Vasco da Gama

Vasco da Gama

Overview
Vasco da Gama, 1st Count of Vidigueira
Count of Vidigueira
Count of Vidigueira was a Portuguese count title of nobility awarded by King Manuel I of Portugal to Dom Vasco da Gama, who discovered the maritime route from Europe to India...

 (ˈvaʃku ðɐ ˈɣɐmɐ) (c. 1460 or 1469 – 24 December 1524) was a Portuguese explorer
Portugal in the Age of Discovery
During the history of Portugal between 1415 and 1578, Portugal discovered an eastern route to India that rounded the Cape of Good Hope, discovered Brazil, established trading routes throughout most of southern Asia, colonized selected areas of Africa, and sent the first direct European maritime...

, one of the most successful in the Age of Discovery
Age of Discovery
The Age of Discovery, also known as the Age of Exploration and the Great Navigations , was a period in history starting in the early 15th century and continuing into the early 17th century during which Europeans engaged in intensive exploration of the world, establishing direct contacts with...

 and the commander of the first ships to sail directly from Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

. For a short time in 1524 he was the Governor of Portuguese India
Portuguese India
The Portuguese Viceroyalty of India , later the Portuguese State of India , was the aggregate of Portugal's colonial holdings in India.The government started in 1505, six years after the discovery of a sea route to India by Vasco da Gama, with the nomination of the first Viceroy Francisco de...

, under the title of Viceroy
Viceroy
A viceroy is a royal official who runs a country, colony, or province in the name of and as representative of the monarch. The term derives from the Latin prefix vice-, meaning "in the place of" and the French word roi, meaning king. A viceroy's province or larger territory is called a viceroyalty...

.

Vasco da Gama was born in either 1460 or 1469 in Sines
Sines, Portugal
Sines is a coastal municipality in the district of Setúbal, in the Alentejo Litoral region of the Portuguese Alentejo. Its population in 2011 was over 14260 residents, with a total area of 203.3 km², concentrated on the municipal seat of Sines.-History:...

, on the southwest coast of Portugal, probably in a house near the church of Nossa Senhora das Salas.
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Vasco da Gama, 1st Count of Vidigueira
Count of Vidigueira
Count of Vidigueira was a Portuguese count title of nobility awarded by King Manuel I of Portugal to Dom Vasco da Gama, who discovered the maritime route from Europe to India...

 (ˈvaʃku ðɐ ˈɣɐmɐ) (c. 1460 or 1469 – 24 December 1524) was a Portuguese explorer
Portugal in the Age of Discovery
During the history of Portugal between 1415 and 1578, Portugal discovered an eastern route to India that rounded the Cape of Good Hope, discovered Brazil, established trading routes throughout most of southern Asia, colonized selected areas of Africa, and sent the first direct European maritime...

, one of the most successful in the Age of Discovery
Age of Discovery
The Age of Discovery, also known as the Age of Exploration and the Great Navigations , was a period in history starting in the early 15th century and continuing into the early 17th century during which Europeans engaged in intensive exploration of the world, establishing direct contacts with...

 and the commander of the first ships to sail directly from Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

. For a short time in 1524 he was the Governor of Portuguese India
Portuguese India
The Portuguese Viceroyalty of India , later the Portuguese State of India , was the aggregate of Portugal's colonial holdings in India.The government started in 1505, six years after the discovery of a sea route to India by Vasco da Gama, with the nomination of the first Viceroy Francisco de...

, under the title of Viceroy
Viceroy
A viceroy is a royal official who runs a country, colony, or province in the name of and as representative of the monarch. The term derives from the Latin prefix vice-, meaning "in the place of" and the French word roi, meaning king. A viceroy's province or larger territory is called a viceroyalty...

.

Early life


Vasco da Gama was born in either 1460 or 1469 in Sines
Sines, Portugal
Sines is a coastal municipality in the district of Setúbal, in the Alentejo Litoral region of the Portuguese Alentejo. Its population in 2011 was over 14260 residents, with a total area of 203.3 km², concentrated on the municipal seat of Sines.-History:...

, on the southwest coast of Portugal, probably in a house near the church of Nossa Senhora das Salas. Sines, one of the few seaports on the Alentejo coast, consisted of little more than a cluster of whitewashed, red-tiled cottages, tenanted chiefly by fisherfolk.

Vasco da Gama's father was Estêvão da Gama
Estêvão da Gama (15th century)
Estêvão da Gama was a wealthy Portuguese knight of the fifteenth century, best known as the father of explorer Vasco da Gama....

, who had served in the 1460s as a knight of the household of Infante Ferdinand, Duke of Viseu and went on to rise in the ranks of the military Order of Santiago. Estêvão da Gama was appointed alcaide-mór (civil governor) of Sines in the 1460s, a post he held until 1478, and continued as a receiver of taxes and holder of the Order's commendas in the region.

Estêvão da Gama married Isabel Sodré, a daughter of João Sodré (also known as João de Resende), scion of a well-connected family of English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 origin. Her father and her brothers, Vicente Sodré
Vicente Sodré
Vicente Sodré , was a 16th C. Portuguese knight of Order of Christ and the captain of the first Portuguese naval patrol in the Indian Ocean. He was an uncle of Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama.- Background :...

 and Brás Sodré, had links to the household of Infante Diogo, Duke of Viseu and were prominent figures in the military Order of Christ
Order of Christ (Portugal)
The Military Order of Christ previously the Royal Order of the Knights of Our Lord Jesus Christ was the heritage of the Knights Templar in Portugal, after the suppression of the Templars in 1312...

