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[details=Please don’t open unless you want to scroll down for a couple years.]Christopher Columbus[a] (c. 1451 – 20 May 1506) was an Italian explorer, navigator, and colonizer. Born in the Republic of Genoa, under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean. Those voyages and his efforts to establish settlements on the island of Hispaniola initiated the permanent European colonization of the New World.
At a time when European kingdoms were beginning to establish new trade routes and colonies, motivated by imperialism and economic competition, Columbus proposed to reach the East Indies by sailing westward. This eventually received the support of the Spanish Crown, which saw a chance to enter the spice trade with Asia through this new route. During his first voyage in 1492, he reached the New World instead of arriving at Japan as he had intended, landing on an island in the Bahamas archipelago that he named “San Salvador”. Over the course of three more voyages, he visited the Greater and Lesser Antilles, as well as the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and Central America, claiming all of it for the Crown of Castile.
Columbus was not the first European explorer to reach the Americas, having been preceded by the Viking expedition led by Leif Erikson in the 11th century, but his voyages led to the first lasting European contact with the Americas, inaugurating a period of exploration, conquest, and colonization that lasted several centuries. These voyages thus had an enormous effect on the historical development of the modern Western world. He spearheaded the transatlantic slave trade and has been accused by several historians of initiating the genocide of the Hispaniola natives. Columbus himself saw his accomplishments primarily in the light of spreading the Christian religion.
Columbus never admitted that he had reached a continent previously unknown to Europeans, rather than the East Indies for which he had set course. He called the inhabitants of the lands that he visited indios (Spanish for “Indians”). His strained relationship with the Spanish crown and its appointed colonial administrators in America led to his arrest and dismissal as governor of the settlements on the island of Hispaniola in 1500, and later to protracted litigation over the benefits that he and his heirs claimed were owed to them by the crown.
1 Early life
2 Quest for Asia
2.2 Geographical considerations
2.3 Nautical considerations
2.4 Quest for financial support for a voyage
2.5 Agreement with the Spanish crown
3.1 First voyage
3.2 Second voyage
3.3 Third voyage
3.4 Fourth voyage
4 Accusations of tyranny during governorship
5 Later life
6 Illness and death
8.2 Flat Earth mythology
8.3 America as a distinct land
8.4 Criticism in modern scholarship
9 Physical appearance
10 See also
13 Further reading
14 External links
For more details on Columbus’s birthplace and family background, see Origin theories of Christopher Columbus.
Christopher Columbus at the gates of the monastery of Santa María de la Rábida with his son Diego, by Benet Mercadé
The name Christopher Columbus is the Anglicisation of the Latin Christophorus Columbus. His name in Italian is Cristoforo Colombo and, in Spanish, it is Cristóbal Colón. He was born before 31 October 1451 in the territory of the Republic of Genoa (now part of modern Italy), though the exact location remains disputed.[b] His father was Domenico Colombo, a middle-class wool weaver who worked both in Genoa and Savona and who also owned a cheese stand at which young Christopher worked as a helper. His mother was Susanna Fontanarossa. Bartolomeo, Giovanni Pellegrino, and Giacomo were his brothers. Bartolomeo worked in a cartography workshop in Lisbon for at least part of his adulthood. He also had a sister named Bianchinetta.
Columbus never wrote in his native language, which is presumed to have been a Genoese variety of Ligurian (his name would translate in the 16th-century Genoese language as Christoffa Corombo pron. Ligurian pronunciation: [kriˈʃtɔffa kuˈɹuŋbu]). In one of his writings, he says he went to sea at the age of 10. In 1470, the Columbus family moved to Savona, where Domenico took over a tavern. In the same year, Christopher was on a Genoese ship hired in the service of René of Anjou to support his attempt to conquer the Kingdom of Naples. Some modern historians have argued that he was not from Genoa but, instead, from the Aragon region of Spain or from Portugal. These competing hypotheses have generally been discounted by mainstream scholars.
Columbus’s handwritten notes in Latin, on the margins of his copy of The Travels of Marco Polo
In 1473, Columbus began his apprenticeship as business agent for the important Centurione, Di Negro and Spinola families of Genoa. Later, he allegedly made a trip to Chios, an Aegean island then ruled by Genoa. In May 1476, he took part in an armed convoy sent by Genoa to carry valuable cargo to northern Europe. He docked in Bristol, England and Galway, Ireland. In 1477, he was possibly in Iceland. In the autumn of 1477, he sailed on a Portuguese ship from Galway to Lisbon, where he found his brother Bartolomeo, and they continued trading for the Centurione family. Columbus based himself in Lisbon from 1477 to 1485. He married Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, daughter of the Porto Santo governor and Portuguese nobleman of Lombard origin Bartolomeu Perestrello.
