12 October, 1492. Italian explorer and fortune hunter Christopher Columbus sets foot on the pristine white sands of the Bahamas and hoists the Spanish royal flag. He claims the territory for his King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Columbus believed he was in Japan, but in reality, he had landed in “New World”. History, for better or for the worse, was about to change forever.
Here are 15 Christopher Columbus facts that you probably didn’t know.
1. Proving the earth’s shape was not his agenda
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Forget the myths woven by armchair historians. Christopher Columbus had no intentions to prove that the earth was round. Ancient Greeks already did that by the 4th century BC and a couple of centuries later, Greek mathematician Pythagoras, will surmise the world as round. By 8th century, Aristotle will support the theory with astronomical calculations. By 1492 most people knew the earth wasn’t shaped like pancake.
2. The anonymous pilot
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Some historians speculate that Christopher Columbus may have received some secret information from one of his close friends about lands across the ocean. The sailor is referred to as an “unknown pilot”. Later historians, however, found no evidence of any such man, except what’s written by early Columbus biographers that are not entirely reliable.
3. He wasn’t the first to cross Atlantic
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That goes to Icelandic explorer Leif Eriksson, believed to have landed in what’s today known as Newfoundland, in 1000 AD, five centuries before Christopher Columbus tried anything similar. Many historians claim, Saint Brendan from Ireland and some Celtic explorers crossed Atlantic long before Eriksson. Interestingly, the US remembers Columbus with much fanfare and a federal holiday, though he never walked North American mainland, Eriksson Day on 9 October largely goes unnoticed.
4. It wasn’t his real name
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The Christopher Columbus name is an anglicized version of the Columbus birth name. According to most historians, Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa as Cristoforo Colombo, which sounds more like the English name than Spanish. His name was changed to Cristóbal Colón in his adopted country Spain. The Americans seem to have recorded his name as Christopher Columbus and that has stuck since.
Also Read: 13 Fascinating Facts About Hannibal Barca
5. Almost never made his journey
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Columbus was convinced to reach Asia through the West. But getting the fund was hard in Europe. He sought support from various royal courts, including the King of Portugal. Most European rulers thought he was a lunatic. He stayed in the Spanish court for years, trying to convince King Ferdinand to fund his adventure. He was about to give up and head France in 1492, when Columbus got the news that his voyage has been approved.