Volume 2, Chapter 5 -- Continuation of the Portuguese Discoveries along the Coast of Africa, from the death of Don Henry in 1463, to the Discovery of the Cape of Good Hope in 1486.[1]
*Section 1* -- Progress of Discovery from Cape Verga to Cape St Catherine; from the Death of Don Henry to that of King Alphonzo V
*Section 2* -- Voyage of a Portuguese Pilot from Lisbon to the Island of St Thomas
*Section 3* -- Continuation of Portuguese Discoveries, from Cape St Catherine to the kingdom of Congo
*Section 4* -- Discovery of the Cape of Good Hope, by Bartholomew Diaz, in 1486
**Section 5* -- Journey overland to India and Abyssinia, by Covilham and de Payva


Volume 2, Chapter 5, Section 1 -- Progress of Discovery from Cape Verga to Cape St Catherine; from the Death of Don Henry to that of King Alphonzo V.

After the decease of Don Henry, the illustrious father of maritime discovery, the progress of the Portuguese along the coast of Africa received a considerable check, as the military ardour of Alphonzo the Fifth was principally directed to the support of his pretensions to the throne of Castile, the circumstances of which are unconnected with the plan of this work. King Alphonzo was not however entirely inattentive to the trade for gold and slaves, which his illustrious uncle Don Henry had commenced with that part of Africa which is now called Guinea. The origin of this name of Guinea, or Ghinney, is unknown. It is not in use among the natives, and seems to have been imposed by the Portuguese from the appellation of Ghenchoa, given to a country on the south side of the Senegal, as first mentioned by Leo and afterwards by Marmol. Ever since the year 1453, as already mentioned, considerable importations of gold had been made to Portugal from the coast of Africa; but little or no progress had been made in extending the discoveries farther south, for some time previous to the decease of Don Henry. In 1470, King Alphonzo sailed with a considerable army, in a fleet of above 300 ships, and carried the strong fort of Arzila on the Atlantic coast of Africa, a little way to the south of the Straits of Gibraltar. But of his military exploits in Africa, from which he acquired the appellation of Africanus, and assumed the additional title of Lord of the coasts on both seas, our present purpose does not call for any recital. In 1479, the disputes between the crowns of Portugal and Castile were compromised by a treaty entered into by Alphonzo V. king of Portugal, and Ferdinand king of Castile; by which the trade of Guinea, and the navigation of its coast, with the proposed conquest of Fez, were guaranteed to Portugal, and the Canary islands were annexed to the crown of Castile.

From the want of any accurate history of the progress of the Portuguese discoveries, it is utterly impossible to determine the dates or circumstances of many of the progressive discoveries along the western coast of Africa, and of its islands. In 1469, Alphonzo farmed the Guinea trade for five years to Fernando Gomez, for the yearly rent of 500 ducats, or about 138 pounds; taking him bound at the same time to extend the discoveries for 500 leagues to the southwards during the period of his exclusive privilege. In 1471, according to Marmol, Juan de Santareu and Pedro de Escobar, discovered the Oro de la Mina, or the Gold coast; and advancing still farther, under the guidance of two experienced pilots, Martin Fernandez and Alvaro Esteves, they discovered Cabo Catalina, or Cape St Catherine, in lat. 1° 40' S. This promontory, which is thirty-one leagues to the south of Cabo de Lope Gonzales, derived its name from the day of the saint on which it was first seen, and forms the northern boundary of the great kingdom of Congo. The discovery of this cape is assigned by some writers to Sequiera, a knight belonging to the royal household.

The celebrated Portuguese historian, Emanuel de Faria, in his Asia Portuguesa, has recorded all the Portuguese voyages, from their first attempts under Don Henry, to their developement of China and Japan, and has even left an account of all the ships that sailed from Lisbon for Africa and Asia, down to the year 1600; but was unable to ascertain the dates of many important events. Neither he nor De Barros have been able to remove the uncertainty respecting the first discovery of the island of St Thomas on the coast of Africa, the south end of which touches the equinoctial. During the remainder of the reign of Alphonzo, the line of coast, from Cape Verga in lat. 10° N. to Cape St Catherine in 1° 40' S. was much frequented by the Portuguese. Of this coast an ample account has been given by Dapper and Barbot, chiefly following a tract published by Gotard Artus of Dantzick, which is to be found in De Bry's Collection, and that of David von Nyendael and others. This was the work of a Dutch navigator, which was first translated into German, and thence by Artus into Latin. But our peculiar department is confined to actual voyages and travels, and the progress of discovery; and it would both much exceed our proper limits, and would be an entire deviation from our plan of arrangement, to admit lengthened geographical and topographical disquisitions; which, so far as they are at all admissible, must be reserved for the more particular voyages and travels, after those of general discovery have been discussed.

