(c. 1451 – 20 May
1506) was a navigator, colonizer and explorer
whose voyages across the Atlantic Ocean led to general European awareness of the American continents in the Western
Hemisphere. With his four voyages of exploration and
several attempts at establishing a settlement on the island of
Hispaniola, all funded by Isabella I of Castile, he initiated
the process of Spanish colonization
which foreshadowed general European colonization
of the "New World."
not the first to reach the Americas from
Europe—he was preceded by at least one other
group, the Norse, led by Leif Ericson, who built a temporary settlement
500 years earlier at L'Anse aux Meadows— Columbus initiated widespread contact between
Europeans and indigenous
The term "pre-Columbian
" is usually
used to refer to the peoples and cultures of the Americas before
the arrival of Columbus and his European successors.
Even though the general belief during the 20th century was that he
was born in Genoa
, there are
. Recent studies have indicated that Columbus may have
, though these theories
have found little support amongst historians and linguists.The name
is the Anglicisation of the Latin Christophorus Columbus
. The original
name in 15th
century Genoese language
( ) The name is rendered in
modern Italian as Cristoforo Colombo
, in Portuguese
as Cristóvão Colombo
(formerly Christovam Colom
), in Catalan
as Cristòfor Colom
Columbus's initial 1492 voyage came at a critical time of growing
and economic competition
developing nation states seeking wealth from the establishment of
. In this sociopolitical
climate, Columbus's far-fetched
scheme won the attention of Isabella I of Castile
underestimating the circumference of
the Earth, he estimated that a westward route
from Iberia to the Indies would be shorter than the overland
trade route through Arabia.
If true, this would allow Spain entry
into the lucrative spice trade
heretofore commanded by the Arabs
. Following his plotted course, he instead
landed within the Bahamas
Archipelago at a locale he named San Salvador.
Mistaking the North-American
for the East-Asian
mainland, he referred
to its inhabitants as "Indios".
anniversary of Columbus's 1492 landing in the Americas is usually
observed as Columbus Day on October 12
in Spain and
throughout the Americas, except Canada.
States it is observed annually on the second Monday in
commonly, although not universally, believed that Christopher
Columbus was born between 25 August and 31 October 1451 in Genoa, part of
modern Italy.Phillips, William D., and Carla Rahn Phillips. The
Worlds of Christopher Columbus. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1992. Page 9.
"Even with less than a complete record, however, scholars can
state with assurance that Columbus was born in the republic of
Genoa in northern Italy, although perhaps not in the city itself,
and that his family made a living in the wool business as weavers
and merchants...The two main early biographies of Columbus have
been taken as literal truth by hundreds of writers, in large part
because they were written by individual closely connected to
Columbus or his writings. ...Both biographies have serious
shortcomings as evidence." His father was
Domenico Colombo, a middle-class
wool weaver, who later
also had a cheese stand
where Christopher was a helper, working both in Genoa and Savona.
mother was Susanna
. 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, but it may be assumed
this was the Genoese variety of
. 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
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
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, a Genoese
colony in the Aegean
In May 1476, he took part in an armed
convoy sent by Genoa to carry a valuable cargo to northern Europe.
in Bristol, England; Galway, Ireland and
was possibly in Iceland in 1477. In 1479 Columbus reached his brother
Bartolomeo in Lisbon, keeping on
trading for the Centurione family. He married Filipa Moniz Perestrello, daughter of the
Santo governor, the Portuguese nobleman of Genoese origin
In 1479 or 1480, his son Diego
was born. Some records report that
Felipa died in 1485. It is also speculated that Columbus may have
simply left his first wife. In either case Columbus found a
in Spain in 1487, a 20-year-old
orphan named Beatriz Enriquez
Columbus's geographical concepts
Europe had long enjoyed a safe land passage to China and India—
sources of valued goods
such as silk
, and opiates
— under the hegemony
the Mongol Empire
(the Pax Mongolica
, or Mongol peace
the Fall of Constantinople
the Ottoman Turks
in 1453, the land
route to Asia became more difficult. In response to this
the Columbus brothers had, by the 1480s, developed a plan to travel
to the Indies, then construed roughly as all of south and east
Asia, by sailing directly west across the "Ocean Sea," i.e., the Atlantic.
