Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus
Portrait of a Man, Said to be Christopher Columbus.jpg
Posthumous portrait of Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519. There are no known authentic portraits of Columbus.[1]
1st Governor of the Indies
In office
Appointed byIsabella I of Castile
Succeeded byFrancisco de Bobadilla
Personal details
BornBefore 31 October 1451
Genoa, Genoa
Died(1506-05-20)20 May 1506 (aged c. 54)
Valladolid, Castile
Resting placeSeville Cathedral, Seville, Spain
Spouse(s)Filipa Moniz Perestrelo
Domestic partnerBeatriz Enríquez de Arana
ParentsDomenico Colombo
Susanna Fontanarossa
Władysław III of Poland (possibly)[2]
Eanes João dos Reis Gomes (possibly)[2]
Giovanni Pellegrino
Giacomo (also called Diego)[3]
Bianchinetta Columbus
OccupationMaritime explorer
Military service
RankAdmiral of the Ocean Sea

Christopher Columbus[a] (s/;[4] before 31 October 1451 – 20 May 1506) was an Italian explorer and colonizer who completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that opened the New World for conquest and permanent European colonization of the Americas. Columbus had embarked with intent to find and develop a westward route to the Far East, but instead discovered a route to the Americas, which were then unknown to the Old World. Columbus's voyages were the first European expeditions to the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. His Spanish-based expeditions and governance of the colonies he founded were sponsored by Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, the Catholic Monarchs of the budding Spanish Empire. Columbus never clearly renounced his belief that he had reached the Far East.

Columbus's early life is somewhat obscure, but scholars generally agree that he was born in the Republic of Genoa and spoke a dialect of Ligurian as his first language. He went to sea at a young age and travelled widely, as far north as the British Isles (and possibly Iceland) and as far south as what is now Ghana. He married Portuguese noblewoman Filipa Moniz Perestrelo and was based in Lisbon for several years, but later took a Castilian mistress; he had one son with each woman. Though largely self-educated, Columbus was widely read in geography, astronomy, and history. He formulated a plan to seek a western sea passage to the East Indies, hoping to profit from the lucrative spice trade. After Columbus lobbied them for years, Ferdinand and Isabella agreed to sponsor a journey west, in the name of the Crown of Castile. Columbus left Castile in August 1492 with three ships, and after a stopover in the Canary Islands made landfall in the Americas on 12 October (later celebrated as Columbus Day). His landing place was an island in the Bahamas, known by its native inhabitants as Guanahani; its exact location is uncertain. Columbus subsequently visited the islands now known as Cuba and Hispaniola, establishing a colony in what is now Haiti—the first European settlement in the Americas since the Norse colonies nearly 500 years earlier. He arrived back in Castile in early 1493, bringing a number of captive natives with him. Word of his discoveries soon spread throughout Europe.

Columbus made three further voyages to the New World, exploring the Lesser Antilles in 1493, Trinidad and the northern coast of South America in 1498, and the eastern coast of Central America in 1502. Many of the names he gave to geographical features—particularly islands—are still in use. He continued to seek a passage to the East Indies, and the extent to which he was aware that the Americas were a wholly separate landmass is uncertain; he gave the name indios ("Indians") to the indigenous peoples he encountered. Columbus's strained relationship with the Spanish crown and its appointed colonial administrators in America led to his arrest and removal from Hispaniola in 1500, and later to protracted litigation over the benefits that he and his heirs claimed were owed to them by the crown. Columbus's expeditions inaugurated a period of exploration, conquest, and colonization that lasted for centuries, helping create the modern Western world. The transfers between the Old World and New World that followed his first voyage are known as the Columbian exchange, and the period of human habitation in the Americas prior to his arrival is referred to as the Pre-Columbian era.

