1 The light was fading: For my sources for Vasco da Gama’s first voyage, see the notes to chapter 7.
4 Spanish and Italian: Specifically, the Tunisian merchants spoke Castilian and Genoese; the former evolved into modern Spanish, while the latter is still spoken in the Genoa region today.
6 the medieval and the modern ages: Historians have offered a variety of dates for the end of the Middle Ages; two leading contenders are 1453, the year of the fall of Constantinople, and 1492, the year of Columbus’s first voyage. If the overriding theme of the medieval age is Europe’s decline and the rise of Islam, the dominant theme of the modern age is the Christian West’s global surge to power. From that perspective, it makes little sense to start the latter with the fall of the final bastion of the classical world to the Ottomans. Columbus did not reach the mainland of the Americas until August 1498, and it was decades before the impact of his discoveries became clear. Vasco da Gama arrived in India in May 1498, and it was his achievement, I argue, that allowed Europe to believe the historical tide had finally turned.
Chapter 1: East and West
12 god of the Jews: Jews traced their ancestry to Isaac, Abraham’s son by his wife Sarah; Muslims to Ishmael, Abraham’s son by Sarah’s Egyptian slave girl Hagar. Arab tradition holds that Abraham restored the Kaaba, which was founded by Adam and rebuilt by Noah, while he was visiting Hagar and Ishmael, whom his jealous wife had forced him to send into exile.
13 “dark-eyed houris”: N. J. Dawood, trans., The Koran: With a Parallel Arabic Text (London: Penguin, 2000), 497.
14 Church of the Holy Sepulcher: The site was uncovered by Constantine’s mother Helena, who set out in 325 on a relic-hunting trip to the Holy Land and miraculously unearthed parts of the True Cross on which Jesus was believed to have died, the nails that pierced his hands and feet, and, according to some accounts, the Holy Tunic and the rope with which he was tied to the cross. Some of the finds accompanied her home, including two of the nails, one of which ended up in Constantine’s helmet and the other on his bridle; others stayed to be housed in the new church. Since tradition held that Jesus was crucified over the exact spot where Adam’s skull was buried, the church was also believed to enclose the tomb of the first man. See Colin Morris, The Sepulchre of Christ and the Medieval West (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).
14 a blackened sky: The Persians sacked Jerusalem in 614 CE. In 70 CE the Romans had put down a mass Jewish uprising by burning down the Second Temple, razing the city, and massacring or carting away the entire population; never since had Jews been permitted to live in the city of David. The Jews allied with the Persians to wreak 544 years of revenge, only to be massacred again when the Romans marched back in; they would soon ally more successfully with the Arabs.
15 churning Christian controversy: The main bone of contention was the precise degree of Christ’s divinity. The orthodox position, hammered out at a series of great councils, was that Jesus was both fully divine and fully human, two distinct states united in one perfect being. Many of the empire’s subjects begged to differ. Arians denied Jesus’s divinity, Monophysites denied his humanity, Nestorians declared he was two beings, one divine and one human, and other groups fixed on a variety of intermediate states. Successive emperors decreed that a united empire required a unified faith and charged the dissenters with heresy. Heraclius, the victor over Persia, had reopened the fraught question in search of a compromise, but the resulting creed of Monothelitism, which declared that Jesus had two natures but only one will, satisfied no one and was rejected as heretical within five decades.
15 a new regime: Centuries later, leaders of the independent Eastern churches that survived under Islam still saw the Arabs as saviors. “The God of vengeance,” wrote a twelfth-century patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, “having observed the malice of the Greeks, who cruelly pillaged our churches and monasteries wherever they had dominion and condemned us mercilessly, brought the sons of Ishmael from the south to deliver us.” Michael the Syrian, quoted in Stephen O’Shea, Sea of Faith: Islam and Christianity in the Medieval Mediterranean World (London: Profile, 2006), 52.
15 “Damn this world”: The quotation is from the great epic poem Shahnameh, or Book of Kings, by Ferdowsi, which was written at the turn of the first millennium CE. The best translation is by Dick Davis (New York: Viking, 2006). The Persian aristocracy, though it quickly adopted Islam, long nursed an animosity to Arab culture and an attachment to the splendors of pre-Islamic Persia.
15 Jerusalem was starved into submission: The city fell in April 637. According to tradition, Muhammad’s successor Umar arrived dressed in rags and rode through the Gate of Repentance astride a white ass (or camel). He asked the patriarch where King David had prayed and was led to the Temple Mount, which he found had long been used as a rubbish dump. Umar rounded up some Christians and put them to work clearing the refuse, then erected a simple wooden house of worship that would later be replaced by the al-Aqsa Mosque (see chapter 2).
16 Saracens: The term sarakenoi or saraceni originally referred to the non-Arab peoples of northern Arabia, but it was subsequently applied to Arabs and then to all Muslims. Its etymology is unclear, but by the fourth century the historian Ammianus Marcellinus noted that it was used to refer to the region’s desert nomads.
16 commanded from on high: So feared the Armenian bishop Sebeos; see Alfred J. Butler, The Arab Conquest of Egypt—and the Last Thirty Years of the Roman Dominion (Oxford: Clarendon, 1902), 152. Of the five great patriarchates of the Church, three—Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria—now operated under the sufferance of Islamic rulers.
16 stabbed with a poisoned sword: Ali’s assassin was fanatically certain that piety, not genealogy, should be the sole qualification for Islam’s leader. His simple, puritanical version of Islam would become known as Kharijism and would take root most firmly in North Africa. Pockets survive today in Arabia and Africa.
16 the Umayyads: Muawiya, the founder of the dynasty, was the son of Abu Sufyan Ibn Harb, a prominent Meccan who led the attack on Medina that nearly annihilated Islam. At the end of the same battle Muawiya’s mother, Hind, ripped out and dined on the liver of Muhammad’s uncle Hamza. The civil war also left Muhammad’s grandson murdered and the Kaaba itself in flames; pragmatic power politics had dramatically won out over pious purity.
17 blue-eyed Berbers: The Berbers, whose lands stretched from the Nile to the Atlantic, called themselves Imazighen, or “Free Men.” They were masters of survival, and their tribes were an eclectic mix of pagans, Jews, and Christians. The legend of the Prophetess has been the focus of much arcane dispute; see Abdelmajid Hannoum, Post-Colonial Memories: The Legend of the Kahina, a North African Heroine (Westport, CT: Heinemann, 2001).
17 smashed a mountain in two: Geryon was said to live on the island of Erytheia, near modern Cadíz. In Apollodorus’s version, Hercules threw up the two mountains to commemorate his journey; Diodorus Siculus says he narrowed the existing strait to keep out the monsters of the Ocean Sea. Pliny the Elder, in the “Introduction” to Book 3 of his Natural History, records that the first-century inhabitants of the coasts believed the mountain was “dug through by [Hercules]; upon which the sea, which was before excluded, gained admission, and so changed the face of nature.” The Pillars of Hercules still stand proud on Spain’s coat of arms; the motto Plus ultra—“further beyond”—wreathes around them, suggesting they mark an entrance, not a closure.
18 Old Man of the Sea: The mythical character, also identified as the sea god Nereus, appears in Hercules’s eleventh labor. In it, Hercules is sent to fetch the golden apples of immortality from the garden of the Hesperides, the daughters of the Titan named Atlas who holds the heavens on his shoulders. Hercules seizes the shape-changing Nereus and extracts from him the location of the garden, then frees Prometheus from his fiery torment and in return learns that only Atlas can fetch the apples. Hercules offers to bear Atlas’s burden while he goes off to the garden; on his return Atlas tries to trick the hero into taking the weight off his shoulders for good. Hercules asks Atlas to hold the skies while he rearranges his cloak, and runs away. In one variant, Hercules builds his pillars to liberate Atlas.
18 a millennium of mariners: One or two earlier navigators were bolder. Around 500 BCE, the Carthaginian explorer Hanno the Navigator sailed through the Pillars of Hercules and likely reached the Senegal River; his journey is recorded in his Periplus, a Greek translation of the text on a tablet that Hanno deposited in a temple. Herodotus briefly mentions the earlier circumnavigation of Africa, in a clockwise direction, by a Phoenician-crewed fleet sent by the Egyptian pharaoh Necho II; his skeptical report that the Phoenicians found the sun on their right as they sailed west around the southern tip of Africa lends the only credence to a story for which there is no other evidence and which is mainly remembered by those who posit a link between the pyramids of Egypt and Mexico.
18 the Seven Peaks: The mountain range culminates in the near three thousand feet height of Jebel Musa, the Mountain of Moses, which is the alternative candidate for the southern Pillar of Hercules.
19 sinful wickedness of their rulers: While divine punishment for the Goths’ constant civil wars was seen behind the defeat, divine providence was detected when the exiled nobles managed to put aside their differences, elect a ruler, and found Asturia, the kernel of the Christian kingdoms that would eventually push back against Islam. In 722 Pelayo, the first king of Asturia, won a minor victory against the Berbers that was later identified as the start of the Christian comeback. “I will not associate with the Arabs in friendship,” a chronicler had him grandly proclaim, “nor will I submit to their authority . . . for we confide in the mercy of the Lord that from this little hill that you see, the salvation of Spain and of the army of the Gothic people will be restored.” Repeated claims of continuity between Gothic Spain and the new Christian kingdoms helped justify the wars against Islam as the reconquest of Iberia by its rightful rulers. Joseph F. O’Callaghan, Reconquest and Crusade in Medieval Spain (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003), 5–6.
19 Arab armies had besieged Constantinople: The sieges took place in 674–78 and 717–18. Between 80,000 and 120,000 troops marched on Constantinople in 717; eighteen hundred war galleys attacked by sea. Starvation, freezing temperatures, and disease decimated the land army; Greek fire destroyed much of the fleet, and its remnants were wiped out in a freak storm.
20 that day in 732: Western tradition has accorded the Battle of Poitiers a significance that was lost on Arab writers and is lost, too, on revisionist historians. In Europe’s foundation stories, though, Poitiers became paramount. In chapter 52 of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon famously supposed that if the battle had gone the other way, “perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mohammed.” See Maurice Mercier and André Seguin, Charles Martel et la Bataille de Poitiers (Paris: Librarie orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1944); Jean-Henri Roy and Jean Deviosse, La Bataille de Poitiers (Paris: Gallimard, 1966).
20 the Hammer: Charles Martel was the greatest in a long line of seventh- and eighth-century palace mayors who were the powers behind the throne of the Frankish Merovingian kings. Martel, the bastard son of the palace mayor Pepin of Herstal, scythed through the customary mayhem that followed Pepin’s death and united much of present-day France, western Germany, and the Low Countries under his rule. In 751 his son, also called Pepin, finally seized the throne with the backing of the pope.
20 tactics that had reaped such spectacular rewards: The Arab maneuver known as karr wa farr—“attack and withdrawal”—was impracticable for Europe’s soldiers, who were weighed down by heavy helmets, coats of armor, and shields. See Hugh Kennedy, The Armies of the Caliphs: Military and Society in the Early Islamic State (London: Routledge, 2001); David Nicolle, Armies of the Muslim Conquest (London: Osprey, 1993).
20 rancorous power struggles: As late as 807, the governor of Toledo invited hundreds of prominent rebels to a feast in his palace, decapitated them, and threw their bodies into a prepared pit; the grisly event became known as “La Jornada del Foso,” or the Day of the Pit.
21 a king’s ransom: Mayeul, the abbot of Cluny, was kidnapped in 972.
21 “a plank on the water”: Ibn Khordabeh, Book of Routes, quoted in Jack Turner, Spice: The History of a Temptation (New York: Random House, 2004), 96.
21 “Europeans”: In the Chronicle of 754. The reliability of the text has been disputed, and some medievalists date the term to the late Middle Ages.
22 Augustus, Emperor of the Romans: The papacy derived its sovereignty over the secular rulers of the former western lands of the Roman Empire from a document called the Donation of Constantine, which was purportedly written in the fourth century, was first seen in the eighth century, and was proved to be a forgery in the fifteenth century.
22 schism with the Orthodox Church: Even in Western Europe, dissenters repudiated St. Peter’s successors long before the Protestant Reformation split its society in two. Among the most determined and most unfortunate were the puritanical Cathars of southern France, who held that the material world was evil and broke off with opulent, corrupt Rome; the heresy was eventually wiped out, at the cost of as many as a million dead.
23 Peoples of the Book: The Quran names the Sabians as a third People of the Book; Islamic scholars later added Zoroastrians and Hindus.
23 “with wooden saddles”: Philip Khuri Hitti, History of Syria, Including Lebanon and Palestine (London: Macmillan, 1951), 543. The caliph was Mutawwakil. Even under less petty regimes, the dhimmi were forbidden to build new places of worship and sometimes to repair old ones, church bells had to be muffled, and proselytizing was a capital crime.
23 all-powerful foreign minister: Hasdai ibn Shaprut started out as Abd al-Rahman III’s personal physician; from medic to minister was a classic career path for ambitious medieval men.
23 Sephardi Jews: Many of Iberia’s Jews had migrated there following the Roman sack of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The Goths had energetically persecuted them; at the end of the seventh century, paranoid that Jews were conspiring to overthrow them, they seized their property and distributed it to their slaves, then enslaved them and forbade them to practice their religion.
24 Christians took just as happily to Arab culture: Paul Alvarus, a Jewish convert to Christianity, famously let out a great wail of complaint that the supple, sophisticated Arabic tongue had seduced his coreligionists: “The Christians love to read the poems and romances of the Arabs; they study the Arab theologians and philosophers, not to refute them but to form a correct and elegant Arabic. Where is the layman who now reads the Latin commentaries on the Holy Scriptures, or who studies the Gospels, prophets or Apostles? Alas! All talented young Christians read and study with enthusiasm the Arab books; they gather immense libraries at great expense; they despise the Christian literature as unworthy of attention. They have forgotten their language. For every one who can write a letter in Latin to a friend, there are a thousand who can express themselves in Arabic with elegance, and write better poems in this language than the Arabs themselves.” Quoted in John Tolan, Saracens: Islam in the Medieval European Imagination (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), 86.
24 deflower the Virgin Mary: Eulogius was eventually arrested for harboring a Muslim girl who had converted to Christianity. At his trial he offered to induct the judge into the Christian religion, then launched into a lecture about the manifold errors of Islam. The judge threw up his hands and sent the prisoner before the ruling council, which was treated to a sermon on the glories of the Gospels. The stubborn monk’s Muslim peers admired him as a scholar and a man and begged him to stop his insane mission of self-destruction, but he started up again and was beheaded. See Tolan, Saracens, 93; Olivia Remie Constable, ed., Medieval Iberia: Readings from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Sources (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), 51–55.
24 individuals with their own perceptions and desires: The awakening is preserved in the era’s poetry and song. See Peter Cole, trans. and ed., The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950–1492 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007); Salma Khadra Jayyusi, “Andalusi Poetry: The Golden Period,” in Jayyusi, ed., The Legacy of Muslim Spain (Leiden: Brill, 1992), 317–66.
24 exotic new crops: Among them were lemons, limes, grapefruit, figs, pomegranates, watermelons, apricots, almonds, saffron, spinach, artichokes, eggplants, cotton, rice, sugarcane, mulberry trees, henna plants, and palm trees. See Olivia Remie Constable, “Muslim Merchants in Andalusi International Trade,” in Jayyusi, Legacy of Muslim Spain, 759–73; Richard A. Fletcher, Moorish Spain (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1992), 62–64.
25 “ornament of the world”: María Rosa Menocal adopts the famous saying as the title of her book about the culture of convivencia. The nun was Hroswitha of Gandersheim.
25 fifty-two battles: Or thereabouts; fifty-two is the number given by the pioneering North African historian Ibn Khaldun in the fourteenth century. Al-Mansur owed his initial advancement to a commission by the then chancellor to murder the uncle of the heir to the throne, thus ensuring the delicate boy’s accession and the chancellor’s influence.
26 orgies of fratricide: One king, Sancho of Leon, was pushed off a cliff by his sister to make way for their brother (and possibly her lover) Alfonso the Brave, the future conqueror of Toledo.
27 a war of religious liberation: In the late eleventh century, the 27 of Aragon and Navarre declared that his conquests were intended “for the recovery and extension of the Church of Christ, for the destruction of the pagans, the enemies of Christ . . . so that the kingdom . . . might be liberated to the honour and service of Christ; and that once all the people of that unbelieving rite were expelled and the filthiness of their wicked error was eliminated therefrom, the venerable Church of Jesus Christ our Lord may be fostered there forever.” O’Callaghan, Reconquest and Crusade, 8. It hardly needs saying that the kings of the Reconquest were hungry for land and booty, but in an age when faith defined life it is too easy to read such statements as mere posturing, as opportunism cloaked in a holy habit.
27 a Spanish field: The field, the Campus stellae or “Field of the star,” was later held to have lent its name to Santiago de Compostela, the city that grew up around the purported tomb. In 997, Almanzor attacked and burned Santiago and carted away its church bells to be melted down into lamps for Córdoba’s Mezquita; more than anything else, his actions made St. James the rallying cry of the Reconquest and Santiago a magnet for international pilgrims. When the Reconquest reached Córdoba, the lamps went back home.
27 El Cid: The champion’s real name was Rodrigo Diaz; El Cid was the Spanish version of the Arabic honorific al-sayyid, or “the lord,” which was given him by his Muslim troops.
27 a synagogue designed by Muslim architects: The synagogue was eventually stormed by a Christian mob and was turned into the church of Santa Maria la Blanca. The eddy of competing city-states and commingling cultures unleashed by the breakup of al-Andalus has been likened to the Italian Renaissance; see María Rosa Menocal, The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain (Boston: Little, Brown, 2002), 40–41, 144.
27 fashions, and songs: Among the most culturally influential figures of al-Andalus was a singer from Baghdad named Ziryab, who became Islamic Spain’s arbiter of fashion and manners and brought his repertoire of ten thousand songs of love, loss, and longing to the West. When the Arabic songs crossed the Pyrenees, not least in the mouths of captured qiyan or singing girls, they came to the ears of French troubadours, heavily influenced European music and literature, and may have inspired the concept of courtly love. Fletcher, Moorish Spain, 43–45; Menocal, Ornament of the World, 123.
28 help from abroad: The invitation to the Almoravids was extended by Muhammad ibn Abbad al-Mutamid, the emir of Seville, who famously remarked after Toledo fell to Alfonso the Brave that he “would rather be a camel-driver in Africa than a swineherd in Castile.” Fletcher, Moorish Spain, 111.
28 The Almohads: The new rulers did not entirely eradicate al-Andalus’s ingrained habits of learning. Ibn Rushd, known in the West as Averroës, was the chief judge of Seville before the Almohads sent him to their Moroccan capital Marrakech as a royal physician. His commentaries on Aristotle, which insisted that science was superior to religion since God had created a logical universe that could be divined by the application of reason, were translated in Toledo and spurred the development of Scholasticism, the dominant philosophical and theological movement of medieval Europe. Averroës’s rationalist beliefs found an unlikely supporter in the Almohad caliph Abu Yaqub Yusuf and were enshrined in the Almohad Creed of 1183, but as religious intolerance mounted, the philosopher was sent into exile and his books were burned. Averroës’s contemporary Musa ibn Maymun, known in the West as Maimonides, represents the end of convivencia. The scion of a long line of Arabized Córdoban Jews, he escaped the Almohads’ persecutions by moving to Egypt, where he became another royal physician, only to fall foul of more pogroms against Jews. He turned his back on his past, repudiated (in Arabic) Jews’ cooperation with Muslims as a disaster, and predicted the eclipse of Islam. Yet his schooling in al-Andalus prepared him to write the most influential of all the Arabic works that tried to reconcile Aristotelian logic with religion, the Guide for the Perplexed, as well as medical textbooks that were still heavily used in the Renaissance. The intellectual impact of Muslim Iberia was felt in Europe long after its eclipse.
29 mysteries of Islam: The first Latin translation of the Quran was made in 1143.
30 marched south across Spain: The pivotal Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa was fought in 1212 across a plain in the eastern foothills of the Sierra Morena, the mountain range that separates Andalusia from La Mancha. According to several contemporary reports, the entire Spanish army became trapped on a plateau and was only saved from catastrophe when a shepherd showed them a sheep run that led down to the Muslim camp. In the usual manner, the shepherd was later revealed to have been none other than a long-dead saint in disguise.
Chapter 2: The Holy Land
31 Pope Urban II: Ironically, the pope who inspired vast armies to march east was barely able to enter Rome; a rival pope installed by the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV, who had been embroiled in an infamous struggle with Urban’s predecessor, Gregory VII, over which of the two wielded supreme power, was nestled there. For years Urban wandered Italy as an exile, dependent on charity and deeply in debt; on the few occasions he made it to Rome, he was forced to barricade himself on an island in the Tiber, hole up in a loyalist’s fortress, or helplessly anathematize his rival from outside the walls, while his supporters fought running battles with the so-called antipope’s troops. Urban’s position was still precarious in 1095, and the backbone of the Crusading army came from his homeland in northern France.
32 excommunicated the patriarch: The patriarch returned the favor and excommunicated the legates. Despite doubts about the legality of the decrees, the long-strained ties between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church had finally snapped and would never be restored.
32 ousted the Umayyad caliphs: The Abbasids defeated the Umayyads in 750 and moved their capital to Baghdad in 762. Among the few survivors of the bloody banquet was a young prince named Abd al-Rahman, who evaded the bounty hunters all the way to Spain, where he reestablished the Umayyads as the ruling dynasty of al-Andalus.