.

Vasco da Gama was the third of five sons of Estêvão da Gama and Isabel Sodré - in (probable) order of age: Paulo da Gama
Paulo da Gama
Paulo da Gama was a Portuguese explorer, son of Estevão da Gama and the older brother of Vasco da Gama.He was a member of the first voyage from Europe to India, led by his brother, commanding the ship São Rafael, which would be later scuttled in the return trip. Paulo da Gama joined the São Gabriel...

, João Sodré, Vasco da Gama, Pedro da Gama and Aires da Gama. Vasco also had one known sister, Teresa da Gama (who married Lopo Mendes de Vasconcelos).

Little is known of Vasco da Gama's early life. The Portuguese historian Teixeira de Aragão suggests that Gama studied at the inland town of Évora
Évora
Évora is a municipality in Portugal. It has total area of with a population of 55,619 inhabitants. It is the seat of the Évora District and capital of the Alentejo region. The municipality is composed of 19 civil parishes, and is located in Évora District....

, which is where he may have learned mathematics and navigation and it has even been claimed (although dubiously) that he studied under the astronomer Abraham Zacuto
Abraham Zacuto
Abraham Zacuto was a Sephardi Jewish astronomer, astrologer, mathematician and historian who served as Royal Astronomer in the 15th century to King John II of Portugal. The crater Zagut on the Moon is named after him....

.

Around 1480, Vasco da Gama followed his father (rather than the Sodrés) and joined the Order of Santiago. The master of Santiago was Prince John, who would ascend to the throne in 1481 as King John II of Portugal
John II of Portugal
John II , the Perfect Prince , was the thirteenth king of Portugal and the Algarves...

. John II doted on the Order, and the Gamas prospects rose accordingly.

In 1492, John II dispatched Vasco da Gama on a mission to the port of Setúbal
Setúbal
Setúbal is the main city in Setúbal Municipality in Portugal with a total area of 172.0 km² and a total population of 118,696 inhabitants in the municipality. The city proper has 89,303 inhabitants....

 and to the Algarve to seize French
Kingdom of France
The Kingdom of France was one of the most powerful states to exist in Europe during the second millennium.It originated from the Western portion of the Frankish empire, and consolidated significant power and influence over the next thousand years. Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King, developed a...

 ships in retaliation for peacetime depredations against Portuguese shipping - a task that Vasco rapidly and effectively performed.

Exploration before Gama


From the earlier part of the 15th Century, Portuguese expeditions
Portuguese discoveries
Portuguese discoveries is the name given to the intensive maritime exploration by the Portuguese during the 15th and 16th centuries. Portuguese sailors were at the vanguard of European overseas exploration, discovering and mapping the coasts of Africa, Asia and Brazil, in what become known as the...

 organized by Prince Henry the Navigator had been crawling down the African coastline, principally in search for west African riches (notably, gold). They had greatly extended Portuguese maritime knowledge, but had little profit to show for the effort. After Henry's death in 1460, the Portuguese crown showed little interest in continuing and, in 1469, the crown sold off the neglected African enterprise to a private Lisbon merchant consortium, led by Fernão Gomes
Fernão Gomes
Fernão Gomes was a Portuguese merchant and explorer from Lisbon, the son of Tristão Gomes de Brito .In 1469, King Afonso V of Portugal granted him the monopoly on trade in the Gulf of Guinea...

. In a few short years, Gomes's captains rapidly expanded Portuguese knowledge across the Gulf of Guinea
Gulf of Guinea
The Gulf of Guinea is the northeasternmost part of the tropical Atlantic Ocean between Cape Lopez in Gabon, north and west to Cape Palmas in Liberia. The intersection of the Equator and Prime Meridian is in the gulf....

 and drummed up some business in gold dust, melagueta
Aframomum melegueta
Aframomum melegueta is a species in the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. This spice, commonly known as grains of paradise, melegueta pepper, alligator pepper, Guinea grains or Guinea pepper, is obtained from the ground seeds; it gives a pungent, peppery flavour...

 pepper, ivory and slaves . When Gomes charter came up for renewal in 1474, Prince John (future John II), asked his father Afonso V of Portugal
Afonso V of Portugal
Afonso V KG , called the African , was the twelfth King of Portugal and the Algarves. His sobriquet refers to his conquests in Northern Africa.-Early life:...

 to pass the African charter to him.

Upon becoming king in 1481, John II of Portugal
John II of Portugal
John II , the Perfect Prince , was the thirteenth king of Portugal and the Algarves...

 set out on many long reforms. To break the monarch's dependence on the feudal nobility, John II needed to build up the royal treasury and saw royal commerce as the key to it. Under John II's watch, the gold and slave trade in west Africa was greatly expanded. But John II was also eager to break into the highly-profitable spice trade
Spice trade
Civilizations of Asia were involved in spice trade from the ancient times, and the Greco-Roman world soon followed by trading along the Incense route and the Roman-India routes...

 between Europe and Asia. At the time, this was virtually monopolized by the Republic of Venice
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

, who operated overland routes via Levantine and Egyptian ports, through the Red Sea across to the spice markets of India. So John II soon set a new objective for his captains: to find a sea route to Asia by sailing under the African continent.

