Vasco da Gama is one of the most celebrated but also controversial explorers in the history of Europe.
The Portuguese born navigator changed the way that Europe traded with India and also introduced the continent to many different spices, fabrics and riches. His influence is undeniable, though, his reputation is not without its flaws.
Here are ten interesting facts about Vasco da Gama.
Vasco da Gama Facts
1. Historians can not agree on his the birth date of Vasco da Gama
A lot of Vasco da Gama’s early life remains a mystery and there is a lot of debate as to when exactly he was born. Some historians believe that he was born in 1460 while many others claim that he was born in 1469. He was born in the Portuguese Town of Sones, which is in the south-west of Portugal.
2. Vasco da Gama was the son of a knight
A relatively unknown fact about Vasco da Gama is that his father was a well-respected Portuguese knight by the name of Estevao da Gama. His mother was Isabel Sodré and his parents had six children. Vasco da Gama was the third eldest of five brothers. He also had one younger sister.
3. Vasco da Gama was the first European to reach India by sea
During the reign of the Portuguese King Manuel I in 1495–1499, Vasco da Gama made the first recorded trip to India from Europe via the Atlantic Ocean.
King Manuel had sent da Gama to India in order to establish a trade route to the west and to successfully navigate a route that many had failed to do before him.
Vasco da Gama took 170 men and four vessels with him on his journey. The ships were named São Gabriel, São Rafael, Bérrio, and then, São Miguel. It took less than one month to reach India during their first voyage.
The journey is often viewed by historians as one of the best and most successful voyages of all time and is a very well known fact about Vasco da Gama that he is the first European to reach India by sea.
4. The Pilgrim Ship Incident
During his second voyage to India, Vasco da Gama stopped a ship of Muslims at Madayi which was travelling from Calicut to Mecca.
Da Gama looted the ship which contained over 400 people, which included women and children and burned them all to death. The people on the ship offered da Gama riches in exchange for mercy but he killed them anyway. This cemented his place as a villain in certain parts of the world.
5. Vasco da Gama helped Portugal grow as a country
Vasco da Gama’s discovery of the sea-route to India was significant and opened the way for a new age of riches for Portugal. He would introduce the country, and the rest of Europe, to new spices, fabrics and jewelry.
His discovery also allowed Portugal to open up new trade links and this helped to boost their economy and establish them as a power at the time.
6.Vasco Da Gama had six children
Vasco Da Gama married Catarina de Ataíde in one of the years following the return from his first voyage to India.
The couple would go on to have six children together, five sons and one daughter. His sons would go on to follow in their father’s footsteps and would assume several of his titles.
It is estimated that his bloodline died out on the male side in 1747, though, it would continue through the female side.
7.Vasco da Gama was given many titles in Portugal
A fact about Vasco Da Gama is that his successful voyages made him a hero in Portugal and the Portuguese king rewarded him greatly for his achievements.
Vasco da Gama was given Vidigueira in 1519 and he also became the first non-royal count in Portugal. He was also appointed as Capitão-mor do Mar da Índia.
In 1524 he was appointed governor of India but never took the title because of his death. One of his sons would assume the role instead.
8.Vasco da Gama died on December 23rd, 1524
While historians have never been able to agree on exactly what year Vasco da Gama was born, it is known that he died on December 23rd 1524.
On a voyage to India with two of his sons, da Gama contracted Malaria in the Indian city of Cochin and died three months after his arrival in the country.
Vasco da Gama was first buried in the city of Kochi at St Francis Church but his body was returned to Portugal in 1539, fifteen years after his death. Once returned, his body was inturned in Vidigueira and his coffin was decorated with gold and jewels.
9.Vasco da Gama is a divisive figure
Vasco da Gama changed the world for Europeans through his discovery of the route to India and has had many things named after him. He is still largely hailed as a hero in his home country. There are several things named after him in Lisbon including Vasco da Gama Bridge, Vasco da Gama Tower and a shopping centre.
However, he has also been portrayed as a villain. He was said to have been incredibly arrogant and to have had a vicious temper, as well as being disrespectful towards cultures across the sea. The Pilgrim incident is seen as a prime example of a much meaner side of his characters. He was depicted as a villain in Urumi, an Indian film released in 2011.
10.Vasco da Gama has a crater on the moon named after him
While there are many landmarks named after Vasco da Gama, the most interesting thing to have been named after him is a crater on the moon.
Located on the western limb of the moon, the Vasco da Gama crater lies just to the south of a walled plain named after Albert Einstien.
Vasco da Gama is one of the most important Portuguese figures in the age of discovery and his influence is vast. His impact on Portugal is very apparent to this day.
He is a divisive figure in the 21st century and many of his acts, both good and bad, will continue to be discussed for centuries to come.
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