5 Things You Didn’t Know about Christopher Columbus
October’s biggest celebration may be Halloween, but trick-or-treating isn’t the only event happening this month. It’s also the time when we celebrate Christopher Columbus’ trip to the New World with Columbus Day. You probably know most of the major facts about the explorer’s most noteworthy voyage. However, did you know that only one of his three ships’ names is accurate. Or did you know that he tried to find financial backers in three other countries before the Spanish throne funded him?
In honor of Columbus Day, here are some more wild facts you might not know.
Christopher Columbus wasn’t the explorer’s real name
He hailed from Genoa, and his name in Italian was probably Cristoforo Colombo. Other languages have translated his name in different ways, including the Spanish Cristobal Colón. Even in his native Genoa, details about his true name are foggy. In the 1490’s, spellings weren’t standardized and record-keeping was tougher. We could be celebrating Colombo Day in October if it weren’t for English and American writers who wanted to make the explorer’s name more familiar to their readers!
The Niña and the Pinta aren’t accurate names either
In fact, people who think they know all three of Columbus’ most famous ships are only 33 percent accurate. The Santa Maria was indeed one ship’s name, but the other two famous names we know today were nicknames. The Niña was christened the Santa Clara, but the little ship soon acquired the nickname La Niña, or “little girl”. This was a reference that might also have been a nod to its owner, Juan Niño. Historians aren’t sure what the Pinta was named, but its colorful nickname roughly translates to “painted lady.”
Christopher Columbus didn’t go to Spain first
The explorer wanted a wealthy backer for a trip across the Atlantic, but the most affluent prospects at the time were royal families. He spoke to Portuguese, English and French monarchs and was turned down by all of them. The Portuguese told him his calculations were off, and told him he would never find India in the time Columbus allotted for the trip. They were right – Columbus never reached India by sailing west, but he did reach the Americas, and was one of the first Europeans known to do so. If you’d like, you can celebrate Leif Eriksson Day. It commemorate the Norse explorer whom historians believe landed in Newfoundland about 500 years before Columbus’ voyage. It’s traditionally celebrated on October 9, a little before Columbus Day.
The explorer made four trips to the Americas, not one
Although his most famous trip was his first in 1492, he also made the months-long voyage in 1493, 1498 and 1502. Each trip brought more ships than the last. His travels around the turn of the 16th century helped spark a passion for exploring and a rush to the territories the Europeans called the New World.
Christopher Columbus always believed he’d found his destination and not a continent new to Europeans
He was convinced the silks, spices and dyes from lands east of Europe were still to be found west of the Caribbean islands and Central American coastlines where he put to port. It wasn’t until after his passing that maps with the new islands and shores had a name to put to the unfamiliar land: America.
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