By the time Vasco da Gama was in his 20s, these plans were coming to fruition. In 1487, John II dispatched two spies, Pero da Covilhã
Pêro da Covilhã
Pedro or Pêro da Covilhã was a Portuguese diplomat and explorer.He was a native of Covilhã in Beira. In his early life he had gone to Castile and entered the service of Alphonso, Duke of Seville...

 and Afonso de Paiva
Afonso de Paiva
Afonso de Paiva was a Portuguese diplomat and explorer of Ethiopia and the Barbary Coast together with Pêro da Covilhã. According to James Bruce, Afonso left Pêro da Covilhã at Aden, and proceeded to Suakin where he hoped to join a caravan to his destination. The further details of his life are...

, overland via Egypt, to East Africa and India, to scout the details of the spice markets and trade routes. The breakthrough came soon after when John II's captain Bartolomeu Dias
Bartolomeu Dias
Bartolomeu Dias , a nobleman of the Portuguese royal household, was a Portuguese explorer who sailed around the southernmost tip of Africa in 1488, the first European known to have done so.-Purposes of the Dias expedition:...

 returned from rounding the Cape of Good Hope
Cape of Good Hope
The Cape of Good Hope is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa.There is a misconception that the Cape of Good Hope is the southern tip of Africa, because it was once believed to be the dividing point between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In fact, the...

 in 1488, having explored as far as the Fish River (Rio do Infante) in modern-day South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 and having verified that the unknown coast stretched away to the northeast.

It remained for an explorer to prove the link between the findings of Dias and those of da Covilhã and de Paiva and to connect these separate segments into a potentially lucrative trade route into the Indian Ocean. The task, originally given to Vasco da Gama's father, was finally offered to Vasco by Manuel I
Manuel I of Portugal
Manuel I , the Fortunate , 14th king of Portugal and the Algarves was the son of Infante Ferdinand, Duke of Viseu, , by his wife, Infanta Beatrice of Portugal...

 on the strength of his record of protecting Portuguese trading stations along the African Gold Coast
Gold Coast (British colony)
The Gold Coast was a British colony on the Gulf of Guinea in west Africa that became the independent nation of Ghana in 1957.-Overview:The first Europeans to arrive at the coast were the Portuguese in 1471. They encountered a variety of African kingdoms, some of which controlled substantial...

 from depredations by the French.

First voyage



On 8 July 1497 Vasco da Gama led a fleet of four ships with a crew of 170 men from Lisbon
Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 545,245 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of , making it the 9th most populous urban...

. The distance traveled in the journey around Africa to India and back was greater than around the equator. The navigators included Portugal's most experienced, Pero de Alenquer, Pedro Escobar
Pedro Escobar
Pedro Escobar, also known as Pêro Escobar, was a 15th century Portuguese navigator who discovered São Tomé and Príncipe together with João de Santarém and Fernão do Pó circa 1470. He is then recorded sailing with Diogo Cão on his first voyage in 1482, and as the pilot of the famous Bérrio caravel...

, João de Coimbra, and Afonso Gonçalves. It is not known for certain how many people were in each ship's crew but approximately 55 returned, and two ships were lost. Two of the vessels were as naus or newly built for the voyage, possibly a caravel
Caravel
A caravel is a small, highly maneuverable sailing ship developed in the 15th century by the Portuguese to explore along the West African coast and into the Atlantic Ocean. The lateen sails gave her speed and the capacity for sailing to windward...

 and a supply boat. The four ships were:
  • The São Gabriel
    São Gabriel (ship)
    The São Gabriel was the flagship of Vasco da Gama's armada on his first voyage to India in 1497-1499.-São Gabriel:The São Gabriel was a Portuguese "nau" that, like its sister ship, the São Rafael, was built specifically for the expedition; both exhibited similar construction...

    , commanded by Vasco da Gama; a carrack
    Carrack
    A carrack or nau was a three- or four-masted sailing ship developed in 15th century Western Europe for use in the Atlantic Ocean. It had a high rounded stern with large aftcastle, forecastle and bowsprit at the stem. It was first used by the Portuguese , and later by the Spanish, to explore and...

     of 178 tons, length 27 m, width 8.5 m, draft
    Draft (hull)
    The draft of a ship's hull is the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull , with the thickness of the hull included; in the case of not being included the draft outline would be obtained...

     2.3 m, sails of 372 m²
  • The São Rafael, whose commander was his brother Paulo da Gama
    Paulo da Gama
    Paulo da Gama was a Portuguese explorer, son of Estevão da Gama and the older brother of Vasco da Gama.He was a member of the first voyage from Europe to India, led by his brother, commanding the ship São Rafael, which would be later scuttled in the return trip. Paulo da Gama joined the São Gabriel...

    ; similar dimensions to the São Gabriel
  • The caravel
    Caravel
    A caravel is a small, highly maneuverable sailing ship developed in the 15th century by the Portuguese to explore along the West African coast and into the Atlantic Ocean. The lateen sails gave her speed and the capacity for sailing to windward...

     Berrio, slightly smaller than the former two (later re-named São Miguel), commanded by Nicolau Coelho
    Nicolau Coelho
    Nicolau Coelho was an expert Portuguese sailor during the age of discovery. He participated in the discovery of the route to India by Vasco da Gama where he commanded Berrio, the first caravel to return; was captain of a ship in the fleet headed by Pedro Álvares Cabral who landed in Brazil...