's 1828 biography
of Columbus popularized the idea that Columbus had difficulty
obtaining support for his plan because Europeans thought the Earth was flat
. In fact, the primitive
maritime navigation of the time relied on the stars and the
curvature of the spherical Earth
The knowledge that the Earth was spherical was widespread, and the
means of calculating its diameter using an astrolabe
was known to both scholars and
navigators.Russell, Jeffrey Burton 1991. Inventing the Flat
Earth. Columbus and modern historians
, Praeger, New York,
Westport, London 1991;
Zinn, Howard 1980. A People's History of the United
, HarperCollins 2001. p.2 A spherical Earth had been the
general opinion of Ancient Greek science, and this view continued
through the Middle Ages (for example, Bede
mentions it in The Reckoning of Time
). In fact Eratosthenes
had measured the diameter of the
Earth with good precision in the second century BC. Where Columbus
did differ from the generally accepted view of his time is his
(incorrect) arguments that assumed a significantly smaller diameter
for the Earth, claiming that Asia could be easily reached by
sailing west across the Atlantic. Most scholars accepted Ptolemy
's correct assessment that the terrestrial
landmass (for Europeans of the time, comprising Eurasia and Africa)
occupied 180 degrees
of the terrestrial
sphere, and dismissed Columbus's claim that the Earth was much
smaller, and that Asia was only a few thousand nautical miles to
the west of Europe. Columbus's error was put down to his lack of
experience in navigation at sea.
Columbus believed the (incorrect) calculations of Marinus of Tyre
, putting the landmass at 225
degrees, leaving only 135 degrees of water. Moreover, Columbus
believed that one degree represented a shorter distance on the
Earth's surface than was actually the case. Finally, he read maps
as if the distances were calculated in Italian miles
(1,238 meters). Accepting the length
of a degree to be 56⅔ miles, from the writings of Alfraganus, he therefore calculated the
circumference of the Earth as 25,255 kilometers at most, and the
distance from the Canary
Islands to Japan as 3,000 Italian miles (3,700 km, or
2,300 statute miles).
Columbus did not realize Alfraganus
used the much longer Arabic mile (about 1,830 m).
The true circumference of the Earth is about 40,000 km
(25,000 mi), a figure established by Eratosthenes
in the second century BC, and the
distance from the Canary Islands to Japan 19,600 km
(12,200 mi). No ship that was readily available in the 15th
century could carry enough food and fresh water for such a journey.
Most European sailors and navigators concluded, probably correctly,
that sailors undertaking a westward voyage from Europe to Asia
non-stop would die of thirst or starvation long before reaching
their destination. Catholic
Monarchs, however, having completed an
expensive war in the Iberian Peninsula, were desperate for a competitive edge over other
European countries in trade with the East Indies.
promised such an advantage.
While Columbus's calculations underestimated the circumference of
the Earth and the distance from the Canary Islands to Japan by the
standards of his peers as well as in fact, Europeans generally
assumed that the aquatic expanse between Europe and Asia was
There was a further element of key importance in the plans of
Columbus, a closely held fact discovered, or otherwise learned, by
Columbus: the trade winds
. A brisk wind
from the east, commonly called an "easterly
", propelled Santa María
, La Niña
, and La
for five weeks from the Canaries. To return to Spain
eastward against this prevailing wind would have required several
months of an arduous sailing technique, called beating
, during which food and drinkable
water would have been utterly exhausted. Columbus returned home by
following prevailing winds northeastward from the southern zone of
the North Atlantic to the middle latitudes of the North Atlantic,
where prevailing winds are eastward (westerly) to the coastlines of
Western Europe, where the winds curve southward towards the Iberian
Peninsula. In fact, Columbus was wrong about degrees of longitude
to be traversed and wrong about distance per degree, but he was
right about a more vital fact: how to use the North Atlantic's
great circular wind pattern, clockwise in direction, to get
In 1485, Columbus presented his plans to John II
, King of Portugal
. He proposed 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 the proposal to his experts, who
rejected it. It was their considered opinion that Columbus's
estimation of a travel distance of was, in fact, far too short.
Arms of Columbus
In 1488 Columbus appealed to the court of Portugal once again, and
once again John invited him to an audience. It also proved
unsuccessful, in part because not long afterwards Bartholomeu Dias
returned to Portugal
following a successful rounding of the southern tip of Africa. With
an eastern sea route now under its control, Portugal was no longer
interested in trailblazing a western route to Asia.
travelled from Portugal to both Genoa and Venice, but he received encouragement from neither.
Previously he had his brother sound out Henry VII of England
, to see if the
might not be more
amenable to Columbus's proposal. After much carefully considered
hesitation Henry's invitation came, too late. Columbus had already
committed himself to Spain.
sought an audience from the monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of
Castile, who had united many kingdoms in the Iberian
Peninsula by marrying, and were ruling together.
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, these savants of Spain, like their
counterparts in Portugal
reported back that Columbus had judged the distance to Asia
much too short. They pronounced the idea
impractical, and advised their Royal Highnesses to pass on the
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
in 1489 furnished him with a letter ordering all cities and towns
under their domain to provide him food and lodging at no
After continually lobbying at the Spanish court and two years of
negotiations, he finally had success in 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 Columbus down
on the advice of her confessor, and he 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".
About half of the financing was to come from private Italian
investors, whom Columbus had already lined up. Financially broke
after the Granada campaign, the monarchs left it to the royal
treasurer to shift funds among various royal accounts on behalf of
the enterprise. Columbus was to be made "Admiral of the Seas" and
would receive a portion of all profits. The terms were unusually
generous, but as his son later wrote, the monarchs did not really
expect him to return.
