Celebrate Columbus Day:
Perhaps one of the most famous explorers was Christopher Columbus.
Also known as Cristoforo Colombo in Italian and Cristóbal Colón in Spanish. Born
in Genoa, Italy, in 1451 to a weaver, young Columbus first got his sea legs at
the age of fourteen. As a young man, he settled in Portugal and married a woman
of noble background. After the death of his wife in 1485, Columbus, along with
his young son Diego pressed on and moved to Spain.
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Like all educated men of his time, Columbus knew the world was round. He theorized
that since the earth was a sphere, a ship could eventually reach the Far East from
the opposite direction. He thought to establish trade routes to Asia in this manner.
Though not the first to reach the Americas from Europe, Columbus' voyages led to
general European awareness of the hemisphere and the successful establishment of
European cultures in the New World.
The fifteenth-century Europeans were not aware of the South and North American
continents during this time frame. Map makers did not show an accurate picture and
no one knew there was a Pacific Ocean.
For a decade, Columbus approached the Portuguese king and the Spanish monarchs to
obtain a grant to explore possible trade routes to the west. After initially turning
him down, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella reconsidered once the Moors had been
successfully expelled from Spain in 1492. Columbus promised to bring back gold,
spices, and silks from the Far East, to spread Christianity, and to lead an expedition
to China. In return, Columbus asked for and got the hereditary title "admiral of the
ocean seas" and became governor of all discovered lands.
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