Vasco Da Gama
Vasco Da Gama was born in Sines, Portugal in 1469. Estĕvão Da Gama, Da Gama’s father, was put to the task of finding a direct route to Asia. Before the journey could begin however, he died and the task was given to his 28-year-old son. Under the order of Manuel I, Da Gama and four ships left the Lisbon coast for a voyage around Africa to Asia on July 8, 1497. About 170 men went on the voyage including interpreters who spoke Arabic and Bantu languages. There were four priests for each ship and some condemned criminals who were assigned the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs. By July 15th, the crew reached the Canary Islands and on the 26th they were at the Cape Verde Islands where they rested and repaired their ships for a week.
Was Vasco da Gama a hero
or a villain? Was he an
adventurer who bravely
explored new lands, or a
treasure hunter who took
advantage of the people he
met? The story of Vasco da
Gama shows how a famous
person in history can be
presented as either a good
guy or a bad guy. It also
shows how opinions can
Vasco da Gama was born in Sines, Portugal in 1460. His father was
the governor of his hometown, and Vasco da Gama was brought up as
a young gentleman and received a good education.
He began his career as a warrior and a navigator, and he must have
been good at his jobs, because soon, in 1497,the king of Portugal
chose him to lead an important expedition.
Vasco da Gama's mission was to lead an expedition to find an all
water route to India. This was almost the same mission that
Christopher Columbus had set out on but, as we know, Columbus
landed in America instead. Da Gama set sail with four ships and over
150 men, many of them convicts. His plan was to sail around the
southern tip of Africa, known as the Cape of Good Hope, and then
north to India. Along the way he made many stops to trade at ports
along Africa's East Coast. He completed his mission and landed in
Calicut, India the next year, 1498.
It was in Calicut that his troubles really began. The ruler of India was
insulted by the cheap "gifts" that da Gama had brought. You might
remember that something similar happened in this country. Explorers
brought "gifts" to the native Americans here too.
The gifts were
inexpensive pretty beads and other items of little value, but the
explorers hoped that they would win the good will of the native
people here. Da Gama tried the same tactic in India, but it didn't work.
Not only did the Indian ruler get angry at da Gama, but the Muslim
merchants there wanted to get rid of him too. They felt that da Gama
was interfering with their business. Da Gama was kicked out, and he
sailed back to Europe.
In 1502, he set sail again on a mission that some people say was all
about revenge. This time, he sailed with 20 ships -- 20 well-armored
ships. Da Gama's fleet attacked the city of Calicut. They caused heavy
damage to the city, and they killed many of the city's people. Some
reports say that da Gama treated his enemies with unnecessary
cruelty. One report tells of him locking 380 people on a ship that was
then burned. The 380 people died. Da Gama then made treaties, or
agreements, with India that benefited European traders in the East.
This time, he brought back merchandise valued at millions of dollars.
For his accomplishments, Vasco da Gama was given many titles,
including Lord, Count, and Admiral. He became very rich. Da Gama
had been sent to India because the King hoped to make his country
richer and more powerful, but it was the riches and power gained by
da Gama that many people objected to.
Many people in India felt that da Gama exploited, or took advantage
of, Indian people and Muslim traders. They did not see him as a hero
at all. That is why, when Portugal was planning a 500th anniversary
celebration of da Gama's voyage, many people protested. Rallies were
held against the celebration, and many people decided not to
Naval commander Vasco de Gama's 1497 expedition from Lisbon opened a route to India and led to Portugese dominance of the Eastern spice trade. Little is known of his life before he was assigned command of the expedition that left Lisbon in July of 1497. He established a route around Africa's Cape of Good Hope, up the coast of East Africa and finally to Calicut in India. He returned to Portugal in 1499, having lost most of his men while establishing trade posts in East Africa and India. On his second voyage to India in 1502, the new "Admiral of the Indian Ocean" led 20 ships against rival Arab traders and secured military supremacy in Calicut and Goa; the treasures he brought home to Portugal earned him royal favor and even greater repute. Created a count in 1519, he was named Viceroy of India in 1524 and travelled to Goa. While in India he fell ill (probably malaria) and died.