There are four principal islands in the Gulf of Guinea, or Bight of Biafra, as it is usually called by English navigators, Ferdinand Poo, Prince's isle, St Thomas, and Annobon, the discovery of which have been related as follows by Barbot, and his account seems the most probable.[2] Fernando Lopez discovered the first of these in 1471, in lat. 3° 40' N. giving it the name of Ilha formosa, or the Beautiful Island, which was afterwards changed to that of Fernando Poo, which it still retains. In an account of the kingdom of Congo, in Churchill's Collection, viii. 527, more properly named the Oxford Collection, or that of Osborne, v. 2. This island, and a river on the coast of the continent of Africa, directly east, now called Cameroon River, are said to have taken their names of Fernando Poo from their first discoverer. Some writers assign the discovery of these four islands, and that of St Matthew, to Fernando Gomez, who formed the Guinea trade. Perhaps they were discovered under his auspices, by the navigators whom he employed. This island is composed of very high land, easily seen at a great distance, and the Portuguese had formerly sugar plantations upon it. The Ilha do Principe, or Prince's Island, in lat. 1° 30' N. was either discovered by Fernando Lopez, or by Santaren and Escobar, about the same period, and probably received its name in honour of the illustrious prince, Don Henry. This island is described as consisting of high table mountains, pyramidal at their bases, and visible at the distance of twenty leagues; being about nine leagues long by five leagues broad. It is said to abound in oranges, lemons, bananas, cocoa-nuts, sugar-canes, rice, many species of sallad herbs; and to be susceptible of producing the European grains. The mandioca, or root of the cassada plant, is generally used for bread, of which the juice while raw is said to be a virulent poison; while its meal, or rasped root, after the malignant juice is carefully pressed out, is used for bread. The inhabitants also have sheep, hogs, goats, and an immense number of poultry; but these have probably been introduced by the Portuguese.

The Ilha de San Thome, or island of St Thomas, which is said to have received its name from the saint to whom the chapel of the great monastery of Thomar is dedicated, and to which all the African discoveries are subjected in spirituals, has its southern extremity almost directly under the equinoctial, and is a very high land of an oval shape, about fifteen leagues in breadth, by twelve leagues long.

The most southerly of these islands, in lat. 1° 30' S., now called Annobon, was originally named Ilha d'Anno Bueno, or Island of the Happy Year, having been discovered by Pedro d'Escovar, on the first day of the year 1472. At a distance, this island has the appearance of a single high mountain, and is almost always topt with mist. It extends about five leagues from north to south, or rather from N. N. W. to S. S. E. and is about four leagues broad, being environed by several rocks and shoals. It has several fertile vallies, which produce maize, rice, millet, potatoes, yams, bananas, pine-apples, citrons, oranges, lemons, figs, and tamarinds, and a sort of small nuts called by the French noix de medicine, or physic nuts.[3] It also furnishes oxen, hogs, and sheep, with abundance of fish and poultry; and its cotton is accounted excellent.

Including the voyages of Cada Mosto and Pedro de Cintra, which have been already detailed, as possibly within the period which elapsed between the death of Don Henry in 1463, and King Alphonzo, which latter event took place on the 28th August 1481, and the detached fragments of discovery related in the present Section, we have been only able to trace a faint outline of the uncertain progress of Portuguese discovery during that period of eighteen years, extending, as already mentioned, to Cape St Catherine and the island of Annobon. A considerable advance, therefore, had been made since the lamented death of the illustrious Don Henry; which comprehended the whole coast of Guinea, with its two gulfs, usually named the Bights of Benin and Biafra, with the adjacent islands, and extending to the northern frontier of the kingdom of Congo.[4] If the following assertion of de Barros could be relied on, we might conclude that some nameless Portuguese navigators had crossed the line even before the death of Don Henry; but the high probability is, that the naval pupils of that illustrious prince continued to use his impress upon their discoveries, long after his decease, and that the limits of discovery in his time was confined to Cape Vergas. Some Castilians, sailing under the command of Garcia de Loaysa, a knight of Malta, landed in 1525 on the island of St Matthew, in two degrees of southern latitude.[5] They here observed that it had been formerly visited by the Portuguese, as they found an inscription on the bark of a tree, implying that they had been there eighty-seven years before.[6] It also bore the usual motto of that prince, talent de bien faire.

