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 Christopher Columbus Biography and Life Story

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مُساهمةموضوع: Christopher Columbus Biography and Life Story   الأربعاء يونيو 10, 2009 8:01 am



The Early Life of Christopher Columbus

There is a debate over the date and place of birth of Christopher Columbus, but it is generally accepted that he was born in Genoa, Italy in 1451. His father was Domenico Colombo who worked as a wool weaver His mother was Susanna Fontanarossa. He had three brothers, Bartolomeo, Giovanni Pelligrino and Giacomo.

Most of the information about Columbus’ early life and childhood is unavailable, and we can only rely on accounts taken from his writings. Columbus claims in one of his journals that he had gone to the sea as early as the age of 10.

History of Europe and the Christopher Columbus Story

Europe had an established land route to Asia (China and India) under the Mongol Empire. Both these countries were vital sources of silk, spices and opiates. With the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman Empire made the land route and the route via the Red Sea respectively, extremely difficult for the Europeans.

It was then that the Portuguese sailors began sailing around Africa to reach Asia. This was an eastward route.

What Columbus proposed was a westward route to reach Asia.

He calculated the distance based on Marinus of Tyre and judged the circumference of the Earth to be approximately 25,000 kilometers. Experts, however, did not agree with him. Based on the calculations of Eratosthenes, the circumference of the Earth was held to be 40,000 kilometers and thus any distance westward would be too long. Most ships of the day would therefore be unable to carry the necessary supplies of fresh water and food for that long a distance.

The Life of Christopher Columbus: The Voyages

In 1485, Columbus made an appeal to King John II of Portugal to fund his voyages. Along with this request he also asked to be made a "Great Admiral of the Ocean", be made the Governor of all the lands he would discover and be given a tenth of the revenue from these lands. This proposal was considered by the experts of the court and was rejected.

In 1488 he made another appeal, but in vain. He also appealed to Genoa and Venice, but returned empty handed from both these places.

He had also made an appeal to Henry VII of England via his brother. But before Henry VII’s agreement to the plans could reach Columbus, he had already committed himself to Spain.

King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile had married and united the two largest kingdoms of Spain and were ruling it together. He appealed to them in 1486 and they too submitted his ideas to the court experts. These experts also judged his distance calculations to be far too short. But in order to retain Columbus, they endowed him with an annual annuity and a letter that ordered all the Spanish cities and towns to provide him with free lodging and food.

Finally in 1492, he succeeded in getting the agreement of the King and Queen to proceed on his voyages. The contract between them made Columbus the "Admiral of the Seas" and made him the Viceroy and Governor of the new lands. He would also get an option to buy one-eighth of the interest in any commercial venture with the new lands and get one-eighth of the profits.

On the 3rd of August, 1492, Columbus finally departed for his voyage in 3 ships named: Santa Maria, Pinta and Santa Clara. He then sailed to the Canary Islands, restocked his provisions and made repairs. The voyage continued. In October, an island was sighted and named San Salvador. This is the present day Bahamas. He then came to Cuba and Hispaniola. The Santa Maria ran aground at Hispaniola on Christmas Day. He was forced to spend a week in Lisbon due to a storm and finally returned to Spain in 1493. He then proceeded to make extravagant descriptions of the islands that he had discovered in the court.

His second voyage began on the 24th of September, 1493 and he set sail from Cadiz. This time, he had 17 ships containing about 1200 men to colonize the islands he had discovered. This time too he stocked up at the Canary Islands before he moved on. He named the Dominica in November 1943, landed at Santa Maria la Galante, then sailed past Les Saintes, and arrived at Guadeloupe. He then turned his course northwards, sighted and named Montserrat, Antigua, Redonda, Nevis, Saint Kitts, Sint Eustatius, Saba, Saint Martin, Saint Croix, and the Virgin Islands. In 1493, he landed at Puerto Rico.

Columbus then returned to Spain via Hispaniola, Cuba, Jamaica and Hispaniola again.

On the 30th May, 1498, he undertook his third voyage with 6 ships and sailed from Sanlucar in Spain. He then went to Porto Santo, Madeira, Canary Islands and then to Cape Verde. In July, he landed on the island of Trinidad and in August in the Gulf of Paria. After exploring the mainland of South America, he set sail to Margarita Island from where he sailed to Tobago and Grenada. In August he returned to Hispaniola to find his Spanish settlers discontented. They had discovered that they had been misled by Colombo’s exaggerated versions of the riches prevalent on these islands.

He even hanged a few of his crew members for disobedience. Upon his return to Spain, several settlers complained against him and his brothers for mismanagement.

Biography of Christopher Columbus: Imprisonment, Fourth Voyage and Death

With three voyages behind him and age finally catching up with him, Columbus in his 50s, was suffering from arthritis and opthalmia. In 1499, he sent a request to the King of Spain to send him a Royal Commissioner to help govern the territories. The Commissioner, Francisco de Bobadilla arrived in 1500 when Columbus was away. This gave the disgruntled settlers an opportunity to complain about Columbus’ and his brothers’ atrocities. Upon his return, Columbus and his brothers were chained and sent back to Spain as prisoners.

After being in jail for over 6 weeks, King Ferdinand finally had them released and then some time later, the King and the Queen had an audience with Columbus and his brothers. Their freedom and wealth were thereafter restored, and a fourth voyage was planned.

However, this time Columbus did not gain any permission to become Governor of the lands.

In May 1502, Columbus sailed once more with 4 ships. He went to Arzilla and then on to Cabaret on the island of Martinique, and intended to head on towards Hispaniola because a storm was brewing. But he was denied shelter at Santo Domingo and so his ships sheltered at the mouth of the Rio Jaina. Ignoring Columbus’ predictions of a storm, the governor sent the first Spanish treasure fleet which then drowned, taking 500 lives and a cargo of gold.

Thereafter, Columbus sailed to Jamaica, Central America, the Bay Islands, and finally arrived at Honduras in July. There he explored Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica before heading off again to Panama where he arrived in October. After surviving a great storm in December, the crew began to explore Panama. In May 1503, he sighted the Cayman Islands but on their way to Hispaniola, the ships sustained a lot of damage.

The ships and crew were stranded on Jamaica for over a year while some sailors paddled to Hispaniola in a canoe in search for help. The governor refused to help them. Meanwhile, his men were starving. So Columbus used the Ephemeris of the German astronomer Regiomontanus and predicted a lunar eclipse correctly. Finally, help arrived in 1504, and Columbus and his men returned to Sanlucar in Spain in November 1504.

Christopher Columbus died on the 20th of May, 1506. Till the end of his days he kept demanding for his 10% share of profits, which the King and Queen denied him since he had been stripped of Governorship. He also died convinced that his journeys had taken him to the east coast of Asia. His remains are preserved in the Cathedral of Seville in Spain borne by four statues representing the Kingdoms of Navarre, Castille, Aragon and Leon.

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