Christopher Columbus (1451 – 20 May 1506) (Cristoforo Colombo in Italian, Cristóbal Colón in Spanish, Cristóvão Colombo in Portuguese) was an Italian explorer and navigator who completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean, opening the way for the widespread European exploration and colonization of the Americas. His expeditions, sponsored by the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, were the first European contact with the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.
- I promise this, that if I am supported by our most invincible sovereigns with a little of their help, as much gold can be supplied as they will need, indeed as much of spices, of cotton, of mastic gum (which is only found in Chios), also as much of aloes wood, and as many slaves for the navy, as their Majesties will wish to demand.
- "Concerning the Islands Recently Discovered in the Indian Sea" (14 March 1493)
- I should be judged as a captain who went from Spain to the Indies to conquer a people numerous and warlike, whose manners and religion are very different from ours, who live in sierras and mountains, without fixed settlements, and where by divine will I have placed under the sovereignty of the King and Queen our Lords, an Other World, whereby Spain, which was reckoned poor, is become the richest of countries.
- Letter to Doña Juana de Torres (October 2015)
Journal of the First Voyage edit
- These quotations are translations derived from a summary made by Bartolomé de Las Casas, the original having been lost.
- I should not proceed by land to the East, as is custom, but by a Westerly route, in which direction we have hitherto no certain evidence that any one has gone.
- "Thanks be to God," says the Admiral; "the air is soft as in April in Seville, and it is a pleasure to be in it, so fragrant it is."
- 8 October 1492
- Here the men lost all patience, and complained of the length of the voyage, but the Admiral encouraged them in the best manner he could, representing the profits they were about to acquire, and adding that it was to no purpose to complain, having come so far, they had nothing to do but continue on to the Indies, till with the help of our Lord, they should arrive there.
- 10 October 1492
- Variant translation: Here the people could stand it no longer and complained of the long voyage; but the Admiral cheered them as best he could, holding out good hope of the advantages they would have. He added that it was useless to complain, he had come [to go] to the Indies, and so had to continue it until he found them, with the help of Our Lord.
- As translated in Journals and Other Documents on the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (1963) by Samuel Eliot Morison, p. 62
- Saw pardelas and a green rush near the vessel. The crew of the Pinta saw a cane and a log; they also picked up a stick which appeared to have been carved with an iron tool, a piece of cane, a plant which grows on land, and a board. The crew of the Nina saw other signs of land, and a stalk loaded with rose berries. These signs encouraged them, and they all grew cheerful.
- 11 October 1492
- At two o'clock in the morning the land was discovered, at two leagues' distance; they took in sail and remained under the square-sail lying to till day, which was Friday, when they found themselves near a small island, one of the Lucayos, called in the Indian language Guanahani. Presently they descried people, naked, and the Admiral landed in the boat, which was armed, along with Martin Alonzo Pinzon, and Vincent Yanez his brother, captain of the Nina. The Admiral bore the royal standard, and the two captains each a banner of the Green Cross, which all the ships had carried; this contained the initials of the names of the King and Queen each side of the cross, and a crown over each letter Arrived on shore, they saw trees very green many streams of water, and diverse sorts of fruits.
- Variant translation: At two hours after midnight appeared the land, at a distance of two leagues. They handed all sails and set the treo, which is the mainsail without bonnets, and lay-to waiting for daylight Friday, when they arrived at an island of the Bahamas that was called in the Indians' tongue Guanahani.