  • A storage ship of unknown name, commanded by Gonçalo Nunes, later lost near the Bay of São Brás, along the east coast of Africa

Journey to the Cape



The expedition set sail from Lisbon on 8 July 1497, following the route pioneered by earlier explorers along the coast of Africa via Tenerife
Tenerife
Tenerife is the largest and most populous island of the seven Canary Islands, it is also the most populated island of Spain, with a land area of 2,034.38 km² and 906,854 inhabitants, 43% of the total population of the Canary Islands. About five million tourists visit Tenerife each year, the...

 and the Cape Verde
Cape Verde
The Republic of Cape Verde is an island country, spanning an archipelago of 10 islands located in the central Atlantic Ocean, 570 kilometres off the coast of Western Africa...

 Islands. After reaching the coast of present day Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone , officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea to the north and east, Liberia to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west and southwest. Sierra Leone covers a total area of and has an estimated population between 5.4 and 6.4...

, da Gama took a course south into the open ocean, crossing the Equator
Equator
An equator is the intersection of a sphere's surface with the plane perpendicular to the sphere's axis of rotation and containing the sphere's center of mass....

 and seeking the South Atlantic westerlies
Westerlies
The Westerlies, anti-trades, or Prevailing Westerlies, are the prevailing winds in the middle latitudes between 30 and 60 degrees latitude, blowing from the high pressure area in the horse latitudes towards the poles. These prevailing winds blow from the west to the east, and steer extratropical...

 that Bartolomeu Dias
Bartolomeu Dias
Bartolomeu Dias , a nobleman of the Portuguese royal household, was a Portuguese explorer who sailed around the southernmost tip of Africa in 1488, the first European known to have done so.-Purposes of the Dias expedition:...

 had discovered in 1487. This course proved successful and on November 4, 1497, the expedition made landfall on the African coast. For over three months the ships had sailed more than 6,000 miles of open ocean, by far the longest journey out of sight of land made by the time.

By December 16, the fleet had passed the Great Fish River
Great Fish River
The Great Fish River is a river running through the South African province of the Eastern Cape, it originates east of Graaff-Reinet and runs through Cradock, just south of this the Tarka River joins it...

 (Eastern Cape
Eastern Cape
The Eastern Cape is a province of South Africa. Its capital is Bhisho, but its two largest cities are Port Elizabeth and East London. It was formed in 1994 out of the "independent" Xhosa homelands of Transkei and Ciskei, together with the eastern portion of the Cape Province...

, South Africa) - where Dias had turned back - and sailed into waters previously unknown to Europeans. With Christmas pending, da Gama and his crew gave the coast they were passing the name Natal, which carried the connotation of "birth of Christ" in Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

.

Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

-controlled territory on the East African coast was an integral part of the network of trade in the Indian Ocean. Fearing the local population would be hostile to Christians, da Gama impersonated a Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 and gained audience with the Sultan of Mozambique
Mozambique
Mozambique, officially the Republic of Mozambique , is a country in southeastern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west and Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest...

. With the paltry trade goods he had to offer, da Gama was unable to provide a suitable gift to the ruler and soon the local populace became suspicious of da Gama and his men. Forced by a hostile crowd to flee Mozambique, da Gama departed the harbor, firing his cannons into the city in retaliation.

Mombasa


In the vicinity of modern Kenya
Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

, the expedition resorted to piracy
Piracy
Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea. The term can include acts committed on land, in the air, or in other major bodies of water or on a shore. It does not normally include crimes committed against persons traveling on the same vessel as the perpetrator...

, looting Arab merchant ships - generally unarmed trading vessels without heavy cannons. The Portuguese became the first known Europeans to visit the port of Mombasa
Mombasa
Mombasa is the second-largest city in Kenya. Lying next to the Indian Ocean, it has a major port and an international airport. The city also serves as the centre of the coastal tourism industry....

 but were met with hostility and soon departed.

Malindi



In February 1498, Vasco da Gama continued north, landing at the friendlier port of Malindi
Malindi
Malindi is a town on Malindi Bay at the mouth of the Galana River, lying on the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya. It is 120 kilometres northeast of Mombasa. The population of Malindi is 117,735 . It is the capital of the Malindi District.Tourism is the major industry in Malindi. The city is...

 - whose leaders were then in conflict with those of Mombasa - and there the expedition first noted evidence of Indian traders. Da Gama and his crew contracted the services of a pilot whose knowledge of the monsoon
Monsoon
Monsoon is traditionally defined as a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation, but is now used to describe seasonal changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation associated with the asymmetric heating of land and sea...

 winds allowed him to bring the expedition the rest of the way to Calicut (Kozhikode), located on the southwest coast of India. Sources differ over the identity of the pilot, calling him variously a Christian, a Muslim, and a Gujarati. One traditional story describes the pilot as the famous Arab navigator Ibn Majid, but other contemporaneous accounts place Majid elsewhere, and he could not have been near the vicinity at the time. Also, none of the Portuguese historians of the time mention Ibn Majid.

Calicut, India


The fleet arrived in Kappad
Kappad
Kappad, or Kappakadavu locally, is famous as the beach near Kozhikode , India, where the Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama landed on May 20, 1498. His voyage established the sea route from Europe to India...

 near Calicut, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 on 20 May 1498. The King of Calicut, the Saamoothiri
Saamoothiri
Zamorin is the title used by the Hindu Eradi Samanthan kshatriya rulers of the erstwhile late medieval feudal kingdom of Kozhikode located in the present day state of Kerala, India....

