One of the greatest explorers of all time, Columbus was most renowned for discovering America. However his death went barely acknowledged. How much of his life was fact, how much fortune did he return with and has time and history painted an image greater than the man.
Christopher Columbus was born in the port city of Genoa, Italy. Although scholars are unsure sure of his exact date of birth, history generally recognizes that his birth took place between August 25 and October 31, 1451. Columbus was born to an affluent wool weaving family, his father Domenico Colombo, Colombo is the Italian spelling of Columbus, and his mother Suzanna Fontanarossa. He was the eldest of five children, three brothers, Bartholomew, Giovanni Pellegrino and Giaccomo and had only one sister Bianchinetta. 1 At the age of 19 the entire family moved from Genoa to another little port city called Savona, Italy. 2 He moved to Spain at the age of 34 in 1485. 3 Much of Columbus’ life is shrouded in mystery. From the date of his birth to the amount of schooling he received as a child, to the final resting place of his remains historians are simply not sure. It is even claimed that he was, at the age of 21 a privateer. “Columbus’s son Ferdinand stated in History of the Life and Deeds of Christopher Columbus that in 1472 Columbus was given command of a ship on a privateering expedition to Tunis in northern Africa. In a lost letter, Columbus supposedly related to his son how René I, duke of the French province of Anjou, had commissioned Columbus to make a surprise attack on a large Spanish ship sailing off the coast of North Africa.” 4 However Ferdinand’s claim is the only proof available and the claim is largely believed to be false. There is a lot of information that is well known, and well documented. Christopher Columbus completed four sea voyages. Starting with his most famous in 1492 and ending in 1506. Although he took to the sea at the age of 14 he was not commissioned to his own ship until much later. At the age of 41 he made his historic voyage to the new world. Although Columbus is given credit for discovering America it was not named for him, it was named after Amerigo Vespucci. “The name America was given to the Western Hemisphere by European writers and mapmakers after Columbus's death. Nothing in their experiences had led the first explorers to realize that they had come into contact with a vast and unrecorded continent, many times the size of Europe. Previously there had been no accounts, or even rumors, of the "unknown" peoples of this "new" continent in European scholarly literature and discussion or in popular chronicles.” 5 If Christopher Columbus had one true purpose, it was not to find the new land or even riches for King Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella I. His true calling which led him to the sea was to travel to the East by going west. He wanted to find a direct trade route to Asia, and to explore the region discovered by Marco Polo. His obsession to find this region was so intense it actually led him to believe that Cuba was part of Asia. In an ironic twist of fate, the closest Columbus would ever come to reaching Asia was on one of his earliest voyages. In 1474 Columbus, hired on as a sailor, set off for Khios, an island in the Aegean, this was to be the first long voyage Columbus would ever take and the closest he ever came to Asia. 6 Columbus spent a year on this island and was able to become economically independent from his family. 7 To truly understand why someone would be obsessed with finding a direct trade route to Asia, you must understand why this was necessary. “The event that had the most far reaching effects on Europe in the 15th Century was the fall of the city of Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey) to the Muslim Ottoman Empire. Constantinople had been the capital of the Orthodox Christian Byzantine Empire for centuries, and it was an important center for trade...
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