33 an embassy from Constantinople: The extravaganza is recounted by the eleventh-century historian al-Khatib al-Baghdadi; see Hugh Kennedy, The Court of the Caliphs: The Rise and Fall of Islam’s Greatest Dynasty (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004), 153.
34 a Shia sect: The sect is the Ismailis, who trace the legitimate line of successors to Muhammad through an imam named Ismail ibn Jafar. A Baghdadi missionary carried their teachings to Tunisia and in 909 roused the local population to overthrow their ruler in favor of a self-proclaimed descendant of the Prophet via Fatima, Ali, and Ismail. In 969 the Fatimids conquered Egypt, which had been ruled for twenty-two years by a eunuch and former slave named Abu al-Misk Kafur (Musky Camphor). One story holds that the new ruler, the caliph al-Muizz, answered religious scholars who doubted his lineage by drawing his sword and showering the floor with gold coins: “There is my lineage,” he retorted.
34 Persian power revived for a time: The Samanid Empire lasted through most of the ninth and tenth centuries; Bukhara, its capital, rivaled Baghdad as a cultural center. Foremost among its luminaries was the philosopher and physician Ibn Sina, who was long revered in the West as Avicenna; his al-Qanun (“The Canon”), a vast encyclopedia of Greek and Arab medical knowledge, was a primary text in European and Asian medical schools well into the modern era.
34 smashed its armies: At the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. To complete the humiliation the victorious sultan Alp Aslan killed the vanquished emperor Romanos IV Diogenes with kindness; he lavished gifts on him and sent him home, where his domestic enemies gouged out his eyes. As Constantinople distracted itself with new civil wars the Turks walked virtually unopposed into the vast Anatolian peninsula—Rome’s great province of Asia Minor, today the Asian lands of Turkey. In a trice, the empire was reduced to its capital and a vulnerable straggle of hinterland.
34 Scandalous rumors: One especially incendiary letter was purportedly addressed to Count Robert of Flanders by the Byzantine emperor Alexius I Comnenus. As well as detailing the wholesale defilement of churches, it alleged that the Turks lined up to violate virgins while making their watching mothers sing obscene songs, and sodomized men of all ages, including clergymen, monks, and even bishops. The letter, which is written in a lurid tabloid style, may be apocryphal, or it may be a later forgery based on real material; either way, the accusations give a startling insight into the pitch to which enmity between Christians and Muslims had risen. Andrew Holt and James Muldoon, eds., Competing Voices from the Crusades (Oxford: Greenwood, 2008), 9.
34 “have completely destroyed”: Robert the Monk, quoted in Thomas F. Madden, The New Concise History of the Crusades (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005), 8–9. A verbatim report of Urban II’s speech has not survived; Robert’s version was written twenty years after the event, and its catalog of Muslim depravities may have been intended to validate the First Crusade after the fact.
35 toward Jerusalem: Robert the Monk reports Urban II’s focus on Jerusalem. In the account of Fulcher of Chartres, who was present at Clermont, the pope instead stresses the need to defend Constantinople against the fast-advancing Turks. In his own letter to the Crusaders, written shortly after the council, Urban II talks about the outrages of the Muslims who had seized “the Holy City of Christ” but does not overtly call for its liberation. In all probability, though, that was his hope. Edward Peters, The First Crusade: The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and Other Source Materials (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1971), 30–31, 16.
35 one Egyptian ruler: The Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim, who then controlled Jerusalem, launched a widespread program to destroy Christian churches in Egypt and Palestine. His more tolerant son and heir allowed Constantinople to bribe him into agreeing to the shrine’s reconstruction. The Fatimids lost Jerusalem to the Turks in 1073 but recaptured the city in 1098, the year before the Crusaders arrived.
35 “and does not cease”: Robert the Monk, quoted in Peters, First Crusade, 4.
36 “Hence it is”: Ibid., 3–4.
37 “marvelous works”: Raymond of Aguilers, quoted in Thomas Asbridge, The First Crusade: A New History (London: Free Press, 2004), 316. The estimate of 100,000 dead was considerably in excess of Jerusalem’s population at the time, which likely numbered around 30,000.
37 “seizing infants”: Albert of Aachen, in ibid., 317.
37 “gulped down”: Fulcher of Chartres, in ibid., 318.
37 the al-Aqsa Mosque: The name means “the farthest mosque.” A lofty stone building at the southern end of the Temple Mount, it was built well after Muhammad’s time but had become popularly identified as the earthly destination of the Prophet’s Night Journey. Since there were soon no Muslims left in Jerusalem to explain this, the Crusaders decided it must be the Jewish First Temple built by King Solomon. There were no Jews left, either, to point out that the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed Solomon’s Temple some sixteen centuries before the Crusaders showed up. The first Crusader kings unsuspectingly used the mosque as their palace and then gave it to a new knightly fraternity known as the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ. After the Hebrew history they imagined lay buried beneath the Islamic floor at their Christian feet, the Poor Fellow-Soldiers became known as the Knights Templar.
37 a nearby rock: The rock is located under the Dome of the Rock, the Muslim shrine built at the end of the seventh century in a wholly successful attempt to outdo the city’s rival religious structures. In Jewish belief, it is the Foundation Stone from which the earth was formed, the altar where Abraham offered to sacrifice his son, and the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant, though all three locations are heavily disputed. In 2000, Israel’s then opposition leader Ariel Sharon took a walk on the Temple Mount that provoked a six-year intifada; so the religious layers of Jerusalem continue to pile up.
37 up to their ankles, their knees, or their bridle reins in blood: While Muslim writers exaggerated the number of the dead to outrage their coreligionists’ feelings, Christian writers exaggerated the number out of pride at performing God’s work. Fulcher of Chartres, who was in Jerusalem five months after the conquest, says that nearly 10,000 were killed in the “Temple of Solomon” alone; the Muslim historian Ali ibn al-Athir puts the figure at 70,000. None are to be taken literally; Raymond of Aguilers’s line about the blood rising to the horses’ bridles is straight out of the book of Revelation.
37 “in mounds as big as houses”: The anonymous Gesta Francorum (“Deeds of the Franks”), quoted in Asbridge, First Crusade, 320.
37 one rapturous monk: Robert the Monk. Some Christian fundamentalists now believe that Israel is that precursor state.
38 galloped in silent, tight formation: For the impression the Templars made on the battlefield, see the anonymous pilgrim’s account known as the Tractatus de locis et statu sanctae terrae (“Tract on the places and state of the Holy Land”), quoted in Helen Nicholson, The Knights Templar: A New History (Stroud, UK: Sutton, 2001), 67–68.
38 The Templars and Hospitallers lived like monks: The Templars were allowed no possessions and were sworn to chastity. A dauntingly detailed rulebook laid out their every move; even minor transgressions meant a year of whippings and eating off the ground. The rule eventually ran to 686 clauses. See Malcolm Barber, The New Knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 182, 219–21.
38 a renegade sect of Shia fanatics: The Assassins were a radical band of Ismailis who were frustrated by the failure of the Egyptian Fatimids to impose Shiism on the ummah. The result of their campaign of terror was the discrediting of the whole Shia movement. “To shed the blood of a [Muslim] heretic,” wrote one Assassin acolyte, “is more meritorious than to kill seventy Greek infidels.” Quoted in Bernard Lewis, The Assassins: A Radical Sect in Islam (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1967), 48.
39 another devastating defeat on Constantinople: At the Battle of Myriocephalum. The Christians’ cause was not helped when, six years later, the emperor stood by while Orthodox mobs massacred thousands of Catholics who lived in Constantinople and dragged the severed head of the pope’s representative through the streets tied to the tail of a dog, an event that in part motivated the mayhem of the Fourth Crusade.
40 “so as to free the earth of anyone who does not believe in God”: Saladin’s words were recorded by his retainer and biographer Baha ad-Din; quoted in Francesco Gabrieli, Arab Historians of the Crusades (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 101.
40 the fresh Muslim troops crushed them in hours: By the ferocious standards of his age, Saladin was magnanimity itself. The foot soldiers were sold into slavery, and the nobles were held for ransom. The feared warrior-monks of the Hospital and the Temple were not so fortunate. Among their Muslim enemies they were reputed to be more devils than men; clerics lined up to behead them one by one while Saladin, his secretary Imad ad-Din recorded, looked on with a face full of joy. See Barber, New Knighthood, 64.
41 cosmopolitan Sicily: In the eleventh century two Norman brothers named Roger and Robert Guiscard had wrested Sicily from its Muslim rulers, who had wrested it from Constantinople. The Normans were the descendants of Vikings, or Norsemen, and long after they converted to Christianity, wherever there was a war there were sure to be Normans. Yet the peripatetic warriors quickly adapted to their new homes, and they were especially seduced by sophisticated Sicily. Its governance was put in the capable hands of a meritocracy of Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and religious freedom flourished. Muslim travelers were taken aback at their enthusiastic reception in Christian Palermo, where women went to mass in an Eastern cloud of silk robes, colored veils, gilt slippers, and henna tattoos, and they were even more surprised to discover that some Normans spoke decent Arabic.
42 “Rage and sorrow are seated in my heart”: Quoted in Stephen Howarth, The Knights Templar (New York: Atheneum, 1982), 223.
43 the death of their Great Khan: The Khan then was Ogedei, Genghis Khan’s third son and first successor.
44 “Their situation approached the point of annihilation”: Quoted in Michael W. Dols, The Black Death in the Middle East (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977), 67. While Christians saw the plague as God’s punishment for mankind’s sins, Muslims dealt with the disaster by interpreting it as God’s offer of martyrdom for the faithful. That belief was shaken, though not destroyed, when the plague hit Mecca despite Muhammad’s prediction that no disease would touch either it or Medina.
45 the Council of Constance: The numbers and professions of the attendees are given in Jerry Brotton, The Renaissance Bazaar: From the Silk Road to Michelangelo (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 96. The council, which met from 1414 to 1418, ruled that all men, including the pope himself, were duty-bound to obey its decisions, and it appointed Martin V as the first uncontested pope in nearly a century.
45 an eternal building site: “Houses have fallen into ruins, churches have collapsed, whole quarters are abandoned; and the town is neglected and oppressed by famine and poverty,” lamented the new pope. Rome’s inhabitants, he added, “have been throwing and illicitly hiding entrails, viscera, heads, feet, bones, blood, and skins, besides rotten meat and fish, refuse, excrement, and other fetid and rotting cadavers into the streets . . . and have dared boldly and sacrilegiously to usurp, ruin, and reduce to their own use streets, alleys, piazzas, public and private places both ecclesiastical and profane.” From the start the new Rome was planned on a scale to represent and reinforce the glory of the revived church; the people’s faith, said Pope Nicholas V, would be “continually confirmed and daily corroborated by great buildings” that were “seemingly made by the hand of God.” Eamon Duffy, Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes, 3rd ed. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006), 193; Brotton, Renaissance Bazaar, 106.
48 “We lost the day”: Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century (New York: Knopf, 1978), 561.
Chapter 3: A Family War
50 Crusaders from northern Europe: In 1147, several boatloads of English, Scottish, Flemish, German, and Norman knights en route to the Second Crusade stopped off for provisions in the port town of Porto. Porto had grown around an old Roman outpost called Portus Cale, which had been retaken from the Berbers in the ninth century; as the scrappy statelet expanded, the name Portus Cale evolved into Portugal. The Crusaders were enticed with tall tales of magnificent treasure to reinforce the army that was besieging Lisbon, and for four burningly hot months they bombarded the citadel. Finally the English built a series of siege towers, breached the walls, and set about pillaging with intent. In the spring of 1189 more Crusaders piled into the Algarve, where they massacred six thousand Muslims and brutally besieged the city of Siles. With the final conquest of the Algarve in 1249, Portugal became the first European nation-state to fix its borders.
50 a royal chronicler: Duarte Galvão, Crónica de D. Afonso Henriques, quoted in Sanjay Subrahmanyam, The Career and Legend of Vasco da Gama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 162.
51 routed the attackers: At the Battle of Aljubarrota. The victory came at the cost of the death or dispersal of most of the old nobility who had sided with Castile; John I confiscated their lands and created a new nobility from among his supporters.
51 The English and Portuguese had been allies: After the siege of Lisbon a number of English knights had stayed on; one, Gilbert of Hastings, was installed as Lisbon’s first bishop. English soldiers fought on John’s side at Aljubarrota, and the year after the battle John I signed the Treaty of Windsor, enshrining between the Portuguese and English kings, “their heirs and successors, and between the subjects of both kingdoms an inviolable, eternal, solid, perpetual and true league of friendship, alliance and union.” The treaty is the oldest extant alliance between European nations. H. V. Livermore, A New History of Portugal, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), 67.
52 Philippa arrived in Portugal: Philippa’s captivating story is told in T. W. E. Roche, Philippa: Dona Filipa of Portugal (London: Phillimore, 1971).
52 “little blue Englishwoman’s eyes”: Ibid., 57.
52 The prospect of such a pampered entrée: The primary authority for the planning and execution of the Crusade against Ceuta is the Portuguese chronicler Gomes Eanes de Zurara. His account originally formed a supplement to the Chronicle of King John I by Fernão Lopes, Zurara’s predecessor as court chronicler. A recent Portuguese edition is Gomes Eanes de Zurara, Crónica da tomada de Ceuta (Mem Martins: Publicações Europa-América, 1992). An abridged translation is given in Conquests and Discoveries of Henry the Navigator, ed. Virginia de Castro e Almeida and trans. Bernard Miall (London: Allen & Unwin, 1936).
53 “great exploits”: Zurara, Conquests and Discoveries, 33.
54 “excellent exercise of arms”: Letter of Duarte I, quoted in Peter Russell, Prince Henry ‘the Navigator’: A Life (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000), 40.
55 several times it had granted bulls of Crusade: The bulls were issued by the Roman popes, whom the Portuguese, along with the English, had supported against the French claimants. The first bull was dated 1341; it was renewed in 1345, 1355, 1375, and 1377.
56 “I am going to make a request”: Zurara, Conquests and Discoveries, 52–53.
57 “On with you, greybeards!”: Ibid., 57. Behind the scenes, the council was far from unanimous in its support for the plan; many young nobles still hankered after renewing the war with Castile. Zurara’s claim that men of ninety were lining up to take part is best read as a poetic assurance that the nation’s wisest voices were behind the Crusade.
57 Italian merchants and sailors: The Genoese, who were driven to seek out new commercial opportunities when Venice cornered the trade in Asian luxury goods, were the dominant group. In 1317 one Genoese was appointed Portugal’s first admiral.
58 a ruinous piece of chivalric nonsense: Decades later, creditors were still trying to recover the large sums they had loaned the crown. See Russell, Prince Henry, 44.
59 “I do not know”: Zurara, Conquests and Discoveries, 66–67.
60 the assembled army numbered more than 19,000: The figures were given by a spy in the service of Ferdinand I of Aragon; Russell, Prince Henry, 31. Other estimates ranged as high as 50,000 men.
62 The king’s confessor: As Peter Russell notes, the priest made much of John I’s guilt at having spilled a great deal of Christian blood during the wars against Castile; to salve his conscience, he explained, the king was determined to spill a matching amount of infidel blood. “Presumably,” Russell comments, “no one in the royal entourage thought it odd that John’s moral discomfort was to be assuaged at huge expense to his people and by yet more spillage of their blood.” Ibid., 46.
62 a new papal bull: The pope from whom John I secured the bull was John XXIII, the second of the Pisan line of pontiffs elected in opposition to the French and Roman popes. Having been ritually accused of piracy, murder, rape, simony, and incest, John XXIII was deposed at the Council of Constance in May 1415 and was declared an antipope, two months before the Crusade he had endorsed set sail.
63 The elderly governor: Salah ben Salah, the governor of Ceuta, was the lord of a string of nearby cities and came from a prominent African seafaring family.
64 the town would be at their feet: At this point, Zurara has a throng of young Moroccans seek out the governor of Ceuta and suggest how to seize the enemy fleet, win a great victory, and reap a rich bounty. The Christians were weighed down with heavy armor, they supposedly explained; all that was needed was to meet them on the beaches and knock them to their feet, and they would be unable to get up. Whether or not the governor was given such sage advice—it is hard to conceive how Zurara might have got wind of it—he was mindful of his depleted forces and decided his best hope was to prevent the Portuguese from entering the city. Many of his troops left their defensive positions and swarmed onto the beaches, with disastrous results.
65 “And to you, Lord”: Zurara, Conquests and Discoveries, 98.
65 “black as a crow”: Ibid., 99.
66 “Our poor houses look like pigsties”: Quoted in C. R. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire 1415–1825 (London: Hutchinson, 1969), 13.
67 “did not trouble themselves about such things”: Ibid.
68 They destroyed the cistern with the townspeople inside: Valentim Fernandes, Description de la Côte d’Afrique de Ceuta au Sénégal, ed. and trans. P. de Cenival and T. Monod (Paris: Larose, 1938), 18–19. The huge cistern was filled from the city’s springs; ships that wanted to replenish their water supply from it paid handsomely for the privilege.
68 long-awaited invasion of France: Malyn Newitt notes the coincidence in A History of Portuguese Overseas Expansion, 1400–1668 (London: Routledge, 2005), 19.
Chapter 4: The Ocean Sea
70 the carefully cultivated legend: The image of Henry as a lonely man of science who founded a groundbreaking school of navigation dates back to the sixteenth-century Portuguese chronicles; written at the height of empire, they inevitably romanticized its founding father. The legend was enshrined in R. H. Major’s nineteenth-century biography of “Prince Henry of Portugal, Surnamed the Navigator,” and it has proved hard to dislodge. See Peter Russell, Prince Henry ‘the Navigator’: A Life (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000), 6–7.
71 “one large garden”: G. R. Crone, trans. and ed., The Voyages of Cadamosto, and Other Documents on Western Africa in the Second Half of the Fifteenth Century (London: Hakluyt Society, 1937), 10.
71 The Temple in London: The Temples were not always as secure as their reputation held. In 1263 the future Edward I of England, who was broke along with his father Henry III and the rest of the royal family, was admitted to the London Temple on the pretext of taking a look at the crown jewels; instead he took a hammer to a series of chests and carried off a great haul of other people’s money. See Helen Nicholson, The Knights Templar: A New History (Stroud, UK: Sutton, 2001), 163.
71 Philip the Fair: The French arrest warrants were issued on Friday, October 13, 1307; a papal bull dated that November ordered every Christian ruler in Europe to follow suit. The pope had second thoughts and convened a court that acquitted the Templars on every count, but under renewed French pressure and on the basis that the order was tainted by the scandal that Philip had single-handedly whipped up, it was disbanded by a bull of 1312.
72 had settled huge tracts of newly seized lands: In 1131 King Alfonso I of Aragon tried to leave his entire kingdom to the Templars, the Hospitallers, and the monks of the Holy Sepulcher. His brother Ramiro hastily came out of his monastery, fathered a daughter, and married her to the count of Barcelona, who took over as ruler of Aragon. Ramiro retreated to his monk’s cell; the Templars were compensated with vast lands and revenues.
72 the Order of Christ: In Henry’s time the renamed Templar chapter controlled twenty-one towns and extensive lands in central Portugal. By then, though, it had long run out of Muslims to attack, and the knights had enraged the king by refusing to take part in the Crusade against Ceuta on the grounds that they were only obliged to fight at home. John’s appointment of Henry as the order’s governor amounted to a royal takeover.
73 push ahead with the Reconquest: Henry was not alone in refusing to see the Strait of Gibraltar as an obstacle to the Reconquest. As early as 1291, Castile and Aragon agreed a boundary between their prospective fiefdoms in Morocco; in 1400 Castile destroyed the Moroccan town of Tétouan, which was located some twenty-five miles south of Ceuta and was a notorious pirate base. In Roman times northern Morocco had been part of the diocese of Spain, though Castile’s claim rested more on its spurious self-identification as the heir to the old Gothic kingdom that it imagined had ruled Morocco as well as Spain.
74 He never intended to honor the accord: Henry’s reputation rested on his heroics at Ceuta, and his father had put him in charge of the city’s defense; to hand it back so soon would have been a desperate personal humiliation, as well as making a mockery of Portugal’s newly burnished Crusading credentials.
74 the Catalan Atlas: The atlas was made in Majorca by the leading Jewish cartographer Abraham Cresques for Charles V of France.
74 “So abundant is the gold”: Quoted in Jerry Brotton, The Renaissance Bazaar: From the Silk Road to Michelangelo (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 55. For once the stories contained a kernel of truth; gold mined in the western Sudan was indeed transported to trading towns like Timbuktu on the edge of the Sahara, where it was forged into ingots and was sent by caravan to North Africa. Mansa Musa, a king of the powerful state of Mali, gained his reputation from the spectacular display of opulence, including 100 camels loaded with gold and 500 slaves bearing heavy gold staffs, which accompanied his hajj to Mecca in 1324.
76 crept up to the fearsome headland: Europe’s mapmakers, and Henry’s sailors, may have mistaken the more dangerous Cape Juby, 140 miles north of Cape Bojador, for the famous landmark; Cape Bojador itself was likely rounded almost unnoticed a decade later. See Russell, Prince Henry, 111–13.
76 Sagres Point: It was here that Henry’s academy was later said to have been located. According to the chronicler João de Barros, Henry had begun to restore an existing village that was subsequently renamed Vila do Infante, or the Prince’s Town; it was likely intended as a service station for passing ships. In the mid-fifteenth century, when Zurara was writing, it was still going up and consisted of a perimeter wall, a fortress, a few houses, and no school of navigation. Henry’s own fleets left from Lagos, along the Algarve coast to the east.