 (Zamorin), who was at that time staying in his second capital at Ponnani, returned to Calicut on hearing the news of the European fleets's arrival. The navigator was received with traditional hospitality, including a grand procession of at least 3,000 armed Nairs, but an interview with the Zamorin failed to produce any concrete results. The presents that da Gama sent to the Zamorin as gifts from Dom Manuel—four cloaks of scarlet cloth, six hats, four branches of corals, twelve almasares, a box with seven brass vessels, a chest of sugar, two barrels of oil and a cask of honey—were trivial, and failed to impress. While Zamorin's officials wondered at why there was no gold or silver, the Muslim merchants who considered da Gama their rival suggested that the latter was only an ordinary pirate and not a royal ambassador. Vasco da Gama's request for permission to leave a factor behind him in charge of the merchandise he could not sell was turned down by the King, who insisted that da Gama pay customs duty—preferably in gold—like any other trader, which strained the relation between the two. Annoyed by this, da Gama carried a few Nairs and sixteen Mukkuva fishermen off with him by force. Nevertheless, da Gama's expedition was successful beyond all reasonable expectation, bringing in cargo that was worth sixty times the cost of the expedition.

Return


Vasco da Gama set sail for home on 29 August 1498. Eager to leave, he ignored the local knowledge of monsoon wind patterns which were still blowing onshore. Crossing the Indian Ocean to India, sailing with the monsoon wind, had taken da Gama's ships only 23 days. The return trip across the ocean, sailing against the wind, took 132 days, and da Gama arrived in Malindi
Malindi
Malindi is a town on Malindi Bay at the mouth of the Galana River, lying on the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya. It is 120 kilometres northeast of Mombasa. The population of Malindi is 117,735 . It is the capital of the Malindi District.Tourism is the major industry in Malindi. The city is...

 on 7 January 1499. During this trip, approximately half of the crew died, and many of the rest were afflicted with scurvy
Scurvy
Scurvy is a disease resulting from a deficiency of vitamin C, which is required for the synthesis of collagen in humans. The chemical name for vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is derived from the Latin name of scurvy, scorbutus, which also provides the adjective scorbutic...

. Two of da Gama's ships made it back to Portugal, arriving in July and August of 1499.

Vasco da Gama returned to Portugal in September 1499 and was richly rewarded as the man who brought to fruition a plan that had taken eighty years to fulfill. He was given the title "Admiral of the Indian Seas," and his feudal rights to Sines were confirmed. Manuel I
Manuel I of Portugal
Manuel I , the Fortunate , 14th king of Portugal and the Algarves was the son of Infante Ferdinand, Duke of Viseu, , by his wife, Infanta Beatrice of Portugal...

 also awarded the perpetual title of Dom
Dom (title)
Dom is a title of respect prefixed to the given name. It derives from Latin Dominus.It is used in English for certain Benedictine and Carthusian monks, and for members of certain communities of Canons Regular. Examples include Benedictine monks of the English Benedictine Congregation...

(lord
Lord
Lord is a title with various meanings. It can denote a prince or a feudal superior . The title today is mostly used in connection with the peerage of the United Kingdom or its predecessor countries, although some users of the title do not themselves hold peerages, and use it 'by courtesy'...

) to da Gama, as well as to his brothers and sisters and to all of their descendants.

However, da Gama's achievements were somewhat dimmed by his failure to bring any trade goods of interest to the nations of India. Moreover, the sea route was fraught with its own perils - his fleet went more than thirty days without seeing land and only 60 of his 180 companions, on one of his three ships, returned to Portugal in 1498. Nevertheless, da Gama's initial journey opened a direct sea route to Asia.

The spice trade would prove to be a major asset to the Portuguese economy, and other consequences soon followed. For example, da Gama's voyage had made it clear that the east coast of Africa, the Contra Costa, was essential to Portuguese interests; its ports provided fresh water, provisions, timber, and harbors for repairs, and served as a refuge where ships could wait out unfavorable weather. One significant result was the colonization of Mozambique
Mozambique
Mozambique, officially the Republic of Mozambique , is a country in southeastern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west and Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest...

 by the Portuguese Crown.

Second voyage


On 12 February 1502, da Gama commanded the 4th Portuguese Armada to India
4th Portuguese India Armada (Gama, 1502)
The Fourth India Armada was assembled in 1502 on the order of King Manuel I of Portugal and placed under the command of D. Vasco da Gama. It was Gama's second trip to India...

, a fleet of fifteen ships and eight hundred men, with the object of enforcing Portuguese interests in the east. On reaching India in October 1502, da Gama started capturing any Arab vessel he came across in Indian waters. While the Zamorin was willing to sign a treaty, da Gama made a preposterous call to the Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 King to expel all Muslims from Calicut which was naturally turned down. He bombarded the city destroying several houses on the sea shore. He also captured several rice vessels and barbarously cut off the crew's hands, ears and noses. He then sailed south to Cochin, a small vassal kingdom of Calicut where he was given a warm welcome. Da Gama continued north on his return path. Once he had reached the northern parts of the Indian Ocean, da Gama waited for a ship to return from Mecca
Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

 and seized all the merchandise on it. He then ordered the hundreds of passengers be locked in the hold and the ship - named Mîrî, and which contained many wealthy Muslim merchants — to be set on fire. Da Gama assaulted and exacted tribute from the Arab-controlled port of Kilwa in East Africa, one of those ports involved in frustrating the Portuguese. His ships engaged in privateer
Privateer
A privateer is a private person or ship authorized by a government by letters of marque to attack foreign shipping during wartime. Privateering was a way of mobilizing armed ships and sailors without having to spend public money or commit naval officers...

 actions against Arab merchant ships. He returned to Portugal in September 1503 with silk and gold.