In the paucity of authentic information respecting these discoveries, it seems proper to insert the following abstract of the journal of a Portuguese pilot to the island of St Thomas, as inserted by Ramusio, previous to the voyage of Vasco de Gama, but of uncertain date; although, in the opinion of the ingenious author of the Progress of Maritime Discovery, this voyage seems to have been performed between the years 1520 and 1540. In this state of uncertainty, it is therefore made a section by itself, detached in some measure from the regular series of the Portuguese discoveries.

[1] Astley, I. 15. Clarke, I. 290. Purchas, I. Harris, I. 664.
[2] Clarke, I. 295.
[3] These may possibly be the nuts of the Ricinus Palma Christi, from which the castor oil is extracted.--E.
[4] Strictly speaking the northern limits of Loango, one of the divisions of the extensive kingdom of Congo, is at the Sette river, ten leagues S.S. E. from Cape St Catherine.--E.
[5] There is no island of that name in this position; so that the island of St Matthew of de Barros must refer to Annobon.--E.
[6] These dates would throw back the discovery of this island, and the passage of the line by the mariners of Don Henry, to the year 1438, at a time when they had not reached the latitude of 25° N. which is quite absurd.--E.



Volume 2, Chapter 5, Section 2 -- Voyage of a Portuguese Pilot from Lisbon to the Island of St. Thomas.[1]

Before I left Venice, I was requested by letter from Signior Hieronimo Fracastro of Verona, that, on my arrival at Conde, I would send him an account of my voyage to San Thome, to which island our ships often sail for cargoes of sugar. The passage of the equinoctial line, under which that island, is situated, appeared to that gentleman so extraordinary a circumstance as to merit the attention of men of science; and you likewise made me a similar request. I began, therefore, immediately after my return, to draw up an account of my voyage, from those notes which we pilots usually keep of all occurrences, and I compared it in my progress with the journals of some friends who had formerly made the same voyage. When I afterwards attentively perused my manuscript, it did not appear to me worthy of being communicated to a gentleman of such scientific character as Signor Hieronimo, whose talents I had duly appreciated, by the perusal of his publications, which I received from you before my departure from Venice. I therefore laid my manuscript aside, not wishing that any one might peruse it; but as you have again urged the performance of my promise, I now anxiously obey a request which, as coming from you, I must always consider a command. Apprehensive, likewise, of appearing forgetful of your polite attentions, I prefer the danger of exposing my ignorance, to the possibility of being charged with ingratitude or want of attention. Being a sailor, and unused to composition, I pretend to little more than copying the remarks of those who have sailed from our continent to Ethiopia, without attempting to reduce my narrative into lucid order, or to embellish it with fine writing. You will therefore have the goodness to destroy this account, after its perusal, that the errors I have committed, by compliance with your commands, may not draw upon me the imputation of presumption.

The Portuguese ships which sail to the island of St. Thomas from Lisbon, for cargoes of sugar, usually put to sea in February, though some vessels make this voyage at every period of the year. Their course is S.S.W. until they reach the Canary Islands; after which they steer for the island of Palmas, which is opposite to Cape Bojador on the coast of Africa, and is about ninety leagues from the kingdom of Castile. This island has plenty of provisions, and abounds in wine and sugar. The north- west wind prevails most, and a great sea rages continually on its coast, particularly in the month of December.[2]

If the ships which are bound for the island of St Thomas find it necessary to obtain a quantity of salt, after having taken on board a sufficient supply at the island of Sal, they steer for the coast of Africa at the Rio del Oro; and if they have calm weather and a smooth sea, they catch as many fish in four hours, with hooks and lines, as may suffice for all their wants during the remainder of the voyage. But, if the weather is unfavourable for fishing at the Rio del Oro, they proceed along the coast to Cape Branco; and thence along the coast to the island of Arguin. The principal sorts of fish on this coast are pagros, called albani by the Venetians; likewise corvi and oneros, which latter are only a larger and darker-coloured species of pagros. As soon as taken, the fish are opened and salted, and serve as an excellent supply of provisions to navigators. All the coast of Africa, from Cape Bojador, otherwise called Cabo della Volta, as far as Cape Branco and even to Arguin, is low and sandy. At Arguin, which is inhabited by Moors and Negroes, and which is situated on the confines between these two nations, there is a capacious harbour, and a castle belonging to our king of Portugal, in which some Portuguese always reside with the royal agent.