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 Elmina at the Guinea coast. Some records report that Filipa died sometime around 1485, while Columbus was away in Castile. He returned to Portugal to settle her estate and take his son Diego with him. He had left Portugal for Castile in 1485, where he found a mistress in 1487, a 20-year-old orphan named Beatriz Enríquez de Arana. It is likely that Beatriz met Columbus when he was in Córdoba, a gathering site of many Genoese merchants and where the court of the Catholic monarchs was located at intervals. Beatriz, unmarried at the time, gave birth to Columbus’s natural son Fernando Columbus in July 1488, named for the monarch of Aragón. Columbus recognized the boy as his offspring. Columbus entrusted his older, legitimate son Diego to take care of Beatriz and pay the pension set aside for her following his death, but Diego was negligent in his duties.
Ambitious, Columbus eventually learned Latin, Portuguese, and Castilian. He read widely about astronomy, geography, and history, including the works of Claudius Ptolemy, Cardinal Pierre d’Ailly’s Imago Mundi, 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 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, …
Throughout his life, Columbus also showed a keen interest in the Bible and in Biblical prophecies, often quoting 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 (Ezra): see 2 Esdras 6:42, which he took to mean that the Earth is made of six parts of land to one of water. Towards the end of his life, he produced a Book of Prophecies in which his career as an explorer is interpreted in the light of Christian eschatology and of apocalypticism.
Quest for Asia
“Columbus map”, drawn c. 1490 in the Lisbon workshop of Bartolomeo and Christopher Columbus
Under the Mongol Empire’s hegemony over Asia (the Pax Mongolica, or Mongol peace), Europeans had long enjoyed a safe land passage, the Silk Road, to the Indies (then construed roughly as all of south and east Asia) and China, which were sources of valuable goods such as spices and silk. With the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the land route to Asia became much more difficult and dangerous. Portuguese navigators tried to find a sea way to Asia.
In 1470, the Florentine astronomer Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli suggested to King Afonso V of Portugal that sailing west would be a quicker way to reach the Spice Islands, Cathay, and Cipangu than the route around Africa. Afonso rejected his proposal. Portuguese explorers, under the leadership of King John II, then developed the Cape Route to Asia around Africa. Major progress in this quest was achieved in 1488, when Bartolomeu Dias reached the Cape of Good Hope, in what is now South Africa. Meanwhile, in the 1480s, the Columbus brothers had picked up Toscanelli’s suggestion and proposed a plan to reach the Indies by sailing west across the “Ocean Sea”, i.e., the Atlantic. However, Dias’s discovery had shifted the interests of Portuguese seafaring to the southeast passage, which complicated Columbus’s proposals significantly.
Washington Irving’s 1828 biography of Columbus popularized the idea that Columbus had difficulty obtaining support for his plan because many Catholic theologians insisted that the Earth was flat. In fact, nearly all educated Westerners had understood, at least since the time of Aristotle, that the Earth is spherical. The sphericity of the Earth is also accounted for in the work of Ptolemy, on which medieval astronomy was largely based. Christian writers whose works clearly reflect the conviction that the Earth is spherical include Saint Bede the Venerable in his Reckoning of Time, written around AD 723. In Columbus’s time, the techniques of celestial navigation, which use the position of the sun and the stars in the sky, together with the understanding that the Earth is a sphere, had long been in use by astronomers and were beginning to be implemented by mariners.
As far back as the 3rd century BC, Eratosthenes had correctly computed the circumference of the Earth by using simple geometry and studying the shadows cast by objects at two different locations: Alexandria and Syene (modern-day Aswan). Eratosthenes’s results were confirmed by a comparison of stellar observations at Alexandria and Rhodes, carried out by Posidonius in the 1st century BC. These measurements were widely known among scholars, but confusion about the old-fashioned units of distance in which they were expressed had led, in Columbus’s day, to some debate about the exact size of the Earth.
Toscanelli’s notions of the geography of the Atlantic Ocean (shown superimposed on a modern map), which directly influenced Columbus’s plans.