77 “ten blacks, male and female”: Gomes Eanes de Zurara, The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, trans. C. R. Beazley and Edgar Prestage (London: Hakluyt Society, 1896–98), 1:57. The bumper haul was exacted as a ransom for three Muslim prisoners.
77 “They related so much in this strain”: Crone, Voyages of Cadamosto, 5. Alvise Cadamosto was the Portuguese version of the Venetian’s real name, Alvide da Ca’ da Mosto.
77 borrowed via the Arabs from the Indian Ocean: The process of diffusion has been a matter of long debate. See I. C. Campbell, “The Lateen Sail in World History,” in Journal of World History 6, no. 1 (Spring 1995): 1–23.
79 built entirely of blocks of salt: Taghaza, now in the desert of northern Mali, was the site of immensely valuable salt mines, controlled by the Moroccans, that were long a commercial and political hub of North Africa. The rock salt was taken south by throngs of merchants and was exchanged for gold in the Sudan, where it was so prized that it was cut into pieces and used as a currency. The exchange took the form of a silent auction that had been famous since the time of Herodotus. The salt was piled in rows and the merchants retired; the miners approached, placed a quantity of gold by each row, and disappeared. The salt sellers came back and calculated whether to take the gold or hold out for more, the gold sellers returned to take their salt or raise their offer, and the process continued until all deals were done.
79 Senegal River: For some time the Portuguese believed the Senegal was a branch of the Nile; the error found its way into the papal bull Romanus Pontifex of 1455. The Gambia, Niger, and Congo rivers were also successively mistaken for branches of the Nile.
79 “It appears to me a very marvelous thing”: Crone, Voyages of Cadamosto, 28. To the south were the Wolof and Serer tribes. To the north were the Azanaghi (the modern-day Sanhaja or Zenaga), one of the major groups of the Tuareg peoples, nomadic Berbers who were (and are) the principal inhabitants of the Sahara.
80 a nearby royal capital: The capital belonged to one of two Wolof kingdoms with which the Portuguese established trading relations.
81 “he showed good powers of reasoning”: Crone, Voyages of Cadamosto, 41.
81 “a handsome young negress”: Ibid., 36.
81 “exceedingly black”: Ibid., 58.
81 “did not want our friendship”: Ibid., 60.
82 a German bishop: Otto of Freising, a half brother of the Holy Roman Emperor. In his Chronica de duabus civitatibus, a dual history of Jerusalem and Babel, Otto reports that Bishop Hugh of Jabala in Syria had told him of a Nestorian king in the east named Prester John.
83 “seven kings”: Quoted in Robert Silverberg, The Realm of Prester John (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1972), 2. The letter was still in wide circulation in Vasco da Gama’s time.
83 “horned men, one-eyed ones”: Quoted in L. N. Gumilev, Searches for an Imaginary Kingdom: The Legend of the Kingdom of Prester John, trans. R. E. F. Smith (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 6.
84 Genghis Khan’s estranged foster father: Europeans identified him as Toghrul, king of the Kerait tribes of central Mongolia. Toghrul was the blood brother of Genghis Khan’s father and may have been a Nestorian Christian. The story was lent further credence when Toghrul tried to assassinate his former protégé, who had grown too powerful for his liking. The older man was killed when fleeing the battle, and Genghis Khan married his son to Toghrul’s niece.
84 He was briefly killed off when reports arrived: The reports came from none other than Marco Polo. The Crusader and historian Jean de Joinville has the same story. In the chronicle of William of Rubruck, the king of the Keraits is Prester John’s brother; the Mongols defeat both, and Genghis Khan’s son marries the Prester’s daughter.
84 The Prester’s population: Much of the gilding on the Prester John legend derives from the inscriptions on world maps; see Russell, Prince Henry, 122.
84 Middle India: So called to differentiate it from Greater India and Lesser India, or roughly the Indian subcontinent and Indochina. The names are Marco Polo’s; Ethiopia was also termed India Tertia, or the Third India. The divisions were for the experts; to most people, any mysterious place east of the River Nile was generally believed to be one part or another of the Indies.
84 Some said it was separated from Egypt: See Travelers in Disguise: Narratives of Eastern Travel by Poggio Bracciolini and Ludovico de Varthema, trans. John Winter Jones, rev. Lincoln Davis Hammond (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963), 42.
85 “as far as the Indians”: Russell, Prince Henry, 121.
86 the goods the explorers brought home: Ibid., 202, 211.
86 another way of advancing the struggle against Islam: The claim was not as hypocritical as it now sounds. At a time when church and state were inextricably linked, the religious health and the secular wealth of nations were impossible to disentangle. The old Crusaders had never seen anything odd about yoking together religion, war, power, and profit, and neither did the new. Wealth was God’s blessing; one medieval Italian merchant headed every page of his ledgers with the invocation “In the name of God and of Profit.” C. R. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire 1415–1825 (London: Hutchinson, 1969), 18.
86 “There you might see mothers abandoning their children”: Gomes Eanes de Zurara, Conquests and Discoveries of Henry the Navigator, ed. Virginia de Castro e Almeida and trans. Bernard Miall (London: Allen & Unwin, 1936), 160–61.
87 “for these could not run so fast”: Ibid., 164–66.
88 “For some kept their heads low”: Zurara, Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, 1:81–82.
89 “Now,” recorded Zurara: Russell, Prince Henry, 246.
90 pirates of the Barbary Coast: The slaves were mainly seized from coastal villages in Spain, Portugal, and Italy, but the Barbary slavers also raided France, England, Ireland, and the Netherlands, and even Iceland and North America. Europe was forced to fork out tributes in an attempt to keep them off, while the United States’ first overseas military action was conducted against the pirates, in the First and Second Barbary Wars of 1801–1805 and 1815. See Joshua E. London, Victory in Tripoli: How America’s War with the Barbary Pirates Established the U.S. Navy and Shaped a Nation (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2005).
90 “wonderful new things that await them”: Russell, Prince Henry, 244. For Zurara’s Noah and Cain theory, see Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, 2:147. Within forty years the Portuguese were acting as middlemen between African chiefs and Muslim slavers, and any pretense that they were in the business of saving souls was dropped. The practice was eventually stopped when King John III (1521–1557) realized he was consigning the captives to eternal damnation, something that had apparently escaped his predecessors.
90 20,000 Africans: The estimate is given in Russell, Prince Henry, 258. The figure of 150,000 is in Boxer, Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 31.
91 the pope issued a bull: Dum Diversas, dated June 18, 1452, issued by Pope Nicholas V. Not every pope countenanced slavery; in the bull Sicut dudum of 1435, Eugene IV threatened slavers with excommunication.
Chapter 5: The End of the World
92 a besieged Constantinople: Eyewitness accounts of the siege include the detailed diary of Nicolò Barbaro, an aristocratic Venetian surgeon fond of talking up his fellow citizens’ role in the defense; the chronicle of George Phrantzes, the city’s chancellor; and the letter to the pope written by Leonard of Chios, the bishop of Lesbos, who was in Constantinople to negotiate the union of the Churches. These narratives are collected in J. R. Melville Jones, ed., The Siege of Constantinople: Seven Contemporary Accounts(Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1972). For histories of Byzantium and the siege, see Steven Runciman, The Fall of Constantinople: 1453 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965); John Julius Norwich, Byzantium: The Decline and Fall (London: Viking, 1995); and Roger Crowley, Constantinople: The Last Great Siege, 1453 (London: Faber & Faber, 2005).
93 a keen student of history: During the siege, Mehmet employed a small staff of Italian humanists to read him edifying excerpts from the classical historians. See Franz Babinger, Mehmed the Conqueror and His Time (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978).
93 visited the pope: In 1438 Emperor John VIII Paleologus journeyed to Florence and proposed the union as the only way to prevent the fall of Constantinople. Delegations arrived from across the lands of the Eastern Church, bringing with them a treasure trove of classical and early Christian manuscripts, and the Decree of Union was signed on July 6, 1439. It was never put into effect; the people of Constantinople refused to accept the merger, and the Italians refused to provide them with military aid. In 1452, with the Ottomans at the gates, the last emperor Constantine XI wrote to Rome promising to enact the agreement, but the pope failed to convince the European powers to act in time.
93 a charnel house of holy relics: The relics played an important part in the imperial mythos. The passion relics represented the emperor’s divinely ordained authority; Moses’s rod and the trumpets from the fall of Jericho, which held pride of place in the old palace, conferred the legitimacy of deep history. The perhaps spurious letter addressed by the emperor Alexius to Count Robert of Flanders on the eve of the First Crusade took care to list the city’s full panoply of covetable relics.
94 a mark of his extreme holiness: Andrew lived rough on the streets of Constantinople and only revealed his holy wisdom to his disciple Epiphanios. The popular phenomenon of Fools-for-Christ found corroboration in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” They were believed to be engaged in a battle with self-pride by deliberately inviting ridicule, insults, and beatings, or to be feigning madness so they could provide spiritual guidance without earning praise, and their pronouncements were combed for prophetic wisdom unavailable to saner sermonizers.
94 “No nation whatever”: Nikephoros, The Life of St. Andrew the Fool, ed. and trans. Lennart Rydén (Stockholm: Uppsala University, 1995), 2:261.
95 “But what is that terrible news”: Quoted in Jerry Brotton, The Renaissance Bazaar: From the Silk Road to Michelangelo (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 49.
96 spurred on the gathering Renaissance: A direct bridge was thus built between the classical age and the Renaissance that allowed Europe to forget the vital contribution of the Islamic world to its rebirth of learning. While the rediscovery of Latin and subsequently Greek literature was largely a Western undertaking, the work of Muslim philosophers, astronomers, and physicians continued to inspire Europe’s scientists and thinkers well into the modern era.
96 George of Trebizond: See John Monfasani, George of Trebizond: A Biography and a Study of His Rhetoric and Logic (Leiden: Brill, 1976), 131–36. George’s zeal to serve the Conqueror landed him in jail and nearly cost him his life.
97 set sail for Italy: Mehmet’s fleet captured the Italian port city of Otranto in 1480, but the invasions stopped with his death the next year and the consequent tussle among his sons over the Ottoman throne. If they had continued, Europe might have had a very different future; a few years later, the French conquered much of Italy with little trouble.
97 the Feast of the Pheasant: See Marie-Thérèse Caron and Denis Clauzel, eds., Le Banquet du Faisan (Arras: Artois Presses Université, 1997). Phillip had founded an order of chivalry named the Knights of the Golden Fleece to celebrate his marriage to Isabel of Portugal.
98 “the sublimity of spirit”: Peter Russell, Prince Henry ‘the Navigator’: A Life (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000), 320.
99 the long papal bull: Romanus Pontifex, issued by Nicholas V on January 8, 1455. The original text and English translation are in Frances Gardiner Davenport, ed., European Treaties Bearing on the History of the United States and Its Dependencies to 1648(Washington, DC: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1917), 13–26. In 1456, the new pope Callistus III confirmed the terms of the previous bulls and, at Henry’s request, conceded to his Order of Christ spiritual jurisdiction over all regions conquered then or in the future from Cape Bojador, through Guinea, and beyond to the Indies.
100 his contract was terminated: Gomes was so successful that he was ennobled by the king and was given a new coat of arms—“a shield with crest and three heads of negroes on a field of silver, each with golden rings in ears and nose, and a collar of gold around the neck, and ‘da Mina’ as a surname, in memory of its discovery.” G. R. Crone, trans. and ed., The Voyages of Cadamosto, and Other Documents on Western Africa in the Second Half of the Fifteenth Century (London: Hakluyt Society, 1937), 109–10.
100 Europe was born of an abduction from the East: Mark P. O. Morford and Robert J. Lenardon, Classical Mythology, 6th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 291–93. According to Herodotus, the pattern of revenge kidnappings continued until the Trojan prince Paris abducted Helen of Sparta and provoked the Trojan War.
101 “Thus saith the Lord God”: Ezekiel 5:5.
101 the spring of humanity itself: The Bible revealed that the world was a little over six thousand years old, and civilizations were known to have flourished long ago in the East. Asia was thus the natural location for the birthplace of mankind, a belief that was still taken for granted in the early seventeenth century by the French traveler Jean Mocquet. Asia, he wrote, “is of very great Extent, Riches, and Fertility, and ever very renowned for having born the greatest Monarchies, and first Empires, as of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Parthians, Arabians, Tartars, Mongols, Chineses, and other Indians. But above all, this Part is the most esteemed, for the Creation of the first Man, planted in the Terrestrial Paradise, Colonies and Peoples coming from thence, and dispersed through the rest of the World, and moreover, for the Redemption of Mankind, and the Operation of our Salvation acted therein; besides, for having given Religion, Science, Arts, Laws, Policy, Arms, and Artifices, to all the other Parts.” “Preface,”Travels and Voyages into Africa, Asia, and America, the East and West Indies; Syria, Jerusalem, and the Holy Land, trans. Nathaniel Pullen (London, 1696).
101 The vast encyclopedia compiled by St. Isidore: St. Isidore was a seventh-century archbishop of Seville who was instrumental in converting the Goths to Catholicism. His Etymologiae, the first medieval encyclopedia, was a summa of universal knowledge that ran to 448 chapters in twenty volumes.
101 “makes up a sizeable part of the earth’s mass”: Quoted in Jean Delumeau, History of Paradise: The Garden of Eden in Myth and Tradition, trans. Matthew O’Connell (New York: Continuum, 1995), 53. The Polychronicon was written by an English Benedictine monk named Ranulf Higden.
102 an actual encounter with Paradise: The story was told in Alexandri Magni iter ad paradisum (“The Journey of Alexander the Great to Paradise”); written by a Jewish author between 1100 and 1175, it was subsequently translated into French and was incorporated, with variations, into the Roman d’Alexandre and other Alexandrian tales. See Delumeau, History of Paradise, 46.
102 “monstrous races”: Pliny the Elder categorized the races in the first century CE. For a wide-ranging account of the monstrous, particularly the canine, in folklore and myth, see David Gordon White, Myths of the Dog-man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991).
102 Adam and Eve fleeing the garden: See Scott D. Westrem, “Against Gog and Magog,” in Sylvia Tomasch and Sealy Gilles, eds., Text and Territory: Geographical Imagination in the European Middle Ages (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998), 54–75, 60.
103 the End Times of the earth: At first many Europeans believed the Mongols were the biblical scourge; see Kurt Villads Jensen, “Devils, Noble Savages, and the Iron Gate: Thirteenth-Century European Concepts of the Mongols,” in Bulletin of International Medieval Research 6 (2000): 1–20. Andrew the Fool painted a vivid picture of what would happen when God opened the gates. Seventy-two kings would pour out, he prophesied, “with their people, the so-called filthy nations, who are more disgusting than any conceivable defilement and stench. They will spread over the whole earth under heaven, eating the flesh of living men and drinking their blood, devouring dogs, rats, frogs and every kind of filth on earth with pleasure. . . . The sun will turn into blood, seeing the abominations vying with each other on earth.” Nikephoros, Life of St. Andrew, 2:277–83.
104 a king’s ransom of Eastern delights: Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008), 6.
104 Spices did not just tickle the palate: The persistent notion that the purpose of spices was to mask the taste of rancid meat has long been disproved. Since nearly all food was produced locally, it was usually fresh; in any case, spices were considerably more expensive than meat. Spices were used to liven up meat and fish that were salted to last through the winter and to make rough wines palatable, but mostly their taste was enjoyed for its own sake.
105 “a small member”: Sheikh Mohammed al-Nefzaoui, The Perfumed Garden, trans. Sir Richard Burton, quoted in Jack Turner, Spice: The History of a Temptation (New York: Random House, 2004), 222. Among a great deal else, the sheikh also advised applying chewed cubeb pepper or cardamom grains to the head of the member to “procure for you, as well as for the woman, a matchless enjoyment.”
105 “so imperfectly that the bottom layer is left undisturbed”: Desiderius Erasmus, letter to Francis, physician to the Cardinal of York, n.d. [Basel, December 27, 1524?], quoted in E. P. Cheyney, Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources(Boston: Ginn, 1922), 317. The full letter is in The Correspondence of Erasmus: Letters 1356 to 1534, 1523–1524, trans. R. A. B. Mynors and Alexander Dalzell (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992), 470–72.
106 the Black Death: The bubonic plague was of course spread by the bite of an infected flea found on rodents.
106 ambergris: Arab tradition generally held that ambergris floated upward from a fountain on the ocean floor, though in The Arabian Nights, Sinbad places the spring on an island and says that monsters gobble up the precious substance before regurgitating it in the sea. It was also believed to ease childbirth, to prevent epilepsy, and to relieve suffocation of the womb, a peculiarly medieval disease in which the uterus was said to move around the belly and up to the throat and induce hysteria. Copious sex, according to one authority, was the best remedy, but anointing the vagina with aromatic oils or inserting burnt herbs in a penis-shaped metal fumigator helped lure the womb back down. Freedman, Out of the East, 15; Helen Rodnite Lemay, Women’s Secrets: A Translation of Pseudo-Albertus Magnus’s De Secretis Mulierum with Commentaries (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), 131–32.
106 the apothecaries’ under-the-counter goods: Circa Instans (1166), quoted in Freedman, Out of the East, 14. Freedman notes that fine linens, cottons, and silks, rare dyes, animal pelts, ivory, and even parrots were sometimes classed alongside spices.
108 “that damned pepper”: Ulrich von Hutten, quoted in Freedman, Out of the East, 147.
108 clung to visiting angels: Angels, revealed St. Andrew the Fool, smelled of a marvelously sweet perfume “which emanates from the terrible and unapproachable Godhead. For as they stand before the terrible throne of the Almighty they receive the fragrance of the lightning which it emits, after which they cense with the ineffable fragrance of the Godhead incessantly. Now when they have decided to give somebody a share of this sweetness they place themselves in front of him and tap his face with the divine fragrance to the degree they find appropriate, so that this person in his rejoicing is at a loss to explain whence comes this most pleasant odour.” Nikephoros, Life of St. Andrew, 2:287.
108 had established a regular trade: The voyage to India is described in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, a detailed set of sailing instructions written by a Greek-speaking sailor in the first century CE.
109 “The greedy merchants”: Quoted in Turner, Spice, 81; John Dryden’s translation. Like their medieval successors, Roman moralists complained that spices were at best superfluous, at worst harmful, and in any case a huge waste of money. Hunger, Cicero declared in the plain old Roman style, was the best spice.
109 the earthly Paradise: Adam, explained the fourth-century theologian St. Ephrem the Syrian, fed on nothing but the perfumed unguents that dripped from the garden’s trees. Freedman, Out of the East, 90.
110 “When morning comes”: Jean de Joinville, History of Saint Louis, in Chronicles of the Crusades, trans. M. R. B. Shaw (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1963), 212. Joinville was a participant in the Seventh Crusade; less alluringly, he also saw the bloated, plague-ridden bodies of his companions float down the Nile after the disastrous Battle of al-Mansurah.
110 “The pepper forests are guarded by serpents”: Quoted in Freedman, Out of the East, 133–34.
110 “The Arabians say that the dry sticks”: So Herodotus had reported long ago, and no Westerner had the wherewithal to doubt him. Quoted in Andrew Dalby, Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices (London: British Museum Press, 2000), 37.
111 Missionaries led the way: In 1253 a Franciscan friar named William of Rubruck set out from Constantinople, trekked four thousand miles across the steppes and deserts of Central Asia, and reached the court of the Great Khan at Karakorum, where he took part in a remarkable debate with representatives of Islam, Buddhism, Manicheanism, and rival Christian denominations. Though William failed to win any converts, he enjoyed plenty of the Mongols’ potent national beverage of fermented mare’s milk and took care to record their customs and culture. Notable among his successors was the Franciscan missionary John of Montecorvino, who arrived in Beijing in 1294, built two churches, trained Chinese altar boys and choirboys, translated the New Testament into the Mongol language, made several thousand converts, and was consecrated archbishop of Beijing. In 1361 Catholicism disappeared from China along with the Mongols. See Peter Jackson, trans., The Mission of Friar William of Rubruck: His Journey to the Court of the Great Khan Möngke 1253–1255, ed. David Morgan (London: Hakluyt Society, 1990).
111 merchants soon followed: By 1340 the nine-month journey from the Crimea to Beijing was common enough to merit its own guidebook. Its author, a Florentine merchant named Francesco Pegolotti, assured his readers that the road was “perfectly safe whether by day or by night,” though he advised growing a long beard as a precaution. Italian merchants settled along the route, and a few other Europeans eventually followed. One papal envoy arrived at the Mongol court only to find several Russians, an Englishman, a Parisian goldsmith, and a Frenchwoman who had been abducted in Hungary already there. See Pegolotti, Pratica della Mercatura, in Henry Yule and Henri Cordier, trans. and eds., Cathay and the Way Thither, Being a Collection of Medieval Notices of China(London: Hakluyt Society, 1913–1916), 3:143–71.
112 two missionary friars: The two were John of Montecorvino, the future archbishop of Beijing, and the Dominican Nicholas of Pistoia. John spent more than a year preaching on India’s Coromandel Coast; Nicholas died there.
112 Odoric of Pordenone: The friar was among the best traveled of all medieval Europeans. Setting out from Constantinople, he headed for Tabriz, Baghdad, and Hormuz, took ship to India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and struck out for Sumatra and Java before arriving in China.