Columbus's legacy continues to be debated. He was widely venerated in the centuries after his death, but public perceptions have changed as recent scholars have given greater attention to negative aspects of his life, such as his enslavement of the indigenous population in his quest for gold and his brutal subjugation of the Taíno people, leading to their near-extinction, as well as allegations of tyranny towards Spanish colonists. Many landmarks and institutions in the Western Hemisphere bear his name, including the country of Colombia and the name Columbia, which is used as a personification for the United States, and appears in many place names there.

Early life

Christopher Columbus at the gates of the monastery of Santa María de la Rábida with his son Diego, by Benet Mercadé

The name Christopher Columbus is the Anglicisation of the Latin Christophorus Columbus. His name in Ligurian is Cristoffa Corombo, in Italian Cristoforo Colombo, in Spanish Cristóbal Colón, and in Portuguese, Cristóvão Colombo.[5] He was born before 31 October 1451 in the territory of the Republic of Genoa (now part of modern Italy), though the exact location remains disputed.[6][b] His father was Domenico Colombo,[5] 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. His mother was Susanna Fontanarossa.[5] He had three brothers, Bartolomeo, Giovanni Pellegrino, and Giacomo . He also had a sister named Bianchinetta.[7] His brother Bartolomeo worked in a cartography workshop in Lisbon for at least part of his adulthood.[8]

Columbus never wrote in his native language, which is presumed to have been a Genoese variety of Ligurian: his name in the 16th-century Genoese language would have been Cristoffa[9] Corombo[10] (Ligurian pronunciation: [kriˈʃtɔffa kuˈɹuŋbu]).[11][12] In one of his writings, he says he went to sea at the age of 10. In 1470, the Columbus family moved to Savona, where Domenico took over a tavern. In the same year, Christopher was on a Genoese ship hired in the service of René of Anjou to support his attempt to conquer the Kingdom of Naples. Some modern authors have argued that he was not from Genoa but, instead, from the Aragon region of Spain[13] or from Portugal.[14] These competing hypotheses have generally been discounted by mainstream scholars.[15][16]

Columbus's copy of The Travels of Marco Polo, with his handwritten notes in Latin written on the margins

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, an Aegean island then ruled by Genoa.[17] In May 1476, he took part in an armed convoy sent by Genoa to carry valuable cargo to northern Europe. He docked in Bristol, England[18] and Galway, Ireland. A few writers speculate that in 1477, he was in Iceland.[5][19] It is known that in the autumn of 1477, he sailed on a Portuguese ship from Galway to Lisbon, where he found his brother Bartolomeo, and they continued trading for the Centurione family. Columbus based himself in Lisbon from 1477 to 1485. He married Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, daughter of the Porto Santo governor and Portuguese nobleman of Lombard origin Bartolomeu Perestrello.[20]

In 1479 or 1480, his son Diego Columbus was born. Between 1482 and 1485, Columbus traded along the coasts of West Africa, reaching the Portuguese trading post of Elmina at the Guinea coast (in present-day Ghana).[21] Some records report that Filipa died sometime around 1485, while Columbus was away in Castile. He returned to Portugal to settle her estate and take his son Diego with him.[22] He had left Portugal for Castile in 1485, where he found a mistress in 1487, a 20-year-old orphan named Beatriz Enríquez de Arana.[23] It is likely that Beatriz met Columbus when he was in Córdoba, a gathering site of many Genoese merchants and where the court of the Catholic Monarchs was located at intervals. Beatriz, unmarried at the time, gave birth to Columbus's natural son Fernando Columbus in July 1488, named for the monarch of Aragón. Columbus recognized the boy as his offspring. Columbus entrusted his older, legitimate son Diego to take care of Beatriz and pay the pension set aside for her following his death, but Diego was negligent in his duties.[24]

Ambitious, Columbus eventually learned Latin, Portuguese, and Castilian. He read widely about astronomy, geography, and history, including the works of Claudius 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,

Columbus was not a scholarly man. Yet he studied these books, made hundreds of marginal notations in them and came out with ideas about the world that were characteristically simple and strong and sometimes wrong, ...[25]