Third voyage



In 1519 he became the first Count of Vidigueira
Count of Vidigueira
Count of Vidigueira was a Portuguese count title of nobility awarded by King Manuel I of Portugal to Dom Vasco da Gama, who discovered the maritime route from Europe to India...

, a count
Count
A count or countess is an aristocratic nobleman in European countries. The word count came into English from the French comte, itself from Latin comes—in its accusative comitem—meaning "companion", and later "companion of the emperor, delegate of the emperor". The adjective form of the word is...

 title created by King Manuel I of Portugal
Manuel I of Portugal
Manuel I , the Fortunate , 14th king of Portugal and the Algarves was the son of Infante Ferdinand, Duke of Viseu, , by his wife, Infanta Beatrice of Portugal...

 on a royal decree issued in Évora on December 29, after an agreement with Dom Jaime, Duke of Braganza
Jaime, Duke of Braganza
James was the older son of Ferdinand II, 3rd Duke of Braganza and of his wife, Isabella of Viseu and he became the fourth Duke of Braganza following his father's death.His father and one of his uncles were...

, who ceded him on payment the towns of Vidigueira
Vidigueira
Vidigueira is a municipality in Portugal, with a total area of 316.0 km² and a total population of 6,019 inhabitants.The municipality is composed of four parishes, and is located in the District of Beja....

 and Vila dos Frades. This decree granted Vasco da Gama and his heirs all the revenues and privileges related, thus establishing da Gama as the first Portuguese count (earl
Earl
An earl is a member of the nobility. The title is Anglo-Saxon, akin to the Scandinavian form jarl, and meant "chieftain", particularly a chieftain set to rule a territory in a king's stead. In Scandinavia, it became obsolete in the Middle Ages and was replaced with duke...

) who was not born with royal blood.

Having acquired a fearsome reputation as a "fixer" of problems that arose in India, Vasco da Gama was sent to the subcontinent once more in 1524. The intention was that he was to replace the incompetent Eduardo de Menezes as Viceroy (representative) of the Portuguese possessions, but da Gama contracted malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

 not long after arriving in Goa
Goa
Goa , a former Portuguese colony, is India's smallest state by area and the fourth smallest by population. Located in South West India in the region known as the Konkan, it is bounded by the state of Maharashtra to the north, and by Karnataka to the east and south, while the Arabian Sea forms its...

 and died in the city of Cochin on Christmas Eve in 1524.

His body was first buried at St. Francis Church
St. Francis Church, Cochin
St. Francis CSI Church, in Kochi , earlier called Cochin, originally built in 1503, is the oldest European church in India and has great historical significance as a mute witness to the European colonial struggle in the subcontinent. The Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, died in Kochi in 1524...

, which was located at Fort Kochi
Fort Kochi
Fort Kochi is a region in the city of Kochi in the state of Kerala, India. This is part of a handful of water-bound regions toward the south-west of the mainland Kochi, and collectively known as Old Kochi or West Kochi. Adjacent to this is Mattancherry...

 in the city of Kochi
Kochi (India)
Kochi , formerly Cochin, is a major port city on the west coast of India by the Arabian Sea. Kochi is part of the district of Ernakulam in the state of Kerala. Kochi is often called by the name Ernakulam, which refers to the western part of the mainland Kochi...

, but his remains were returned to Portugal in 1539. The body of Vasco da Gama was re-interred in Vidigueira in a casket decorated with gold and jewels.

The Monastery of the Hieronymites, in Belém was erected in honor of his voyage to India.

Pilgrim ship incident


Vasco da Gama inflicted acts of cruelty upon competing traders and local inhabitants. During his second voyage to Calicut, da Gama intercepted a ship of Muslim pilgrims at Madayi
Madayi
Madayi is a small place in Kannur district, Kerala, South India. It is located near Payangadi.Madayi is also the site of the famous Madayi Kavu where devotees worship Mother Kali, Shakthi. The Goddess is known for Her blessings on devotees, and the temple is also famous for the Koyikalasham...

 travelling from Calicut to Mecca. Described by the Portuguese historian Gaspar Correia
Gaspar Correia
Gaspar Correia or Gaspar Corrêa was a Portuguese historian, author of "Lendas da Índia , one of the earliest and most important works about Portuguese rule in Asia, being referred to as a Portuguese Polybius.- Biography :There is little information about the life of the author...

 as one that is unequalled in cold-blooded cruelty, da Gama looted the ship with over 400 pilgrims on board including 50 women, locked in the passengers, the owner and an ambassador from Egypt and burnt them to death. They offered their wealth which 'could ransom all the Christian slaves in the Kingdom of Fez
Kingdom of Fez
The Kingdom of Fez or Wattasid sultanate was the name given to the northern part of Morocco between 1472 and 1554 with its capital at Fez.The Wattasid are a branch of the Zenete, a Berber clan whose origins lie in what is now modern day Libya....

 and much more' but were not spared. Da Gama looked on through the porthole and saw the women bringing up their gold and jewels and holding up their babies to beg for mercy.'