112 the Malabar Coast: The narrow coastal plain of southwest India between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats, now in the states of Kerala and Karnataka.
114 “Who could count the many shops”: Canon Pietro Casola, quoted in Brotton, Renaissance Bazaar, 38. The Milanese priest visited Venice in 1494.
115 One deputation arrived in Florence: Ibid., 2.
115 “Everything that is sold in Egypt”: Quoted in C. F. Beckingham, “The Quest for Prester John,” in C. F. Beckingham and Bernard Hamilton, eds., Prester John: The Mongols and the Ten Lost Tribes (Aldershot, UK: Variorum, 1966), 276. In 1322 Adam became archbishop of Sultaniyah and thus head of the Catholic Church in Persia.
116 “If our lord the Pope”: Quoted in Harry W. Hazard, ed., A History of the Crusades, 2nd ed. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1975), 3:543. Sévérac was made bishop of Quilon, now Kollam.
116 an elaborate manual for reviving the Crusades: Sanudo’s work, Liber secretorum fidelum crucis, was first submitted to Pope Clement V in 1309 and then, with revisions, to King Charles IV of France in 1323. As well as maps, Sanudo supplied ready-made battle plans and a wealth of logistical information.
117 the mapmakers did not think the earth was flat: The notion that everyone before Columbus believed the earth was flat is a nineteenth-century fable, largely propagated by Washington Irving’s 1828 fantasy The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus. See Jeffrey Burton Russell, Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians (New York: Praeger, 1991).
117 they would have been unreachable by the Gospel: Romans 10:18.
118 Niccolò de’ Conti: Conti’s story amply repays further study. The Venetian learned Arabic in Syria and Persian in Iran, then traveled with Muslim merchants to India. There he married, and he dragged his growing brood around Indonesia and Indochina, Arabia and East Africa. In Cairo he converted to Islam to protect them, but almost immediately the plague carried off his wife and two of his four children. He set out for home and sought a papal audience to ask forgiveness for renouncing his faith; as penance, the pope ordered him to dictate an account of his travels to Poggio Bracciolini, an apostolic secretary and leading humanist. Despite its occasional fantasies—including two neighboring islands, one inhabited solely by men and the other by women, whose amorous exchanges were curtailed by the fact that anyone who stayed off their own island for six months dropped dead on the spot—his report corroborated many of Marco Polo’s claims, clarified others, and was a major step forward in Europe’s knowledge of the Indian Ocean. An English translation by John Winter Jones was published in 1857 by the Hakluyt Society and is reprinted, revised by Lincoln Davis Hammond, in Travelers in Disguise: Narratives of Eastern Travel by Poggio Bracciolini and Ludovico de Varthema (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963).
118 Fra Mauro’s map: The cartographer monk also displaced Jerusalem from its customary bull’s-eye position, a move so radical that he felt it necessary to mount an ingenious self-defense. “Jerusalem is indeed the center of the inhabited world latitudinally, though longitudinally it is somewhat to the west,” he carefully inscribed on his map, “but since the western portion is more thickly populated by reason of Europe, therefore Jerusalem is also the center longitudinally if we regard not empty space but the density of population.” See Piero Falchetta, Fra Mauro’s World Map (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2006).
119 a junk had rounded Africa: The caption actually reads “an Indian ship or junk,” which suggests that it may not have been Chinese at all. Despite the ambiguities, Fra Mauro’s comment has been taken as a major plank of evidence that the Chinese explored the Atlantic Ocean and may have reached the Americas before the Spanish or Portuguese.
120 much farther to the north: Given the topographical details Fra Mauro draws in the hinterland, the region he puts at the continent’s southern extremity may be the Horn of Africa; or perhaps, given the large island he places off Africa’s southern tip, the channel he shows flowing around Africa is the Mozambique Channel and the island is Madagascar.
Chapter 6: The Rivals
121 La Beltraneja: Joan’s cause was not helped by the fact that her mother subsequently had two children with the nephew of a bishop, a flagrant demonstration of fecundity that finally drove Henry to divorce her.
121 War broke out: The War of the Castilian Succession was fought from 1475 to 1479, when the two nations concluded the Treaty of Alcáçovas. As well as settling the succession on Isabella, the treaty also tidied up, for a while, the competing Portuguese and Spanish claims in the Atlantic. Portugal was finally forced to accept Castilian control of the Canaries; Spain confirmed Portugal’s possession of the Azores, Madeira, and Cape Verde islands and its sole rights to “lands discovered or to be discovered . . . from the Canary Islands down toward Guinea.” Frances Gardiner Davenport, ed., European Treaties Bearing on the History of the United States and Its Dependencies to 1648 (Washington, DC: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1917), 44.
122 Abraham Zacuto: Zacuto was a famous teacher of astronomy in Spain until 1492, when he joined the exodus of Jews to Portugal and became John II’s astronomer royal. Five years after arriving, he escaped Manuel I’s forced conversions and moved to Tunis and Jerusalem. As well as drawing up astronomical tables that were developed by his pupil Joseph Vizinho for practical use at sea, he designed the first metal astrolabe and was an influential proponent of Vasco da Gama’s expedition. Joseph Vizinho arrived in Portugal shortly after John II’s accession in 1481; in 1485 he went to sea to conduct experiments in calculating a ship’s latitude. According to the chronicler João de Barros, also on the junta were Rodrigo, the king’s physician, and the German cartographer and astronomer Martin Behaim, who was in Lisbon from 1480.
123 “In the year 6681”: Quoted in Edgar Prestage, The Portuguese Pioneers (London: A. & C. Black, 1933), 208.
123 Whale Bay: Or Walvis Bay, as it was renamed by the Dutch and, along with the Namibian port it shelters, is still known.
123 he died on his way home: Years later, a carved stone inscribed with Cão’s name was found on the banks of the Congo (which the Portuguese named the Zaire). Barros, though, says Cão returned to Portugal, while other sources say he died at Cape Cross. See Prestage, Portuguese Pioneers, 210.
124 proselytization was painfully slow: The rate increased with the baptism of the king of Kongo, the dominant ruler of western Central Africa, in 1491; named Nzinga Nkuwu, he took the Christian name John. Though he and many of his court soon returned to their traditional beliefs, his son and heir Afonso defeated his lapsed brother with the aid of Portuguese weapons and, he claimed, a timely apparition of St. James. Afonso’s descendants entrenched the Catholic Church at the cost of a fraught relationship with the Portuguese and much damage to Kongo’s traditional culture.
124 a more promising pair: The fullest account of Covilhã and Paiva’s mission is still that of the Conde de Ficalho, Viagens de Pedro da Covilhan (Lisbon: A. M. Pereira, 1898). The report of the priest who discovered Covilhã in Ethiopia is in Francisco Alvares,Narrative of the Portuguese Embassy to Abyssinia During the Years 1520–1527, trans. and ed. Lord Stanley of Alderley (London: Hakluyt Society, 1881); a revised edition edited by C. F. Beckingham and G. W. B. Huntingford was published in 1961. The Portuguese chronicles supply more details, and I have used the accounts of near-contemporary travelers to fill in the background of the journey.
124 Pêro da Covilhã: His first name is also given as Pedro (of which Pêro is an archaic form), João, João Pêro, or Juan Pedro; his last name as da Covilhã, da Covilhã, de Covilhã, de Covilham, or Covilhão. In an entertaining coincidence, the Indian Embassy in Lisbon is today located on Rua Pêro da Covilhã.
125 Afonso de Paiva: His birthplace was Castelo Branco, a little to the south of the town of Covilhã. On its conquest from the Moors it had been given to the Templars, who defended the town against the frequent attacks from across the nearby Spanish border.
125 Joseph Vizinho: The third expert is named Master Moyses (or Moses) in some sources. Ficalho concludes that Moyses was christened Joseph Vizinho when he was baptized; see Viagens de Pedro da Covilhã, 55.
125 whether it was really possible to sail around Africa: According to Giovanni Battista Ramusio, in his Navigazioni e Viaggi, a famous compendium of travel writing published in Venice between 1550 and 1559. This last instruction is not mentioned in the Portuguese sources; see Ficalho, Viagens de Pedro da Covilhã, 56–63.
126 “his capacity was not greater”: Alvares, Portuguese Embassy, 267.
126 “which were so long”: Damião de Goís, quoted in Henry H. Hart, Sea Road to the Indies (London: William Hodge, 1952), 239. Goís also says that Manuel was of good stature, held his head erect, and had a pleasant expression, but his description is unusually free of the usual airbrushing.
126 a powerful Florentine banker: The banker was named Bartolomeo Marchionni; he was reputedly the richest man in Lisbon. By now there was a sizable Florentine community in Portugal involved in banking and shipping; Marchionni was its most prominent member and did a good deal of business with the crown.
126 cashed in their check: The bank they visited was run by the sons of Cosimo de’ Medici; the hugely wealthy Florentine family had offices throughout Italy.
127 “At this time [Alexandria] looks very glorious without”: Ibid., 392.
127 “sav’d a great part”: “The Travels of Martin Baumgarten . . . through Egypt, Arabia, Palestine and Syria,” in Awnsham Churchill, ed., A Collection of Voyages and Travels (London: A. and J. Churchill, 1704), 1:391.
129 “one little hand”: Wilfred Blunt, Pietro’s Pilgrimage: A Journey to India and Back at the Beginning of the Seventeenth Century (London: James Barrie, 1953), 58.
129 “in sport”: Ibid., 55.
129 dated back to classical times: “On the pyramid,” wrote Herodotus, “there is an inscription in Egyptian characters which records the quantity of radishes, onions, and garlic consumed by the laborers who constructed it.” Ibid., 57.
129 “They do positively aver”: “Travels of Martin Baumgarten,” 397. For more on medieval Cairo and other Islamic cities, see Joseph W. Meri, ed., Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia (New York: Routledge, 2006); Michael Dumper and Bruce E. Stanley, eds., Cities of the Middle East and North Africa: A Historical Encyclopedia (Oxford: ABC-Clio, 2007).
130 “metropolis of the world”: Quoted in Albert Habib Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002), 3.
130 “surpasses reality”: Ibn Khaldun, An Arab Philosophy of History: Selections from the Prolegomena of Ibn Khaldun of Tunis (1332–1406), trans. and ed. Charles Issawi (Princeton, NJ: Darwin, 1987), 4.
132 “and tho’ one should deface them”: “Travels of Martin Baumgarten,” 401.
134 the same sewn planks: Nails were unknown in Indian Ocean ships; superstitious sailors were said to believe that great undersea magnets would pull them out, while the more practical prized the dhow’s flexibility, which made it easier to beach and more resilient if it struck a shoal.
135 “very strangely attyred”: The sixteenth-century English traveler Ralph Fitch, quoted in Hart, Sea Road to the Indies, 71.
135 “the dirtiest, most disagreeable, and most stinking town”: Quoted in Ross E. Dunn, The Adventures of Ibn Battuta (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), 122. The Somali town is mostly known today as Seylac.
137 He wrote a long dispatch to the king: The question of whether Covilhã’s letter ever reached Lisbon has long fascinated historians. The sixteenth-century chronicler Fernão Lopes de Castanheda first said it did and then, in a later edition, suggested it didn’t. His contemporaries Gaspar Correia and Garcia de Resende say it did, but only after John II’s death; Resende adds that it arrived after Vasco da Gama had left. Ramusio says it did, and it contained the news that Portugal’s ships could easily reach the Indian Ocean. James Bruce, an eighteenth-century Scottish explorer of Ethiopia, was adamant that it did and added an imaginative account of its contents, including detailed maps, to boot. Vasco da Gama certainly knew where to head for when he reached India, though he was undoubtedly ignorant of what he would find when he got there. It seems most likely that at least one of the two Jewish travelers made it home with news, if not written proof, of Covilhã’s discoveries, but the truth, alas, will almost certainly never be known.
138 Muhammad’s burial place: According to tradition, Muhammad was buried in the apartment of his favorite wife, Aisha, the site of which was later covered by repeated rebuildings of the adjoining mosque, including a total reconstruction after a fire in 1481. Medieval Christians spread the rumor that the iron tomb was suspended in the air and then ridiculed the supposed miracle by explaining that it was held up by magnets.
138 the court of Alexander: The name Alexander is the Westernized version of Eskender. At its height around the third century CE, Ethiopia was an important power whose lands stretched south to Sudan and east to Arabia. The Solomonid Dynasty, of which Alexander was a member, survived from 1270 to 1974.
139 he was Christian: Ethiopia officially adopted Christianity in the early fourth century, after its ruler was converted by a Greek courtier who as a boy had been kidnapped by pirates from a passing ship. Isolated from much of Christendom by the Islamic conquests, it had preserved its own traditions, including polygamy.
139 “with much pleasure and joy”: Alvares, Portuguese Embassy, 270.
139 “he was not in a position to grant it”: Ramusio, quoted in Hart, Sea Road to the Indies, 76. To his surprise, Covilhã discovered he was not the only European in Ethiopia. An Italian friar turned artist claimed to have lived there for forty years; Alvares noted that “he was a very honorable person, and a great gentleman, although a painter.” Another European, a throwback to the ascetic masochism of the desert fathers, lived in a cavern in a ravine; after twenty years he bricked up the entrance from the inside and presumably died soon after. Other Europeans intermittently showed up; some came voluntarily, some were cast ashore by pirates, and almost none were permitted to leave.
139 fat, rich, happy: The Portuguese embassy arrived around May 1520, and Covilhã, now seventy-three or seventy-four, regaled Francisco Alvares with his adventures. He was, the friar wrote with nice understatement, a man “who did everything he was ordered to do, and gave an account of it all.”
140 August 1487: The record is unusually silent on Dias’s voyage. No official report, log, journal, or chart survives; not all the chroniclers mention it even in passing. Barros, who gives a brief summary, says Dias left in August 1486 and returned in December 1487. The few contemporary witnesses—including Duarte Pacheco Pereira, whose fever-stricken and shipwrecked crew was rescued by Dias on his way home—say he discovered the Cape of Good Hope in early 1488 and returned that December, and a departure date of August 1487 has become accepted.
140 herders were tending their cattle: Dias seems to have named the bay the Bahia dos Vaqueiros, or Bay of Cowherds, and the protected cove where he landed the Aguada de São Bras, or Watering-Place of St. Blaise, after a spring he found there on the saint’s feast day. The Portuguese later named the bay after St. Blaise, and it was subsequently renamed Mossel Bay by the Dutch.
141 The storeship had been left far behind: When the rest of the company returned to it, they discovered that six of the nine men who had been left on board had been killed. A seventh, a clerk, was so overjoyed at seeing his companions that he reportedly expired on the spot.
141 Cape of Storms: According to Barros; Duarte Pacheco says Dias himself named it the Cape of Good Hope.
141 Europe’s maps were hastily redrawn: In 1489 Henry Martellus published a world map that was originally intended to show Africa extending to the bottom of the page. He had already engraved it when news of Dias’s discovery reached him, and rather than start over he added the Cape of Good Hope on top of the border.
142 married a nobleman’s daughter: For Columbus, Filipa was connected in all the right ways. She was the daughter of Bartolomeu Perestrello, who was of Genoese origins and was one of the captains sent by Henry the Navigator to claim Madeira for Portugal; her maternal grandfather had fought at Ceuta.
142 “a shorter way”: The Journal of Christopher Columbus (During His 1st Voyage, 1492–93), and Documents Relating to the Voyages of John Cabot and Gaspar Corte Real, trans. Clements R. Markham (London: Hakluyt Society, 1893), 4–5. Toscanelli’s letter to Columbus is reproduced in the same volume: “I perceive your magnificent and grand desire to navigate from the parts of the east to the west,” he wrote, and added: “The said voyage is not only possible, but it is true, and certain to be very honorable and to yield incalculable profit, and very great fame among all Christians.” The kings and princes of the East, he confidently declared, were even keener to meet Europeans than Europeans were to meet them, “because a great part of them are Christians. . . . On account of all these things, and of many others that might be mentioned, I do not wonder that you, who have great courage, and all the Portuguese people who have always been men eager for all great undertakings, should be with a burning heart and feel a great desire to undertake the said voyage” (10–11).
143 Columbus stretched Asia: The Catalan Atlas of 1375 represented Eurasia as measuring 116 degrees from east to west; on his 1492 globe Martin Behaim famously stretched its breadth to 234 degrees, an increase even on Marinus of Tyre. The correct figure is 131 degrees. All things taken together, Columbus underestimated the distance from the Canaries to Japan by a factor of more than four.
144 against the consensus of his age: Columbus’s ideas evolved over time, and his first recorded references to some of his sources and calculations postdate his first voyage. Even so, the doggedness with which he presented his case suggests that he had early on found sufficient grounds to support his grand scheme.
144 “promises and offers were impossible”: Quoted in Samuel Eliot Morison, Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus (Boston: Little, Brown, 1942), 97.
145 “It pleased our Lord”: Quoted in Joseph F. Callaghan, Reconquest and Crusade in Medieval Spain (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003), 214.
146 “You call Ferdinand a wise ruler”: Quoted in David F. Altabé, Spanish and Portuguese Jewry Before and After 1492 (Brooklyn, NY: Sepher-Hermon, 1983), 45.
146 Columbus’s wealthy rescuer: The minister, Luis de Santangel, did fund much of the voyage himself, and he raised additional funds to keep Isabella from having to pawn her jewels. It was to Santangel that Columbus sent his letter describing the first voyage.
147 “IN THE NAME OF OUR LORD”: The excerpts are quoted in Morison, Admiral of the Ocean Sea, 152–55. Clearly Columbus did not have time to construct an elaborate address at the start of his voyage; the Prologue was written piecemeal and was appended later.
150 Rodrigo Borgia: In one of the brighter spots of his papacy, Alexander VI refused to condone Ferdinand and Isabella’s edict of expulsion against the Jews. He received some of the refugees from Spain—and later from Portugal—in Rome, an act that earned him many Spanish enemies but was hardly, as his bitter rival Giuliano della Rovere alleged, proof that he was a secret Jew himself.
150 a hundred leagues: A league was originally the distance the average ship could sail in average conditions in an hour, or around three modern nautical miles.
150 “discover islands or mainlands”: Dudum Siquidem, dated September 26, 1493. The original text and English translation are in Davenport, European Treaties, 79–83. The earlier bull was Inter Caetera, dated May 4, 1493, which is reproduced at pp. 71–78; it was itself the third of three bulls, issued in quick succession, which progressively ratcheted up the pope’s favoritism toward Spain.
151 The Spanish set about pillaging and slaughtering: Bartolemé de las Casas, an early settler who later took his vows and became a bishop, reported that the colonists, many of whom were convicted felons, “made bets as to who would slit a man in two, or cut off his head at one blow; or they opened up his bowels. They tore the babes from their mother’s breast by their feet, and dashed their heads against the rocks. . . . They spitted the bodies of other babies, together with their mothers and all who were before them, on their swords.” Prisoners were hung on the gallows “just high enough for their feet to nearly touch the ground, and by thirteens, in honour and reverence for our Redeemer and the twelve Apostles, they put wood underneath and, with fire, they burned the Indians alive.” Quoted in Kirkpatrick Sale, The Conquest of Paradise: Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Legacy (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1991), 157. The quarterly tribute system was soon replaced by institutionalized slavery; disease, of course, annihilated far more of the indigenous population than even the most wanton cruelty could accomplish.
Chapter 7: The Commander
155 A high forecastle and an even taller sterncastle: The castles were the legacy of the cogs of northwest Europe, merchant and fighting ships that carried battlemented towers fore and aft from which archers could fire at enemies. By the fifteenth century the sterncastle had morphed into cabin accommodation topped by a poop deck and the forecastle into a high triangular platform that projected forward, resting on the knee of the stem.
157 he would not even see them leave Lisbon: There is no clear answer to the question of why the discoveries paused for nearly a decade between the voyages of Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco da Gama. Probably John II was waiting for news from his spies and for the treaty with Spain to be settled; no doubt he was mourning his dead son, and there was the flood of Jewish refugees from across the border to deal with. Manuel I, who was reported by the Venetian spy Leonardo da Ca’ Masser to be spineless, capricious, and hopelessly indecisive, was preoccupied for the first two years of his reign with negotiations for his marriage and was faced with concerted domestic opposition to the explorations. The theory beloved of some Portuguese historians that numerous fleets set out to reach India between 1488 and 1497—and even discovered the Americas before Columbus—has never been proven. It rests on the apparent confidence with which Gama pursued a new route to the Cape of Good Hope; John II’s determination to move the demarcation line with Spain 270 leagues farther west, which put Brazil on the Portuguese side; an apparent reference by the celebrated Arab navigator Ahmad ibn Majid to “Frankish” vessels that visited Mozambique in 1495; and the order book of a Lisbon bakery, which did a roaring trade in sea biscuit between 1490 and 1497. There are reasonable explanations for all these particulars that do not assume the remarkable discretion of hundreds of hypothetical sailors, never mind the unlikely reluctance of the Portuguese king to trumpet his besting of Columbus.
157 “for I am only a sack of earth and worms”: Quoted in Edgar Prestage, The Portuguese Pioneers (London: A. & C. Black, 1933), 246.
158 heir to Castile: Isabella’s brother John had married six months before he died on his way to the wedding; his widow was pregnant but their daughter was stillborn, leaving Isabella as heiress of Castile. Manuel’s hopes of ruling both kingdoms were dashed when Isabella died in childbirth in 1498; their son, who was also briefly heir to both thrones, died aged two.