Throughout his life, Columbus also showed a keen interest in the Bible and in Biblical prophecies, often quoting biblical texts in his letters and logs. For example, part of the argument that he submitted to the Spanish Catholic Monarchs when he sought their support for his proposed expedition to reach the Indies by sailing west was based on his reading of the Second Book of Esdras (Ezra): see 2 Esdras 6:42, which he took to mean that the Earth is made of six parts of land to one of water. Towards the end of his life, he produced a Book of Prophecies in which his career as an explorer is interpreted in the light of Christian eschatology and of apocalypticism.[8]

Carol Delaney has argued that Columbus was a millenialist and that these beliefs motivated his quest for Asia in a variety of ways.[26] Columbus wrote often about seeking gold in the diaries of his voyages and writes about acquiring the precious metal “in such quantity that the sovereigns…will undertake and prepare to go conquer the Holy Sepulcher[27] Comparative Studies in Society and History. April, 2006. . In an account of his fourth voyage, Columbus wrote that “Jerusalem and Mount Sion must be rebuilt by Christian hands” [28]. It has also been written that “conversion of all people to the Christian faith” is a central theme in Columbus’s writings which is a central tenant of some Millenarian beliefs.[29] In a more specific identification of his motivations, Hamandi writes that the “deliverance of Jerusalem from Muslim hands” could be accomplished by “using the resources of newly discovered lands”. [30]

Other Languages
Alemannisch: Christoph Kolumbus
aragonés: Cristofo Colombo
Avañe'ẽ: Kiritóval Kolõ
azərbaycanca: Xristofor Kolumb
Bân-lâm-gú: Christophorus Columbus
Basa Banyumasan: Kristoforus Kolumbus
беларуская: Хрыстафор Калумб
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Хрыстафор Калюмб
brezhoneg: Kristol Goulm
estremeñu: Cristóbal Colón
贛語: 哥倫布
गोंयची कोंकणी / Gõychi Konknni: Christopher Columbus
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Cristoforo Colombo
Արեւմտահայերէն: Քրիստափոր Քոլոմպոս
Bahasa Indonesia: Kristoforus Kolumbus
Kreyòl ayisyen: Kristòf Kolon
Lëtzebuergesch: Christoph Kolumbus
Lingua Franca Nova: Cristoforo Colombo
Livvinkarjala: Kristoffer Kolumbus
македонски: Кристофер Колумбо
مازِرونی: کریستفر کلمب
Bahasa Melayu: Christopher Columbus
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Christopher Columbus
Mirandés: Cristobo Colombo
Nedersaksies: Christoffel Columbus
norsk nynorsk: Kristoffer Columbus
ଓଡ଼ିଆ: କଲମ୍ବସ
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Christopher Columbus
پنجابی: کولمبس
Papiamentu: Cristóbal Colón
ភាសាខ្មែរ: គ្រីស្តុប កូឡុំ
Piemontèis: Cristòfo Colomb
Plattdüütsch: Christoph Kolumbus
Qaraqalpaqsha: Cristoforo Colombo
Ripoarisch: Christoph Kolumbus
Runa Simi: Cristobal Colon
русиньскый: Крістофор Колумб
Simple English: Christopher Columbus
slovenčina: Krištof Kolumbus
slovenščina: Krištof Kolumb
српски / srpski: Кристифор Колумбо
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Kristofor Kolumbo
tarandíne: Cristoforo Colombo
татарча/tatarça: Христофор Колумб
Türkçe: Kristof Kolomb
Türkmençe: Hristofor Kolumb
українська: Христофор Колумб
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: كولۇمبو
vepsän kel’: Kolumb Hristofor
Tiếng Việt: Cristoforo Colombo
文言: 哥倫布
粵語: 哥倫布
žemaitėška: Kristops Kuolumbos
kriyòl gwiyannen: Kristòf Kolon