to the East Indies.
The conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, as well as the control of ports along the coast of North Africa and the Red Sea by Arab princes, made the land route to Asia hazardous to the health and wealth of European merchants. In the late fifteenth century, Portuguese navigators were exploring new routes to East Asia around the southern limit of Africa. Some time during his training and experience as a sailor, Columbus hit on the idea of a westerly route through unknown seas that would, he hoped, provide a much quicker route to the spices, silks, and other valuables of China, India, and the Spice Islands (of what is now Indonesia). Using the calculations of ancient navigators and geographers,
however, Columbus underestimated the circumference of the earth, a mistake that led him to the false notion that the westerly route would be faster and easier.
Historians generally credit Norwegian Vikings as the first European navigators to reach North America. However, the Viking expedition of around 1000 a.d. that established a small settlement in what is now Newfoundland was unknown to the rest of Europe and failed to establish a permanent settlement. In 1485, Columbus first proposed a new voyage to the west to the king of Portugal, John II. He asked for a fleet of three ships and a reward of 10 percent of all income from new land he discovered. The offer was rejected, after which Columbus turned to Ferdinand and Isabella, the monarchs of a newly united kingdom of Spain. He would sail from the port of Seville south to the Canary Islands, then head due west and remain on that course until reaching Japan. Columbus believed he would enjoy clear sailing all the way to Asia.
At the time the kingdom of Spain was struggling with debts and in dire need of trade and gold; the relatively weak Spanish fleets, however, had no hope of overcoming the Portuguese, who were building and strengthening trading ports throughout Asia. Although the king and queen of Spain were advised to reject Columbus's voyage by navigators who claimed he was misjudging the distance to Asia, they rewarded him with a pension to prevent him from sailing for any rival nation and finally agreed to support his expedition in 1492. Columbus was named “Admiral of the Ocean Sea” and was promised a generous portion of money earned from any new Spanish ports or colonies.
The first expedition of three small ships set out in August 1492, taking five weeks to sail from the Canary Islands to a small island in the Bahamas Columbus called San Salvador, on October 12. The expedition continued to Cuba and Hispaniola, where the flagship Santa Maria ran aground. On Hispaniola Columbus founded a small settlement, La Navidad, where he left behind thirty-nine sailors.
The success of his first expedition earned Columbus acclaim in Spain and an agreement by Ferdinand and Isabella to support a second, much larger expedition of seventeen ships, which left in September 1493. This time the admiral landed on Dominica and Guadeloupe, then turned north and sailed through the long chain of small islands now known as the Lesser Antilles. The fleet passed the Virgin Islands and landed at Puerto Rico, but on encountering a hostile Carib village Columbus ordered his ships to Hispaniola, where he founded the settlement of Isabela. The expedition touched at Cuba and Jamaica before returning to Spain in the early fall of 1494.
A third expedition left Spain in May 1498. Columbus reached Trinidad and the coasts of what is now Venezuela. His harsh management of his own sailors and mistreatment of natives, however, led to his arrest by the governor of Hispaniola. Columbus was put in chains and returned to Spain a prisoner along with two of his brothers. He was summarily relieved of all duties as governor of the lands he had discovered, and denied any profit from the income attained from the new Spanish colonies.
Still determined to find a passage to the Spice Islands, Columbus managed to win his freedom and convince Ferdinand and Isabella to support a fourth voyage. This fleet set out in May 1502. On arriving at Hispaniola, he was defied by the Spanish governor of Santo Domingo. His fleet then sailed to the coast of Honduras in Central America and then southward to Panama, where it encountered a fierce storm. Returning to Jamaica, his fleet was wrecked in another storm, and Columbus was forced to remain on Jamaica for more than a year awaiting rescue. The governor of Hispaniola, now the admiral's sworn enemy, finally sent help and Columbus succeeded in returning to Spain in November 1504.
Columbus has been hailed for more than five centuries as an intrepid navigator—and criticized for the harsh treatment he meted out to his sailors as well as Native Americans, whom he considered subhuman barbarians in desperate need of conversion to the Christian religion. His voyages began the era of exploration and colonization of North and South America by Europeans, an undertaking that greatly enriched and transformed Europe. He grew bitter at the imprisonment he suffered at the hands of his patrons in Spain, however, and died still unaware of the western hemisphere, and convinced he had found a faster route to Asia.
See Also: da Gama, Vasco; exploration; Ferdinand II of Aragon; Isabella I of Castile
"Columbus, Christopher (1451–1506)." The Renaissance. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3205500077.html
"Columbus, Christopher (1451–1506)." The Renaissance. 2008. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3205500077.html
COLUMBUS, CHRISTOPHER (Cristofor Colombo, 1451–1506), explorer. Born in the Italian republic of Genoa, Columbus acted as a mariner in the Mediterranean and joined the Italian merchant colony in Lisbon in the 1470s. From Portugal, he sailed north to England, Ireland, and possibly Iceland. He also visited Madeira and the Canary Islands and sailed down the African coast to São Jorge da Mina. By his marriage to Felipa Perestrello e Moniz, member of an Italian-Portuguese noble family, he gained access to the Portuguese and Castilian royal courts.
