Top 5 facts

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS

AN EXPLORER FAMED FOR KICK-STARTING THE SPANISH CONQUEST OF THE NEW WORLD

ITALY, 1451-1506

01 COLUMBUS NEARLY DIED ON HIS FIRST ATLANTIC VOYAGE

Columbus displayed a keen interest in sailing and exploring from an early age, embarking on several voyages in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas. However, his first Atlantic expedition in 1476 nearly ended in disaster, as his ship was attacked by French privateers off the coast of Portugal, forcing him to swim to safety.

02 Asia was the intended destination, not America

Financed by the Spanish monarchy, Columbus embarked on the first of four voyages towards America in 1492 aboard his flagship, the Santa Maria. Accompanied by two smaller ships, he set sail for the Far East. After ten weeks they spotted an island — in the Bahamas, not Asia — that Columbus christened San Salvador (Holy Saviour).

03 He kick-started the Spanish colonisation of America

Between 1493 and 1502, Columbus would make three further voyages towards the west; the second with more men to establish colonies; the third to deliver much-needed supplies; and the fourth in search of the Strait of Malacca, which led the way towards the Indian Ocean.

04 He was a cruel leader

After his first voyage, Columbus was appointed Viceroy and Governor of the Indies. But he wasn’t popular, with a number of accusations of cruelty against the natives and use of torture being levelled at him. After he returned from his third voyage in 1500, Columbus was imprisoned with his brothers, who ruled alongside him.

05 His death went unnoticed

By the time he had returned from his fourth voyage in 1504, Columbus was in poor health, suffering from eye inflammation and arthritis. Ignored by the Spanish monarchy for whom he once sailed, he died in 1506 in Valladolid, north-west Spain, having been cared for by his family for the 18 months since his return.

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS

Italian, 1451-1506

Born in Genoa, Italy, in 1451, Columbus had a passion for sea travel from a young age.

Keen to lead a voyage to the Orient, he was rejected by several countries — including England — before finally receiving backing from the Spanish royals. In 1492 he set sail for the Far East, but the first land he reached was, in fact, the Bahamas. This discovery brought about a mad dash as European powers jostled to claim a stake in the New World.

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