The Columbus Myth Born in Genoa, Italy, of humble parents, Christopher Columbus grew up to become anexperienced seafarer. He sailed the Atlantic as far as Iceland and West Africa. His adventuresconvinced him that the world must be round. Therefore the fabled riches of the East—spices,silk, and gold—could be had by sailing west, superseding the overland route through theMiddle East, which the Turks had closed off to commerce. To get funding for his enterprise, Columbus beseeched monarch after monarch inWestern Europe. After at first being dismissed by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, Columbusfinally got his chance when Queen Isabella decided to underwrite a modest expedition. Columbus outfitted three pitifully small ships, the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria,and set forth from Spain. The journey was difficult. The ships sailed west into the unknownAtlantic for more than two months. The crew almost mutinied and threatened to throwColumbus overboard. Finally they reached the West Indies on October 12, 1492. Although Columbus made three more voyages to America, he never really knew he haddiscovered a New World. He died in obscurity, unappreciated and penniless. Yet without hisdaring, American history would have been very different, for in a sense, Columbus made it allpossible.
Columbus: The Facts• By the 15th Century, it was commonly held that the world was round or pear shaped. Columbus got the size wrong--too small--but not the shape.• Columbus owned his own ships. Not poor…• The Spanish monarchy had plenty of $.• The ships were top of the line/first class vessels.• The trip wasn’t hard--no storms or bad weather.
Columbus: The Facts• They had food to last a year. No sailors died crossing the Atlantic.• Columbus wrote that he was worried about mutiny, but there was no evidence of one--perhaps he was paranoid?• Slaves were routinely taken and held for ransom in Europe at the time. Columbus did send 300 natives back as slaves, but Ferdinand and Isabella refused to accept them (no possibility of ransom) and sent them back.
Trouble on Second Voyage• On his second trip, Columbus instituted a policy of pacification on the locals• All Arawak/Tainos were to bring gold. Those who didn’t had their hands cut off. Most ran away, and were hunted down and killed.• Disease and suicide rates exploded amongst the tribe. Within two years, half the population was dead. Within 5, all but 100 were, and then the tribe went extinct.
Later Life• Columbus makes one more trip (total of 3) to and from the “New World”• He dies of a tropical disease in Spain on May 20th, 1506. – Is buried in Spain, – then moved to Cuba, – then back to Spain, then back to Cuba. – Then they lost track of his body, but it seems he is still buried in Havana, Cuba.
Columbus: The Facts• Columbus never set foot on the North American Continent. He was in the Caribbean.• Columbus’ death was first said to be caused by “gout”, but later evidence suggests it was Reiter’s Syndrome, a rare tropical disease. He did father a child out of wedlock, which caused a scandal, and was the start of the rumors in Spain. His men, though, did bring syphilis back…
Finally:• Columbus was rewarded for his discoveries by Ferdinand and Isabella.• Title was Admiral of the Ocean Sea, and was named viceroy and governor of all lands he discovered. And thus got a cut of all the wealth)• He was a bad governor and was arrested for a time because of it. But his wealth was returned to him, even if the titles weren’t, and he lived quite comfortably.