158 every Jew in Portugal was ordered to leave: In a ceremony held in 2008, Portugal’s Justice Minister José Vera Jardim called the expulsion of Portugal’s Jews a black piece of the nation’s history; the state, he declared, owed Jews moral reparation for centuries of brutal persecution.
159 A maze of streets: The Lisbon district is known as the Alfama, from the Arabic al-Hamma, “the fountain” or “the bath.” In the fifteenth century only one mosque remained, though so long as they kept their heads down, its worshippers were permitted to meet there to regulate the affairs of the neighborhood.
161 sea biscuit: Also known as ship’s biscuit or hardtack. Biscuit comes from the Medieval Latin bis coctus, or “twice baked,” though the ship’s version, a kind of dense wholemeal bread, was baked up to four times to give it a longer shelf life. It was the inescapable sailor’s staple, and during John I’s reign a Royal Biscuit Office had been established to ensure a sufficient supply.
161 “coarse, poor, lacking in good manners and ignorant”: Nicholas of Popelau, quoted in Henry H. Hart, Sea Road to the Indies (London: William Hodge, 1952), 44. Nicholas’s opinion of Portugal’s women was based on keen observation. “They allow one to look upon their faces without hindrance,” he noted, “and also upon much of their bosoms, for which purpose their shifts and outer dresses are cut generously low. Below their waist they wear many skirts so that their posteriors are broad and beautiful, so full that I say it in all truth in the whole world nothing finer is to be seen.” They were, though, he warned prospective suitors, lewd, greedy, fickle, mean, and dissolute.
162 a gentleman of the king’s household: Fidalgo literally meant “the son of somebody.” It was originally applied to anyone of noble lineage, then to the new nobility created by John I. By Vasco da Gama’s time it distinguished those families from the new wave of parvenus, knights appointed from among the bourgeoisie.
162 the best man Manuel could find: Gama’s most recent (and best) scholarly biographer closely argues the case that Gama was not the king’s choice but that of a group of nobles opposed to the king; Manuel accepted him, he ingeniously suggests, so that if the underpowered fleet met with disaster, he could pin the failure on the opposition. A fleet of four ships, though, was not unusually small for a voyage of exploration; Dias and Columbus had only three. It would have been small for a voyage of trade or colonization, a fact that belies the notion that Portugal was already on the brink of reaching India. See Sanjay Subrahmanyam, The Career and Legend of Vasco da Gama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 67.
162 He was most likely born in 1469: Fourteen sixty is the alternative year sometimes given for Gama’s birth. The primary piece of evidence is a pass issued in 1478, in the name of Isabella of Castile, to a Vasco da Gama who must have been older than nine; Gama’s name, though, was not uncommon. Other sources, scant as they are, speak for 1469, which is now the consensus.
163 the Order of Santiago: The Portuguese chapter split from those in the rest of Iberia when Portugal became independent. Its power base was in southwest Portugal, where Gama was born; the extent of its lands made it virtually a state within a state.
163 the novice Crusader: Sanjay Subrahmanyam gives a comprehensive survey of the handful of documents bearing on Gama’s family and early life: see Career and Legend, 58–68.
165 the full company: Of the chroniclers, Castanheda and Goís say 148; Barros says 170. There are other, unlikelier, estimates, ranging from the Florentine merchant Girolamo Sernigi’s 118 to the Portuguese historian Gaspar Correia’s 260. Correia and the later Portuguese historian Manuel de Faria e Sousa each have a (different) priest aboard, though Correia’s was likely a clerk and no contemporary mention is made of either.
166 the Chronicler: A remarkable quantity of ink has been spilled since the journal was discovered in 1834 on theories about the author’s identity. By a process of elimination, two candidates emerged as front-runners: João de Sá, the clerk of the São Rafael and later treasurer of the Casa da Índia, and Alvaro Velho, a soldier. A minor conflict between the author’s credulity that India was full of Christians and the more skeptical viewpoint later ascribed to Sá has gone against the clerk, and most Portuguese historians have definitively named Velho as the diarist. The evidence is circumstantial at best, and the attribution remains speculative. A standard Portuguese edition is Diário da viagem de Vasco da Gama, ed. António Baião, A. de Magalhães Basto, and Damião Peres (Porto: Livraria Civilização, 1945); an English translation by E. G. Ravenstein was published as A Journal of the First Voyage of Vasco da Gama, 1497–1499 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1898) and is hereafter cited as Journal. Any other diaries, logbooks, or reports that once existed were lost, perhaps, along with countless other documents, in the devastating Lisbon earthquake of 1755, and the Journal remains the only eyewitness source for the voyage. To complete the picture I have drawn selectively on the early Portuguese chronicles, especially those of João de Barros and Fernão Lopes de Castanheda, and on the accounts of near-contemporary travelers. As usual the literature disagrees on virtually everything, including the types and names of the ships; the dates of the mission’s preparation, departure, and return; the numbers, names, and survival statistics of the crews; and the route the fleet followed. I have only noted discrepancies from my account where they add interest to the story.
166 “Praised be God”: Barros gives the fullest report of the royal audience; see Ásia de João de Barros, Dos feitos que os Portuguezes fizeram no descobrimento e conquista dos mares e terras do Oriente, ed. Hernani Cidade and Manuel Múrias, 6th ed. (Lisbon: Divisão de publicações e biblioteca, Agência geral das colónias, 1945–1946), 1:131.
167 the Order of Christ: Manuel had been grand master of the order since 1484, and though John II’s will stipulated that on his coronation he should hand over to John’s illegitimate son Jorge, he refused to let go.
167 Belém: The village was formerly known as Restello; it was renamed Belém by Manuel I, who commissioned the great monastery that was built there to commemorate Vasco da Gama’s voyage.
169 The seamen wore loose shirts: For the sailors’ garb, see A. H. de Oliveira Marques, “Travelling with the Fifteenth-Century Discoverers: Their Daily Life,” in Anthony Disney and Emily Booth, eds., Vasco da Gama and the Linking of Europe and Asia(Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000), 34.
169 “weeping and deploring”: Fernão Lopes de Castanheda, in Robert Kerr, A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels (Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1811–1824), 2:303. Castanheda’s account of Gama’s first voyage is based on a version of theJournal but adds much valuable detail. His História do descobrimento e conquista da Índia pelos Portugueses was translated into English by Nicholas Lichfield and was published in 1582 as The First Booke of the Historie of the Discoverie and Conquest of the East Indias, Enterprised by the Portingales, in their Daungerous Navigations, in the Time of King Dom John, the Second of that Name: Which Historie Conteineth Much Varietie of Matter, Very Profitable for all Navigators, and Not Unpleasaunt to the Readers. A revised version of this text was reprinted in Kerr’s collection.
170 the fleet edged forward: A fifth ship left Lisbon with Gama’s fleet; commanded by Bartolomeu Dias, it was headed to the Gold Coast, where Dias was to take up an appointment as captain of the fort of São Jorge da Mina.
170 “May God our Lord”: Journal, 1.
Chapter 8: Learning the Ropes
171 the first of the islands: The Ilha do Sal, or Salt Island, named by the Portuguese after the mines they had dug there.
172 off the known face of the earth: Gama’s bold move is a main plank in the argument advanced by the Portuguese historian Armando Cortesão and others that a series of exploratory fleets set out in the years following Bartolomeu Dias’s voyage. The author of theJournal tacitly adds to the speculation by showing scant interest in the course Gama followed. The complete silence of the record has been ingeniously adduced as evidence that something important enough to demand strict secrecy was afoot, but a sudden obsession with investigating the sailing conditions of the southern Atlantic does not fit in with the pattern of the discoveries. It seems likeliest that Gama’s course was determined by the lessons learned from Dias’s voyage, the limitations of his ships, and the vagaries of the weather. Whatever the level of premeditation, the execution by a fleet equipped with rudimentary navigational devices of a three-month sweep around the Atlantic that ended a mere hundred miles north of the Cape of Good Hope was a historic feat of navigation by any yardstick.
173 on another voyage: The Voyage of François Pyrard of Laval to the East Indies, the Maldives, the Moluccas and Brazil, trans. and ed. Albert Gray and H. C. P. Bell (London: Hakluyt Society, 1887–1890), 1:325.
173 “The watch is changed”: Quoted in John Villiers, “Ships, Seafaring and the Iconography of Voyages,” in Anthony Disney and Emily Booth, eds., Vasco da Gama and the Linking of Europe and Asia (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000), 76.
173 “And while this Prince”: Quoted in Peter Padfield, Tide of Empires: Decisive Naval Campaigns in the Rise of the West, vol. 1, 1481–1654 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979), 33. Padfield gives a useful summary of the few known facts about the munitions carried by the fleet.
174 the same basic daily rations: The quantities varied between voyages; the biscuit ration ranged from less than a pound to nearly two pounds. See Oliveira Marques, “Travelling with the Fifteenth-Century Discoverers,” 32. Also among the foodstuffs commonly carried were salted or smoked fish, flour, lentils, onions, garlic, salt, mustard, sugar, almonds, and honey.
177 “Amongst us was the greatest Disorder and Confusion”: Jean Mocquet, Travels and Voyages into Africa, Asia, and America, the East and West Indies; Syria, Jerusalem, and the Holy Land, trans. Nathaniel Pullen (London, 1696), 203–4.
178 thirty leagues north of the Cape of Good Hope: St. Helena Bay is thirty-three leagues north of the Cape, or about one hundred miles: Pêro de Alenquer, who made the estimate, was less than ten miles out.
178 ninety-three restless days: The time Gama and his crews went without seeing land was unprecedented as far as we know; it was certainly much longer than the five weeks endured by Columbus’s mutinous crews.
179 a group of locals: The Bushmen or San people, hunter-gatherers and pastoralists who had lived in southern Africa since the late Stone Age.
179 “The inhabitants of this country”: Journal, 6.
180 “one of the sheaths”: Ibid., 7.
182 a paste of urine: A common remedy; the Portuguese had dealt with poisons made from snake venom or deadly sap from their first encounters with hostile forces in sub-Saharan Africa.
182 “All this happened”: Journal, 8.
183 ninety or so men emerged from the hills: The people were the Khoikhoi, pastoralists who had migrated to southern Africa by the fifth century CE and had intermixed with the San; the name for both is the Khoisan. Hottentot, the old name for the Khoikhoi, is now considered pejorative.
184 “We found him very fat”: Journal, 11.
184 “but to prove that we were able”: Ibid., 12.
185 “as big as ducks”: Ibid., 13. After several months of punishing conditions at sea, sailors invariably took out their pent-up aggression on defenseless animals.
186 a terrifying storm: At this point the sixteenth-century chronicler Gaspar Correia confronts Gama with a full-scale mutiny that dramatically ends when he summons the ringleaders to the flagship on pretense of charting the course home, claps them in irons, and flings their navigational equipment overboard. God will be their master and pilot, he vows; as for himself, he will never give up until he finds what he has come to seek. Correia’s account of Gama’s first two voyages is peppered with flights of fancy and no other source has the story, though Osorius briefly mentions a mutiny near the Cape of Good Hope. See Henry E. J. Stanley, trans. and ed., The Three Voyages of Vasco da Gama, and His Viceroyalty (London: Hakluyt Society, 1869), 56–64.
187 the last pillar: Gama had bypassed a bay that Dias christened Bahia da Roca (Bay of Rocks; later renamed Algoa Bay) and the largest of those rocks, where Dias celebrated mass and which he named Cross Island. The low islands—Dias’s Flat Islands—were five leagues past Cross Island and 125 leagues from the Cape. The headland where Dias erected his pillar was formerly known as False Inlet and is now called Kwaiihoek; the river that marked the point where Dias turned home is either the Great Fish River or the Keiskamma River.
187 “Henceforth,” noted the Chronicler: Journal, 16.
Chapter 9: The Swahili Coast
188 All were remarkably tall: The Bantu, a large family of African peoples who moved into southern Africa from around the fourth century CE and displaced many of the indigenous population; they were farmers, herders, and metalworkers. The river was probably the Inharrime, in southern Mozambique; Gama named it the Rio do Cobre, or Copper River.
189 “Look what I have been given!”: Journal, 17.
189 a much larger river: The Qua Qua River, in Mozambique. About ten miles upstream was the Muslim trading settlement of Quelimane, which was doubtless where the two distinguished visitors came from. The rest of the people, as before, were Bantu.
190 “These tokens”: Journal, 20.
191 “a man of such unprepossessing appearance”: Wilfrid Blunt, Pietro’s Pilgrimage: A Journey to India and Back at the Beginning of the Seventeenth Century (London: James Barrie, 1953), 10.
192 the local sultan: The sultans of the Swahili Coast were sole governors of their lands; they controlled trade, exacted a levy on imports and exports, and provided warehouses, pilots, and facilities for repairing ships. With extensive links to inland trading networks, often forged through polygamous marriages, they were also the coast’s dominant merchants in their own right. They were powerful men, and they were not used to being ordered around by foreigners. See Malyn Newitt, A History of Mozambique(London: Hurst, 1995), 4.
193 “a jar of bruised dates”: Journal, 28. The details of the street life are from Jean Mocquet, Travels and Voyages into Africa, Asia, and America, the East and West Indies; Syria, Jerusalem, and the Holy Land, trans. Nathaniel Pullen (London, 1696), 215.
194 “gold, silver, cloves, pepper”: Journal, 23.
194 “great merchants and owned big ships”: Ibid., 24.
195 “This information”: Ibid., 25.
196 “But when they learned”: Ibid., 28.
198 warring tribes of naked tattooed men: The Dutch traveler Jan Huygen van Linschoten was unusually perceptive about the cultural norms that made white people caricature black people as figures out of hell—and vice versa. Some of the Bantu, he noted, seared their faces and bodies with irons until their skin looked like raised satin or damask, “wherein they take great pride, thinking there are no fairer people than them in all the world, so that when they see any white people, that wear apparell on their bodies, they laugh and mocke at them, thinking us to be monsters and ugly people: and when they will make any devilish forme and picture, then they invent one after the forme of a white man in his apparel, so that to conclude, they thinke and verily perswade themselves, that they are the right colour of men, and that we have a false and counterfeit colour.” The Voyage of J. H. van Linschoten to the East Indies, ed. Arthur Coke Burnell and P. A. Tiele (London: Hakluyt Society, 1885), 1:271.
198 The pilot whom Gama had hired from the sultan: Most likely the pilot who was so keen to get away was the local man, not the Meccan pilot who had asked for passage, though the sources do not specify one or the other.
199 “When we were weary with this work”: Journal, 30. Estimates of the islanders’ strength range from a hundred to Barros’s two thousand; the lower estimate, as usual, is probably nearer the mark.
200 “Pisce Mulier, which is to say Women Fish”: Mocquet, Travels and Voyages, 233–35. The fishermen, Mocquet reports, were also said to cut the throats of humans and drink their blood while it was still hot. The king was the ruler of Matapa, a state of the Karanga (now Shona) people that stretched between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers and flourished from around 1200 to 1500 CE on the back of its trade in gold and ivory. Great Zimbabwe, a monumental stone city on the Zimbabwe plateau, was the royal palace and trading center. The Portuguese called the kingdom Monomotapa, which they derived from the Karanga royal title Mwene Matapa, or “Ravager of the Lands,” and which they initially thought was the personal name of the ruler. Though Matapa had declined by the time the Portuguese arrived, the latter long believed it was a great power and went to great lengths to infiltrate it.
201 “Chaine of mens members”: Linschoten, Voyage, 1:275.
201 a large archipelago of tropical islands: The Quirimbas Archipelago, which stretches for sixty miles along the northern coast of Mozambique. The low-lying mainland is virtually hidden from view when coasting outside the reefs.
202 a large island ahead: Probably Mafia Island, which was likewise perfectly free of Christians. By standing out to sea Gama missed Zanzibar, a hundred miles to the north.
204 the Holy Ghost painted as a white dove: Castanheda says the merchants were Indian; Sir Richard Burton suggested the drawing was of a Hindu pigeon-god. Journal, 36.
205 “These and other wicked tricks”: Ibid., 37–38. According to Castanheda, the Mombasans tried further attempts at sabotage during the two following nights.
208 huge horns: The Siwa, or Royal Trumpet, was imported to East Africa by Persians from Shiraz, who settled along the coast in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Siwas were made of copper and wood as well as ivory.
211 “Our Lady at the foot of the cross”: Journal, 44.
212 the pilot appeared to be another Christian from India: The pilot has often been romantically misidentified as the great Arab navigator Ahmad ibn Majid. The only plausible evidence is a short passage in a mid-sixteenth-century Arabic chronicle that calls the arrival in India of the “accursed Portuguese” one of the “astounding and extraordinary occurrences of the age” and in passing claims that the Portuguese—“may they be cursed!”—only made it across the Indian Ocean by getting Ibn Majid drunk. Castanheda, Barros, and Goís all say the pilot was from Gujarat. Barros and Goís say he was a Muslim, but given the explorers’ ongoing confusion about India’s religions, the Journal’s line—“We were much pleased with the Christian pilot whom the king had sent us” (46)—can be taken to imply that he was a Hindu. For the Arabic chronicle, see Sanjay Subrahmanyam, The Career and Legend of Vasco da Gama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 124.
212 Indians preferred another device: The kamal, an Arab invention that the Portuguese developed in the early sixteenth century into the cross-staff.
212 “would never leave his heart”: Gaspar Correia, in Henry E. J. Stanley, trans. and ed., The Three Voyages of Vasco da Gama, and His Viceroyalty (London: Hakluyt Society, 1869), 143. Colorful as always, Correia paints a picture of “true friendship and sincere love” developing between Gama and the sultan of Malindi, so much that on their departure he “could not endure it, and embarked in his boat and went with them, saying very affectionate things” (141, 144).
Chapter 10: Riding the Monsoon
213 scorching temperatures: The Great Indian Desert, or Thar Desert, reaches 50 degrees Celsius during summer; the sea temperature remains in the low 20s Celsius. The dates and intensity of the monsoon vary widely from year to year, but the Malabar Coast is always the first area to receive heavy rain. The rest of the air mass flows over the Bay of Bengal, where it picks up more moisture and roars into the eastern Himalayas at speeds of up to twenty-five miles an hour before turning west and drenching the Indo-Gangetic Plain.
214 “As soon as I caught the smell of the vessel”: “Narrative of the Journey of Abd-er-Razzak,” in R. H. Major, ed., India in the Fifteenth Century: Being a Collection of Narratives of Voyages to India in the Century Preceding the Portuguese Discovery of the Cape of Good Hope (London: Hakluyt Society, 1857), 7–8.
215 Mount Eli: Also known as Mount Dely and now as Ezhimala; the hill, which stands out prominently into the ocean, is now the construction site of a naval academy and is inaccessible to the public.
215 “saying the salve”: Castanheda, in Robert Kerr, A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels (Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1811–1824), 2:344.
215 the Promised Land: On a recent visit, paradise was tainted with a liberal scattering of discarded sandals, ointment tubes, and medicine bottles. The surf rolls heavily on the sand, whipped up by treacherous-looking rocks in the shallows. Just behind the coast is an unprepossessing concrete post bearing the inscription:
IN THE YEAR
Kappad, which the Portuguese called Capua or Capocate, is ten miles north-northwest of Calicut, which is now known as Kozhikode. Strictly speaking, Gama did not land there; he first set foot on Indian soil at Pantalayini Kollam, the Portuguese Pandarani, four miles farther up the coast. Pantalayini Kollam was later supplanted by the nearby town of Quilandy, now known as Koyilandy.
216 “Why,” he and his colleague had asked: Journal, 48–49.
216 “They all then joined in humble and hearty thanks”: Castanheda, in Kerr, General History, 2:357.
217 “all the spices, drugs, nutmegs”: Ibid., 346–47. In the 1330s, when Ibn Battuta arrived in Calicut, it was already a busy port thronged with international merchants. In 1421 and 1431 the Chinese traveler Ma Huan visited Calicut and Cochin with Zheng He’s fleets and described the hubbub of trade in his widely read Ying-yai Sheng-lan (“The Overall Survey of the Ocean’s Shores”); an English translation by J. V. G. Mills was published by the Hakluyt Society in 1970.
218 “The officers of the custom-house”: “Narrative of the Journey of Abd-er-Razzak,” 14.
218 “You mistook one thing for another”: K. V. Krishna Ayyar, The Zamorins of Calicut (Calicut: University of Calicut, 1999), 86.
219 “The city of Calicut is inhabited by Christians”: Journal, 49–50.
219 elegant, pagoda-like mosques: The striking mosques still stand around the Kuttichira pool in central Kozhikode, although the Mishkal mosque, which was built by a Yemeni trader and ship owner in the fourteenth century, was reconstructed after the Portuguese torched it in 1510. With louvers painted in fresh turquoises and blues, carved floral designs, and multitiered tiled roofs, they bear more than a passing resemblance to the city’s ancient Hindu temples.
219 “commonly very hayrie”: The Voyage of J. H. van Linschoten to the East Indies, ed. Arthur Coke Burnell and P. A. Tiele (London: Hakluyt Society, 1885), 1:278. The Indians, Linschoten pruriently added, were “the most leacherous and unchast nation in all the Orient, so that there are verie few women children among them of seven or eight yeares old, that have their maiden-heades.”
220 “We did not”: Journal, 51.
222 “This reception was friendly”: Ibid., 51.
222 “They can keep nothing free”: Jean Mocquet, Travels and Voyages into Africa, Asia, and America, the East and West Indies; Syria, Jerusalem, and the Holy Land, trans. Nathaniel Pullen (London, 1696), 241–41v.
