Stuff you should know about Columbus
A lot of what people think they know about Christopher Columbus is myth. Here are some things about the explorer who didn't discover America that may surprise you:
*Little is known for certain about the early life of Christopher Columbus.
Many historians believe he was born in Genoa, Italy, and his name was Christoffa Corombo or Christoforo Colombo, or one of several other names.
Some historians, though, believe there is evidence to show that he was born on the island of Corsica (though it was then part of Genoa).
And some historians argue that he was actually a member of the Colom Jewish family in Ibiza and Catalonia.
*School kids have long been taught that people in Columbus’ time thought the world was flat and they feared he would fall off the edge of the Earth when he sailed in 1492. Not so.
Historians say there is no doubt that the educated in Columbus’ day knew quite well that the Earth was not flat but round. In fact, as early as the sixth century B.C., Pythagoras--later followed by Aristotle and Euclid-- wrote about Earth as a sphere.
Ptolemy wrote Geography at the height of the Roman Empire, 1,300 years before Columbus sailed, and considered the idea of a round planet as fact. “Geography” became a standard reference; Columbus owned a copy. The big question for Columbus was not the shape of the Earth but the size of the ocean he was planning to cross.
*On his first, famous 1492 trip across the Atlantic Ocean, he took ships now known as the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria. The Santa Maria was also known at the time as La Gallega, meaning The Galician." The Niña is now believed to be a nickname for a ship originally called the Santa Clara, and the Pinta was probably also a nickname, though the ship's real name isn't clear.
*Columbus never actually set foot in North America.
He and his crew found a number of islands in the Caribbean on four separate trips. He became viceroy and governor of all them, but was later accused of cruelty and atrocities against the native populations.
*Columbus learned about tobacco and the pipes used to smoke it from the native peoples he met and returned to Europe with both the pipes and the tobacco.
*He did not die penniless in 1506 as some believe, but rather passed away in Spain as a fairly rich man. Nobody but his family took note when he died, as he was not a beloved figure.
*The first Columbus Day celebration recorded in the United States was in New York on October 12th, 1792.
That first event was to honor Italian-American heritage. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937 proclaimed October 12th to be Columbus Day a national holiday. In 1971, the holiday celebration date was changed to the second Monday in October.
For various reasons, many places have changed the name of the holiday. Berkeley, California, replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in 1992 to honor the original inhabitants of the islands where Columbus landed.
In 1989, South Dakota started calling the holiday Native American Day.
Alabama celebrates a combination of Columbus Day and American Indian Heritage Day.
Hawaii calls it Discovery Day.
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| October 11, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: History | Tags: 1492, christopher columbus, columbus bio, columbus biography, columbus day, columbus facts, discovery day, explorers, facts about columbus, history, native people
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