Voyages of Columbus

This article is an itinerary.
Columbus' voyages.

Christopher Columbus made four voyages from Spain to the Caribbean from 1492 to 1503. Though he neither discovered the Americas (as they were already inhabited by indigenous peoples) nor made the first crossing of the Atlantic (the Vikings reached North America 500 years earlier), his voyage had enormous impact on world history, and started the so-called "Age of Discovery" and European colonialism. He also started the Transatlantic slave trade.

In any case, different forms of the name Columbus (such as his Spanish name Colón) are used for several places in the Americas, including the nation of Colombia. More than one country currently or historically used a currency called "Colon".


In the Middle Ages, trade between Europe and Asia followed the Silk Road through the Byzantine Empire and Mongolian lands. As the Mongolian Empire crumbled, and the Ottoman Empire seized the Byzantine capital Constantinople in 1453, European Christians were encouraged to find new ways of commerce.

Columbus was born in Genoa (see Medieval and Renaissance Italy). He toured Europe for seven years to find a sponsor for his voyage, and was turned down by many royal courts, until Spain backed him up. A modern misconception says that the skepticism was based in a belief that Earth was flat. However, scholars of the 15th century were well aware that Earth was round, but were not sure about its size. Since Ancient Greece, there were accurate estimates that Earth's circumference was about 40,000 kilometres, correctly stating that the voyage westwards to India would be too long to be practical; let alone that the Americas were unknown back then. Columbus, however, believed that Earth was smaller, allowing a simple voyage westwards towards Asia.

Though Columbus never reached Asia, contemporary explorers found the sea route around Africa. Vasco da Gama reached India in 1498. Ferdinand Magellan launched an expedition that rounded South America, and reached Asia from the Pacific Ocean in 1521, thereby fulfilling Columbus' ambition. His denial of having reached an unknown continent survives in the terms West Indies for the Caribbean, and Indians for the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

First voyage

Second voyage

Third voyage

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