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Vasco Da Gama


GAMA, VASCO DA (c. 146o-1524), Portuguese navigator and discoverer of the sea-route to India, was born at Sines, a small seaport in the province of Alemtejo, probably about the year 146o. In that year died Prince Henry the Navigator, to whose intelli gence and foresight must be traced back all the fame that Portugal gained on the seas in the 15th and 16th centuries. Explorers sent out at his instigation discovered the Azores and unknown regions on the African coast, whence continually came reports of a great monarch, "who lived east of Benin, 35o leagues in the interior, and who held both temporal and spiritual dominion over all the neighbouring kings." John II. of Portugal resolved that the attempt should be made to reach the country of this potentate, and nine years later, when Emanuel I. had succeeded to the throne, preparations for the voyage were completed.

For the supreme command of this expedition the king selected Vasco da Gama, who had in his youth fought in the wars against Castile, and had gained distinction as an intrepid mariner. The fleet, consisting of four vessels specially built for this mission, sailed down the Tagus on July 9, after prayers and confession made by the officers and crews in a small chapel on the site where now stands the church of S. Maria de Belem (see LIsBoN), after wards built to commemorate the event. Four months later the flotilla cast anchor in St. Helena Bay, South Africa, rounded the Cape in safety, and in the beginning of the next year reached Malindi, on the east coast of Africa. Thence, steering eastward, under the direction of a pilot obtained from Indian merchants I met with at this port, da Gama arrived at Calicut, on the Malabar coast, on May 20, 1498, and set up, according to the custom of his country, a marble pillar as a mark of conquest and a proof of his discovery of India. His reception by the zamorin, or Hindu ruler of Calicut, would probably have been favourable enough, but for the jealousy of the Mahommedan traders who incited the Hindus against the new-comers. Da Gama was unable to establish a Portuguese factory, and returned to Portugal in Sept. 1499. The king received him with every mark of distinction, granted him the use of the prefix Dom, thus elevating him to the rank of an un titled noble, and conferred on him pensions and other property.

In prosecution of da Gama's discoveries another fleet of thir teen ships was immediately sent out to India under Pedro Alvares Cabral, who, in sailing too far westward, by accident discovered Brazil, and on reaching his destination established a factory at Calicut. The natives, again instigated by the Mahommedan merchants, rose up in arms and murdered all whom Cabral had left behind. To avenge this outrage a powerful armament of ten ships was fitted out at Lisbon, the command of which was at first given to Cabral, but was afterwards transferred to da Gama, who received the title admiral of India (Jan. 1502). A few weeks later the fleet sailed, and on reaching Calicut da Gama immediately bombarded the town, treating its inhabitants with a savagery too horrible to describe. From Calicut he proceeded in Nov. to Cochin, "doing all the harm he could on the way to all that he found at sea," and having made favourable trading terms with it and with other towns on the coast, he returned to Lisbon in Sept. 1503, with richly laden ships. He and his captains were welcomed with great rejoicings and he received additional privileges and revenues. .

Soon after his return da Gama retired to his residence in Evora. However he continued to advise King Emanuel I. on matters con nected with India and maritime policy up to 1505, and there are extant twelve documents dated 1507-22 which prove that he continued to enjoy the royal favour. The most important of these is a grant dated Dec. 1519 by which Vasco da Gama was created count of Vidigueira, with the extraordinary privileges of civil and criminal jurisdiction and ecclesiastical patronage. During this time the Portuguese conquests increased in the East, and were presided over by successive viceroys. The fifth of these was so unfortunate that da Gama was recalled from his seclusion by Emanuel's successor, John III., and nominated viceroy of India, an honour which in April 1524 he left Lisbon to assume. Arriv ing at Goa during Sept. of the same year, he immediately set him self to correct abuses, but he died on Dec. 24, at Cochin. His voyage opened up the commerce of the East to the Western world.

BIBLIOGRAPHY.-Vasco da Gama's First Voyage, by Dr. E. RavenBibliography.-Vasco da Gama's First Voyage, by Dr. E. Raven- stein (London, Hakluyt Society, 1898, is a translation with notes, etc., of the anonymous Roteiro (Journal or Itinerary), written by one of Vasco da. Gama's subordinates who sailed on board the "S. Raphael," which was commanded by the admiral's brother Paulo da Gama. This is the most important of the original authorities; five accounts of the voyage in letters contemporary with it are appended to the Hakluyt Society's translation. See also J. de Barros, Decadas da India (Lisbon, 1778-88, written c. 1540); F. L. de Castanheda, Historia do descobri mento da India (Coimbra, 155r, largely based on the Roteiro) ; The Three Voyages of Vasco da Gama and his Viceroyalty, by Gaspar Correa (Hakluyt Society, 1869), chiefly valuable for the events of 1524 ; The Lusiads of Camoens, the central incident in which is Vasco da Gama's first voyage; Calcoen (i.e., Calicut), a Dutch Narrative of the Second Voyage of Vasco da Gama, written by some unknown sea man of the expedition, printed at Antwerp about 1504, reprinted in facsimile, with introduction and translation, by J. Ph. Berjeau (Lon don, 1874) ; Thome Lopes, narrative (1502) in vol. i. of Ramusio.

india, voyage, calicut, lisbon, gamas, coast and east