Gama, Vasco da

   Navigator, conqueror, and fleet commander of the Portuguese ships that discovered the sea route to India in 1497-98. Born in Sines and trained in navigation, Vasco da Gama was named commander of four—by today's standards very small—vessels, which left the Tagus from Belém on 8 July 1497. The fleet sailed via the Cape Verde Islands down the African coast and passed the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, on 18 November 1497. After cruising up the coast of East Africa, Vasco da Gama's ships reached Mombasa and then Melinde, where a friendly sultan permitted an Indian Ocean pilot to assist da Gama in the voyage east to the west coast of what became Portuguese India. The Portuguese reached Calicut, India, on 18 May 1498. Vasco da Gama's missions were to discover the route to India, tap into the spice markets of Asia, and contact and make treaties with Christian rulers there.
   Perhaps the greatest of Portugal's discoverers and sea explorers, da Gama accomplished these missions, although liaison with Christian princes proved illusory; Portugal broke the spice monopoly of the Venetian-Asian system and began the process of prying open Asia to Western trade, conquest, and empire.
   The first of da Gama's ships returned to Lisbon in July 1499, and da Gama himself returned later in the summer. In the age of exploration, in a different league even than Christopher Columbus's first voyage to the West Indies, da Gama's feat stands unequaled: the distance from Portugal to India by the most direct route around the Cape of Good Hope was 16,000 kilometers (10,000 miles) by sea under severe conditions typical of the age of sail. The entire round trip took two years, and out of about 170 crew members only 55 returned to Lisbon. King Manuel I showered the navigator-commander with honors. Da Gama made another voyage to Calicut (1502-04) and died in government service in India in 1524. Along with other famous navigator-conquerors of the Age of Discoveries, as well as the national epic poet Luís de Camões, Vasco da Gama is buried in the Jerônimos Monastery.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Gama, Vasco da — • The discover of the sea route to East Indies; born at Sines, Province of Alemtejo, Portugal, about 1469; died at Cochin, India, 24 December, 1524 Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006 …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Gama, Vasco da — ▪ Portuguese navigator Introduction Portuguese  Vasco da Gama, 1er conde da Vidigueira  born c. 1460, Sines, Port. died Dec. 24, 1524, Cochin, India       Portuguese navigator whose voyages to India (1497–99, 1502–03, 1524) opened up the sea… …   Universalium

  • Gama,Vasco da — Ga·ma (gămʹə, gäʹmə), Vasco da. 1460? 1524. Portuguese explorer and colonial administrator. The first European to sail to India (1497 1498), he opened the rich lands of the East to Portuguese trade and colonization. * * * …   Universalium

  • Gama, Vasco da — (ca. 1469 1524)    Portuguese explorer, the commander chosen to lead the expedition of 1497 1499 that reached the port of Calicut in India in May 1498 and thus completed Portugal s search for a route to India by way of South Africa. He was a… …   Historical Dictionary of Renaissance

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  • GAMA, VASCO DA —    a famous Portuguese navigator, the discoverer of the route to India round the Cape of Good Hope, born at Sines, in Portugal, of good family; he seems to have won the favour of King Emmanuel at an early age, and already an experienced mariner,… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

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  • Gama, Vasco da — …   Useful english dictionary

  • Gama, Vasco da, 1er conde de Vidigueira — ( 1460, Sines, Portugal–24 dic. 1524, Cochin, India). Navegante portugués. En su primer viaje a India (1497–99), navegó con cuatro barcos alrededor del cabo de Buena Esperanza, y visitó varias ciudades mercantiles en Mozambique y Kenia durante el …   Enciclopedia Universal

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