From d’Ailly’s Imago Mundi Columbus learned of Alfraganus’s estimate that a degree of latitude (or a degree of longitude along the equator) spanned 56⅔ miles, but did not realize that this was expressed in the Arabic mile rather than the shorter Roman mile with which he was familiar (1,480 m). He therefore estimated the circumference of the Earth to be about 30,200 km, whereas the correct value is 40,000 km (25,000 mi).
Furthermore, most scholars accepted Ptolemy’s estimate that Eurasia spanned 180° longitude, rather than the actual 130° (to the Chinese mainland) or 150° (to Japan at the latitude of Spain). Columbus, for his part, believed the even higher estimate of Marinus of Tyre, which put the longitudinal span of the Eurasian landmass at 225°, leaving only 135° of water. He also believed that Japan (which he called “Cipangu”, following Marco Polo) was much larger, farther to the east from China (“Cathay”), and closer to the equator than it is, and that there were inhabited islands even farther to the east than Japan, including the mythical Antillia, which he thought might lie not much farther to the west than the Azores. In this, he was influenced by the ideas of Florentine astronomer Toscanelli, who corresponded with Columbus before his death in 1482 and who also defended the feasibility of a westward route to Asia.
Columbus therefore estimated the distance from the Canary Islands to Japan to be about 3,000 Italian miles (3,700 km, or 2,300 statute miles). The true figure is now known to be vastly larger: about 20,000 km.[c] No ship in the 15th century could have carried enough food and fresh water for such a long voyage, and the dangers involved in navigating through the uncharted ocean would have been formidable. Most European navigators reasonably concluded that a westward voyage from Europe to Asia was unfeasible. The Catholic Monarchs, however, having completed an expensive war in the Iberian Peninsula, were eager to obtain a competitive edge over other European countries in the quest for trade with the Indies. Columbus’s project, though far-fetched, held the promise of such an advantage.
Though Columbus was wrong about the number of degrees of longitude that separated Europe from the Far East and about the distance that each degree represented, he did possess valuable knowledge about the trade winds, which would prove to be the key to his successful navigation of the Atlantic Ocean. During his first voyage in 1492, the brisk trade winds from the east, commonly called “easterlies”, propelled Columbus’s fleet for five weeks, from the Canary Islands to The Bahamas. The precise first land sighting and landing point was San Salvador Island. To return to Spain against this prevailing wind would have required several months of an arduous sailing technique, called beating, during which food and drinkable water would probably have been exhausted.
Instead, Columbus returned home by following the curving trade winds northeastward to the middle latitudes of the North Atlantic, where he was able to catch the “westerlies” that blow eastward to the coast of Western Europe. There, in turn, the winds curve southward towards the Iberian Peninsula.
It is unclear whether Columbus learned about the winds from his own sailing experience or if he had heard about them from others. The corresponding technique for efficient travel in the Atlantic appears to have been exploited first by the Portuguese, who referred to it as the Volta do mar (“turn of the sea”). Columbus’s knowledge of the Atlantic wind patterns was, however, imperfect at the time of his first voyage. By sailing directly due west from the Canary Islands during hurricane season, skirting the so-called horse latitudes of the mid-Atlantic, Columbus risked either being becalmed or running into a tropical cyclone, both of which, by chance, he avoided.
Quest for financial support for a voyage
Columbus offers his services to the King of Portugal; Chodowiecki, 17th c.
In 1485, Columbus presented his plans to King John II of Portugal. He proposed that the king equip three sturdy ships and grant Columbus one year’s time to sail out into the Atlantic, search for a western route to the Orient, and return. Columbus also requested he be made “Great Admiral of the Ocean”, appointed governor of any and all lands he discovered, and given one-tenth of all revenue from those lands. The king submitted Columbus’s proposal to his experts, who rejected it. It was their considered opinion that Columbus’s estimation of a travel distance of 2,400 miles (3,860 km) was, in fact, far too low.
In 1488, Columbus appealed to the court of Portugal once again and, once again, John II invited him to an audience. That meeting also proved unsuccessful, in part because not long afterwards Bartolomeu Dias returned to Portugal with news of his successful rounding of the southern tip of Africa (near the Cape of Good Hope). With an eastern sea route to Asia apparently at hand, King John was no longer interested in Columbus’s far-fetched project.
Columbus before the Queen, as imagined by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, 1843
Columbus traveled from Portugal to both Genoa and Venice, but he received encouragement from neither. He had also dispatched his brother Bartholomew to the court of Henry VII of England to inquire whether the English crown might sponsor his expedition, but also without success.