According to the contract that Columbus made with King Ferdinand
and Queen Isabella, if Columbus discovered any new islands or
mainland, he would receive many high rewards. In terms of power, he
would be given the rank of Admiral of the Ocean Sea and appointed
Viceroy and Governor of all the new lands. 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% of all
the revenues from the new lands in perpetuity; this part was denied
to him in the contract, although it was one of his demands.
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 supplanted from these
posts. After his death, Columbus's sons, Diego and Fernando, took
legal action to enforce their father's contract. Many of the smears
against Columbus were initiated by the Castilian crown
during these lengthy court
cases, known as the pleitos colombinos
. The 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.
- First voyage
|Image:PUERTOdePalos.jpg|Departure of the
first voyage from the port of Palos, by Evaristo
Dominguez, in the municipality of Palos de la
Frontera.Image:Santa-Maria.jpg|Replica of Santa Maria
|Image:Columbus Taking Possession.jpg|Columbus claims the
New World in a chromolithograph by the Prang Education
Company, 1893Image:Flag of Christopher Columbus.svg|Captain's
Ensign of Columbus's Ships
evening of 3 August 1492, Columbus departed from Palos de la
Frontera with three ships; one larger carrack, Santa María, nicknamed
Gallega (the Galician), and two smaller caravels, Pinta
(the Painted) and Santa Clara, nicknamed
Niña after her owner Juan Niño of
They were property of Juan de la Cosa
and the Pinzón brothers
and Vicente Yáñez
), but the
monarchs forced the Palos
contribute to the expedition. Columbus first sailed to the Canary
Islands, which were owned by Castile, where he restocked the provisions
and made repairs.
On 6 September he departed San Sebastián de la Gomera
for what turned out to be a five-week voyage across the
Land was sighted at 2 a.m.
October 1492, by a sailor named Rodrigo de Triana
(also known as Juan
Rodríguez Bermejo) aboard Pinta
. 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 an unresolved topic; prime
candidates are Samana
Cays, or San Salvador Island (so named in 1925 in the belief that it was
Columbus's San Salvador).
The indigenous people
encountered, the Lucayan
peaceful and friendly. From the 12 October 1492 entry in his
journal 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." Lacking
modern weaponry and even metal-forged swords or pikes, he remarked
upon their tactical vulnerability, writing, "I could conquer the
whole of them with 50 men, and govern them as I pleased."
also explored the northeast coast of Cuba (landed on
28 October) and the northern coast of Hispaniola, by 5 December.
Here, the Santa Maria
ran aground on Christmas
morning 1492 and had to be abandoned. He
was received by the native cacique Guacanagari
, who gave him permission to leave
some of his men behind. Columbus left 39 men and founded the
settlement of La
Navidad in what is now present-day Haiti.
Before returning to Spain, Columbus also kidnapped some ten to
twenty-five natives and took them back with him. Only seven or
eight of the native Indians
arrived in Spain alive, but
they made quite an impression on Seville.
headed for Spain, but another storm forced him into Lisbon.
anchored next to the King's harbor patrol ship on 4 March 1493 in
Portugal. After spending more than one week in Portugal, he set
sail for Spain. He crossed the bar of Saltes and entered the
harbour of Palos on 15 March 1493.
Word of his finding new
spread throughout Europe
There is increasing modern scientific evidence that this voyage
also brought syphilis
back from the New
World. Many of the crew members who served on this voyage later
joined the army of King Charles
in his invasion of Italy in 1495 resulting in the
spreading of the disease across Europe and as many as 5 million
left Cádiz (modern
Spain), on 24 September 1493 to find new territories,
with 17 ships carrying supplies, and about 1,200 men to colonize
On 13 October the ships left the Canary Islands
as they had on the first voyage, following a more southerly
November 1493, Columbus sighted a rugged island that he named
Dominica (Latin for Sunday); later that day, he landed at
Marie-Galante, which he named Santa Maria la Galante.
sailing past Les
Saintes (Los Santos, The Saints), he arrived at Guadeloupe Santa María de Guadalupe de Extremadura, after the image of the Virgin Mary
venerated at the Spanish monastery of Villuercas, in Guadalupe (Spain), which he explored between 4 November and
10 November 1493.
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."
named the small island of "Saona ... to
honor Michele da Cuneo, his friend from Savona."
course of his voyage through the Lesser
Antilles is debated, but it seems likely that he turned north,
sighting and naming several islands, including Montserrat (for Santa Maria 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 Maria la Antigua, meaning "Old
St. Mary's"), Redonda (for Santa Maria la Redonda, Spanish for "round",
owing to the island's shape), Nevis (derived
from the Spanish, Nuestra Señora de las Nieves, meaning "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 (also for St. Christopher?), Saint Martin (San Martin), and Saint Croix (from the Spanish Santa Cruz, meaning
"Holy Cross"). He also sighted the
island chain of the Virgin Islands
(and named them Islas de Santa Ursula y las Once Mil Virgenes,
Saint Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins, a
cumbersome name that was usually shortened, both on maps of the
time and in common parlance, to Islas Virgenes), and he also named
the islands of Virgin
Gorda (the fat virgin), Tortola, and Peter
Island (San Pedro).