- As translated in Journals and Other Documents on the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (1963) by Samuel Eliot Morison, p. 64
- As I saw that they were very friendly to us, and perceived that they could be much more easily converted to our holy faith by gentle means than by force, I presented them with some red caps, and strings of beads to wear upon the neck, and many other trifles of small value, wherewith they were much delighted, and became wonderfully attached to us. Afterwards they came swimming to the boats, bringing parrots, balls of cotton thread, javelins, and many other things which they exchanged for articles we gave them, such as glass beads, and hawk's bells; which trade was carried on with the utmost good will. But they seemed on the whole to me, to be a very poor people. They all go completely naked, even the women, though I saw but one girl. All whom I saw were young, not above thirty years of age, well made, with fine shapes and faces; their hair short, and coarse like that of a horse's tail, combed toward the forehead, except a small portion which they suffer to hang down behind, and never cut. Some paint themselves with black, which makes them appear like those of the Canaries, neither black nor white; others with white, others with red, and others with such colors as they can find. Some paint the face, and some the whole body; others only the eyes, and others the nose. Weapons they have none, nor are acquainted with them, for I showed them swords which they grasped by the blades, and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron, their javelins being without it, and nothing more than sticks, though some have fish-bones or other things at the ends. They are all of a good size and stature, and handsomely formed. I saw some with scars of wounds upon their bodies, and demanded by signs the of them; they answered me in the same way, that there came people from the other islands in the neighborhood who endeavored to make prisoners of them, and they defended themselves. I thought then, and still believe, that these were from the continent. It appears to me, that the people are ingenious, and would be good servants and I am of opinion that they would very readily become Christians, as they appear to have no religion. They very quickly learn such words as are spoken to them. If it please our Lord, I intend at my return to carry home six of them to your Highnesses, that they may learn our language. I saw no beasts in the island, nor any sort of animals except parrots.
- 12 October 1492; This entire passage is directly quoted from Columbus in the summary by Bartolomé de Las Casas
- Presently we discovered two or three villages, and the people all came down to the shore, calling out to us, and giving thanks to God.… An old man came on board my boat; the others, both men and women cried with loud voices: "Come and see the men who have come from the sky. Bring them victuals and drink."
- 13 October 1492
- I wished to give a complete relation to your Highnesses, and also where a fort might be built…. However, I do not see it to be necessary, because these people are simple in weapons…. With fifty men I could subjugate them all and make them do everything that is required of them.
- 14 October 1492
- The Admiral says that he never beheld so fair a thing: trees all along the river, beautiful and green, and different from ours, with flowers and fruits each according to their kind, many birds and little birds which sing very sweetly.
- 28 October 1492
- The two Christians met on the way many people who were going to their towns, women and men, with a firebrand in the hand, herbs to drink the smoke thereof, as they are accustomed.
- On smoking, 6 November 1492
- When there are such lands there should be profitable things without number.
- 27 November 1492
- And I say that Your Highnesses ought not to consent that any foreigner does business or sets foot here, except Christian Catholics, since this was the end and the beginning of the enterprise, that it should be for the enhancement and glory of the Christian religion, nor should anyone who is not a good Christian come to these parts.
- 27 November 1492
- ...your Highnesses may believe that this island (Hispaniola), and all the others, are as much yours as Castile. Here there is only wanting a settlement and the order to the people to do what is required. For I, with the force I have under me, which is not large, could march over all these islands without opposition. I have seen only three sailors land, without wishing to do harm, and a multitude of Indians fled before them. They have no arms, and are without warlike instincts; they all go naked, and are so timid that a thousand would not stand before three of our men. So that they are good to be ordered about, to work and sow, and do all that may be necessary, and to build towns, and they should be taught to go about clothed and to adopt our customs.
- 16 December 1492
- The Admiral ordered the lord to be given some things, and he and all his folk rested in great contentment, believing truly that they had come from the sky, and to see the Christians they held themselves very fortunate.
- 22 December 1492
- I certify to Your Highnesses that in the world I believe that there are no better people nor better land. They love their neighbors as themselves, and have a speech that is sweetest in the world, and mild and always laughing.
- 25 December 1492
- "Of this voyage, I observe," says the Admiral, "that it has miraculously been shown, as may be understood by this writing, by the many signal miracles that He has shown on the voyage, and for me, who for so great a time was in the court of Your Highnesses with the opposition and against the opinion of so many high personages of your household, who were all against me, alleging this undertaking to be folly, which I hope in Our Lord will be to the greater glory of Christianity, which to some slight extent already has happened."
- 15 March 1493
Letter to the Sovereigns (1493) edit
- Letter to the Sovereigns , First Voyage (15 February - 4 March 1493)
- It is true that after they have been reassured and have lost this fear, they are so artless and so free with all they possess, that no one would believe it without having seen it. Of anything they have, if you ask them for it, they never say no; rather they invite the person to share it, and show as much love as if they were giving their hearts.