Columbus had sought an audience from the monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, who had united several kingdoms in the Iberian Peninsula by marrying and were ruling together. On 1 May 1486, permission having been granted, Columbus presented his plans to Queen Isabella, who, in turn, referred it to a committee. After the passing of much time, the savants of Spain, like their counterparts in Portugal, replied that Columbus had grossly underestimated the distance to Asia. They pronounced the idea impractical and advised their Royal Highnesses to pass on the proposed venture.
However, to keep Columbus from taking his ideas elsewhere, and perhaps to keep their options open, the Catholic Monarchs gave him an annual allowance of 12,000 maravedis and, in 1489, furnished him with a letter ordering all cities and towns under their domain to provide him food and lodging at no cost.
Agreement with the Spanish crown
The Flagship of Columbus and the Fleet of Columbus
400th Anniversary Issues of 1893
U.S. stamps reflecting the most commonly held view as to what Columbus’s first fleet might have looked like. The Santa María, the flagship of Columbus’s fleet, was a carrack—a merchant ship of between 400 and 600 tons, 75 feet (23 m) long, with a beam of 25 feet (7.6 m), allowing it to carry more people and cargo. It had a deep draft of 6 feet (1.8 m). The vessel had three masts: a mainmast, a foremast, and a mizzenmast. Five sails altogether were attached to these masts. Each mast carried one large sail. The foresail and mainsail were square; the sail on the mizzen was a triangular sail known as a lateen mizzen. The ship had a smaller topsail on the mainmast above the mainsail and on the foremast above the foresail. In addition, the ship carried a small square sail, a spritsail, on the bowsprit.
After continually lobbying at the Spanish court and two years of negotiations, he finally had success in January 1492. Ferdinand and Isabella had just conquered Granada, the last Muslim stronghold on the Iberian Peninsula, and they received Columbus in Córdoba, in the Alcázar castle. Isabella turned him down on the advice of her confessor. Columbus was leaving town by mule in despair when Ferdinand intervened. Isabella then sent a royal guard to fetch him, and Ferdinand later claimed credit for being “the principal cause why those islands were discovered”.
In the April 1492 “Capitulations of Santa Fe”, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella promised Columbus that if he succeeded he would be given the rank of Admiral of the Ocean Sea and appointed Viceroy and Governor of all the new lands he could claim for Spain. He had the right to nominate three persons, from whom the sovereigns would choose one, for any office in the new lands. He would be entitled to 10 percent of all the revenues from the new lands in perpetuity. Additionally, he would also have the option of buying one-eighth interest in any commercial venture with the new lands and receive one-eighth of the profits.
Columbus was later arrested in 1500 and dismissed from his posts. He and his sons, Diego and Fernando, then conducted a lengthy series of court cases against the Castilian crown, known as the pleitos colombinos, alleging that the Crown had illegally reneged on its contractual obligations to Columbus and his heirs. The Columbus family had some success in their first litigation, as a judgment of 1511 confirmed Diego’s position as Viceroy, but reduced his powers. Diego resumed litigation in 1512, which lasted until 1536, and further disputes continued until 1790.
Main article: Voyages of Christopher Columbus
The voyages of Christopher Columbus
Between 1492 and 1503, Columbus completed four round-trip voyages between Spain and the Americas, each voyage being sponsored by the Crown of Castile. These voyages marked the beginning of the European exploration and colonization of the American continents, and are thus of enormous significance in Western history.
Columbus always insisted, in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, that the lands that he visited during those voyages were part of the Asian continent, as previously described by Marco Polo and other European travelers. Columbus’s refusal to accept that the lands he had visited and claimed for Spain were not part of Asia might explain, in part, why the American continent was named after the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci and not after Columbus.
First voyage. Modern place names in black, Columbus’s place names in blue
On the evening of 3 August 1492, Columbus departed from Palos de la Frontera with three ships: a larger carrack, the Santa María ex-Gallega (“Galician”), and two smaller caravels, the Pinta (“The Pint”, “The Look”, or “The Spotted One”) and the Santa Clara, nicknamed the Niña (“Girl”) after her owner Juan Niño of Moguer. The monarchs forced the citizens of Palos to contribute to the expedition. The Santa María was owned by Juan de la Cosa and captained by Columbus. The Pinta and the Niña were piloted by the Pinzón brothers (Martín Alonso and Vicente Yáñez).