On leaving the island of Sal, our ships steer next for St Jago, another of the Cape Verd islands. This island is situated in fifteen degrees on the equinoctial and thirty leagues towards the south.[3]It is seventeen leagues long, and has a city on the coast, with a good harbour called Ribiera Grande, or the Great River, now St Jago. From two high mountains, one on each side, a large river of fresh water flows into the harbour; and, from its source, full two leagues above the city, its banks are lined on each side with gardens, having fine groves of oranges, cedars, pomegranates, several sorts of figs, and the cocoa-nut palm, which has been long planted on this island. It produces all kinds of vegetables in great abundance and perfection; but they do not afford good seeds, so that it is necessary to procure these every year from Europe. The city is on the south coast of the island, and is well built of stone, being inhabited by about 500 families of distinction, Portuguese and Castilians. Its government is entrusted to a corregidor or governor, appointed by the king of Portugal; and two judges are chosen annually, one for the determination of naval and maritime causes, and the other for regulating the police. This island is very mountainous, and is very barren in many parts, which are entirely destitute of wood; but its vallies are fertile and well cultivated. In June, when the sun enters Cancer, the rains are so incessant that the Portuguese call that month La Luna de las Aquas, or the Water Month. Their seed-time begins in August, when they sow maize, called miglio zaburo. This is a white bean, which is ready to be gathered in forty days, and is the chief food of these islanders, and of all the inhabitants of the coast of Africa.[4] They also sow much rice and cotton; the latter of which comes to great perfection, and is manufactured into striped cloths, which are exported to the country of the Negroes, and bartered for black slaves.

To give a distinct view of the commercial transactions with the Negroes, it is proper to inform you that the western coast of Africa is divided into several countries and provinces, as Guinea, Melegote,[5] the kingdom of Benin, and the kingdom of Manicongo. Over all this extent of coast, there are many Negro kings or chiefs, whose subjects are Mahometans and idolaters, and who are continually at war with each other. These kings are much respected by their subjects, almost to adoration, as they are believed to have originally descended from heaven. When the king of Benin dies, his subjects assemble in an extensive plain, in the centre of which a vast pit or sepulchre is dug, into which the body is lowered, and all the friends and servants of the deceased are sacrificed and thrown into the same grave, thus voluntarily throwing away their own lives in honour of the dead. On this coast there grows a species of melegete, extremely pungent like pepper, and resembling the Italian grain called sorgo. It produces likewise a species of pepper of great strength, not inferior to any of that which the Portuguese bring from Calicut, under the name of Pimienta del rabo, or Pepe dalla coda, and which African pepper resembles cubbebs, but so powerful that an ounce will go farther than a pound of the common sort; but its exportation is prohibited, lest it should injure the sale of that which is brought from Calicut.[6] There is also established on this coast a manufacture of an excellent kind of soap from palm-oil and ashes, which is carried on for the king's account. All the trade of this coast, to the kingdom of Manicongo exclusively, is farmed out every four or five years to the highest bidder. Great Negro caravans bring gold and slaves to the stations on the coast. The slaves are either prisoners taken in war, or children whom their parents have parted with in the hope of their being carried to a more fertile country. For above ninety years after the first discovery of this coast, the Portuguese merchants were accustomed to enter the large rivers by which the country is everywhere intersected, trading independently with the numerous tribes inhabiting their banks; but now the whole of this commerce is in the hands of stationary licensed factors, to whom it is farmed.

