Vasco da Gama
Vasco da Gama (1460 or 1469 – 24 December 1524), 1st Count of Vidigueira, was a Portuguese explorer, one of the most successful in the Age of Discovery and the commander of the first ships to sail directly from Europe to India. He is one of the most famous and celebrated explorers from the Discovery Ages, being the first European to reach India through sea. This discovery was very significant and paved the way for the Portuguese to establish a long lasting colonial empire in Asia. The route meant that the Portuguese wouldn't need to cross the highly disputed Mediterranean nor the dangerous Arabia, and that the whole voyage would be made by sea. After decades of sailors trying to reach India with thousands of lives and dozens of vessels lost in shipwrecks and attacks, Gama landed in Calicuton 20 May 1498. Reaching the legendary Indian spice routes unopposed helped the Portuguese Empire improve its economy that, until Gama, was mainly based on trades along the Northern and coastal West Africa. These spices were mostly pepper and cinnamon at first, but soon included other products, all new to Europe which led to a commercial monopoly for several decades. Gama headed two of the armadas destined for India, the first and the fourth, the biggest armada, only four years after his arrival from the first one. For his contributions he was named in 1524 as the Governor of India, under the title of Viceroy, and given the newly created County of Vidigueira in 1519. Numerous homages have been made worldwide in Vasco da Gama's honour for his explorations and accomplishments. He remains as a leading exploration figure to this day. The Portuguese national epic, Os Lusíadas, was written to celebrate Vasco da Gama. His first trip to India is widely considered a pinnacle of world history as it marked the beginning of the first wave of global multiculturalism.
The Origin of Vasco da Gama
Vasco da Gama was born 1460 or 1469 in Sines, on the southwest coast of Portugal, probably in a house near the church of Nossa Senhora das Salas. Sines, one of the few seaports on the Alentejo coast, consisted of little more than a cluster of whitewashed, red-tiled cottages, tenanted chiefly by fisherfolk. Vasco da Gama's father was Estêvão da Gama, who had served in the 1460s as a knight of the household of Infante Ferdinand, Duke of Viseu[ ] and went on to rise in the ranks of the military Order of Santiago. Estêvão da Gama was appointed alcaide-mór (civil governor) of Sines in the 1460s, a post he held until 1478, and continued as a receiver of taxes and holder of the Order's commendas in the region. Estêvão da Gama married Isabel Sodré, a daughter of João Sodré (also known as João de Resende), scion of a well-connected family of English origin.] Her father and her brothers, Vicente Sodré and Brás Sodré, had links to the household of Infante Diogo, Duke of Viseu and were prominent figures in the military Order of Christ. Vasco da Gama was the third of five sons of Estêvão da Gama and Isabel Sodré - in (probable) order of age: Paulo da Gama, João Sodré, Vasco da Gama, Pedro da Gama and Aires da Gama. Vasco also had one known sister, Teresa da Gama (who married Lopo Mendes de Vasconcelos). Little is known of Vasco da Gama's early life. The Portuguese historian Teixeira de Aragão suggests that Vasco da Gama studied at the inland town of Évora, which is where he may have learned mathematics and navigation and it has even been claimed (although dubiously) that he studied under the astronomer Abraham Zacuto. Around 1480, Vasco da Gama followed his father (rather than the Sodrés) and joined the Order of Santiago. The master of Santiago was Prince John, who would ascend to the throne in 1481 as King John II of Portugal. John II doted on the Order, and the Gamas prospects rose accordingly. In 1492, John II dispatched Vasco da Gama on a mission to the port of Setúbal and to the Algarve to seize French ships in retaliation for peacetime...
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