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Christopher Columbus

History - His Voyages - Columbus Announces His Discovery - Columbus Death

Columbus, Christopher (Italian, Cristoforo Colombo, Spanish, Cristóbal Colón) (1451-1506), Italian-Spanish navigator who sailed west across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a route to Asia but achieved fame by making landfall, instead, in the Caribbean Sea. Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy. His father was a weaver, and it is believed that Christopher entered this trade as a young man. Information about the beginning of his seafaring career is uncertain, but the independent city-state of Genoa had a busy port, and he may have sailed as a commercial agent in his youth. In the mid-1470s he made his first trading voyage to the island of Khíos, in the Aegean Sea. In 1476 he sailed with a convoy bound for England. Legend has it that the fleet was attacked by pirates off the coast of Portugal, where Columbus's ship was sunk, but he swam to shore and took refuge in

Lisbon. Settling there, where his brother Bartholomew Columbus was working as a cartographer, he was married in 1479 to the daughter of the governor of the island of Porto Santo. Diego Columbus, the only child of this marriage, was born in 1480.

Based on information acquired during his travels, and by reading and studying charts and maps, Christopher concluded that the Earth was 25 per cent smaller than was previously thought, and composed mostly of land. On the basis of these faulty beliefs, he decided that Asia could be reached quickly by sailing west. In 1484 he submitted his theories to John II, king of Portugal, petitioning him to finance a westward crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. His proposal was rejected by a royal maritime commission because of his miscalculations and because Portuguese ships were on the point of finding a sea route to Asia around Africa.

Soon after, Columbus moved to Spain, where his plans won the support of several influential people, and he secured an introduction, in 1486, to Isabella I, queen of Castile. About this time, Columbus, then a widower, met Beatriz Enriquez, who became his mistress and the mother of his second son, Ferdinand Columbus. In Spain, as in Portugal, a royal commission rejected his plan. Columbus continued to seek support, however, and in April 1492 his persistence was rewarded: Ferdinand V, king of Castile, and Queen Isabella agreed to sponsor the expedition. The signed contract stipulated that Columbus was to become viceroy of all territories he located; other rewards included a hereditary peerage and one-tenth of all precious metals found within his jurisdiction. 

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