Columbus first sailed to the Canary Islands, which belonged to Castile. He restocked provisions and made repairs in Gran Canaria, then departed from San Sebastián de La Gomera on 6 September, for what turned out to be a five-week voyage across the ocean. At about 2:00 in the morning of 12 October, a lookout on the Pinta, Rodrigo de Triana (also known as Juan Rodríguez Bermeo), spotted land, and immediately alerted the rest of the crew with a shout. Thereupon, the captain of the Pinta, Martín Alonso Pinzón, verified the discovery and alerted Columbus by firing a lombard. Columbus later maintained that he himself had already seen a light on the land a few hours earlier, thereby claiming for himself the lifetime pension promised by Ferdinand and Isabella to the first person to sight land.
Columbus called the island (in what is now The Bahamas) San Salvador; the natives called it Guanahani. Exactly which island in the Bahamas this corresponds to is unresolved. Based on primary accounts and on what one would expect from the geographic positions of the islands given Columbus’s course, the prime candidates are San Salvador Island (so named in 1925 on the theory that it was Columbus’s San Salvador), Samana Cay, and Plana Cays.
Landing of Columbus (12 October 1492), painting by John Vanderlyn
The indigenous people he encountered, the Lucayan, Taíno, or Arawak, were peaceful and friendly. Noting their gold ear ornaments, Columbus took some of the Arawaks prisoner and insisted that they guide him to the source of the gold. From the entry in his journal of 12 October 1492, in which he wrote of them: “Many of the men I have seen have scars on their bodies, and when I made signs to them to find out how this happened, they indicated that people from other nearby islands come to San Salvador to capture them; they defend themselves the best they can. I believe that people from the mainland come here to take them as slaves. They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them. I think they can very easily be made Christians, for they seem to have no religion. If it pleases our Lord, I will take six of them to Your Highnesses when I depart, in order that they may learn our language.” Columbus remarked that their lack of modern weaponry and metal-forged swords or pikes was a tactical vulnerability, writing, “I could conquer the whole of them with 50 men, and govern them as I pleased.”
Columbus also explored the northeast coast of Cuba, where he landed on 28 October. On 22 November, Martín Alonso Pinzón took the Pinta on an unauthorized expedition in search of an island called “Babeque” or “Baneque”, which the natives had told him was rich in gold. Columbus, for his part, continued to the northern coast of Hispaniola, where he landed on 5 December. There, the Santa María ran aground on Christmas Day 1492 and had to be abandoned. The wreck was used as a target for cannon fire to impress the native peoples. Columbus was received by the native cacique Guacanagari, who gave him permission to leave some of his men behind. Columbus left 39 men, including Luis de Torres, the Converso interpreter, who spoke Hebrew and Arabic, and founded the settlement of La Navidad at the site of present-day Bord de Mer de Limonade, Haiti. Columbus took more natives prisoner and continued his exploration. He kept sailing along the northern coast of Hispaniola with a single ship, until he encountered Pinzón and the Pinta on 6 January.
On 13 January 1493, Columbus made his last stop of this voyage in the New World, in the Bay of Rincón at the eastern end of the Samaná Peninsula in northeast Hispaniola. There he encountered the warlike Cigüayos, the only natives who offered violent resistance during his first voyage to the Americas. The Cigüayos refused to trade the amount of bows and arrows that Columbus desired; in the ensuing clash one Spaniard was stabbed in the buttocks and another wounded with an arrow in his chest. Because of this and because of the Cigüayos’ use of arrows, he called the inlet where he met them the Bay of Arrows (or Gulf of Arrows). Columbus kidnapped about 10 to 25 natives and took them back with him (only seven or eight of the natives arrived in Spain alive).
The return of Christopher Columbus; his audience before King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, painting by Eugène Delacroix
Columbus headed for Spain on the Niña, but a storm separated him from the Pinta, and forced the Niña to stop at the island of Santa Maria in the Azores. Half of his crew went ashore to say prayers in a chapel to give thanks for having survived the storm. But while praying, they were imprisoned by the governor of the island, ostensibly on suspicion of being pirates. After a two-day standoff, the prisoners were released, and Columbus again set sail for Spain.
Another storm forced him into the port at Lisbon. He anchored next to the King’s harbor patrol ship on 4 March 1493 in Portugal and was interviewed by Bartolomeu Dias, whose rounding of the Cape of Good Hope a few years earlier in 1488–1489 had complicated[clarification needed] Columbus’s attempts for funding from the Portuguese court. Not finding King John II of Portugal in Lisbon, Columbus wrote a letter to him and waited for John’s reply. John asked Columbus to go to Vale do Paraíso north of Lisbon to meet him. Relations between Portugal and Castile were poor at the time. Columbus went to meet with John at Vale do Paraíso. Hearing of Columbus’s discoveries, John told him that he believed the voyage to be in violation of the 1479 Treaty of Alcáçovas.
