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Fun Facts About Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus is one of the world's greatest explorers. He discovered what would later be called the New World in 1492. Following his discovery, he sailed back to Spain and returned four times. At the time of his death, Columbus had no idea that he'd discovered a vast new region of land previously unknown to the Europeans, he merely believed that he'd found a western passage to the Indies.

Fun Facts About Christopher Columbus
  • Records of Columbus' birth are sketchy, but it is believed he was born sometime between August and October in 1451.
  • Despite his many achievements for the Spanish, Columbus was Italian.
  • He was born in Genoa, Italy.
  • His full given name was Cristoforo Colombo.
  • Although there are few records of Columbus' childhood, scholars speculate his family was moderately wealthy since Columbus was well-educated, spoke several languages, and studied Ptolemy.
  • Columbus began his career as a seaman at the age of 14.
  • Through the 1470s, Columbus traded throughout the Aegean, Northern Europe, and Iceland.
  • In 1479, he married Filipa Moniz Perestrello. Their son Diego was born in 1480.
  • Columbus and his family lived in Lisbon until 1485 when his wife died.
  • Later that year, Columbus moved with his son to Spain in late 1485.

Making History

  • Many people from Columbus' time believed the Earth was flat. Common legend warned that if one sailed too far west, he would fall off the edge of the world.
  • Unlike his contemporaries, Columbus believed the world was a sphere. Locating a western sailing route to the Indies could literally be worth a fortune and he was determined to find it.
  • Columbus approached both Portuguese and Spanish Kings about getting a grant to sale west for the Indies.
  • Queen Isabella of Spain initially turned down Columbus' request because she thought the venture was too expensive.
  • Columbus was requesting ships and men for the voyage. If he discovered the Indies, he wanted a title, a coat of arms, and one-tenth of any profits Spain reaped.
  • It was only after the Moors were driven from Spain in 1492 that Queen Isabella reconsidered Columbus' proposal.
  • Few sailors would agree to sail with Columbus even after the Queen presented him with vessels.
  • Queen Isabella issued a decree suspending all judicial prosecution of criminals who agreed to sail with Columbus.
  • Fear of falling off the edge of the world discouraged all but four from accepting the offer.
  • In August 1492, Columbus and his crew set sail aboard the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.
  • Two months later, in October 1492, a sailor aboard the Pinta sighted land.
  • Columbus' first sighting of land would later become San Salvador, an island about 375 miles off the coast of Florida.
  • The Santa Maria was crashed onto a reef near Hispaniola, although the Nina and Pinta would later return to Spain.
  • Columbus never set foot on the mainland of North America.
  • Columbus' journey and discovery is honored in North America by celebrating Columbus Day on October 12.
  • The capital of the United States is named Washington (for the first president) D. C. or District of Columbia (for Christopher Columbus).

Finding America

Despite all his work and the credit he received, Christopher Columbus did not actually step foot on the continent that would become home to the United States of America. Columbus did, however, discover many of the Caribbean Islands along with Central and South America. Later explorers expanded upon his discovery, leading to European colonization of the new world and, eventually, North America.