224 “the Christians of this country”: Journal, 54.
224 “teeth protruding an inch from the mouth”: Ibid., 55.
224 another ancient church: Though it would have meant taking a circular route to the palace, this may have been the Tali Temple, the most important Hindu shrine in Calicut and the focal point from which the city grid was laid out in the fourteenth century. A large porch opens into a courtyard that leads to a hall lined with burnished copper; in the inner shrine is a two-foot-high shivalinga, the phallic symbol of Shiva, made of gold and encrusted with gems.
224 five thousand people: See the letter of the Florentine merchant Girolamo Sernigi, quoted in Journal, 126. Sernigi also passed on the news, brought home by Gama’s sailors, that eighty years earlier huge fleets of four-masted vessels crewed by “white Christians, who wore their hair long like Germans, and had no beards except around the mouth,” had regularly visited Calicut. “If they were Germans,” he reasoned, “it seems to me that we should have had some notice about them” (131). They were, in fact, Chinese. Memories of Zheng He’s treasure fleets, which had paid their last visit sixty-seven years before Gama arrived, were clearly still alive in Calicut; the Indians who gave the Portuguese such a rapturous welcome may at first have thought the Chinese had returned.
225 “more than is shown in Spain to a king”: Journal, 55.
225 “They little think in Portugal”: Castanheda, in Kerr, General History, 2:364.
225 Inside was a vast, leafy courtyard: As well as the Journal and the chronicles, my description of the palace and of Calicut in general draws on the accounts of earlier and later travelers including Abd al-Razzaq, Duarte Barbosa, François Pyrard, Ludovico de Varthema, and Pietro della Valle; the last gives a particularly full picture of the palace, complete with diagrams. The site of the palace is now a public park called Mananchira Square; the Zamorins’ vast bathing tanks can still be seen.
225 “giving many blows to the people”: Journal, 56.
225 King of the Hills and the Waves: The Portuguese Zamorin was a corruption of Samuri, the common abbreviation of the fuller title Samutiri Tirumulpad. Beyond that, the derivation is unclear. Samutiri may be a corruption of Svami (Sanskrit for “master”) and the honorific Sri, or tiri may itself be a contraction of the honorific Tirumulpad. Alternatively, Samutiri may be a condensed form of Samu-dratiri, which without the honorific tiri means “he who has the sea for his border,” though another of the Zamorin’s titles,Kunnala-konatiri, means (again without the honorific) “king of the hills and the waves.” K. V Krishna Ayyar delves into the matter in Zamorins of Calicut, 24–26.
226 “very white, delicate and sumptuous”: Letter of Girolamo Sernigi, quoted in Journal, 126.
226 expensive simplicity: So say most of the sources, though a few indulge in lavish Orientalist fantasies. “He wore so many ornaments,” wrote the Portuguese chronicler Diogo do Couto, “and on his arm such a quantity of jeweled bracelets, that they extended from the bend of his elbows down to his thumbs, wherewith he was so weighted that he was obliged to have two pages each sustaining one arm. From his neck hung a collar of inestimable value. In his ears, earrings of the same assay, set with beautiful rubies and diamonds, whose weight extended the ears down to the shoulders, so that the value of what he carried upon him was indeed great. He was naked from the waist to the head, while round the waist was bound a cloth of gold and silk in many folds, the ends reaching half-way down the leg, and round the head a jeweled coronet of four fingers’ width, very richly set and of great value.” Quoted in The Voyage of François Pyrard of Laval to the East Indies, the Maldives, the Moluccas and Brazil, trans. and ed. Albert Gray and H. C. P. Bell (London: Hakluyt Society, 1887–1890), 1:415.
226 bitter betel leaves: The Persian ambassador Abd al-Razzaq was an enthusiastic convert to the ancient habit of chewing betel. “This substance,” he wrote, “gives a colour to and brightens the countenance, causes an intoxication similar to that produced by wine, appeases hunger, and excites appetite in those who are satiated; it removes the disagreeable smell from the mouth, and strengthens the teeth. It is impossible to express how strengthening it is, and how much it excites to pleasure.” Major, India in the Fifteenth Century, 32.
Chapter 11: Kidnap
232 Vijayanagar: The name derives from the Sanskrit for “City of Victory.” The village of Hampi in northern Karnataka now sits within its spectacular ruins; Muslim armies sacked it after they defeated the empire in 1565, and it was never repopulated. Robert Sewell, A Forgotten Empire: Vijayanagar (London: Sonnenschein, 1900), includes vivid accounts of the city by two sixteenth-century Portuguese travelers.
232 “is by far more distinguished”: Quoted in Travelers in Disguise: Narratives of Eastern Travel by Poggio Bracciolini and Ludovico de Varthema, trans. John Winter Jones, rev. Lincoln Davis Hammond (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963), 9–10. Suttee, Conti explained, was performed “in order to add to the pomp of the funeral.” Outside the prostitutes’ bazaars and the royal household, Vijayanagar’s women were also civil servants, merchants, poets, and artists.
233 Islamic empires: One, the Delhi Sultanate, founded in 1206 and ruled by Turkish and Afghan dynasties, became a new Indian powerhouse and shielded India from the Mongol apocalypse. After surviving endless bloody intrigues that saw nineteen of its thirty-five sultans assassinated, its nemesis appeared in 1398 in the unstoppable form of Tamerlane. On his whirlwind campaign to restore the Mongol Empire—or, as he proclaimed in words that would have had a familiar ring to the Portuguese, to plunder the wealth of the infidel Hindus, convert them to the true faith, and strengthen Islam—he swept through the Khyber Pass and sacked Delhi, killing a hundred thousand prisoners in one day and leaving the city in ruins. He stormed on to China, where he died during a deadly cold winter, but the sultanate was fatally weakened and much of India fell back into the hands of independent rajas.
235 “And when the king”: The Book of Duarte Barbosa, trans. Mansel Longworth Dames (London: Hakluyt Society, 1921), 2:26.
236 “It is strictly forbidden”: The Voyage of François Pyrard of Laval to the East Indies, the Maldives, the Moluccas and Brazil, trans. and ed. Albert Gray and H. C. P. Bell (London: Hakluyt Society, 1887–1890), 1:404–5. According to the Dutch traveler Jan Huygen van Linschoten, India’s Muslims were equally convinced that there was little difference between Hindus and Christians.
237 “As to us others”: Journal, 19.
238 “I expected you yesterday”: Ibid., 62–63.
239 unable to read it: One wonders why Gama could not have had Martins translate the Portuguese letter aloud into Arabic; presumably his Arabic was not up to the task. In any case, the Arabic letter had to be left and needed checking.
241 “When they saw the dark looks of the captain”: Journal, 64.
244 “At this we rejoiced greatly”: Ibid., 67.
Chapter 12: Dangers and Delights
247 “were made welcome by the Christians”: Journal, 69.
248 “The men,” Conti explained: Travelers in Disguise: Narratives of Eastern Travel by Poggio Bracciolini and Ludovico de Varthema, trans. John Winter Jones, rev. Lincoln Davis Hammond (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963), 13–14.
248 “freely thrust him through”: The Voyage of J. H. van Linschoten to the East Indies, ed. Arthur Coke Burnell and P. A. Tiele (London: Hakluyt Society, 1885), 1:281. The rules of pollution were utterly perplexing to Europeans. If a non-Hindu touched a high-caste Hindu’s servant while he was bringing them food or drink, the food was thrown on the ground. If he entered his house and touched anything, no one would eat there again until it was ritually cleansed. If a Christian came to sit next to a Brahmin or Nair, he would immediately get up; if the Christian sat down unnoticed, the Hindu would wash his whole body. Fear of pollution also accounted for the practice of tossing items to those of other religions rather than passing them by hand and pouring liquids into their mouths rather than letting them drink directly from vessels.
249 “These have on their neck”: Travelers in Disguise, 32–33. The witness was Niccolò de’ Conti; he also reported the deadly festival, which he saw at Vijayanagar. Linschoten mentions a similar temple festival during which the faithful hacked out lumps of their flesh and threw them before the wagon; Pietro della Valle has the martyrs insert hooks in their backs and suspend themselves from a beam that whirls them around when a lever is pulled. Less violent acts of devotion also spooked Europeans: Jean Mocquet reported seeing a naked Hindu “squat up on his Tail before a Fire of Cow Dung, and with Ashes thereof all bepowdered his Body, having long Hair like a Woman, which he held on the top of his Shoulders: This was the most hideous and monstrous Spectacle that ever was seen: For he remained still looking on the Fire, without so much as turning his Head.” Travels and Voyages into Africa, Asia, and America, the East and West Indies; Syria, Jerusalem, and the Holy Land, trans. Nathaniel Pullen (London, 1696), 244.
250 “under the express agreement”: Niccolò de’ Conti, in Travelers in Disguise, 28. Conti was one of the first Europeans to describe suttee, which was banned in Muslim areas of India.
250 “ ’Tis remarkable”: Mocquet, Travels and Voyages, 242. Mocquet goes on to tell the tale of a prostitute whose client “heated himself so with her, that he Died upon the spot, at which she was so afflicted, that when they Burnt his Body, she Burnt her self with him, seeing he had Died for Love of her, tho’ she was no other than a good Friend.”
251 “for the sake of establishing relations of peace and amity”: Journal, 69.
252 “This news made us sad”: Ibid., 71.
253 “If the captains went ashore”: Ibid., 72.
255 “Are you unaware”: Ibid., 74–5.
257 “Inasmuch that we had discovered”: Ibid., 76.
259 “They said,” recorded the Chronicler: Ibid., 80.
259 five more islands ahead: The Journal incorrectly says there were six. The Panchdiva Islands are forty miles south of Goa; the largest, off which the Portuguese anchored, was named Anjediva by the Portuguese and is now known as Anjadip. In Canto Nine of theLusiads, the Portuguese epic of the discoveries, Luís Vas de Camões calls it the Isle of Love and describes it in lush detail as a miniature paradise; Venus, he says, put it in the voyagers’ path as a sanctuary from their weary toils.
259 smelled somewhat of cinnamon: The branches were from cassia trees; the dried bark produces a spice similar but inferior to cinnamon.
260 A notorious pirate named Timoja: The Hindu privateer Thi-mayya, known to the Portuguese as Timoja, would later serve them as an informant and supplier; he was instrumental in the capture of Goa and was briefly installed as the governor of its Indian population.
265 “Great numbers Died every day”: Mocquet, Travels and Voyages, 205–6.
266 A toxic fungus infected the bread: The disease was known as St. Anthony’s fire after the monks of the Order of St. Anthony, who were renowned for their prowess in curing it; the modern term is ergotism. It results from eating the Claviceps purpureafungus, which grows on cereals, particularly rye. Episodes of mass convulsions blamed on witchcraft have been controversially ascribed to the disease; the psychotic effects are similar to those of LSD.
266 “breaks out at the Fundament like an Ulcer”: Mocquet, Travels and Voyages, 231–32.
267 “It pleased God in his mercy”: Journal, 87.
267 “so as to find out whither the Lord had taken us”: Ibid., 88.
267 some islands off Mozambique: The Seychelles are some 300 leagues or 900 miles from Mozambique; Madagascar is more plausibly “off” the coast, but by only 60 leagues or 180 miles.
268 a nearby island: The town was Pate; the island of the same name is the largest of the Lamu Archipelago and is located off the north Kenyan coast.
269 a pillar and cross: A pillar surmounted by a cross still stands on a small rocky promontory almost eaten away by the tide, a little south of the town of Malindi in the middle of the bay. It is not the original, which offended the local population and was soon removed—owing to “odium,” says the sign—though the sultan carefully stored it in his palace and the cross may have survived.
269 “and reposing”: Journal, 91.
269 six leagues from the mainland: The Journal incorrectly gives the distance as “quite ten leagues.”
270 “those who had come so far”: Ibid., 92–93.
Chapter 13: A Venetian in Lisbon
272 ambassador extraordinary of the Republic of Venice: For the story of the Venetian envoy I am indebted to Donald Weinstein’s Ambassador from Venice: Pietro Pasqualigo in Lisbon, 1501 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1960). See also George Modelski, “Enduring Rivalry in the Democratic Lineage: The Venice-Portugal Case,” in Great Power Rivalries, ed. William R. Thompson (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999).
272 “Letters of June”: Quoted in Sanjay Subrahmanyam, The Career and Legend of Vasco da Gama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 20.
273 “found all the treasure”: See Paul Teyssier and Paul Valentin, trans. and eds., Voyages de Vasco de Gama: Relations des expeditions de 1497–1499 et 1502–3, 2nd ed. (Paris: Chandeigne, 1998), 186–88.
274 “People, islands, and shores unknown”: Quoted in Weinstein, Ambassador from Venice, 45–46.
274 the fierce and powerful Turkish sultan: For some decades, while Europe remained under dire threat of an Ottoman conquest, there were plenty who agreed with Pasqualigo that the new obsession with discovering distant lands had left the homeland dangerously unguarded. Many Christians, wrote Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, Austria’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in the mid-sixteenth century, had abandoned the medieval valor that sought honor in defending the faith on the battlefield in favor of a predilection for “seeking the Indies and the Antipodes across vast fields of ocean, in search of gold.” Only with time would the impact of the voyages on the global balance of power become clear. Bernard Lewis, Islam and the West (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 15.
275 “This is more important to the Venetian State”: Quoted in Weinstein, Ambassador from Venice, 29–30.
277 “returning many thanks to Our Lord”: Letter of Manuel I to the Cardinal Protector, dated August 28, 1499, quoted in Journal, 115.
277 “Most high and excellent Prince and Princess”: Ibid., 113–114.
279 the old prophecies: Columbus staked his place in the eschatological scheme that would lead to the end of the world in his Book of Prophecies; he started work on it in 1501 and was still revising it in the year before his death.
279 the settlers he had promised untold riches: Columbus turned their argument back on them: the colonists, he complained, had come “in the belief that the gold and spices could be gathered in by the shovelful, and they did not reflect that, though there was gold, it would be buried in mines, and the spices would be on the treetops, and that the gold would have to be mined and the spices harvested and cured.” Quoted in Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Columbus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 134.
279 rub his in-laws’ noses in it: At the time Manuel was in fact briefly unmarried to one of the Catholic Monarchs’ daughters. Isabella had died in 1498; in 1501 Manuel married her younger sister Maria, who bore him his son and heir, John III.
280 “very fully the sovereignty and dominion”: Quoted in Journal, 115–16. Manuel also wrote to the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I.
280 “from the damage to the Infidels that is expected”: Grant letter of January 1500 (?), quoted in Subrahmanyam, Career and Legend, 171.
280 “for the king has decreed the death penalty”: Angelo Trevisan, secretary to Domenico Pisani, to the chronicler Domenico Malipiero; quoted in Henry H. Hart, Sea Road to the Indies (London: William Hodge, 1952), 28. Guido Detti made a similar point: Manuel, he said, had ordered Gama and his men to hand over their navigational charts on pain of death and the confiscation of their goods, from fear that their route and intelligence would be leaked to foreign powers. “But I believe that, whatever they do, everyone will know, and other ships will start to go there,” he added. See Teyssier and Valentin, Voyages de Vasco de Gama, 188.
280 “a barbarous orchestra of trumpets”: Quoted in Hart, Sea Road to the Indies, 203.
281 “bigger than Lisbon”: Letter of Girolamo Sernigi, n.d. [July 1499], quoted in Journal, 125, 134–35. Guido Detti echoed the news; the people of Calicut, he explained, “are not strictly speaking Christians, because they baptize themselves once every three years as a means of confession and purifying their sins. But they recognize the existence of Christ and Our Lady. They have churches equipped with bells, where there are only two basins, one for holy water and the other for balm, without any other sacrament, without priests or monks of any kind.” The notion that Hinduism was a variant of Christianity, or at least had some kinship with it, proved hard to shake. “The whole of Malabar believes, as we do, in the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, three in one, the only true God. From Cambay to Bengal all the people hold this,” wrote Tomé Pires, an apothecary to the Portuguese royal family who was posted to India as “factor of drugs” and wrote a comprensive survey of Asia between 1512 and 1515. By 1552, João de Barros was still referring to the Hindu threefold god of Brahma with Vishnu and Siva as a Brahman trinity, though he noted that it was quite different from the Christian trinity. See Teyssier and Valentin, Voyages de Vasco de Gama, 183; The Suma Oriental of Tomé Pires, trans. and ed. Armando Cortesão (London: Hakluyt Society, 1944), 1:66.
282 “are in reality temples of idolaters”: Second letter of Sernigi, n.d. , quoted in Journal, 138.
282 Gaspar had been Jewish: Ibid., 137. Sernigi says Gaspar was born in Alexandria, as does Manuel in his letter to the Cardinal Protector. Barros adds that his parents had fled from Poznan in Poland when the Jews were banished in 1450. Castanheda says he had a Jewish wife; he also had a son, who was later christened Balthasar.
282 a fantastical picture of India’s religions: Separate statistics for each region of India and other “kingdoms on the coast to the south of Calecut,” some of which are in fact in Southeast Asia, are appended to the Journal, 96–102.
283 “Before he attacked the Moors”: Barros’s summary is cited in Henry E. J. Stanley, trans. and ed., The Three Voyages of Vasco da Gama, and His Viceroyalty (London: Hakluyt Society, 1869), 186–87.
283 “For one should truly believe that God”: Castanheda, quoted in Subrahmanyam, Career and Legend, 162.
286 “So great was the consternation”: Castanheda, in Robert Kerr, A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels (Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1811–1824), 2:418.
288 headed into the North Atlantic: The commander was Gaspar Corte-Real. In 1500 he reportedly reached Greenland and Newfoundland, where John Cabot, an Italian sailing under an English flag, may have already landed in 1497. The next year Corte-Real set out again and may have seen Chesapeake Bay and Nova Scotia, but he and his ship were lost; so, when he sailed to find him the following year, was his brother Miguel.
289 There was only one man for the job: In fact, the command was first offered to Cabral, who still had his supporters at court. Cabral’s detractors, notably Gama’s maternal uncle Vicente Sodré, denounced Cabral as incompetent and successfully maneuvered against him. The problem was solved when Gama was given the right for life to assume command of any India-bound fleet.
289 the late summer of 1499: The sources disagree over the date of Gama’s return. Barros, Goís, and Resende give the date as August 29, Castanheda as September 8, and other sources as September 18. Possibly, as Barros suggests, Gama spent his first days on home soil in seclusion before he publicly entered the city.
289 “the king honored him”: Castanheda, in Kerr, General History, 2:394.
289 an elaborate grant letter: Quoted in Journal, 230–32. The letter has traditionally been dated to January 10, 1502, but was likely issued in January 1500; see Subrahmanyam, Career and Legend, 169–70.
290 “with all the honors, prerogatives, liberties”: Subrahmanyam, Career and Legend, 172.
291 “First, every one attended a sumptuous Mass”: Ibid., 194–95.
292 the shiny black gondola: The impressively gaudy vessel can still be seen in Lisbon’s Museu da Marinha.
293 “to find rapid and secret remedies”: Quoted in Weinstein, Ambassador from Venice, 77–78.
Chapter 14: The Admiral of India
297 Vasco da Gama sailed out of Lisbon: Several eyewitness accounts of Gama’s second voyage have survived. Much the fullest is by Tomé Lopes, a Portuguese clerk who sailed on a ship, financed by Rui Mendes de Brito and captained by Giovanni Buonagrazia, which left Lisbon in April 1502 as part of the fleet under the command of Estêvão da Gama. Lopes’s narrative is known only in an Italian translation that was sent to Florence and was published in the 1550s by Giovanni Battista Ramusio; see “Navigazione verso le Indie orientali scritta per Tomé Lopez,” in Ramusio, Navigazioni e viaggi, ed. Marica Milanesi (Turin: Einaudi, 1978–1988), 1:687–738. A second account was written in Portuguese by a sailor with Gama’s main fleet; it is particularly informative on the first leg of that fleet’s voyage, but then becomes more piecemeal. The manuscript is in the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna and is reprinted in Leonor Freire Costa, ed., “Relação anónima da segunda viagem de Vasco da Gama à Índia,” in Cidadania e história: Em homenagem a Jaime Cortesão (Lisbon: Livraria Sá da Costa Editora, 1985), 141–99. A third source is a pair of letters written by an Italian factor named Matteo da Bergamo, whose ship was part of Estevão da Gama’s fleet; though they vary in length and detail, both are dated Mozambique, April 18, 1503, and were sent, by different ships for safety, to his employer, a Cremonese named Gianfranco Affaitadi, who ran a merchant business in Lisbon. Two copies are in the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice; both versions, in French translation, are in Paul Teyssier and Paul Valentin, trans. and eds., Voyages de Vasco de Gama: Relations des expeditions de 1497–1499 et 1502–3, 2nd ed. (Paris: Chandeigne, 1998), 319–40. The other surviving accounts are shorter but are valuable for recounting the experiences of ordinary seamen, especially those who were wide-eyed newcomers to the ways of Africa and India. The first, which was already known by 1504, is by a Fleming who sailed with the main fleet on the Leitoa Nova. A facsimile of the original with English translation was published as Calcoen: A Dutch Narrative of the Second Voyage of Vasco da Gama to Calicut, trans. J. P. Berjeau (London: B. M. Pickering, 1874). The second, which follows the Portuguese account in the Vienna manuscript, is in German; the writer was also with Gama’s fleet, but the surviving text is incomplete and often confused and is likely a copy of a report put together from notes or a diary on the fleet’s return. It was first published along with the Portuguese manuscript in Christine von Rohr, ed., Neue quellen zur zweiten Indienfahrt Vasco da Gamas (Leipzig: K. F. Koehler, 1939). A variant, generally abridged version of this account, which probably belonged to a commercial agent named Lazarus Nuremberger, who was active in Lisbon and Seville, was found in the 1960s in the Lyceum Library, Bratislava (now in the Central Library of the Slovak Academy of Sciences), and is published, with English translation, together with other manuscript fragments on the early voyages of discovery, in Miloslav Krása, Josef Poli[š]enskyâ, and Peter Ratko[š], eds., European Expansion (1494–1519): The Voyages of Discovery in the Bratislava Manuscript Lyc. 515/8 (Codex Bratislavensis) (Prague: Charles University, 1986). The different accounts are inconsistent or contradictory in many details, but as before I have steered clear of long-winded explanations of my deductions. Except where English versions are noted above, translations are my own.