After demanding the expulsion of Muslims from Calicut to the Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 Zamorin, the latter sent the high priest Talappana Namboothiri (the very same person who conducted da Gama to the Zamorin's chamber during his much celebrated first visit to Calicut in May 1498) for talks. Da Gama called him a spy, ordered the priests' lips and ears to be cut off and after sewing a pair of dog's ears to his head, sent him away.

Legacy


Da Gama and his wife, Catarina de Ataíde, had six sons and one daughter: Dom Francisco da Gama, 2nd Count of Vidigueira
Count of Vidigueira
Count of Vidigueira was a Portuguese count title of nobility awarded by King Manuel I of Portugal to Dom Vasco da Gama, who discovered the maritime route from Europe to India...

; Dom Estevão da Gama, 11th Governor
Governor
A governor is a governing official, usually the executive of a non-sovereign level of government, ranking under the head of state...

 of India
Portuguese India
The Portuguese Viceroyalty of India , later the Portuguese State of India , was the aggregate of Portugal's colonial holdings in India.The government started in 1505, six years after the discovery of a sea route to India by Vasco da Gama, with the nomination of the first Viceroy Francisco de...

 (1540–1542); Dom Paulo da Gama; Dom Pedro da Silva da Gama; Dom Álvaro de Ataíde da Gama, Captain
Captain-major
Captain-major is the English rendering of the Portuguese title Capitão-mor for colonial officers, put in charge of a capitania, Portuguese possession deemed not important enough to have its own colonial Governor.Due to the impossibility of exercising direct control and sovereignty over islands,...

 of Malacca
Malacca
Malacca , dubbed The Historic State or Negeri Bersejarah among locals) is the third smallest Malaysian state, after Perlis and Penang. It is located in the southern region of the Malay Peninsula, on the Straits of Malacca. It borders Negeri Sembilan to the north and the state of Johor to the south...

; Dona Isabel de Ataíde da Gama and Dom Cristovão da Gama
Cristovão da Gama
Cristóvão da Gama was a Portuguese soldier, who led a Portuguese army of 400 musketeers on a crusade in Ethiopia and Somalia against the far larger Somali Muslim army of Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi aided by the Ottoman Empire...

, a martyr
Martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

 in Ethiopia
Ethiopian Empire
The Ethiopian Empire also known as Abyssinia, covered a geographical area that the present-day northern half of Ethiopia and Eritrea covers, and included in its peripheries Zeila, Djibouti, Yemen and Western Saudi Arabia...

. His male line issue became extinct in 1747, though the title went through female line.

As much as anyone after Henry the Navigator, da Gama was responsible for Portugal's success as an early colonising power. Beside the fact of the first voyage itself, it was his astute mix of politics and war on the other side of the world that placed Portugal in a prominent position in Indian Ocean trade
Indian Ocean trade
Indian Ocean trade has gained an important role in history, and has been a key factor in East-West exchanges.-Roman period:Since antiquity, Indian Ocean trade had a significant role and led to the development of Roman trade with India....

. Following da Gama's initial voyage, the Portuguese crown realized that securing outposts on the eastern coast of Africa would prove vital to maintaining national trade routes to the Far East.

The Portuguese national epic
National epic
A national epic is an epic poem or a literary work of epic scope which seeks or is believed to capture and express the essence or spirit of a particular nation; not necessarily a nation-state, but at least an ethnic or linguistic group with aspirations to independence or autonomy...

, the Lusíadas of Luís Vaz de Camões
Luís de Camões
Luís Vaz de Camões is considered Portugal's and the Portuguese language's greatest poet. His mastery of verse has been compared to that of Shakespeare, Vondel, Homer, Virgil and Dante. He wrote a considerable amount of lyrical poetry and drama but is best remembered for his epic work Os Lusíadas...

, largely concerns Vasco da Gama's voyages.

The 1865 grand opera
Grand Opera
Grand opera is a genre of 19th-century opera generally in four or five acts, characterised by large-scale casts and orchestras, and lavish and spectacular design and stage effects, normally with plots based on or around dramatic historic events...

 L'Africaine
L'Africaine
L'africaine is a grand opera, the last work of the composer Giacomo Meyerbeer. The French libretto was written by Eugène Scribe. The opera is about fictitious events in the life of the real historical person Vasco da Gama...

: Opéra en Cinq Actes
, composed by Giacomo Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer was a noted German opera composer, and the first great exponent of "grand opera." At his peak in the 1830s and 1840s, he was the most famous and successful composer of opera in Europe, yet he is rarely performed today.-Early years:He was born to a Jewish family in Tasdorf , near...

 from a libretto by Eugène Scribe
Eugène Scribe
Augustin Eugène Scribe , was a French dramatist and librettist. He is best known for the perfection of the so-called "well-made play" . This dramatic formula was a mainstay of popular theater for over 100 years.-Biography:...

, prominently includes the character of Vasco da Gama. The events depicted, however, are fictitious. Meyerbeer's working title for the opera was Vasco da Gama. A 1989 production of the opera by the San Francisco Opera
San Francisco Opera
San Francisco Opera is an American opera company, based in San Francisco, California.It was founded in 1923 by Gaetano Merola and is the second largest opera company in North America...

 featured noted tenor
Tenor
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C in choral music, and up to high C in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B2...