He continued to the Greater
, and landed at Puerto Rico
(originally San Juan Bautista, in honor of Saint John the Baptist,
a name that was later supplanted by Puerto Rico (English: Rich
Port) while the capital retained the name, San Juan) on 19 November
1493. One of the first skirmishes between native Americans and
Europeans since the time of the Vikings took place when Columbus's
men rescued two boys who had just been castrated by their
November Columbus returned to Hispaniola, where he intended to
visit Fuerte de la
Navidad (Christmas Fort), built during his first voyage,
and located on the northern coast of Haiti; Fuerte de
la Navidad was found in ruins, destroyed by the native Taino people, whereupon, Columbus moved more than 100
kilometers eastwards, establishing a new settlement, which he
Isabela, likewise on the northern coast of Hispaniola, in the present-day Dominican Republic. However, La Isabela proved to be a poorly chosen location, and the
settlement was short-lived.
Hispaniola on 24 April 1494, arrived at Cuba (naming it
Juana) on 30 April.
He explored the southern coast of Cuba,
which he believed to be a peninsula rather than an island, and
several nearby islands, including the Isle of Pines
(Isla de las
Pinas, later known as La Evangelista, The Evangelist). He reached Jamaica on May 5.
He retraced his route to
Hispaniola, arriving on August 20, before he finally returned to
On 30 May
1498, Columbus left with six ships from Sanlúcar,
Spain, for his third trip to the New World.
accompanied by the father of Bartolomé de Las Casas
led the fleet to the Portuguese island of Porto Santo, his wife's native land. He then sailed to
Madeira and spent some time there with the Portuguese
captain João Gonçalves da Camara before sailing to the Canary
Islands and Cape
Verde. Columbus landed on the south coast of the
island of Trinidad on 31 July. From 4 August through 12 August he
explored the Gulf of Paria which
separates Trinidad from Venezuela.
He explored the mainland of South America,
including the Orinoco River
. He also sailed to the
islands of Chacachacare and Margarita Island and sighted and named Tobago (Bella
Forma) and Grenada (Concepcion).
returned to Hispaniola on 19 August to find that many of the Spanish
settlers of the new colony were discontented, having been misled by
Columbus about the supposedly bountiful riches of the new
An entry in his journal from September 1498 reads,
"From here one might send, in the name of the Holy Trinity, as many
slaves as could be sold..." Since Columbus supported the
enslavement of the Hispaniola natives for economic reasons, he
ultimately refused to baptize them, as Catholic law forbade the
enslavement of Christians.
He had some of his crew hanged for disobeying him. A number of
returning settlers and sailors lobbied against Columbus at the
Spanish court, accusing him and his brothers of gross
mismanagement. On his return he was arrested for a period (see
Governorship and arrest section below).
Before leaving for his fourth voyage, Columbus wrote a letter to
the Governors of the Bank of St. George, Genoa, dated at Seville,
April 2, 1502. Columbus wrote:
made a fourth voyage nominally in search of the Strait of
Malacca to the Indian Ocean. Accompanied by his brother Bartolomeo and his 13-year-old son
Fernando, he left Cádiz, (modern Spain), on 11 May 1502, with the ships
Capitana, Gallega, Vizcaína and
Santiago de Palos. He sailed to Arzila on the
Moroccan coast to rescue Portuguese soldiers whom he had heard were under siege by the
Moors. On June 15, they landed at Carbet on the
island of Martinique (Martinica). A hurricane was brewing, so he continued on, hoping
to find shelter on Hispaniola. He arrived at Santo Domingo on 29 June but was denied port, and the new
governor refused to listen to his storm prediction.
- Although my body is here my heart is always near you.
while Columbus's ships sheltered at the mouth of the Rio Jaina
, the first Spanish treasure fleet sailed
into the hurricane. Columbus's ships survived with only minor
damage, while twenty-nine of the thirty ships in the governor's
fleet were lost to the 1 July storm
addition to the ships, 500 lives (including that of the governor,
Francisco de Bobadilla
an immense cargo of gold were surrendered to the sea.
brief stop at Jamaica, Columbus sailed to Central America, arriving at Guanaja in the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras on 30 July.