On quitting St Jago we steer southerly for the Rio Grande, which is on the north of Ethiopia, beyond which we come to the high mountain of Sierra Liona, the summit of which is continually enveloped in mist, out of which thunder and lightning almost perpetually flashes, and is heard at sea from the distance of forty or fifty miles. Though the sun is quite vertical in passing over this mountain, and extremely hot, yet the thick fog is never dissipated. In our voyage we never lose sight of land, yet keep always at a considerable distance, carefully observing the declination of the sun, and keeping a southerly course till we arrive in four degrees on the equinoctial,[7] when we suddenly change our course to the south-east, keeping the Ethiopian coast always on our left hand in our way to the island of St Thomas. On this coast, between the tropic and the equinoctial, we never meet with any hard gales, as storms are very rarely found within the tropics. On nearing the land, the soundings in many parts of the coast do not exceed fifty braccia, but farther out the depth rapidly increases, and the sea usually runs high at a distance from the land. When we arrived at Rio del Oro, as mentioned before, we observed four stars in the form of a cross, of an extraordinary size and splendour, elevated thirty degrees above the antarctic pole, and forming the constellation called il Crusero. While under the tropic of Cancer, we saw this constellation very low; and, on directing our balestra[8] to the lowermost of these stars, we found it to be directly south, and concluded that it must be in the centre of the antarctic polar circle. We observed the same constellation very high when we were at the island of St Thomas; and remarked that the moon, after rain, produces a rainbow similar to that occasioned by the sun during the day, except that the colours were dim and ill-defined. On leaving the straits of Gibraltar, I did not observe any sensible change on the ebb and flow of the sea; but when we approached Rio Grande, which is eleven degrees to the north of the equinoctial, we observed a considerable tide at the mouth of that river, and the rise in some places was much the same as on the coast of Portugal, whereas at the isle of St Thomas it was nearly the same as at Venice.

The island of St Thomas was discovered above eighty[9] years ago, by some captains in the royal navy of Portugal, and was altogether unknown to the ancients. Its horizon or parallel passes at an equal distance between the arctic and antarctic poles, and its days and nights are always equal. The arctic polar star is there invisible, but the guardiani are seen in some measure to revolve, and the constellation which is known by the name of il crusero, is seen in the heavens at a high altitude. To the eastwards[10] of St Thomas, and at the distance of 120 miles, the small island called Il Principe is situated. This latter island is inhabited and cultivated, the produce of its sugar canes belonging to the revenue of the king's eldest son, from which circumstance the island derives its name. To the S. S. W. or S. and by W. and in the latitude of almost 2° S. is the uninhabited island of Annobon, on which numbers of crocodiles and venomous serpents are found. Its rocky shores abound in fish, and are much resorted to by the inhabitants of St Thomas on that account. When first discovered, the island of St Thomas was an entire forest, containing a variety of trees, which, though barren, were extremely verdant. These trees were all remarkably tall and straight, their branches all drawn close to the stems, and not spreading out as with us. After clearing away a great part of the forest, the inhabitants built a principal town called Pouoasan, which has an excellent harbour. The principal dependence of the settlers in this island is upon their sugars, which they exchange yearly with the merchants who trade thither, for flour in barrels, wines, oil, cheese, leather, swords, glass beads, drinking-cups, pater-nosters, and buzios, which are a small kind of shells, called by the Italians white porcelain, and which pass in Ethiopia as money. The Europeans who reside on this island depend much for provisions on the ships, as they cannot subsist on the fare used by the Negroes. The slaves employed in their sugar plantations are procured from Guinea, Benin, and Congo; and some rich planters have from 150 to 300 Negroes. These work five days in every week for their masters, and are allowed the Saturdays to themselves, when they cultivate various articles of provision, as the miglio zaburo, a species of bean formerly mentioned, a root called igname, and many species of culinary vegetables, the seeds of which must be imported from Europe, as they do not come to perfection in this climate.

[Illustration: Chart of North Western Africa]

The soil of St Thomas consists of a red and yellow marl, or clay, of great fertility, which is kept soft and mellow by the heavy dews which fall nightly, contributing greatly to vegetation, and preventing it from being dried up by the great heats; and so great is the luxuriant fertility of the soil, that trees immediately spring up on any spots left uncultivated, and will grow as high in a few days as would require as many months with us. These sprouts are cut down and burnt by the slaves, and their ashes are used as manure for the sugarcanes. If planted in January, the canes are ready to be cut in June, and those which are planted in February become ripe in July; and in this manner they keep up a succession throughout the whole year. In March and September, when the sun is vertical, the great rains set in, accompanied with cloudy and thick weather, which is of great service to the sugar plantations. This island produces yearly above 150,000 arobas of sugar, each containing thirty-one of our pounds, of which the king receives the tenth part, which usually produces from 12,000 to 14,000 arobas, though many of the planters do not pay this tythe fully. There are about sixty ingenios driven by water, for bruising the canes and pressing out the juice, which is boiled in vast chaldrons, after which it is poured into pans in the shape of sugar-loaves, holding from fifteen to twenty pounds each, in which it is purified by means of ashes. In some parts of the island, where they have not streams of water, the canes are crushed by machines worked by the Negroes, and in others by horses. The bruised canes are given to the hogs, which hardly get any other food, yet fatten wonderfully, and their flesh is so delicate and wholesome as to be preferred to that of poultry. Many sugar refiners have been brought here from Madeira, on purpose to endeavour to manufacture the sugars of St Thomas more white and harder than its usual produce, but in vain. This is alleged to proceed from the extreme richness of the soil injuring the quality of the sugar; just as with us, wines produced in soils of too great fertility are apt to have a peculiar flavour. Another cause of this is supposed to proceed from the climate of the island being too hot and too moist, except in the month of June, July, and August, at which season a fresh dry wind blows from Ethiopia to this island; and they then make their best sugars.

