Christophorus Columus Ligur Indiarum Prim invet A°1492
$500 / ≈ €435
Columbus was an explorer, colonizer, and navigator, born in the Republic of Genoa, in north-western Italy. Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that led to general European awareness of the American continents in the Western Hemisphere. Those voyages, and his efforts to establish permanent settlements in the island of Hispaniola, initiated the process of Spanish colonization, which foreshadowed the general European colonization of the "New World".
In the context of emerging western imperialism and economic competition between European kingdoms seeking wealth through the establishment of trade routes and colonies, Columbus' far-fetched proposal to reach the East Indies by sailing westward received the support of the Spanish crown, which saw in it a promise, however remote, of gaining the upper hand over rival powers in the contest for the lucrative spice trade with Asia. During his first voyage in 1492, instead of reaching Japan as he had intended, Columbus landed in the Bahamas archipelago, at a locale he named San Salvador, with his flagship Santa Maria. Over the course of three more voyages, Columbus visited the Greater and Lesser Antilles, as well as the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and Central America, claiming them for the Spanish Empire. Though Columbus was not the first European explorer to reach the Americas, having been preceded, five centuries earlier, by the Norse expedition, led by Leif Ericson, that established the short-lived colony of Vinland in what is now Newfoundland, Columbus' voyages led to the first lasting European contact with America and inaugurated a period of European exploration and colonization of foreign lands that lasted for several centuries and had, therefore, an enormous impact in the historical development of the modern Western world. Columbus himself saw his accomplishments primarily in the light of the spreading of the Christian religion.
Columbus was born between 25 August and 31 October 1451 in Genoa, part of modern Italy. 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. Christopher's 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.
Columbus never wrote in his native language, which is presumed to have been a Genoese variety of Ligurian. In one of his writings, Columbus claims to have gone to the sea at the age of 10. In 1470 the Columbus family moved to Savona, where Domenico took over a tavern. In the same year, Columbus was on a Genoese ship hired in the service of René I of Anjou to support his attempt to conquer the Kingdom of Naples.
In 1473 Columbus began his apprenticeship as business agent for the important Centurione, Di Negro and Spinola families of Genoa.
Ambitious, Columbus eventually learned Latin, as well as Portuguese and Castilian, and read widely about astronomy, geography, and history, including the works of 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.
Throughout his life, Columbus also showed a keen interest in the Bible and in biblical prophecies, and would often quote biblical texts in his letters and logs.
List of Explorers and Mapmakers [+]
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