Here Bartolomeo found native
merchants and a large canoe, which was described as "long as a
galley" and was filled with cargo. On 14 August he landed on the American
mainland at Puerto Castilla, near Trujillo, Honduras. He spent two months exploring the coasts of
Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa
Rica, before arriving in Almirante Bay, Panama on 16
On 5 December 1502, Columbus and his crew found themselves in a
storm unlike any they had ever experienced. In his journal Columbus
For nine days I was as one lost, without hope of
Eyes never beheld the sea so angry, so high, so covered
The wind not only prevented our progress, but offered
no opportunity to run behind any headland for shelter; hence we
were forced to keep out in this bloody ocean, seething like a pot
on a hot fire.
Never did the sky look more terrible; for one whole day
and night it blazed like a furnace, and the lightning broke with
such violence that each time I wondered if it had carried off my
spars and sails; the flashes came with such fury and frightfulness
that we all thought that the ship would be blasted.
All this time the water never ceased to fall from the
sky; I do not say it rained, for it was like another
The men were so worn out that they longed for death to
end their dreadful suffering.
In Panama, Columbus learned from the natives of gold and a strait
to another ocean. After much exploration, in January 1503 he
established a garrison at the mouth of the Rio
. On 6 April one of the ships became stranded in the
river. At the same time, the garrison was attacked, and the other
ships were damaged (Shipworms also damaged the ships in tropical
waters.). Columbus left for Hispaniola on 16 April heading north.
On 10 May
he sighted the Cayman
Islands, naming them "Las Tortugas" after the
numerous sea turtles there.
ships next sustained more damage in a storm off the coast of Cuba.
travel farther, on 25 June 1503, they were beached in St. Ann's
For a year Columbus and his men remained stranded on Jamaica.
Spaniard, Diego Mendez, and some natives paddled a canoe to get help from Hispaniola.
That island's governor, Nicolás de Ovando y
, detested Columbus and obstructed all efforts to rescue
him and his men. In the meantime Columbus, in a desperate effort to
induce the natives to continue provisioning him and his hungry men,
successfully intimidated the natives by correctly predicting a
for 29 February 1504,
using the Ephemeris
of the German
. Help finally arrived,
no thanks to the governor, on 29 June 1504, and Columbus and his
men arrived in Sanlúcar, Spain, on 7 November.
Governorship and arrest
During Columbus's stint as governor and viceroy, he had been
accused of governing tyrannically. Columbus was physically and
mentally exhausted; his body was wracked by arthritis
and his eyes by ophthalmia
. In October 1499, he sent two ships to
Spain, asking the Court of Spain to appoint a royal commissioner to
help him govern.
The Court appointed Francisco de
, a member of the Order
; however, his authority stretched far beyond what
Columbus had requested. Bobadilla was given total control as
governor from 1500 until his death in 1502. Arriving in Santo
Domingo while Columbus was away, Bobadilla was immediately peppered
with complaints about all three Columbus brothers: Christopher,
Bartolomé, and Diego. Consuelo Varela, a Spanish historian, states:
"Even those who loved him [Columbus] had to admit the atrocities
that had taken place."
As a result of these testimonies and without being allowed a word
in his own defense, Columbus, upon his return, had manacles placed
on his arms and chains on his feet and was cast into prison to
await return to Spain. He was 53 years old.
On 1 October 1500, Columbus and his two brothers, likewise in
chains, were sent back to Spain. Once in Cádiz, a grieving Columbus
wrote to a friend at court:
It is now seventeen years since I came to serve these
princes with the Enterprise of the Indies. They made me pass eight
of them in discussion, and at the end rejected it as a thing of
jest. Nevertheless I persisted therein... Over there I have placed
under their sovereignty more land than there is in Africa and
Europe, and more than 1,700 islands... In seven years I, by the
divine will, made that conquest. At a time when I was entitled to
expect rewards and retirement, I was incontinently arrested and
sent home loaded with chains... The accusation was brought out of
malice on the basis of charges made by civilians who had revolted
and wished to take possession on the land....
I beg your graces, with the zeal of faithful Christians in whom
their Highnesses have confidence, to read all my papers, and to
consider how I, who came from so far to serve these princes... now
at the end of my days have been despoiled of my honor and my
property without cause, wherein is neither justice nor
According to testimony of 23 witnesses during his trial, Columbus
regularly used barbaric acts of torture to govern Hispaniola.
Columbus and his brothers lingered in jail for six weeks before
busy King Ferdinand ordered their release. Not long after, the
king and queen summoned the Columbus brothers to the Alhambra palace in Granada.
There the royal couple heard the brothers'
pleas; restored their freedom and wealth; and, after much
persuasion, agreed to fund Columbus's fourth voyage. But the door
was firmly shut on Columbus's role as governor. Henceforth Nicolás de Ovando y
was to be the new governor of the West Indies.
While Columbus had always given the conversion of non-believers as
one reason for his explorations, he grew increasingly religious in
his later years.
In his later years, Columbus demanded that the Spanish Crown give
him 10% of all profits made in the new lands, pursuant to earlier
agreements. Because he had been relieved of his duties as governor,
the crown did not feel bound by these contracts, and his demands
were rejected. After his death, his family sued in the pleitos
for part of the profits from trade with
On 20 May
1506, at about age 55, Columbus died in Valladolid, fairly wealthy from the gold his men had
accumulated in Hispaniola.
