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port to port. Piracy was almost legalized. The frequent feuds between the Italian states; the cruisings of the Catalonians; the armadas fitted out by noblemen, who were petty sovereigns in their own domains; the roving ships and squadrons of private adventurers; and the holy wars waged with the Mahometan powers, rendered the narrow seas, to which navigation was principally confined, scenes of the most hardy encounters and trying reverses. Such was the rugged school in which Columbus was reared, and such the rugged teacher that first broke him in to naval discipline.
The first voyage in which we hear any account of his being engaged, was in a naval expedition fitted out at Genoa in 1459, by John of Anjou, Duke of Calabria, to make a descent upon Naples, in the hope of recovering that kingdom for his father, King Reinier or Renato, otherwise called Rene, Count de Provence. In this enterprise the republic of Genoa aided with ships and money, and many private adventurers fitted out ships and galleys, and engaged under the banners of Anjou. Among the number was the hardy veteran Colombo, who had command of a squadron, and with him sailed his youthful relation.
The struggle of John of Anjou for the crown of Naples lasted about four years, with varied fortune, and much hard service. The naval part of the expedition distinguished itself by various acts of intrepidity, and when the unfortunate duke was at length reduced to take refuge in the island of Ischia, a handful of galleys loyally adhered to him, guarded the island, and scoured and controlled the whole bay of Naples. It is presumed that Columbus
served on board of this squadron. That he must have distinguished himself in the course of the expedition is evident, from his having been at one time appointed to a separate command, and sent on a daring enterprise to cut out a galley from the port of Tunis, in the course of which he exhibited great resolution and address.
There is an interval of several years, during which we have but one or two shadowy traces of Columbus, who is supposed to have been principally engaged in the Mediterranean, and up the Levant, sometimes in voyages of commerce, sometimes in warlike contests between the Italian states, sometimes in pious and predatory expeditions against the infidels, during which time he was often under the perilous command of his old fighting relation, the veteran Colombo.
The last anecdote we have of this obscure part of his life is given by his son Fernando. He says that his father sailed for some time with Colombo the younger, a famous corsair, nephew to the old admiral just mentioned, and apparently heir of his warlike propensities and prowess, for Fernando affirms that he was so terrible for his deeds against the infidels, that the Moorish mothers used to frighten their unruly children with his name.
This bold rover waylaid four Venetian galleys, richly laden, on their return voyage from Flanders, and attacked them with his squadron on the Portuguese coast between Lisbon and Cape St. Vincent. The battle lasted from morning until evening, with great carnage on both sides. The vessels grappled each other, and the crews fought hand to hand, and from ship to ship, The vessel commanded by Co
lumbus was engaged with a huge Venetian galley. They threw hand grenades and other fiery missiles, and the galley was wrapped in flames. The vessels being fastened together by chains and iron grapplings, could not be separated, and both became a mere blazing mass, involved in one conflagration. The crews threw themselves into the sea; Columbus seized an oar which was floating near him, and being an expert swimmer, attained the shore, though full two leagues distant. It pleased God, adds his son Fernando, to give him strength, that he might preserve him for greater things. After recovering from his exhaustion, he repaired to Lisbon, where he found many of his Genoese countrymen, and was induced to take up his residence.
Such is the account given by Fernando of his father's first arrival in Portugal, and it has been currently adopted by modern historians; but on examining various histories of the times, the battle here described appears to have happened several years after the date of the arrival of Columbus in that country. That he was engaged in the contest is not improbable; but he had previously resided for some time in Portugal. In fact, on referring to the history of that kingdom, we shall find, in the great maritime enterprises in which it was at that time engaged, ample attractions for a person of his inclinations and pursuits; and we shall be led to conclude, that his first visit to Lisbon was not the fortuitous result of a desperate adventure, but was undertaken in a spirit of liberal curiosity, and in the pursuit of honourable fortune.
Progress of Discovery under Prince Henry of Portugal-Residence of Columbus in Lisbon-Ideas concerning Islands in the Ocean.
THE career of modern discovery had commenced shortly before the time of Columbus, and, at the period of which we are treating, was prosecuted with great activity by Portugal. The re-discovery of the Canary Islands, in the fourteenth century, and the occasional voyages made to them, and to the opposite shores of Africa, had first turned the attention of mankind in that direction. The grand impulse to discovery, however, was given by Prince Henry of Portugal, son of John the first, surnamed the Avenger, and Philippa of Lancaster, sister of Henry the fourth of England. Having accompanied his father into Africa, in an expedition against the Moors, he received much information at Ceuta concerning the coast of Guinea, and other regions entirely unknown to Europeans; and conceived an idea that important discoveries were to be made, by navigating along the western coast of Africa. returning to Portugal, he pursued the vein of inquiry thus accidentally opened. Abandoning the court, he retired to a country retreat in the Algarves, near to Sagres, in the neighbourhood of Cape St. Vincent, and in full view of the ocean.
Here he drew round him men eminent in science, and gave himself up to those branches of study connected with the maritime arts. He made himself master of all the geographical knowledge of the ancients, and of the astronomical science of the Arabians of Spain. The result of his studies was a firm conviction that Africa was circumnavigable, and that it was possible, by keeping along its shores, to arrive at India.
For a long time past, the opulent trade of Asia had been monopolized by the Italians; who had their commercial establishments at Constantinople, and in the Black Sea. Thither all the precious commodities of the east were conveyed by a circuitous and expensive internal route, to be thence distributed over Europe. The republics of Venice and Genoa had risen to power and opulence, in consequence of this monopoly; their merchants emulated the magnificence of princes, and held Europe, in a manner, tributary to their commerce. It was the grand idea of Prince Henry, by circumnavigating Africa, to open an easier and less expensive route to the source of this commerce, to turn it suddenly into a new and simple channel, and to pour it out in a golden tide upon his country. He was before the age in thought, and had to struggle hard against the ignorance and prejudices of mankind in the prosecution of his design. Navigation was yet in its infancy; mariners feared to venture far from the coast, or out of sight of its land-marks; and they looked with awe at the vast and unknown expanse of the Atlantic; they cherished the old belief that the earth at the equator was girdled by a torrid zone, separating the hemi