- And they know neither sect nor idolatry, with the exception that all believe that the source of all power and goodness is in the sky, and they believe very firmly that I, with these ships and people, came from the sky, and in this belief they everywhere received me, after they had overcome their fear.
Journal of the Third Voyage (1498) edit
- Journal of the Third Voyage (May - August 1498)
- I have come to believe that this is a mighty continent which was hitherto unknown. I am greatly supported in this view by reason of this great river, and by this sea which is fresh.
Letter to the Sovereigns (1498) edit
- Letter to the Sovereigns, Third Voyage (18 October 1498)
- I have always read that the world, both land and water, was spherical, as the authority and researches of Ptolemy and all the others who have written on this subject demonstrate and prove, as do the eclipses of the moon and other experiments that are made from east to west, and the elevation of the North Star from north to south.
- Your Highnesses have an Other World here, by which our holy faith can be so greatly advanced and from which such great wealth can be drawn.
Letter to the Sovereigns (1503) edit
- Lettera Rarissima to the Sovereigns, Fourth Voyage (7 July 1503)
- The tempest was terrible and separated me from my [other] vessels that night, putting every one of them in desperate straits, with nothing to look forward to but death. Each was certain the others had been destroyed. What man ever born, not excepting Job, who would not have died of despair, when in such weather seeking safety for my son, my brother, shipmates, and myself, we were forbidden [access to] the land and the harbors which I, by God's will and sweating blood, had won for Spain?
- I came to serve you at the age of 28 and now I have not a hair on me that is not white, and my body is infirm and exhausted. All that was left to me and my brothers has been taken away and sold, even to the cloak that I wore, without hearing or trial, to my great dishonor.
- Weep for me, whoever has charity, truth and justice! I did not come on this voyage for gain, honor or wealth, that is certain; for then the hope of all such things was dead. I came to Your Highnesses with honest purpose and sincere zeal; and I do not lie. I humbly beseech You Highnesses that, if it please God to remove me hence, you will help me to go to Rome and on other pilgrimages.
Quotes about Christopher Columbus edit
- When everybody says "lesbian," a word connected with Sappho and the island of Lesbos, that automatically means that your forefathers and foremothers are European, that George Washington is the father of our country and Columbus discovered America-all false assumptions.
- Gloria E. Anzaldúa interview in Backtalk: women writers speak out by Donna Marie Perry (1993)
- it is not quite accurate to say that the indigenous population gave of themselves and their land for that noble purpose. Rather, they were slaughtered, decimated, and dispersed in the course of one of the greatest exercises in genocide in human history...which we celebrate each October when we honor Columbus-a notable mass murderer himself-on Columbus Day.
- Noam Chomsky Manufacturing Consent (1988)
- there was no Italy — Columbus was from Genoa, a city-state. He died in Spain. So, you know, it’s a very weak link to Italianness. And, of course, Italians have such illustrious people they can celebrate, that everyone celebrates — Michelangelo, Vivaldi and, of course, for us on the left, Sacco and Vanzetti.
- The Columbus myth suggests that from US independence onward, colonial settlers saw themselves as part of a world system of colonization. "Columbia," the poetic, Latinate name used in reference to the United States from its founding throughout the nineteenth century, was based on the name of Christopher Columbus. The "Land of Columbus" was-and still is-represented by the image of a woman in sculptures and paintings, by institutions such as Columbia University, and by countless place names, including that of the national capital, the District of Columbia.7 The 1798 hymn "Hail, Columbia" was the early national anthem and is now used whenever the vice president of the United States makes a public appearance, and Columbus Day is still a federal holiday despite Columbus never having set foot on the continent claimed by the United States.
- Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States (2014)
- I did barge around the library fully pregnant, that's true too, and in fact I became almost obsessed with Columbus for several months. I didn't expect him to come alive, or to become such an unwieldy, slyly teasing, deceptive, wholly frustrating subject. I used to throw my head down on the table sometimes and wish, just wish, I could talk to him. I know I could have made him understand what was going to happen, made him understand cultural history and ethnocentrism. He was brilliant, strange, and emotional, and very, very cruel.