At his death, he was still convinced that
his journeys had been along the east coast of Asia. According to a
study, published in February 2007, by Antonio Rodriguez Cuartero,
Department of Internal Medicine of the University of Granada
, he died of a
heart attack caused by Reiter's
(also called reactive arthritis). According to his
personal diaries and notes by contemporaries, the symptoms of this
illness (burning pain during urination, pain and swelling of the
knees, and conjunctivitis
clearly evident in his last three years.
Columbus's remains were first interred at
Valladolid, then at the monastery of La Cartuja in Seville (southern Spain) by the will of his son Diego, who had been governor of Hispaniola. In 1542 the remains were transferred to
Domingo, in eastern Hispaniola. In 1795 the French
took over Hispaniola, and the remains were moved to Havana,
Cuba. After Cuba became independent following the
Spanish-American War in 1898,
the remains were moved back to Spain, to the Cathedral of
Seville, where they were placed on an elaborate
a lead box bearing an inscription identifying "Don Christopher
Columbus" and containing bone fragments and a bullet was discovered
Domingo in 1877.
To lay to
rest claims that the wrong relics had been moved to Havana and that
Columbus's remains had been left buried in the cathedral at
Domingo, DNA samples were taken in June
2003 (History Today August 2003).
The results are
not conclusive. Initial observations suggested that the bones did
not appear to belong to somebody with the physique or age at death
associated with Columbus. DNA extraction proved difficult; only a
few limited fragments of mitochondrial
could be isolated. However, such as they are, these do
appear to match corresponding DNA from Columbus's brother, giving
support to the idea that the two had the same mother and that the
body therefore may be that of Columbus. The authorities in Santo
Domingo have not allowed the remains there to be exhumed, so it is
unknown if any of those remains could be from Columbus's body.
location of the Dominican remains is in "the Colombus
Lighthouse" or Faro a Colón which is in Santo Domingo,
among non-Native Americans Christopher Columbus is traditionally
considered the discoverer of America, Columbus was preceded by the
various cultures and civilizations of the indigenous peoples of the
Americas, as well as the Western
world's Vikings at L'Anse aux
He is regarded more accurately as the
person who brought the Americas into the forefront of Western
attention. "Columbus's claim to fame isn't that he got there
first," explains historian Martin Dugard, "it's that he stayed."
The popular idea that he was first person to envision a rounded
earth is false. The rounded shape of the earth has already been
known in ancient times. Jeffrey
states that the modern view that people of the Middle Ages
believed that the Earth was flat
is said to have entered the
popular imagination in the 19th century, thanks largely to the
publication of Washington Irving
fantasy The Life and
Voyages of Christopher Columbus
in 1828. By Columbus's
time, educated men were in agreement as to its spherical shape,
even if many people believed otherwise. More contentious was the
size of the earth, and whether it was possible in practical terms
to cross such a vast body of water: the longest any ship
(European or otherwise) had gone without making
landfall did not much exceed 30 days when Columbus embarked on his
first audacious voyage lasting 36 days across the Atlantic Ocean
(from the Canari Islands).
's travel journals,
published 1502-4, convinced Martin Waldseemüller
discovered place was not India, as Columbus always believed, but a
, and in 1507, a year after
Columbus's death, Waldseemüller published a world map calling the new continent America
from Vespucci's Latinized name "Americus".
Historically the British had downplayed Columbus and emphasized the
role of the Venetian John Cabot
pioneer explorer; but for the emerging United States, Cabot made a
poor national hero. Veneration of Columbus in America dates back to
colonial times. The name Columbia
for "America" first appeared in a 1738 weekly publication of the
debates of the British Parliament. The use of Columbus as a
founding figure of New World nations and the use of the word
'Columbia', or simply the name 'Columbus', spread rapidly after the
American Revolution. In 1812, the name 'Columbus' was given to the newly founded capitol of
Ohio. During the last two decades of the 18th
century the name "Columbia" was given to the federal capital
Columbia, South Carolina's new capital city, Columbia,
South Carolina, the Columbia River,
and numerous other places. Outside the United States the name was
used in 1819 for the Gran Colombia, a
precursor of the modern Republic of Colombia. The main plaza in Mayagüez,
Puerto Rico is called Plaza Colón in honor of the Admiral.