298 “The people there were stark naked”: Calcoen, 22.
299 “rain, hail, snow, thunder and lightning”: Ibid., 23.
299 “a chill such as in Germany cannot occur”: Krása, Poli[š]enskyâ, and Ratko[š], European Expansion, 78.
300 the famed gold-trading town of Sofala: Though the Christian beliefs about Sofala were mere fantasies, Muslim writers described it as an important source of gold as early as the tenth century. The sands have shifted dramatically since Gama’s arrival, and the once-thriving port is long lost to the sea. The author of Calcoen dramatically claims that its inhabitants refused to trade with the Portuguese out of fear that they might sail up the river and find their way into the realm of Prester John, which was located inland and was otherwise entirely enclosed by walls. The sultan of Sofala, he adds, was at war with Prester John’s people; from some who had been taken as slaves, the Portuguese learned that their land was awash with silver, gold, and precious stones. Shipboard gossip was no doubt behind the rumors.
302 the most powerful sultans in East Africa: Kilwa’s ruins are still impressive, though the island can now only be reached by wading through the shallows. For its fascinating history, see H. Neville Chittick, Kilwa: An Islamic Trading City on the East African Coast (Nairobi: British Institute in Eastern Africa, 1974). For a near-contemporary view, see Hans Mayr, “Account of the Voyage of D. Francisco de Almeida, Viceroy of India, along the East Coast of Africa,” in Malyn Newitt, ed., East Africa (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2002).
303 “Their bodies are well shaped”: Hans Mayr, in Newitt, East Africa, 14.
304 The emir handed over three dignitaries: According to Castanheda and Correia, who for once more or less agree, the emir handed over his archenemy as a hostage and refused to pay the tribute, in the hope that Gama would kill him; in the end the hostage came up with the money himself. When the deal was done, Gama graciously asked his new vassal if he had any enemies he could help him with; the emir, trying to salvage something from the situation, told him they greatly feared Christians in Mombasa—his main rival—and would no doubt shell out a handsome tribute if asked.
305 “on account of which I armed myself”: Letter dated Quiloa [Kilwa], July 20, 1502, Biblioteca Nacional de Lisboa, Reservados, Mss. 244, No. 2, quoted in Sanjay Subrahmanyam, The Career and Legend of Vasco da Gama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 202.
305 Gama had warned in his letter: “If before you enter this port, this letter is handed to you outside, do not enter it, because this port is difficult to exit from, but instead go on ahead, and follow everything that has been said above,” he wrote.
306 “We all thought it was advisable”: See Teyssier and Valentin, Voyages de Vasco de Gama, 328. Of the chroniclers, Barros says the fleet put in at a bay eight leagues south of Malindi; Castanheda says Gama briefly visited the city; Correia offers an elaborate description of Gama’s meeting with the sultan, who once more embraces him as a brother. All are contradicted by the eyewitness accounts.
306 “and we killed the people and burned the ships”: Calcoen, 26. The Flemish sailor says the fleet headed northeast on the monsoon winds and arrived on August 21 off “a great city called Combaen.” The city was Cambay, an important Gujarati port for six hundred years; now known as Khambhat, its harbor has long ago silted up. Sailing down the coast, he says the fleet reached a city named Oan (likely Goa); it was there, he claims, that they captured and burned 400 ships. The attack is not corroborated in the other accounts. Matteo da Bergamo says the storm blew them to Dhabul (Mumbai); Lopes describes a similar place but calls it Calinul.
307 Rui Mendes de Brito: The shipowner was likely a member of a family of “New Christians” who were prominent Portuguese gem dealers and merchant bankers. Rui Mendes is mentioned as a financier of armadas at Antwerp between 1504 and 1508, when the city was already becoming the main European entrepôt for Portugal’s spices. In 1512 a Diogo Mendes, possibly of the same family, moved permanently to Antwerp and became a fabulously rich spice baron; by the mid-sixteenth century the dynasty handled the lion’s share of the spice trade and controlled several stock markets. See Marianna D. Birnbaum, The Long Journey of Gracia Mendes (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2003), 15–22.
308 “the ships which carry the spices”: Calcoen, 27.
308 sambuk: Different types of dhows were distinguished by their keel design rather than their purpose or their size, which could vary widely. Even the keel design evolved over time: sambuks, which were among the most successful of all dhows, later developed a square stern under Portuguese influence.
308 a full account of the horrors: My account of the battle is based on Tomé Lopes’s blow-by-blow report, with additional details from the other eyewitnesses and the chronicles.
309 240 men: The figure is given by the dependable Lopes, but estimates vary widely. Matteo da Bergamo and the anonymous Portuguese writer put the number at about 200; the Flemish sailor says 380 and the German sailor 600. Barros says 260, plus more than fifty women and children; Correia, exaggerating as usual, says 700.
309 Jauhar al-Faqih: Lopes’s “Ioar Afanquy.”
310 “When I commanded this ship”: See Lopes, “Navigazione verso le Indie orientali,” 701.
310 “We couldn’t even speak about this capture”: See Teyssier and Valentin, Voyages de Vasco de Gama, 330. “On this subject there are moreover certain stories that it’s neither the time nor the place to reveal,” Bergamo darkly added.
310 “It was a Monday”: See Lopes, “Navigazione verso le Indie orientali,” 703.
313 “with such vehemence”: Ibid., 704.
314 “And so”: Ibid., 705.
314 Almost all the rest: On the return of the first ships to Lisbon, the Florentine merchant Francesco Corbinelli was told that Gama burned the Mîrî with all its gold but saved all the Muslim merchants. Unless he made a glaring mistake, at least one person was ashamed of Gama’s actions. Letter dated Lisbon, August 22, 1503; see Teyssier and Valentin, Voyages de Vasco de Gama, 354.
315 seventeen children: The figure given by the anonymous Portuguese writer; Matteo da Bergamo says twenty. At least some were later given to the monastery at Belém as apprentice friars.
315 “was a demonstration of the manner”: João de Barros, quoted in Subrahmanyam, Career and Legend, 208.
Chapter 15: Shock and Awe
317 “we knew his will”: See Paul Teyssier and Paul Valentin, trans. and eds., Voyages de Vasco de Gama: Relations des expeditions de 1497–1499 et 1502–3, 2nd ed. (Paris: Chandeigne, 1998), 329.
320 a fiendish conspiracy: The Portuguese factors regularly complained that they were being charged inflated prices; in reality, they were often short on hard currency, their trade goods were seldom in demand, and they invariably refused to pay market rates.
320 “who as he well knew”: See “Navigazione verso le Indie orientali scritta per Tomé Lopez,” in Giovanni Battista Ramusio, Navigazioni e Viaggi, ed. Marica Milanesi (Turin: Einaudi, 1978–1988), 707.
324 “because since the beginning of the world”: Ibid., 712.
325 “A palm tree”: Ibid., 714.
326 distributing the Muslim captives: According to the German sailor, Gama asked the captives, through a Dutch Jew who had been baptized in Portugal, whether they wanted to die as Christians or keep their own faith. Most, he insists, asked to be baptized, not because they thought it would save their necks but so they could breathe their last believing in the all-powerful God. The anonymous Portuguese account says thirty-two were hanged.
327 a letter from the admiral: Barros reports the first part, Lopes the second. Gaspar Correia, typically, manages to make the episode even more ghastly. The fake friar, he says, was put in a boat with his ears, nose, and hands strung around his neck and a message to the Zamorin suggesting he make a curry out of them. The rest of the surviving prisoners were similarly mutilated and their body parts were thrown in the boat; then Gama “ordered their feet to be tied together, as they had no hands with which to untie them: and in order that they should not untie them with their teeth, he ordered them to strike upon their teeth with staves, and they knocked them down their throats; and they were thus put on board, heaped up upon the top of each other, mixed up with the blood which streamed from them; and he ordered mats and dry leaves to be spread over them, and the sails to be set for the shore, and the vessel set on fire.” More than eight hundred Muslims, Correia declares, were so murdered; more were strung up by their feet and were used by the Portuguese for target practice. Three of those begged to be baptized, and after they had prayed with a priest, Gama charitably strangled them so “that they might not feel the arrows. The cross-bow men shot arrows and transfixed the others; but the arrows which struck these did not go into them nor make any mark upon them, but fell down.” Correia’s story is uncorroborated and is almost certainly invented; even so, Gama’s gruesome actions have to be seen in the context of an age in which such claims were made not to indict the admiral but to glorify him and his Crusade. Henry E. J. Stanley, trans. and ed., The Three Voyages of Vasco da Gama, and His Viceroyalty (London: Hakluyt Society, 1869), 331–34.
333 “We kept asking ourselves”: See Teyssier and Valentin, Voyages de Vasco de Gama, 332–33.
333 “in this way”: See Lopes, “Navigazione verso le Indie orientali,” 720.
334 Quilon: Now known as Kollam; the burial place of St. Thomas, though, is traditionally held to be Mylapore, in southern Chennai.
334 the story went: The legends are recounted in The Book of Duarte Barbosa, trans. Mansel Longworth Dames (London: Hakluyt Society, 1921), 2:97–99, 127–29. There are numerous variant versions; the episode of the martyrdom of the peacock likely derives from a Hindu or Buddhist story.
335 They had eventually arrived in Persia: Most likely it was the Persians who first arrived in India. Missionaries belonging to the Persian Church or Church of the East, one of several denominations of Syriac Christianity that emerged from the fifth-century Christological controversies, reached the Malabar Coast and China in the sixth century; in the ninth century many Syriac Christians migrated to southern India. Tamerlane virtually wiped out Persian Christianity at the end of the fourteenth century; the Indian community was one of the few survivors, though it had split into two groups that followed different Syriac rites. In the seventeenth century it fell into further schisms as some St. Thomas Christians entered communion with Rome under Portuguese pressure and others rebelled against the Portuguese and broke with Rome, creating a patchwork of West Syriac St. Thomas Christians, East Syriac St. Thomas Christians, West Syriac Roman Catholics, East Syriac Roman Catholics, non-Syriac Roman Catholics, two Orthodox Syriac denominations, and others that still persists today.
336 “nearly 25,000 Christians”: Calcoen: A Dutch Narrative of the Second Voyage of Vasco da Gama to Calicut, trans. J. P. Berjeau (London: B. M. Pickering, 1874), 29.
Chapter 16: Standoff at Sea
337 “This Brahmin”: See “Navigazione verso le Indie orientali scritta per Tomé Lopez,” in Giovanni Battista Ramusio, Navigazioni e Viaggi, ed. Marica Milanesi (Turin: Einaudi, 1978–1988), 724. Correia luridly and no doubt spuriously claims that Gama tortured the Brahmin with burning embers before cutting off his lips and ears and sewing dog’s ears in their place. The sources differ on the number and estate of the messengers, their mission, and their fates.
339 “as if they were ready to fight”: Ibid., 726.
340 Soon there were two hundred: Matteo da Bergamo gives the figure. By the time the fleet was home the count of the enemy boats, according to the Florentine merchant Francesco Corbinelli, had grown to four hundred or even five hundred.
341 “You vile man!”: See Lopes, “Navigazione verso le Indie orientali,” 728.
344 “otherwise he would cut off their heads”: Ibid., 730.
344 little booty: According to Castanheda there was plenty, including much porcelain and silver and a golden idol with emerald eyes and a huge ruby on its chest. Correia adds that the sailors found many women belowdecks, including some pretty girls whom Gama kept for the queen. Neither claim is credible.
345 “for the whole night the wind blew from the sea”: See Lopes, “Navigazione verso le Indie orientali,” 730.
346 chains of unknown islands: The Laccadives and Maldives. Nearer Africa the fleet sailed through the Seychelles, Comoros, and Amirante islands; the last were named after Vasco da Gama, Admiral of India.
347 “It seems to me”: See Paul Teyssier and Paul Valentin, trans. and eds., Voyages de Vasco de Gama: Relations des expeditions de 1497–1499 et 1502–3, 2nd ed. (Paris: Chandeigne, 1998), 338. For unknown reasons, here and throughout his letter the Italian merchant substitutes “Constantinople” for “Lisbon.”
348 The two ships left Mozambique: Lopes says fifteen ships left Mozambique; if his figure is correct, the caravel that had been built there may have replaced the ship that had been lost off Sofala. The accounts disagree about some of the dates of departure and other details of the return journey; Lopes is my primary guide, but eyewitnesses on different ships fill out the story. Lopes and the German sailor left on June 16; though he later muddles his dates, the Flemish sailor almost certainly left with the same group. The Portuguese sailor left with Gama and the final convoy on June 22. Matteo da Bergamo put the finishing touches to his letters on April 18; with his usual confidence, he assured his employer that he expected to leave within six days and to outrun the other, less seaworthy ships on the way home. He dispatched his reports the next day and his testimony ends there, but his patience was doubtless sorely tested one last time.
350 “needed no condiments”: See Lopes, “Navigazione verso le Indie orientali,” 736.
350 “we found an island”: Calcoen: A Dutch Narrative of the Second Voyage of Vasco da Gama to Calicut, trans. J. P. Berjeau (London: B. M. Pickering, 1874), 32.
350 “from which we took flour and baked cakes”: Miloslav Krása, Josef Poli[š]enskyâ, and Peter Ratko[š], eds., European Expansion (1494–1519): The Voyages of Discovery in the Bratislava Manuscript Lyc. 515/8 (Codex Bratislavensis) (Prague: Charles University, 1986), 80–81.
351 “In every place that he has been”: Letter dated Lisbon, August 20, 1503, quoted in Sanjay Subrahmanyam, The Career and Legend of Vasco da Gama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 225.
351 “Such a strong wind blew”: Krása, Poli[š]enskyâ, and Ratko[š], European Expansion, 81. The German sailor says one ship returned on August 19, one on August 27, one on October 7, nine on October 10, and one on October 14. The old ship was wrecked off Lisbon on the 24th. “One small ship is still out,” the German adds, “and there are fears that it too was wrecked.” According to other sources, though, ships were still arriving as late as November.
353 “the Moors from Mequa”: Grant letter of February 1504, quoted in Subrahmanyam, Career and Legend, 227.
Chapter 17: Empire of the Waves
354 the precinct of the Kaaba in Mecca: While disguised as a pilgrim, Varthema teased a Meccan merchant about the effects of the Portuguese voyages: “I began to say to him, if this was the city of Mecca which was so renowned through all the world, where were the jewels and spices, and where were all the various kinds of merchandise which it was reported were brought there. . . . When he told me that the King of Portugal was the cause, I pretended to be much grieved and spoke great ill of the King, merely that he might not think that I was pleased that the Christians should make such a journey.” Travelers in Disguise: Narratives of Eastern Travel by Poggio Bracciolini and Ludovico de Varthema, trans. John Winter Jones, rev. Lincoln Davis Hammond (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963), 82.
355 “subjugating all of India”: Quoted in Sanjay Subrahmanyam, The Career and Legend of Vasco da Gama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 227. The banker was Bartolomeo Marchionni, the same plutocrat who had issued a letter of credit to Pêro da Covilhã.
356 “without entering them in the books”: Letter from Pêro de Ataíde to Manuel I, dated Mozambique, February 20, 1504, quoted in ibid., 230. Soon afterward, Brás Sodré died in mysterious circumstances; Castanheda and Goís insist that the brothers were condemned by God for the sin of abandoning the king of Cochin. Ataíde took the remaining ships to India and wrote to Manuel asking for a reward, but he died the next year at Mozambique before his letter could do him any good.
357 “sparing the lives of the Moors”: Hans Mayr, in Malyn Newitt, ed., East Africa (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2002), 12.
357 “burned like one huge fire”: Ibid., 15.
358 “O sirs, o brothers”: Travelers in Disguise, 214–19.
359 “a venerable beard”: Manuel de Faria e Sousa, The Portuguese Asia, trans. Captain John Stevens (London: C. Brome, 1694–1695), 1:207–8.
360 the Persian Gulf: Or the Arabian Gulf; the nomenclature is a point of controversy between Iran and the Arab states.
360 “a very large and beautiful edifice”: Walter de Gray Birch, ed., The Commentaries of the Great A. Dalboquerque, Second Viceroy of India (London: Hakluyt Society, 1875–1894), 1:81.
360 the fabled city: Hormuz was quickly lost when several of Albuquerque’s captains rebelled against the heavy work of building the fortress in the parching heat and absconded to India. It was not properly retaken until 1515, again by Albuquerque but with a much larger force. Hormuz gave Portugal overlordship of the ports of the Persian Gulf and eastern Arabia; the island remained under Portuguese rule until it was taken in the seventeenth century by a combined Persian-English force.
360 a garden of balsam trees: See Stefan Halikowski Smith, “Meanings Behind Myths: The Multiple Manifestations of the Tree of the Virgin at Matarea,” in Mediterranean Historical Review 23, no. 2 (December 2008): 101–28; Marcus Milwright, “The Balsam of Matariyya: An Exploration of a Medieval Panacea,” in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 66, no. 2 (2003): 193–209.
360 the infant Jesus: For the story of Mary washing Jesus’s shirt, see William Schneemelcher, ed., New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 1, Gospels and Related Writings (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), 460. In another version, Jesus breaks up Joseph’s staff, plants the pieces, and waters them from a well he digs with his own hands; they immediately grow into balsam saplings. See Otto F. A. Meinardus, Two Thousand Years of Coptic Christianity (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1999), 21.
361 a Franciscan friar: The friar was named Fra Mauro; the sultan was Qansuh al-Ghuri, who took power in 1501 after a succession struggle unleashed by the death of the long-reigning Qaitbay saw four sultans dispatched in quick succession. See Donald Weinstein,Ambassador from Venice: Pietro Pasqualigo in Lisbon, 1501 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1960), 78–79.
362 one was unmasked: The spy was named Ca’ Masser; he posed as a merchant and sent his coded reports care of Venice’s ambassador in Spain. The nephew of the Florentine banker Bartolomeo Marchionni exposed him before he even arrived in Lisbon, but Manuel eventually freed him. In his report he correctly predicted that the Portuguese would be able to dominate the waters around India but would not be able to conquer Mecca, blockade all Arab shipping, or permanently monopolize the spice trade. His intelligence encouraged the Venetians to throw in their lot with their Muslim partners and plot reprisals against Portugal. See Robert Finlay, “Crisis and Crusade in the Mediterranean: Venice, Portugal and the Cape Route to India, 1498–1509,” in Studi Venezianin.s. 28 (1994): 45–90.
363 Flor de la Mar: The big carrack was one of the most famous ships of the Age of Discovery. After returning to Lisbon with Gama, she went back east with Almeida in 1505; besides winning the day at Diu, she took part in the conquest of Hormuz, Goa, and Malacca. The aging ship sank in a storm while carrying a vast haul of treasure back from Malacca; many of the crew died, and Albuquerque, who was on board, had to paddle to safety on a makeshift raft. Despite the best efforts of treasure hunters the wreck has never been found.
363 The papacy, meanwhile: The three powers formed the League of Cambrai; the decisive encounter was the Battle of Agnadello in 1509. The league soon disintegrated and Venice recovered many of its losses, if not all of its pride. In the end, it was the revolution in global trade instigated by the Portuguese that condemned Venice—like its Ottoman ally—to a slow decline.
364 a man suspected of being a marrano: Many of the New Christians, or conversos, were suspected of being secret Jews and were labeled marranos, from the Spanish for “pig.” Some did indeed continue to observe Jewish precepts in private, though many became fully signed-up Catholics. Paranoia mounted during periods of social upheaval; shortly before the Lisbon Massacre the plague hit the city, and suspected marranos were the scapegoat. As well as executing the ringleaders, Manuel extended the moratorium on investigations into the conversos’ religion by twenty years. Estimates of the dead range as high as four thousand.
365 he replaced the reluctant Almeida: Albuquerque was appointed in 1508, but the outgoing viceroy refused to accept the appointment and slung his successor in jail. The canny Albuquerque bided his time and finally took office in November 1509. Almeida was killed on his way home when his men engaged in some unwise cattle rustling near the Cape of Good Hope.
