Christopher Columbus (c. 1451 – 20 May 1506) (Cristoforo Colombo in Italian, Cristóbal Colón in Spanish, Cristóvão Colombo in Portuguese) was an explorer who crossed the Atlantic Ocean and reached the Americas on October 12th 1492 under the flag of Castilian Spain. In subsequent voyages he oversaw the conquest of the Caribbean, where his brutality led to arrest and loss of favor in the Spanish court.
- 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 1500
Journal of the First Voyage
- 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 customary, 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 armaments…. 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
- "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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- 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 Hignesses that, if it please God to remove me hence, you will help me to go to Rome and on other pilgrimages.
Quotes about Columbus
- What a pity, when Christopher Columbus discovered America, that he ever mentioned it.
- We shall be inclined to pronounce the voyage that led to the way to this New World as the most epoch-making event of all that have occurred since the birth of Christ.
- If Columbus had an advisory committee he would probably still be at the dock.
- Columbus had all the spirit of a crusader, and, at the same time, the investigating nature of a modern man of science.
- 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)
- So Columbus said, somebody show me the sunset and somebody did and he set sail for it,
And he discovered America and they put him in jail for it,
And the fetters gave him welts,
And they named America after somebody else.
- He gave the world another world.
- Columbus' government was characterised by a form of tyranny... Even those who loved him had to admit the atrocities that had taken place. Now one can understand why he was sacked and we can see that there were good reasons for doing so. The monarchs wanted someone who did not give them problems. Columbus did not solve problems, he created them.
- Consuelo Varela, on a recently discovered report by Francisco de Bobadilla on the harsh rule of Columbus and his brothers; as quoted in The Guardian (7 August 2006)
- Hardly a name in profane history is more august than his. Hardly another character in the world's record has made so little of its opportunities. His discovery was a blunder; his blunder was a new world; the New World is his monument!
- 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)
- "Christopher Columbus and the Indians" by Howard Zinn, excerpted from A People's History of the United States.