Columbus became convinced that Asia could be reached by sailing west from Europe, based on rumors of undiscovered islands in the Atlantic, unusual objects found on Atlantic shores, and a wide reading of geography and other sources. He believed that the Earth's circumference was smaller than it is and that Asia would not be too far west from Europe.
After failing to interest the Portuguese king John II in his scheme for a westward passage to Asia, Columbus went to Spain. The Spanish monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand, assigned experts to investigate the feasibility of a westward voyage. They disputed Columbus's flawed geography, but the spherical shape of the world was never in question. In early 1492, the monarchs, disregarding the skepticism of their experts, agreed to help support Columbus's first voyage at a modest financial risk. They promised to grant him noble status and the titles of admiral, viceroy, and governor-general for any lands he might discover.
With the support of the prominent mariner Martín Alonso Pinzón, Columbus outfitted three vessels for the voyage: the Niña, Pinta, and Mariagalante (Santa María). Leaving in early August of 1492, the fleet sailed first to the Canary Islands and then headed westward with following winds. Columbus and the other pilots in the fleet navigated by dead reckoning, estimating direction by compass, time by sand clock, and speed by eye and feel to plot their course and position.
Early on 12 October the fleet dropped anchor at an island that Columbus renamed San Salvador. Believing they were in Asia, the crew called the natives "Indians." Shortly thereafter, Martín Alonso Pinzón took the Pinta and sailed off to explore and trade on his own. Columbus visited Cuba, vainly seeking the vast commerce and rich ports of Asia, and then sailed to the island he named Hispaniola and explored its northern coast. After the Mariagalante ran aground and wrecked, Columbus founded a settlement for the thirty-nine men he left behind. After Pinzón returned, the Ninña and Pinta set sail for Spain, with seven captured Indians aboard.
Columbus made three other voyages to the Caribbean islands and the mainland of Central and South America. During the second and third he was required to act as a colonial administrator as well as an explorer; his limited administrative skills contributed to growing chaos. A royal investigator arrested Columbus and sent him back to Spain, thus ending his third voyage. The Spanish monarchs allowed him to keep his property, but his titles were thereafter devoid of authority, as the monarchs established a new colonial administration.
On his fourth and final voyage, Columbus mainly explored the coast of Central America, where he encountered fierce local resistance. Turning back, he grounded his two remaining worn-out vessels on the Jamaican coast and spent a miserable year before being rescued. Broken in health, he arrived in Spain on 7 November 1504.
Columbus made every effort to have all his grants and titles restored. Even without them, he was a wealthy man, but he felt betrayed and slighted by his royal patrons. For their part, the Spanish sovereigns justified their withdrawal of support by citing Columbus's mismanagement. Surrounded by family and friends, Columbus died in 1506, rich but dissatisfied. As a man of his time, Columbus was strongly influenced by contemporary norms and beliefs about commerce, religion, and science. Deeply religious, he hoped to supply funds to recapture Jerusalem from the Muslims, in fulfillment of Christian crusading ideas and millenarian prophecies. At the same time, he was a shrewd businessman and used geographical and scientific works in newly available printed editions, making scientific observations of sea and wind and flora and fauna. He attempted to calculate longitude, noted the difference between true and magnetic north, and accurately predicted a lunar eclipse. Instead of finding a new route to Asia, Columbus made the lands and peoples of the Western Hemisphere known to Europeans and set in motion a chain of events that engendered today's close connections among all the world's societies.
See also Cartography and Geography ; Colonialism ; Europe and the World ; Exploration ; Shipbuilding and Navigation ; Spanish Colonies: The Caribbean .
Columbus, Christopher. Textos y documentos completos, nuevas cartas. Edited by Consuelo Varela and Juan Gil. Madrid, 1992.
Henige, David. In Search of Columbus: The Sources for the First Voyage. Tucson, Ariz., 1991.
Phillips, William D., Jr., and Carla Rahn Phillips. The Worlds of Christopher Columbus. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1992.
William D. Phillips, Jr.
PHILLIPS,, WILLIAM D.. "Columbus, Christopher." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404900249.html
PHILLIPS,, WILLIAM D.. "Columbus, Christopher." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. 2004. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404900249.html
Columbus, Christopher (1451-1506)
Christopher Columbus (1451-1506)
Judging the Man. The quincentennial, or 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in America in 1992, raised many new questions about the man. Once nearly universally regarded as a hero, Columbus today also conjures up brutality, violence, and the destruction of Native Americans and their culture. However, rather than rushing to judgment one way or another, we need to consider him in the context of his times.
Background. For a long time historians believed that Columbus was the son of a poor Genoese weaver and that before going to sea he had been a trader of African slaves in Spain. His marriage to the daughter of a prominent Lisbon merchant gave him many connections to the royal court. More recently other scholars have argued that Columbus was too prominent to have come from such humble beginnings.