365 he hatched a plot to steal the body of the Prophet Muhammad: For Albuquerque’s schemes, see Birch, Commentaries of the Great A. Dalboquerque, 4:36–37. Albuquerque was not the first Crusader to contemplate the theft of Muhammad’s remains. Back in the time of the Second Crusade, a particularly unhinged Frenchman named Reynaud de Châtillon had launched an outrageous plot to invade the Red Sea. Reynaud had married into the lordship of Transjordan, a barren corner of the Kingdom of Jerusalem that stretched south toward the Gulf of Aqaba and straddled the trade and pilgrimage routes from Syria to Arabia and Egypt. In an uncanny anticipation of Venice’s later activities at Suez, he had a fleet of galleys constructed in prefabricated sections and transported oncamels to the gulf port of Eilat, where they were assembled and launched on the Red Sea. Along with intercepting merchant shipping from India and Africa, Reynaud planned to track down Muhammad’s tomb, dig up his body, and bring it back to be reburied in his backyard. That way, he predicted, the hajj would be diverted to Transjordan and he would become fantastically rich. A detachment of Crusaders landed in Arabia and began plundering and raping pilgrims; by the time they were finally cornered they were within a few miles of Medina. An outraged Saladin sent orders to kill every last man, not least to stop them spilling the secrets of the Red Sea trade; four years later, at the Horns of Hattin, he fulfilled his pledge to behead the truculent Frenchmen. By drawing Saladin out, Reynaud had sabotaged the entire Crusading movement.
366 “On one night”: Manuel de Faria e Sousa, in Robert Kerr, A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels (Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1811–1824), 6:137.
367 “Whoever is lord of Malacca”: The Suma Oriental of Tomé Pires, trans. and ed. Armando Cortesão (London: Hakluyt Society, 1944), 2:287. Malacca owed its wealth to Tamerlane, who wreaked such destruction on the cities of the Silk Road that, in 1402, China rerouted its exports by sea.
368 the false and diabolical religion: Ibid., 1:2.
368 Eventually the Portuguese: The merchants reached Japan in 1542; the Portuguese were permitted to establish a permanent settlement at Macao in 1557. The shipping lane between the two was the key to a hugely lucrative trading loop. From Goa, merchants shipped ivory and ebony to Macao, where they bought silks and porcelain. Since China had banned direct trade with Japan they headed to Nagasaki, where they exchanged the prized goods for a small fortune in silver. Since silver was worth much more in China than in Japan, on their way home they returned to Macao and purchased vast quantities of Chinese luxuries for onward shipment to Europe.
368 “It appears to me”: Travelers in Disguise, 230.
369 ten thousand Portuguese soldiers landed in Morocco: Their objective was to establish a fortress at Mamora (now Mehdia), which commanded the route up the Sebou River to Fez. Despite his setbacks in Africa, Manuel was still hoping to march through southern Morocco and onward to Egypt and Palestine.
370 The fleet arrived in Aden: In 1513, in the only signal failure of his governorship, Albuquerque’s forces were beaten back from the high walls of Aden; the defenders were steeled by the knowledge that their defeat would threaten the holy cities of Mecca and Medina themselves. That failure only made the lapse of judgment four years later even more galling, and in 1538 Aden fell to the Ottomans. Without complete control of the Aden–Hormuz–Calicut trade triangle, Portugal was never fully able to stop spices reaching the Muslim world.
372 America was still seen as a barrier to reaching the East: It was during Charles I’s reign that Cortés and Pizarro destroyed the Aztec and Inca empires and began to export Christianity to South America. Even so, they were still hankering after the East. In 1526 Cortés felt it necessary to apologize to the Spanish monarch for not finding a western route to the Spice Islands, and in 1541 Pizarro’s brother Gonzalo mounted a disastrous expedition across Ecuador in search of the fabled Country of Cinnamon. Cortés likened the Aztec cities to Muslim Granada and called their temples mosques; in the conquistadores’ onslaught, the holy vengeance against Muslims fanned by the Iberian Reconquest was visited on a new world where Islam had never existed.
373 the dispute was only settled: As well as ceding the Moluccas to Portugal, the Treaty of Zaragoza (1529) confirmed Spain’s rights over the Philippines. They, too, would turn out to be in the Portuguese hemisphere.
373 “the evil sect of Mafamede”: Quoted in Subrahmanyam, Career and Legend, 283. Manuel was still under the common misapprehension that Muhammad was buried at Mecca.
Chapter 18: The King’s Deputy
375 “meted out”: Royal order dated Tomar, March 21, 1507; see A. C. Teixeira de Aragão, Vasco da Gama e a Vidigueira: Estudo Histórico, 2nd ed. (Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional, 1898), 250–52.
376 “by which time”: Letter of Manuel I to Gama dated August 1518; see ibid., 257–58.
376 “especially in the discovery of the Indies”: Letter of Manuel I dated December 17, 1519, quoted in Sanjay Subrahmanyam, The Career and Legend of Vasco da Gama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 281. Subrahmanyam notes that Portugal could then only muster “two Dukes, two Marquises, a Count-Bishop, and twelve other Counts.”
376 Vasco da Gama set sail for India: Gaspar Correia, a fanciful chronicler of Gama’s first two voyages, is more reliable on the third. By 1524 he had been in India for more than a decade; he first arrived, aged sixteen, as a soldier, but to his relief he was instead appointed secretary to Afonso de Albuquerque. As usual, the official chronicles and contemporary documents fill out the story.
376 two of his sons: Paulo da Gama died in a naval battle off Malacca in 1534. Estêvão da Gama became governor of India in 1540; in 1541 he led a naval expedition into the Red Sea to attack the Ottoman fleet, but when he reached Suez he found he had been expected and was forced to retreat. His younger brother Cristóvão disembarked to lead a Crusade in Ethiopia, which had been invaded by a Muslim army that had declared holy war and was equipped with Ottoman cannon. Cristóvão was captured and executed the next year, but his intervention was instrumental in Ethiopia’s successful defense. Estêvão died in Venice, where he had absconded to avoid marrying the wife chosen for him by the king. Of the other brothers, the eldest, Francisco, succeeded as Count of Vidigueira, while the two youngest, Pedro and Álvaro, served in turn as captains of Malacca.
377 “kept a Concubine”: Jean Mocquet, Travels and Voyages into Africa, Asia, and America, the East and West Indies; Syria, Jerusalem, and the Holy Land, trans. Nathaniel Pullen (London, 1696), 207.
377 “should be publicly scourged”: Henry E. J. Stanley, trans. and ed., The Three Voyages of Vasco da Gama, and His Viceroyalty (London: Hakluyt Society, 1869), 394.
378 they murdered him: The captain was known as Mossem Gaspar Malhorquim; the caravel was captured the following year and was taken to India, where many of the crew were hanged.
378 “each time during the space of a Credo”: Stanley, Three Voyages, 383.
379 “Courage, my friends!”: Various versions of the quotation are attributed to Gama; this is from Manuel de Faria e Sousa, The Portuguese Asia, trans. Captain John Stevens (London: C. Brome, 1694–1695), 1:280.
379 a second Great Flood: The belief was widespread across Europe. Fifty-six authors rushed 133 books into print, thousands of Londoners fled to higher ground, and numerous arks were constructed. See Lynn Thorndike, History of Magic and Experimental Science, vols. 5 and 6, The Sixteenth Century (New York: Columbia University Press, 1941), 5:178–233.
380 “would make the King rich”: Stanley, Three Voyages, 396.
380 “great evil doings”: Ibid., 390.
380 a palatial hospital: Grand though it was, the hospital’s effectiveness was limited by the fact that its chief doctors were subject to the same three-year term limit as other Portuguese officials. Just as they got the hang of the unfamiliar tropical diseases, they went home.
381 “The justice of the King”: Stanley, Three Voyages, 394–96.
382 The members of Goa’s Municipal Council wrote: See ibid., Appendix, pp. x–xvi, for the original text and pp. 385–90 for Stanley’s translation. The new captain of Goa had a different take on the colony’s troubles: he thought Goa was too full of priests and men too comfortably married with local women to mount a proper defense. See Subrahmanyam, Career and Legend, 316.
384 “He had it proclaimed”: Stanley, Three Voyages, 397–98.
385 “Sir, I will build you brigantines”: Ibid., 405.
385 The Spanish had to be confronted: Juan de Zúñiga, the Spanish ambassador in Portugal, reported to Charles I that Spain could expect no quarter from Gama. According to Zúñiga, in addition to threatening to sink Spain’s ships, the viceroy had vowed to disregard any agreement that gave Spain rights over the Moluccas and to do whatever it took to keep the islands in Portuguese hands. Letter dated Tomar, July 21, 1523, quoted in Subrahmanyam, Career and Legend, 299–300.
385 a bishop had written to the Portuguese king: Ibid., 325. The main church at Cranganore had been attacked and burned down in 1523.
385 “he would go and destroy Calicut”: Stanley, Three Voyages, 412.
386 Gama sent a delegation: Even with the powers vested in him as viceroy, Gama overstepped his authority. According to Castanheda, a royal letter was handed to Dom Duarte that exempted him and his men from Gama’s jurisdiction and gave him permission to stay in India until the homebound fleet was ready; if necessary he was to bide his time at the Cannanore fortress, which would become his personal fiefdom for the duration. Correia says that Duarte refused to board the ship Gama specified and Gama threatened to sink the ship he was on; after a raging argument with the viceroy and a tearful farewell to his dining companions, Luís joined his brother and persuaded him to disembark. Ibid., 417–20.
387 “great fits of irritation”: Ibid., 422. One theory is that Gama was suffering from oropharyngeal anthrax.
387 He asked for his bones to be returned to Portugal: Gama’s remains were not repatriated until 1538. In the nineteenth century they were moved with great ceremony to Lisbon and were reburied in the monastery at Belém that had been built to commemorate his first voyage. Some years later it was discovered that the wrong set of bones had been disturbed, and a more discreet ceremony was held to rehouse the correct remains.
388 “The captains”: Letter of Pêro de Faria, dated Cochin, December 28, 1524, quoted in Subrahmanyam, Career and Legend, 343.
388 “as was reasonable”: Stanley, Three Voyages, 427.
389 a French pirate: In retribution for his brother’s behavior the pirate and his crew had their hands cut off and their ship burned, an act that set off years of cruel reprisals by French pirates against the Portuguese.
Chapter 19: The Crazy Sea
391 the most devastating of many exposés: The following quotations are from Jean Mocquet, Travels and Voyages into Africa, Asia, and America, the East and West Indies; Syria, Jerusalem, and the Holy Land, trans. Nathaniel Pullen (London, 1696), 246–46v, 267–68, 249–52v, 259–60, 262–63. Jan Huygen van Linschoten and François Pyrard paint only slightly less lurid portraits of Goa.
391 Goa had grown into a colonial city: For Old Goa, see José Nicolau da Fonseca, An Historical and Archaeological Sketch of the City of Goa (Bombay: Thacker, 1878); Anthony Disney, The Portuguese in India and Other Studies, 1500–1700 (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2009).
392 a Hindu temple: The temple was near Cochin; the Portuguese attacked it even though it was sacred to their allies.
396 One captain of Sofala: The captain was Dom Jorge Teles de Meneses; the factor was João Velho, who in 1547 dispatched a long and vehement letter about his mistreatment to the king. See M. D. D. Newitt, A History of Mozambique (London: Hurst, 1995), 1–3.
397 “The Portuguese are much detested”: Gasparo Contarini, address to the Venetian Senate on November 16, 1525, quoted in Sanjay Subrahmanyam, The Career and Legend of Vasco da Gama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 350.
397 seeking martyrdom: A Mappila epic titled The Gift to the Holy Warriors in Respect to Some Deeds of the Portuguese chronicles and glorifies the campaign of defiance. As many as 10,000 may have died in a Mappila uprising of 1921–1922. See Stephen Frederic Dale, “Religious Suicide in Islamic Asia,” in Journal of Conflict Resolution 32, no. 1 (March 1988): 37–59.
398 died while trying to reach China: The pioneering missionary died of fever in 1552 and was buried on a beach; the next year his body was taken to Goa. It still rests in a magnificent tomb in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa, except for two arm bones, one of which was taken to the Gesù in Rome and the other of which was intended for Japan, where Xavier had worked for two years, but only made it as far as Macau.
399 The Goan Inquisition: The tribunal was not abolished until 1812. Most of its records were destroyed; the number of its victims is unknown, though at least sixteen thousand cases are believed to have been brought to trial. See A. K. Priolkar, The Goa Inquisition(Bombay: Bombay University Press, 1961). L’inquisition de Goa: La relation de Charles Dellon (1687), ed. Charles Amiel and Anne Lima (Paris: Chandeigne, 1997), is a modern edition of the famously chilling account of a French eyewitness.
401 “holy war”: Quoted in K. M. Mathew, History of the Portuguese Navigation in India, 1497–1600 (New Delhi: K. M. Mittal, 1988), 214.
401 a young Portuguese king: King Sebastian, who succeeded to the throne at three years of age in 1557, was heavily influenced by his Jesuit tutors and was determined to stiffen efforts to spread the faith. In 1569 he took up a plan that had been heavily touted by Portugal’s merchants to seize the legendary African gold mines of Monomotapa, but before proceeding he put the question of the morality of the enterprise to a committee of lawyers and theologians. The answer came back that the proposed war was just on the grounds that a Jesuit priest had been murdered in the region and that the local king harbored Muslims, providing that spreading the gospel and saving souls was its primary objective. Sebastian dispatched Francisco Barreto, a former governor of Portuguese India, at the head of a large army; with him went a Jesuit priest whose advice Barreto was under royal orders to heed. Instead of heading for the mines, they spent a year and a half massacring Muslims on the coast and then set off on the trail of the priest’s murderers. Before they reached their goal Barreto and most of his men died of fever, but the expedition marked the beginning of a concerted campaign of colonization and evangelism in the African interior.
402 “it seems that—on account of our sins”: João de Barros, quoted in Peter Russell, Prince Henry ‘the Navigator’: A Life (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000), 343.
403 the São João left Cochin: For its story, see M. D. D. Newitt, ed., East Africa (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2002), 99–103. The account first appeared in Bernardo Gomes de Brito’s História Trágico-Maritima, a two-volume collection of marine disasters published in Lisbon between 1729 and 1736. For a partial English translation, see C. R. Boxer, ed. and trans., The Tragic History of the Sea, 1589–1622 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1959) and Further Selections from ‘The Tragic History of the Sea,’ 1559–1565(Cambridge: Hakluyt Society, 1968).
405 another Portuguese ship was wrecked: Newitt, East Africa, 105–6.
406 “I started to complain”: Ibid., 65. Gomes was shipwrecked shortly before 1645.
407 “There had never been another man”: As reported by the sculptor Benvenuto Cellini; cited in A. Richard Turner, Inventing Leonardo (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 52.
409 Christians teamed up with Muslims to fight Christians: “I cannot deny,” Francis told the Venetian ambassador Giorgio Gritti in 1531, “that I wish to see the Turk all-powerful and ready for war, not for himself—for he is an infidel and we are all Christians—but to weaken the power of the emperor, to compel him to make major expenses, and to reassure all the other governments who are opposed to such a formidable enemy.” Quoted in André Clot, Suleiman the Magnificent, trans. Matthew J. Reisz (London: Saqi, 1992), 137.
409 “Are you seamen to fill your casks”: Harold Lamb, Suleiman the Magnificent: Sultan of the East (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1951), 229.
410 the Protestant Reformation: Martin Luther rejected the whole notion of holy war as contrary to the teachings of Christ, though he did revise his early view that the Turks were the scourge that would destroy the Antichrist—the pope—and so should not be resisted.
410 “Elizabeth, the pretended Queen”: Quoted in Kate Aughterson, ed., The English Renaissance: An Anthology of Sources and Documents (London: Routledge, 1998), 36.
410 “the pride of the women”: Quoted in Susan A. Skilliter, William Harborne and the Trade with Turkey, 1578–1582: A Documentary Study of the First Anglo-Ottoman Relations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 123. Both English and Turks wrote in Latin. For the Anglo-Ottoman entente, see Albert Lindsay Rowland, England and Turkey: The Rise of Diplomatic and Commercial Relations (New York: Burt Franklin, 1968); for a broader view, see Nabil Matar, Islam in Britain, 1558–1685 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).
410 “the most august and benign Caesar”: Susan A. Skilliter,
“William Harborne, the First English Ambassador, 1583–1588,” in Four Centuries of Turco-British Relations, ed. William Hale and Ali Ihsan Bagis (Beverley, UK: Eothen, 1984), 22.
412 “The Madre de Dios taken”: Richard Hakluyt, The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation (Glasgow: MacLehose, 1903–1905), 7:116–17. The discovery of the document is revealed in “The Epistle Dedicatorie in the Second Volume of the Second Edition, 1599” (1:lxxii).
413 an instant bestseller in three languages: In 1595 Linschoten published a description of Portuguese navigation in the East; the following year he capitalized on his instant fame by rushing into print a full account of his travels. An English translation of the latter, titled Iohn Huighen van Linschoten his Discours of Voyages into ye Easte & West Indies, was published in 1598; a German edition appeared the same year. A Spanish sailor and priest named Bernardino de Escalante beat both Fitch and Linschoten into print; his revelations about Portugal’s route to China were published in an English translation in 1579.
414 the first English fleet returned home from India: Sir James Lancaster, an Englishman who had sailed with and fought for the Portuguese, set out in 1591 with three ships and reached Zanzibar, Malacca, and Ceylon; a single ship limped home in 1594 with twenty-five survivors on board. In 1600 Lancaster took command of the East India Company’s first fleet and reached Indonesia, where he established the first English factory, at Bantam in west Java. The Dutch expedition of 1595 was led by Cornelius de Houtman, who had earlier been sent to Lisbon to dig up information on the Spice Islands. The voyage was beset by scurvy, murderous brawls, pirate attacks, and battles that Houtman largely incited. Two-thirds of the crew died, and Houtman returned home only to find he had been preceded and trounced by Linschoten. In 1599 he was reportedly killed by the female admiral of Aceh and her all-woman navy.
415 Sir Thomas Roe: For the accomplished ambassador’s life, see Michael J. Brown, Itinerant Ambassador: The Life of Sir Thomas Roe (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1970). The journals and letters pertaining to his Indian journey are in The Embassy of Sir Thomas Roe to the Court of the Great Mogul, 1615–1619, ed. William Foster (London: Hakluyt Society, 1899).
416 the handsome redbrick Jesuit College: The building, which dominates the old administrative heart of the town, was commandeered for the governor’s palace when Portugal outlawed the Society of Jesus. It is now a sleepy museum.
417 Ceuta’s “liberation”: Time, June 26, 2007.
418 “We have succeeded”: The Times (London), March 13, 2004.
418 President George W. Bush: At a press conference on September 16, 2001, George W. Bush referred to the newly declared war on terror as a “crusade.” His spokesman later expressed regret for his terminology, but the next year the president again called the ongoing war a crusade. Ron Suskind, “Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush,” New York Times Magazine, October 17, 2004.
418 “Crusader-Zionist alliance”: The statement, released in February 1998, was titled “Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders.” The Arabian Peninsula, it also declared, “has never—since Allah made it flat, created its desert, and encircled it with seas—been stormed by any forces like the Crusader armies spreading in it like locusts, eating its riches and wiping out its plantations.” Peter L. Bergen, The Osama Bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of Al Qaeda’s Leader (New York: Free Press, 2006), 195.
418 “a haemmorhage”: Sunday Times (London), November 28, 2010.
419 “the greatest event since the creation of the world”: Francisco López de Gómara, “Dedication” to Historia general de las Indias (Saragossa, 1552).
419 “The discovery of America”: Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, ed. Edwin Cannan (London: University Paperbacks, 1961), 2:141.
420 hold off and eventually repel the Ottoman challenge: Other factors, of course, were at play, not least the Ottomans’ unshakable belief, even as their empire was hamstrung by harem intrigues and endemic patronage while the West emerged into the Enlightenment, that their way was best. In the long run, though, the global pressure exerted by the voyages of discovery crucially tipped the balance. The point is well made by Bernard Lewis, a leading scholar of Islam and the Middle East. “The final defeat and withdrawal of the armies of Islam was no doubt due in the first instance to the valiant defenders of Vienna,” writes Lewis, “but in the larger perspective, it was due to those self-same adventurers whose voyages across the ocean and greed for gold aroused [the ire of their European rivals]. Whatever their motives, their voyages brought vast new lands under European rule or influence, placed great wealth in bullion and resources at European disposal, and thus gave Europe new strength with which to resist and ultimately throw back the Muslim invader.” Islam and the West (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 16.
420 Western imperialism in Asia: In India, the entire colonial era from Gama’s arrival to independence has been labeled the Vasco da Gama epoch of history; see K. M. Panikkar, Asia and Western Dominance: A Survey of the Vasco da Gama Epoch of Asian History, 1498–1945 (London: Allen & Unwin, 1959). It has conversely been argued that the Portuguese had little direct impact on the great empires of South and East Asia. Narrowly speaking, yes; but then the balance of trade with India, never mind with China, was never a factor in Portugal’s calculations. India was the destination, but to weaken Islam was the aim. On a broader view, the impact of the discoveries was profound; when Vasco da Gama sailed east, India and China between them accounted for half the world economy.
420 joined forces to fight a common enemy: In the Crimean War of 1853–1856, Anglican Britain and Catholic France joined forces with the Muslim Ottomans to fight the Orthodox Russians. The British and French were not just keen to halt Russia’s expansion; they deliberately set out to support Islam’s fight with Eastern Christianity, which Western clerics readily denounced as a semi-pagan heresy. Ever since 1453, the Russians had claimed they were the rightful heirs of the Byzantine Empire; tsar is Russian for “Caesar,” and Moscow was declared the third Rome. The Western allies were particularly aghast at the prospect of the Russians reversing the Muslim conquest of Constantinople and installing themselves—and the Orthodox Church—in the second Rome.