Monday, October 12, 2009

The Italian Niche: Columbus Day October 12 (1)

Today is a special day for all Italian Americans. Our Italian Journalist Friend Dr. Antonio Castaldo from Brusciano, Italy extends his greetings to all Italian Americans here in America as they celebrate this day.

Christopher Columbus was born in 1445 or 1446. The best authorities surmise that his birth took place in the village of Terrarossa, , near Genoa, to which city his father, Domenico Columbus, removed about 1451, in order to be nearer the centre of the wool trade, from which he derived his livelihood. The exact date of Columbus's birth has been a subject of debate, opinions varying from 1436 to 1457, but the most trustworthy evidence seems to show that he was born not long before, March 25, 1446. He was early apprenticed to his father's trade, and is referred to in legal documents dated 1472 and 1473 as living in Genoa or Lavona, and engaged in the wool trade. There is probably no foundation in fact for the stories which describe him as having received a university education at Pavia. He probably left home and went to sea in 1473, visiting various Mediterranean ports and eventually reaching Lisbon, where he lived until 1484 or 1485. After he had become famous, stories relating exploits of his early youth as a corsair and pirate, or as pilot or commander of a war vessel belonging to Rene d' Anjou, Count of Provence, became current, but most of the details of these stories are inconsistent with known historical facts.
Columbus's interest in cartography explains his writing a letter concerning the shape of the earth to the learned Italian Toscanelli, accompanying it with one of his globes to illustrate his queries. This elicited the famous reply from Toscanelli, which is ordinarily accepted as marking the time when Columbus began to devote himself to the problem of a direct route from Europe to the Asiatic spice-lands. During one of his Mediterranean voyages he revisited Genoa, it is sometimes maintained, and tried to secure financial assistance which would enable him to test his theories of a direct ocean passage across the Atlantic to Asia, but without success.It is reported also that he tried to enlist help in Venice, and there is nothing improbable in the story.

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