Hailing Columbus Day ~ Myth Busters of a Mariner Lost At Sea
A fitting tribute to “Columbus Day” is to explode myths that surround this explorer. We share a few facts to counter the fictions which mark the observance.
Myth 1: Columbus set out to prove the world was round.
He was more than a little late to the party—a couple of thousand years to be exact. As early as 400 BC, learned scholars (Aristotle, Pythagoras and Ptolemy) envisioned the world as a round globe. Islamic scholars concurred and even accurately calculated it’s circumference by the 9th Century. Their predictions were far more precise than Columbus who would have flunked geography and marine navigation.
Myth 2: Columbus, the great mariner, knew where he was going.
The man was hopelessly lost. Not only was he off his course to invade south Asia for silks and gold, he never even set foot in what is now the United States. He landed at the Bahamas archipelago and the island Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic). He later sailed to Central and South America but never got close to America’s shore.
Myth 3: Columbus “discovered” the new world.
How the hell do you discover a land inhabited by millions of indigenous people for centuries?
Myth 4: Columbus was a great man.
This seaman was a liar, thief and genocidal maniac. He pillaged, plundered and kidnapped native people who were eventually annihilated into extinction. By 1500, he and his brothers had sent nearly 1,500 enslaved native islanders to Europe to be sold. Those who remained were forced to mine gold and died from malnourishment and disease.
Myth 5: Columbus died in poverty.
Columbus was living comfortably in an apartment in Valladolid, Spain after his great expeditions. He was arrested and jailed briefly on accusations of tyranny and brutality toward indigenous people. After his death, his family sued the royal crown for profits promised Columbus and eventually won significant amounts of property and other riches.
Myth 6: Italian Americans have a rightful claim of ancestry to the Great Explorer.
Calling Columbus an Italian is a bit of stretch, unless you count time travel among his mythical feats. Columbus was born in Genoa, but he left home early and moved around a lot, claiming to have made his first voyage at the age of ten. Spain remained his base until his death in 1506—355 years before the country known as Italy existed.