A candidate for sainthood in the Catholic Church in 1866,
Celebration of Columbus's legacy perhaps reached a zenith in 1892
when the 400th anniversary of his first arrival in the Americas
occurred. Monuments to Columbus like the Columbian
Exposition in Chicago were erected throughout the United States and
Latin America extolling him.
cities, towns, counties, and streets have been named after him,
including the capital cities of two
U.S. states, Ohio and
descendants of Columbus undertook to dismantle the Columbus family
chapel in Spain and move it to a site near State College, Pennsylvania, where it may now be visited by
At the museum associated with the chapel, there
are a number of Columbus relics worthy of note, including the
armchair which the "Admiral of the Ocean Sea" used at his chart
More recent views of Columbus, particularly those of Native
Americans, have tended to be much more critical. This is because
the native Taino of Hispaniola, where Columbus began a rudimentary
tribute system for gold and cotton, disappeared so rapidly after
contact with the Spanish, due to overwork and especially, after
1519, when the first pandemic struck Hispaniola, due to European
diseases. The native Taino people of the island were systematically
enslaved via the encomienda
pre-Columbian population is estimated to have been perhaps
250,000-300,000. According to the historian Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo
by 1548, 56 years after Columbus landed, less than
five hundred Taino were left on the island. In another hundred
years, perhaps only a handful remained. However, some analyses of
the question of Columbus's legacy for Native Americans do not
clearly distinguish between the actions of Columbus himself, who
died well before the first pandemic to hit Hispaniola or the height
of the encomienda system, and those of later European governors and
colonists on Hispaniola.
Columbus in the The Virgin of the
Although an abundance of artwork involving Christopher Columbus
exists, no authentic
has been found. Sometime between
1505 and 1536, Alejo Fernández
painted an altarpiece, The Virgin of the
, that includes a depiction of Columbus. The
painting was commissioned for a chapel in Seville's Casa de Contratación
Trade) and remains there to this day. James W. Loewen, author of
Lies My Teacher Told Me
, said that the various posthumous
portraits have no historical value.
Columbian Exposition, 71 alleged portraits of Columbus were displayed,
most did not match contemporary descriptions.
describe him as having reddish hair, which turned to white early in
his life, light colored eyes, as well as being a lighter skinned
person with too much sun exposure turning his face red.
In keeping with descriptions of Columbus having had auburn hair or
(later) white hair, some textbooks use the Sebastiano del Piombo
in its normal-sized resolution shows Columbus's hair as auburn) so
often that it has become the iconic image of Columbus accepted by
consistently describe Columbus as a large and physically strong man
of some six feet or more in height, easily taller than the average
European of his day.
In popular culture
Columbus is a significant historical figure and has been depicted
in fiction and in popular films and television.
In 1958, the Italian playwright Dario Fo
wrote a satirical play about Columbus titled Isabella, tre
caravelle e un cacciaballe
(Isabella, three tall ships and a
con man). Fo was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature
The play has been translated in English by Ed
in 1988, and it's available for download on the
In 1991, author Salman Rushdie
published a fictional representation of Columbus in The New Yorker
, "Christopher Columbus
and Queen Isabella of Spain Consummate Their Relationship, Santa
Fe, January, 1492". In Pastwatch: The
Redemption of Christopher Columbus
(1996) science fiction
novelist Orson Scott Card
focuses on Columbus's life
and activities, but the novel's action also deals with a group of
scientists from the future who travel back to the 15th century with
the goal of changing the pattern of European contact with the
. British author Stephen Baxter
includes Columbus's quest for
royal sponsorship as a crucial historical event in his 2007 science
fiction novel Navigator
(ISBN 978-0-441-01559-7), the
third entry in the author's Time's Tapestry Series
American author Mark Twain
based the time
traveller's trick in A Connecticut Yankee
in King Arthur's Court
on Columbus's successful prediction
of a lunar eclipse on his fourth voyage to the new world.
Columbus has also been portrayed in cinema and television,
including mini-series, films and cartoons. Most notably he was
portrayed by Gérard Depardieu
in 1992 film by Ridley Scott
1492: Conquest of
. Scott presented Columbus as a forward thinking
idealist as opposed to the view that he was ruthless and
responsible for the misfortune of Native Americans.
Other productions include TV mini-series
(1985) with Gabriel
as Columbus, Christopher Columbus: The
, a 1992 biopic
, Christopher Columbus
1949 film starring Fredric March
Columbus, and comedy Carry On Columbus
Christopher Columbus appears as a Great Explorer in the 2008
strategy video game Civilization Revolution
- Georgetown University team led by Professor Estelle Izizarry
claims that Christopher Columbus was Catalan. 
- Rime diverse, Pavia, 1595, p.117
- Ra Gerusalemme deliverâ, Genoa, 1755, XV-32
- Encyclopedia Britannica, 1993 ed., Vol. 16, pp. 605ff /
Morison, Christopher Columbus, 1955 ed., pp. 14ff
- "Marco Polo et le Livre des Merveilles", ISBN 9782354040079
- Sagan, Carl. Cosmos; the mean circumference of the
Earth is 40,041.47 km.
- Morison, Samuel Eliot, Admiral of the Ocean Sea: The Life
of Christopher Columbus Boston, 1942
- Durant, Will "The Story of Civilization" vol. vi, "The
Reformation". Chapter XIII, page 260.
