quinta-feira, 22 de novembro de 2007


Vasco da Gama was probably born in either 1460 or 1469, in Sines, on the southwest coast of Portugal, probably in a house near the church of Nossa Senhora das Salas. Sines, one of the few seaports on the Alentejo coast, consisted of little more than a cluster of whitewashed, red-tiled cottages, tenanted chiefly by fisherfolk.

Little is known of Vasco da Gama's early life. It has been suggested that he studied at the inland town of Évora, which is where he may have learnt mathematics and navigation and that he knew astronomy well, having learned from the famous astronomer Abraham Zacuto.

From the early fifteenth century, the nautical school of Henry the Navigator had been extending Portuguese knowledge of the African coastline. From the 1460s, the goal had become one of rounding that continent's southern extremity to gain easier access to the riches of India (mainly black pepper and other spices) through a reliable sea route.

In 1492 King John II of Portugal sent Gama to the port of Setúbal, south of Lisbon and to the Algarve, Portugal's southernmost province, to seize French ships in retaliation for peacetime depredations against Portuguese shipping - a task that Vasco rapidly and effectively performed.

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