 Placido Domingo
Plácido Domingo
Plácido Domingo KBE , born José Plácido Domingo Embil, is a Spanish tenor and conductor known for his versatile and strong voice, possessing a ringing and dramatic tone throughout its range...

 in the role of da Gama. The 19th century composer Louis-Albert Bourgault-Ducoudray
Louis-Albert Bourgault-Ducoudray
Louis-Albert Bourgault-Ducoudray was a French Breton composer, pianist, and professor of music history/theory at the Conservatoire de Paris as well as a Prix de Rome laureate. He was born at Nantes and died at Vernouillet, near Dreux...

 composed an eponymous 1872 opera based on da Gama's life and exploits at sea.

The port city of Vasco da Gama
Vasco da Gama, Goa
Vasco da Gama is the largest city in the state of Goa on the west coast of India. It is named after the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama. Vasco has Goa's largest population, estimated at over 100,000. It is also the headquarters of the Mormugao taluka...

 in Goa
Goa
Goa , a former Portuguese colony, is India's smallest state by area and the fourth smallest by population. Located in South West India in the region known as the Konkan, it is bounded by the state of Maharashtra to the north, and by Karnataka to the east and south, while the Arabian Sea forms its...

 is named after him, as is the crater Vasco da Gama
Vasco da Gama (crater)
Vasco da Gama is a lunar impact crater that is located near the western limb of the Moon. It is named for the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama. It lies to the south of the walled plain Einstein, due south of Dalton...

 on the Moon
Moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

. There are three football clubs in Brazil (including Club de Regatas Vasco da Gama
Club de Regatas Vasco da Gama
Club de Regatas Vasco da Gama |Rowing Club]]), usually known as Vasco da Gama or simply Vasco, is a famous and traditional Brazilian multisports club from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, founded on August 21, 1898...

) and Vasco Sports Club
Vasco Sports Club
Vasco Sports Club are a football club from Goa, India. They currently play in the I-League 2nd Division which is India's second most prominent football league.-History:...

 in Goa that were also named after him. There exists a church in Kochi
Kochi (India)
Kochi , formerly Cochin, is a major port city on the west coast of India by the Arabian Sea. Kochi is part of the district of Ernakulam in the state of Kerala. Kochi is often called by the name Ernakulam, which refers to the western part of the mainland Kochi...

, Kerala
Kerala
or Keralam is an Indian state located on the Malabar coast of south-west India. It was created on 1 November 1956 by the States Reorganisation Act by combining various Malayalam speaking regions....

 called Vasco da Gama Church
Vasco da Gama Church
Vasco da Gama Church is a church in Kochi in the Kerala state of India, which is named after the Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama....

, and a private residence on the island of Saint Helena
Saint Helena
Saint Helena , named after St Helena of Constantinople, is an island of volcanic origin in the South Atlantic Ocean. It is part of the British overseas territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha which also includes Ascension Island and the islands of Tristan da Cunha...

. The suburb of Vasco in Cape Town also honours him.

A few places in Lisbon's Parque das Nações are named after the explorer, such as the Vasco da Gama Bridge, Vasco da Gama Tower and the Centro Comercial Vasco da Gama shopping centre. The Oceanário
Lisbon Oceanarium
The Oceanarium is an oceanarium in Lisbon, Portugal. It is located in the Parque das Nações, which was the exhibition grounds for the Expo '98.- Architecture :...

 in the Parque das Nações has a mascot of a cartoon diver with the name of "Vasco", who is named after the explorer.

South African musician Hugh Masekela
Hugh Masekela
Hugh Ramopolo Masekela is a South African trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer, and singer.-Early life:Masekela was born in Kwa-Guqa Township, Witbank, South Africa. He began singing and playing piano as a child...

 recorded an anti-colonialist song entitled "Vasco da Gama (The Sailor Man)", which contains the lyrics "Vasco da Gama was no friend of mine". He later recorded another version of this song under the name "Colonial Man".

In fiction


Vasco da Gama appears as a villain like character in a Malayalam film titled Urumi
Urumi (film)
Urumi is a 2011 Malayalam historical-fantasy film directed and co-produced by Santosh Sivan and written by Shankar Ramakrishnan. It stars Prithviraj, who was also one of the producers of the film, as Chirakkal Kelu Nayanar, Prabhu Deva as Vavvali, Robin Pratt as Vasco da Gama, Alexx ONell as...

. The tale of Kelu Nayanar depicted in the film is fictional, and though it is based on historical events, the film has a mystical fantasy flavour.

See also

  • Chronology of European exploration of Asia
    Chronology of European exploration of Asia
    This article attempts to list every significant event in the history of the European exploration of Asia. It proposes a chronological inventory of these events including every people involved and the places they helped to demystify ....

  • Count of Vidigueira
    Count of Vidigueira
    Count of Vidigueira was a Portuguese count title of nobility awarded by King Manuel I of Portugal to Dom Vasco da Gama, who discovered the maritime route from Europe to India...

  • Portuguese India Armadas
    Portuguese India Armadas
    The Portuguese India armadas were the fleets of ships, organized by the Portuguese crown and dispatched on an annual basis from Portugal to India, principally Goa...

  • Portuguese India
    Portuguese India
    The Portuguese Viceroyalty of India , later the Portuguese State of India , was the aggregate of Portugal's colonial holdings in India.The government started in 1505, six years after the discovery of a sea route to India by Vasco da Gama, with the nomination of the first Viceroy Francisco de...

  • Spice trade
    Spice trade
    Civilizations of Asia were involved in spice trade from the ancient times, and the Greco-Roman world soon followed by trading along the Incense route and the Roman-India routes...


External links