- One of the least known and studied aspects of US history involves the centuries-long trade in Indian slaves. Only in the last decade or two have scholars begun in earnest to piece together and analyze the trade in Indigenous bodies introduced by Christopher Columbus from his first voyage to the New World in 1492.
- Dina Gilio-Whitaker As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock (2019)
- Christopher Columbus landed first in the New World at the island of San Salvador, and after praising God enquired urgently for gold.
- Christopher Columbus made landfall in the western hemisphere in 1492. His venture was characteristic of the internationalism of the American enterprise. He operated from the Spanish city of Seville but came from Genoa and he was by nationality a citizen of the Republic of Venice, which then ran an island empire in the Eastern Mediterranean. The finance for his transatlantic expedition was provided by himself and other Genoa merchants in Seville, and topped up by the Spanish Queen Isabella, who had seized quantities of cash when her troops occupied Granada earlier that year.
- Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (1999), p. 6
- Columbus’s letter from his third voyage contains his description of the world’s shape as being that of a pear or a woman’s breast, with what he thinks he has discovered to be the Garden of Eden being on the nipple.
- Paul Lauter (ed.) The Health Anthology of American Literature, citing Cecil Jane (ed., tr.) The Four Voyages of Columbus (1988)
- I first ask the kids, "What language do you think Columbus spoke?" Some agree on Spanish; some of the more astute ones even venture Italian. When I ask them what the Arawak spoke they respond, "English." Which, of course, to them is the "American" language. By way of illustration, I call two Cantonese-speaking kids to the center of the circle and ask them to speak their native tongue. They do so, at first shyly, then with pride that they have something special to contribute to this lesson. The rest of the kids-African American, Latino, and Pilipino-respond that the words sound like nonsense to them. In short, it is gibberish. We begin to improvise. Five kids volunteer to be Columbus and his crew and another five an Arawak chief and his tribe. The two groups confront each other, speaking "gibberish"-gibberish that ends up meaning "I came for gold and if you refuse to give me what I want, I will kill you," which is exactly where genocide and greed meet. Columbus and crew raise and shoot their rifles and the Arawak drop dead en masse. They had not been directed to do so. This was an improvisation, which ended our rehearsal for the day and began our first lesson in colonization. And we, the kids and I, have fallen in love with theater's power to teach. Truth. Or lies. You choose, as Augosto Boal reminds us.
- Cherríe Moraga A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness (2011)
- Eratosthenes... knew that the Sun was straight overhead in... Syene at noon on the summer solstice, but that it was 7.2 degrees south of straight overhead in Alexandria, located 794 kilometers farther north. He concluded... 794 kilometers corresponded to 7.2 degrees out of the 360 degrees... around Earth's circumference, so that the circumference must be 794 km x 360°/7.2°≈39,700 km... remarkably close to the modern value of 40,000 km.
Amusingly Christopher Columbus totally bungled this... confusing Arabic miles with Italian miles, concluding that he needed to sail only 3,700 km... when the true value was 19,600 km.
- Max Tegmark, Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality (2014)
- Princess Marie-Esméralda of Belgium: The fact that our public space is dominated by images to the glory of white men, conquerors, and certain colonizers or slavers undoubtedly contributes to the sense that history celebrates the supremacy of the white race. The "discovery" of America by Christopher Columbus, regardless of the explorer's merits, reflects a Eurocentric view of the world. Wasn't it a continent that has essentially been 'discovered' since it was inhabited? His troops plundered the local wealth, enslaved the natives and spread unknown diseases.
- Extracts from journal
- Keith Pickering's Columbus Navigation Page
- A reconstructed portrait of Christopher Columbus, based on historical sources, in a contemporary style.
- Works by Christopher Columbus at Project Gutenberg
- The Eclipse That Saved Columbus by Ivars Peterson, Science News (7 October 2006)
- "The Real Christopher Columbus" by Howard Zinn, excerpted from A People's History of the United States.
- The discovery of America