After spending more than a week in Portugal, and paying his respects to Eleanor of Viseu, Columbus again set sail for Spain. Ferdinand Magellan was a young boy and a ward of Eleanor’s court; it is likely he saw Columbus during this visit. After departing, and after reportedly being saved from assassins by King John, Columbus crossed the bar of Saltes and entered the harbor of Palos de la Frontera on 15 March 1493. Word of his finding new lands rapidly spread throughout Europe.
Columbus’s second voyage
Columbus left the port of Cádiz on 24 September 1493, with a fleet of 17 ships carrying 1,200 men and the supplies to establish permanent colonies in the New World. The passengers included priests, farmers, and soldiers, who would be the new colonists. This reflected the new policy of creating not just “colonies of exploitation”, but also “colonies of settlement” from which to launch missions dedicated to converting the natives to Christianity. Modern studies suggest that, as reported by the Washington Post, “crew members may have included free black Africans who arrived in the New World about a decade before the slave trade began.”
As in the first voyage, the fleet stopped at the Canary Islands, from which it departed on 13 October, following a more southerly course than on the previous expedition. On 3 November, Columbus sighted a rugged island that he named Dominica (Latin for Sunday); later that day, he landed at Marie-Galante, which he named Santa María la Galante. After sailing past Les Saintes (Los Santos, “The Saints”), he arrived at the island of Guadeloupe, which he named Santa María de Guadalupe de Extremadura, after the image of the Virgin Mary venerated at the Spanish monastery of Villuercas, in Guadalupe, Cáceres, Spain. He explored that island from 4 to 10 November.
Michele da Cuneo, Columbus’s childhood friend from Savona, sailed with Columbus during the second voyage and wrote: “In my opinion, since Genoa was Genoa, there was never born a man so well equipped and expert in the art of navigation as the said lord Admiral.” Columbus named the small island of “Saona … to honor Michele da Cuneo, his friend from Savona.”
The same childhood friend reported in a letter that Columbus had provided one of the captured indigenous women to him. He wrote, “While I was in the boat, I captured a very beautiful Carib woman, whom the said Lord Admiral gave to me. When I had taken her to my cabin she was naked—as was their custom. I was filled with a desire to take my pleasure with her and attempted to satisfy my desire. She was unwilling, and so treated me with her nails that I wished I had never begun. But—to cut a long story short—I then took a piece of rope and whipped her soundly, and she let forth such incredible screams that you would not have believed your ears. Eventually we came to such terms, I assure you, that you would have thought that she had been brought up in a school for whores.”
The Inspiration of Christopher Columbus by José María Obregón, 1856
Pedro de las Casas, father of the priest Bartolomé de las Casas, also accompanied Columbus on this voyage.
The exact course of Columbus’s voyage through the Lesser Antilles is debated, but it seems likely that he turned north, sighting and naming several islands, including:
Montserrat (for Santa María de Montserrate, after the Blessed Virgin of the Monastery of Montserrat, which is located on the Mountain of Montserrat, in Catalonia, Spain),
Antigua (after a church in Seville, Spain, called Santa María la Antigua, meaning “Old St. Mary’s”),
Redonda (Santa María la Redonda, Spanish for “St. Mary the Round”, owing to the island’s shape),
Nevis (derived from the Spanish Nuestra Señora de las Nieves, “Our Lady of the Snows”, because Columbus thought the clouds over Nevis Peak made the island resemble a snow-capped mountain),
Saint Kitts (for St. Christopher, patron of sailors and travelers),
Sint Eustatius (for the early Roman martyr, St. Eustachius),
Saba (after the Biblical Queen of Sheba),
Saint Martin (San Martín), and
Saint Croix (from the Spanish Santa Cruz, meaning “Holy Cross”).
Columbus also sighted the chain of the Virgin Islands, which he named Islas de Santa Úrsula y las Once Mil Vírgenes, “Islands of Saint Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins” (shortened, both on maps of the time and in common parlance, to Islas Vírgenes). He also named the islands of Virgin Gorda (“Fat Virgin”), Tortola, and Peter Island (San Pedro).
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