Gold and Christianity. Part of Columbus’s desire to explore was to bring Christianity to the world’s peoples. He firmly believed, inspired by the prophecies in the Book of Isaiah, that the second coming of Christ would not be realized until every last individual was converted to Christianity. One of Columbus’s goals was to personally deliver the Christian message. Ultimately he strove to bring enough gold back from his voyage to finance the final Crusade, the one that would achieve the Christianization of the whole world. Queen Isabella was convinced by Columbus’s reasoning, and even though the Spanish Crown was impoverished, she agreed to fund his first voyage. Of course, gaining wealth, power, and fame was also a part of Columbus’s agenda.
First Voyage. Seven weeks after going to sea in three small boats with a crew of about ninety men, Columbus landed in the Bahamas on 12 October 1492. He promptly erected two banners of the Green Cross, one each for Ferdinand and Isabella. He named the land San Salvador, or “Holy Savior.” The Indies were, to him, paradise, and he spent the next ten weeks exploring the Caribbean, including parts of present-day Haiti, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. Columbus returned with spices, slaves, and a small amount of gold. On his return voyage he authored a pamphlet extolling the lands he had found. They were, he exclaimed, filled with amiable natives and vast riches.
Second Voyage. Columbus returned to the New World for a second time in 1494. This second voyage witnessed not the conversion of the Native Americans as much as, in the words of one historian, “the true beginning of the invasion of the Americas.” An epidemic hit many of Columbus’s crew, and the Grand Admiral of the Ocean Sea also fell ill for months. As he lay sick, despite his personal promise to Ferdinand and Isabella not to be violent toward the natives, many of his soldiers used the opportunity not to proselytize but to wander freely, abusing and killing as many as fifty thousand Native Americans. Violence and murder were a part of Spanish culture; fifteenth-century Spain was a brutal place in which the questioning of heretics—and swift, severe punishment if they were found guilty but did not confess—famine, and disease were parts of normal life. However, Columbus’s men no doubt felt justified in their marauding by the fact that their victims were not Christians but “beasts.”
Book of Prophecies. Toward the end of his life, in 1500, after returning from his third voyage, Columbus composed the Book of Prophecies. This collection of thoughts, commentary, and biblical passages was an appeal to the Spanish monarchy to regain Jerusalem from Muslim control and affirmed that recovering the Holy City and finding and converting the native peoples he had discovered would lead to the second coming of Christ. Columbus placed himself squarely in this holy history which intended to show the schema of the salvation of the human race. Columbus was certain, he wrote Ferdinand and Isabella in 1503 from Jamaica, that Jerusalem would be rebuilt by a Christian and that “this person would come from Spain.” He appealed to the monarchs to continue to support his voyages to enable him to find more gold and thus be able to liberate the Holy City.
Legacy. In considering Columbus’s legacy, we must also consider that he acted in the name of religion. He believed he was directed by divine guidance on all of his voyages. To Columbus, religion and the less-than-benevolent treatment of the Native Americans were not necessarily mutually exclusive. If such brutality led to greater riches for Spain, it could use this wealth to effect more conversions, according to his thinking.
Roberto Rusconi, ed., The Book of Prophecies edited by Christopher Columbus (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997);
Margarita Zamora, Reading Columbus (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).
"Columbus, Christopher (1451-1506)." American Eras. 1997. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2536600141.html
"Columbus, Christopher (1451-1506)." American Eras. 1997. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2536600141.html
"Columbus, Christopher." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O142-ColumbusChristopher.html
"Columbus, Christopher." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O142-ColumbusChristopher.html
1. (Christophe Colomb). Opera in 2 acts (27 scenes) by Milhaud to lib. by Paul Claudel. Comp. 1928. Prod. Berlin 1930. Paris (concert version) 1936. Uses cinema screen. Operas on this subject also by Ottoboni, Morlacchi, and Egk.
2. Early ov. by Wagner intended for play by Apel, comp. 1834–5, f.p. Leipzig 1835.
3. Incidental mus. by Walton (unpubd.) for radio play by Louis MacNeice broadcast BBC Oct. 1942.
4. The Voyage. Opera in 3 acts by Glass to lib. by D. H. Hwang. F.p. NY Met 1992. Commissioned by Met to commemorate 500th anniversary of Columbus's arrival in America.
5. Cristoforo Colombo. Opera in 4 acts by Franchetti to lib. by Illica. Comp. 1891–2, rev. 1922. F.p. Genoa 1892. Commissioned by Genoa, on Verdi's recommendation, to mark 400th anniversary of discovery of America.
MICHAEL KENNEDY and JOYCE BOURNE. "Christopher Columbus." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. 1996. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O76-ChristopherColumbus.html
MICHAEL KENNEDY and JOYCE BOURNE. "Christopher Columbus." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. 1996. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O76-ChristopherColumbus.html
Columbus Day in the US, a legal holiday commemorating the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492. It is observed by most states on the second Monday of October.
ELIZABETH KNOWLES. "Columbus, Christopher." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 2006. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O214-ColumbusChristopher.html
ELIZABETH KNOWLES. "Columbus, Christopher." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 2006. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O214-ColumbusChristopher.html
(b. Genoa, Italy, 1451 [?]; d. Valladolid, Spain, 20 May 1506),
For a detailed study of his life and work, see Supplement.
"Columbus, Christopher." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2830900957.html
"Columbus, Christopher." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 2008. Retrieved May 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2830900957.html