Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer, navigator, and colonizer. Born in the Republic of Genoa, Columbus, under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean. Those voyages, and his efforts to establish settlements on the islands of Hispaniola, initiated the permanent European colonization of the New World. Take a look below for 30 more awesome and interesting facts about Christopher Columbus.
1. At a time when European kingdom were beginning to establish new trade routes and colonies, motivated by imperialism and economic competition, Columbus proposed to reach the East Indies by sailing westward.
2. During his first voyage in 1492, he reached the New World instead of arriving in Japan as he had intended, landing on an island in the Bahamas archipelago that he named San Salvador.
3. Over the course of three more voyages, he visited the Greater and Lesser Antilles, as well as the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and Central America, claiming all of it for the Crown of Castile.
4. Though preceded by short-lived Norse colonization of North America led by Leif Erikson in the 11th century, Columbus is the European explorer credited with establishing and documenting routes to the Americas, securing lasting European ties to the Americas, and inaugurating a period of exploration, conquest and colonization that lasted for centuries.
5. He founded the transatlantic slave trade, and within 25 years of being colonized by the population of Hispaniola, natives declined, dying from enslavement, massacre or disease.
6. He called the inhabitants of the lands that he visited indios, which is Spanish for Indians.
7. His strained relationship with the Spanish crown and its appointed colonial administrators in America led to his arrest and dismissal as governor of the settlements on the island of Hispaniola in 1500, and later protracted litigation over the benefits that he and his heirs claimed were owed to them by the crown.
8. Columbus’ mother was Susanna Fontanarossa, the daughter of a wool merchant. He had three brothers: Bartolomeo, Giovanni Pellegrino and Giacomo. He also had a sister, Bianchinetta. Columbus was the eldest.
9. His family was a member of the middle class, which was very rare in the Middle Ages. Most people were either extremely poor or incredibly rich.
10. When he was only 19 years old, in 1470, he took his first long voyage on one of his employer’s ships to the island of Chios in the Aegean Sea. It was probably on this trip and a second trip to Chios in 1475 that he learned how to navigate and steer a ship on open water on a long voyage.
11. When Columbus was 14 years old, he left school and his father’s wool workshop to apprentice himself to a merchant on a trading ship.
12. Columbus spoke frequently about his desire to spread Christianity to heathen cultures, and it was a popular cause during the time. However, converting people also meant that European governments could control them.
13. As a young man, Columbus was tall, well above the 5’7” that was average for men in the Middle Ages. He had pale skin that burned easily in the Sun. He had a hooked nose, pale blue eyes, and red-blond hair that turned completely white by the time he was in his 30s.
14. Columbus operated a little mapmaking and bookselling shop with his brother Bartolomeo while he lived in Portugal.
15. Some scholars speculate that Columbus may have received secret information from a close friend about lands far west across the ocean. This sailor is sometimes called the Unknown Pilot. Present historians haven’t found any evidence of him except for what is written by some early Columbus biographers.
16. Columbus had two songs by two different women, Diego Columbus and Fernando Columbus.
17. Columbus disrupted the entire economy of three continents. Post-Columbus diseases killed 3 to 5 million people during the subsequent 50 years after his arrival in the New World. Additionally, African slaves became a dominant commodity.
18. Columbus first landed in the Bahamas. All the Caribbean islands, including the Bahamas, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba, were settled by a group of peaceful people called the Tainos.
19. Before Columbus was a famous admiral and governor of the New World, he was a pirate, or Privateer, who helped attack Moorish merchant ships.
20. Columbus was very religious and believed God had called him to make his voyages. Many of the names Columbus gave to the lands he discovered were religious named.
21. Christopher Columbus wasn’t his real name. The name he was actually given when he was born in Genoa was Cristoforo Colombo.
22. Queen Isabella was hesitant to fun Columbus’ voyage. It took her six years to agree. Columbus, having given up, was four miles out of town when the Queen’s courier caught up with him and shares the news.
23. Once he received the money and the ships from the Queen, Columbus still had a very hard time trying to find a crew. Many people still believed that the Earth was flat and that at some point, a ship would hit a waterfall and fall off the side of the Earth.
24. On Christmas Eve, Columbus allowed an experienced boy to steer the Santa Maria and, later that night, the ship crashes onto a reef near Hispaniola.
25. Even though he made three return trips west, Columbus never actually stepped foot on the mainland of North America.
26. Later in his life, for unknown reasons, Columbus wore a plain Franciscan habit everywhere he went.
27. Near the end of his life, he wrote a book called Book of Privileges that listed all the promises that the Spanish crown had made to him over the years and the ways the crown had not honored these promises.
28. Later in his life, Columbus began to write a bizarre book titled Book of Prophecies. In the book, he insisted that all of his voyages had been divine missions directed by God. He believed that the world was coming to an end and that he, Columbus, was bringing it about.
29. Before he died, Columbus began requesting a Christian crusade to Jerusalem to rescue it from the Muslims.
30. Columbus is considered one of the best dead reckoning” sailors who ever walked the planet.