1902 Encyclopedia > Geography > Exploration of Africa. Portuguese in the East.

Geography
(Part 19)



Exploration of Africa. Portuguese in the East.

While the Spaniards were circumnavigating the world and completing their knowledge of the coasts of Central and South America, the Portuguese were actively engaged on similar work as regards Africa and the East Indies.

In Abyssinia the mission of Covilham led to further intercourse. In April 1520 the Portuguese viceroy of the Indies took a fleet into the Red Sea, and landed an embassy consisting of Dom Rodriquez de Lima and Father Francisco Alvarez, a priest whose detailed narrative is the earliest and not the least interesting account we posses of Abyssinia. It was not until 1526 that the embassy was dismissed; and not many years afterwards the negûs entreated the help of the Portuguese against Mahometan invaders, and the viceroy sent an expeditionary force, commanded by his brother Cristoforo da Gama, with 450 musketeers. Da Gama was taken prisoner and killed, but his Portuguese enabled the Christians of Abyssinia to regain their power, and a Jesuit mission remained in the country. While Abyssinia was thus opened to the enterprise of the Portuguese on the east side of Africa, they also established a close connexion with the kingdom of Congo on the west side, and obtained much information respecting the interior of the continent. Duarte Lopes, a Portuguese settled in the country, was sent on a mission to Rome by the king of Congo, and Pope Sixtus V. caused him to recount to his chamberlain, Felipe Pigafetta, all he had learned during the nine years he had been in Africa, from 1578 to 1587. This narrative, under the title of Description of the Kingdom of Congo, was published at Rome by Pigafetta in 1591. A map was attached on which the two equatorial lakes, Victoria and Albert Nyanza, and Lake Tanganyika are shown, and the empire of Monomoezi or Uniamuezi is laid down. The most valuable work on Africa during the 16th century is, however, that written by Leo Africanus. This famous traveler was born at Granada, and retired into Africa when his native town was captured buy the Spaniards. He traveled extensively in the north and west of Africa, and was eventually taken by pirates and sold to a master who presented him to Pope Leo X. At the pope’s desire he translated his work on Africa into Italian, and died in about the year 1526.

In the East Indies the Portuguese acquired predominating influence at sea, establishing factories on the Malabar coast, in the Persian Gulf, at Malacca, and in the Spice Islands, and extending their commercial enterprises from the Red Sea to China. Their missionaries were received at the court of Akbar, and Benedict Goes, a native of the Azores, was dispatched on a journey overland from Agra to China. He started in 1603, and, after traversing the least known parts of Central Asia, he reached the confines of China. He appears to have ascended form Cabul to the plateau of the Pamir, and thence onwards by Yarkand, Khotan, and Aksu. He died at a place called Socieu in March 1607; and thus, as one of the brethren pronounced his epitaph, "seeking Cathay he found heaven."





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