- Mark McDonald, "Ferdinand Columbus, Renaissance Collector
(1488-1539)", 2005, British Museum Press, ISBN 9780714126449
Columbus Foundation: Santa Clara
- Robert H. Fuson, ed The Log of Christopher Columbus,
Tab Books, 1992, International Marine Publishing, ISBN
- Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Columbus, Oxford Univ.
Press, (1991) pp. 103-104
- Paolo Emilio Taviani, Columbus the Great Adventure,
Orion Books, New York (1991) p. 185
- Who really sailed the ocean blue in 1492?,
Christian Science Monitor, 17
- 'Letter from Christopher Columbus to the Governors
of the Bank of St. George, Genoa. Dated at Seville, April 2nd,
- Morison, Samuel Eliot,Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of
Christopher Columbus, Boston, 1942, page 617.
- The History Channel. Columbus: The Lost Voyage.
- Samuel Eliot Morison, Admiral of
the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus, 1942, pp.
653–54. Samuel Eliot Morison, Christopher
Columbus, Mariner, 1955, pp. 184-92.
- Bobadilla's 48-page report—derived from the testimonies of 23
people who had seen or heard about the treatment meted out by
Columbus and his brothers—had originally been lost for centuries,
but was rediscovered in 2005 in the Spanish archives in
contained an account of Columbus's seven-year reign as the first
Governor of the Indies.
- The Brooklyn Museum catalogue notes that the most likely source
for Leutze's trio of Columbus paintings is Washington
Irving’s best-selling Life and Voyages of Columbus
- Samuel Eliot Morison, Admiral of
the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus, p. 576.
- Giles Tremlett, Young bones lay Columbus myth to rest,
Guardian, August 11, 2004
- DNA verifies Columbus’ remains in Spain,
Associated Press, May 19, 2006
- Dugard, Martin. The Last Voyage of Columbus. Little, Brown and
Company: New York, 2005.
- The Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. 8, June 1738, p.
- Alfred W. Crosby, The Columbian Exchange, Westport,1972, p. 39,
- Alfred Crosby, The Columbian Exchange (Westport, 1972)
- Alden, Henry Mills. Harper's New Monthly
Magazine. Volume 84, Issues 499-504. Published by
Harper & Brothers, 1892.
Originally from Harvard University. Digitized on December
16, 2008. 732. Retrieved on September 8, 2009. 'Major,
Int. Letters of Columbus, ixxxviii., says "Not one of the so-called
portraits of Columbus is unquestionably authentic." They differ
from each other, and cannot represent the same person.'
- Loewen, James W. Lies My Teacher Told Me. 1st
Touchstone ed, Simon & Schuster, 1996. ISBN 0684818868.
- Morison, Samuel Eliot Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of
Christopher Columbus, pg. 47-48, Boston 1942.
- Bartolomé de Las Casas, Historia de las Indias, ed.
Agustín Millares Carlo, 3 vols. (Mexico City, 1951), book 1,
chapter 2, 1:29. The Spanish word garzos is now usually
translated as "light blue," but it seems to have connoted light
grey-green or hazel eyes to Columbus's contemporaries. The word
rubio can mean "blonde," "fair," or "ruddy." The Worlds of
Christopher Columbus by William D. & Carla Rahn Phillips,
New Yorker, 17 June 1991, p. 32.
- Civilization Revolution: Great People
"CivFanatics" Retrieved on 4th September 2009
- Cohen, J.M. (1969) The Four
Voyages of Christopher Columbus: Being His Own Log-Book, Letters
and Dispatches with Connecting Narrative Drawn from the Life of the
Admiral by His Son Hernando Colon and Others. London UK:
- Cook, Sherburn and Woodrow Borah (1971) Essays in
Population History, Volume I. Berkeley CA: University of
- Crosby, A. W. (1987) The Columbian Voyages: the Columbian
Exchange, and their Historians. Washington, DC: American
- Davidson, Miles H. (1997) Columbus Then and Now: A Life
Reexamined, Norman and London, University of Oklahoma
- Fuson, Robert H. (1992) The Log of Christopher
Columbus. International Marine Publishing
- Hart, Michael H. (1992)
The 100. Seacaucus NJ: Carol
- Keen, Benjamin (1978) The Life of the Admiral Christopher
Columbus by his Son Ferdinand, Westport CT: Greenwood
- Loewen, James. Lies My Teacher Told Me
- Morison, Samuel Eliot,
Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus,
Boston, Little, Brown and Company, 1942.
- Morison, Samuel Eliot,
Christopher Columbus, Mariner, Boston, Little, Brown and
- Phillips, W. D. and C. R. Phillips (1992) The Worlds of
Christopher Columbus. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University
- Turner, Jack (2004) Spice: The History of a
Temptation. New York: Random House.
- Wilford, John Noble (1991) The Mysterious History of
Columbus: An Exploration of the Man, the Myth, the Legacy. New
York: Alfred A. Knopf.