1902 Encyclopedia > Geography > Spanish Enterprise. Amerigo Vespucci. Objeda. Balboa.

(Part 17)

Spanish Enterprise. Amerigo Vespucci. Objeda. Balboa.

The discoveries of Columbus awakened a spirit of enterprise in Spain which continued in full force for a century; adventurers flocked eagerly across the Atlantic, and discovery followed discovery in rapid succession. Many of the companions of Columbus continued his work. Pinzon in 1499 reached the mouth of the Amazon; and in the same year Alonzo de Ojeda, accompanied by a Florentine named Amerigo Vespucci, touched the coast of south America somewhere near Surinam, following the shore as far as the Gulf of Maracaibo. Vespucci afterwards made three voyages to the Brazilian coast; and in 1504 he wrote an account of his four voyages, which was widely circulated, and became the means of procuring for its author the high honour of giving his name to the whole continent. Mr Major has discussed the hitherto obscure question of the way in which the name "America" originated, in a paper distinguished for great learning and very able criticism. He has shown that the word "America" first appeared on the Mappe Monde drawn by Leonardo da Vinci, and he explains the chain of circumstances which led to its adoption. The first map known to exist with America delineated upon it is that drawn by Juan de la Cosa, the pilot of Columbus in his second voyage, which is dated 1500. Juan de la Cosa was with Ojeda and Vespucci, and afterwards with Ojeda in his last ill-fated expedition. In May 1507, just a year after the death of Columbus, one Martin Waldseemüller (Hylacomulus) wrote a work called Cosmographiae Introductio, to which was appended a Latin edition of the four voyages of Vespucci. In this book, which was printed at St Dié in Lorraine, he proposed that the name of America should be given to the New World. In 1508 the first engraved map containing the New World appeared, in an edition of Ptolemy printed at Rome, but it does not bear the name of America. But in 1509 the name "America, proposed by Hylacomulus in 1507, appears, as if it was already accepted as a well-known denomination, in an anonymous work entitled Globus Mundi, published at Strasburg. This was three years before the death of Vespucci. The Mappe Monde of Leonardo da Vince, to which Major assigns the date of 1514, has the name of America across the South American continent.

In 1508 Ojeda obtained the government of the coast of South America from Cabo de la Vela to the Gulf of Darien; and at the same time Diego Nicuesa was appointed governor of Veragua from the Gulf of Darien to Cape Gracias a Dios. The two adventurers arrived at Hispaniola together; but Ojeda set our first for his government, landed at Carthagena in 1510, and sustained a bloody defeat from the natives, in which his lieutenant, Juan de la Cosa, was killed. Ojeda then embarked, and eventually selected a site on the east side of the Gulf of Darien for his seat of government. Here he was again defeated by the natives, and, returning to Hispaniola for aid, he died there in extreme poverty. Nicuesa was still more unfortunate, and died at sea. The Spaniards in the Gulf of Darien were left by Ojeda under the command of Francisco Pizarro, the future conqueror of Peru. After sufeering from famine and disease, Pizarro embarked the survivors in small vessels, but outside the harbour they met a ship which proved to be that of the bachiller Martin Fernandez Enciso, Ojeda’s partner, coming with provisions and reinforcements. They all returned to their settlement called San Sebastian, but found that the Indians had destroyed the fort, and Enciso determined to abandon it. One of the crew of Enciso’s ship, Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, the future discoverer of the Pacific Ocean, induced his commander to form a settlement on the other side of the Gulf of Darien. The soldiers became discontented and deposed Enciso, when Vasco Nuñez, a clever and courageous adventurer, took command of the Darien settlement in March 1511. Enciso was a man of learning, and an accomplished cosmographer. His work Suma de Geografia, which was printed in 1519, is the first Spanish book which gives an account of America. Vasco Nuñez, the new commander, entered upon a career of conquest in the neighbourhood of Darien, which ended in the discovery of the Pacific Ocean on the 25th of September 1513. In 1514 Pedrarias de Avila, an old man of rank and some reputation, but with no ability, and of a malicious disposition, was appointed to supersede Vasco Nuñez as governor of Darien, and the bachiller Enciso came out in his fleet. Pedrarias, on a false pretext, beheaded Vasco Nuñez in 1517, which was one of the greatest calamities that could have happened to South America at that time; for the discoverer of the south Sea was on the point of sailing with a little fleet into his unknown ocean, and a humane and judicious man would have been the conqueror of Peru, instead of the cruel and ignorant Pizarro. In the year 1519 Panama was founded by Pedrarias; an the conquest of Peru by Pizarro followed a few years afterwards. Herman Cortes overran and conquered Mexico from 1518 to 1521, and the discovery and conquest of Guatemala by Alvarado, of Florida by Hernando de Soto, and of Nueva Granada by Quesada, followed in rapid succession. The first detailed account of the west coast of South America was written by that keenly observant old soildeir, Pedro de Cieza de Leon, who was traveling in South America from 1533 to 1550, and published his story at Seville in 1553.

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