Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What is the origin of Columbus?

In 1492 Christopher Columbus’s voyage across the Atlantic to the Caribbean for ever altered our picture of the world. And yet the fearless seafarer was remarkably vague about himself. Then there are hundreds of books on Columbus, but even 500 years after the discovery of America, there is no end insight to the controversy surrounding this enigmatic character.

Christopher Columbus is probably the most famous adventurer of all time – in his auto biographical writings, he always omitted certain aspects of his past. On the other hand, both friends and enemies were only too happy to spread stories and rumors about him. This had made it very difficult for historians to sort out the facts from a mass of hypothesis and speculation. Who was the man who talked Queen Isabella in to sending him forth on the great journey?

For a long time even his exact birth date was unclear; but it is now generally agreed that Columbus was born near the Italian port of Genoa, in 1451 and that he came from a family of weavers. In some documents he appears as Christofero Colombo, while others use the Spanish form Cristobal Colon. Biographers have shown that they mention the same person.

Columbus began his adventurous life at the age of 10, when he went to the sea. At 15, he is supposed to have served on a privateer launched by Rene of Anjou in his fight against King Alfonsov of Aragon and Sicily for the throne of the kingdom of Naples. The young Columbus was probably involved in the seizure of Spanish ships, which might explain why he later concealed this phase of his youth.

As a young man Columbus made his way to Portugal. From there he went to the court of Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon- their marriage in 1469 had united the two kingdoms – to present his proposal to sail westward. He had contacts with scholars of the time, men who knew the earth was not a flat disc, as was widely believed during the Middle Ages and who advised him to travel towards the west.

In August 1492 he was allowed to sail, and reached Bahamas, Cuba and Haiti. It was not until his third voyage that he set foot on the American continent near the Island of Trinidad.

But certain things about this remarkable man are unclear. Shortly after Columbus death both Spanish and Italian sources claim him self one of their own citizens. In this context some researchers mention an interesting point that Columbus almost never spoke or wrote Italian but choose to use Castilian- the dialects of Castile: now accepted as the standard form of Spanish. In his biography of the explorer; the Spanish historian Salvador De Madaraga claimed that Columbus family was Jewish and had left Spain towards the end of the 14th century because of the prosecution of their religion but with in their family the continued speaking their mother tongue.

Any way, still Columbus origin is a confusing one.

1 comment:

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