The planters are obliged to ship off their sugars as soon as they can procure shipping, because they would become liquid if attempted to be kept for a length of time. At present, not above two-thirds of the island are appropriated to the cultivation of sugar; but any person who comes to this island for the purpose of settling, whether from Spain or Portugal, or any other country, may procure from the royal intendant as much land as he is able to cultivate, and at a moderate price. The esculent root which is known in the Spanish islands by the name of batata, is here named ingame by the Negroes, and is their principal food, either boiled or roasted under the ashes. There are different kinds of this root produced on the island, but that which is known by the name of igname cicorero is preferred by the merchant vessels, all of which purchase considerable quantities as a sea-stock for their homeward voyage, and the Negroes cultivate them largely for the express purpose of supplying the ships.[11] This island is distinguished by a high mountain in the middle, thickly covered by tall, straight, and verdant trees, and its summit is continually enveloped in clouds, whence water is diffused in numerous streams all over the island. A large shallow stream flows through the city of Pouoasan, supplying it with abundance of excellent water, which the inhabitants reckon of a medicinal quality, and allege that St Thomas would not be habitable if it were not for this river and its other numerous springs and rivulets. The native trees are chiefly barren, and though some olives, peaches, and almonds, were planted by the early settlers, which soon grew with great luxuriance, they never bore any fruit, and this has been the case with all stone fruits that have been tried. But the cocoa-nut palm, brought hither from Ethiopia, has thriven satisfactorily. Repeated attempts have been made to cultivate wheat, but always unsuccessfully, though tried at different seasons of the year; as the ear would never fill, but always ran up to straw and chaff only.

In March and September, the sky is always overcast with clouds and mists, and continual rains prevail, which season is considered by the inhabitants as their winter. In May, June, July, and August, which they call Mesi di Vento, or windy months, the prevalent winds are from the south, southeast, and southwest; but the island is sheltered by the continent from the north, northeast, and northwest winds; The summer months are December, January, and February, when the heat is excessive, and the atmosphere being continually loaded with vapour, occasions the air to feel like the steam of boiling water. The shores of this island abound in many kinds of fish, and, during the months of June and July, the inhabitants catch a kind which they name le chieppe, which are singularly delicate. In the seas between this island and the coast of Africa, there are prodigious multitudes of whales, both of the large and small kinds.--Should you, Sir, be unsatisfied with my ill-written and confused information, I beg of you to consider that I am merely a seaman, unpracticed in literary composition.

[1] Ramusio. Clarke I. 298. This voyage was communicated by the relator to Count Raimond della Torre, a nobleman of Verona.--Clarke.
[2] A description of the islands of Cape Verd, and an account of the supply of salt usually taken on board by the Portuguese ships at the island of Sal, for the purpose of laying in a sea store of salt fish, is here omitted.--Clarke.
[3] This geographical expression is utterly unintelligible, but may be a strange mode of denoting its latitude, which is 15° N. but I know not what to make of the thirty leagues towards the south, unless the author meant that it was thirty leagues in extent from north to south, and seventeen leagues from east to west.--E.
[4] The description in the text is not applicable to maize, and must refer to some species of bean, or kidney-bean.--E.
[5] Called likewise Maleguette, and named also the Grain-Coast and the Pepper-Coast. Manicongo is obviously the kingdom of Congo.--E.
[6] Some of this is smuggled and sold in England.--Clarke.
This Guinea pepper is probably that now known under the name of Jamaica pepper; but the extremely pungent kind must be some of the numerous species of capsicums, usually called Cayenne pepper.--E.
[7] This strange expression seems to imply 4° of north latitude.--E.
[8] Called likewise Balestriglia, being the Venetian name for the cross- staff, or fore-staff, an astronomical instrument which has been superseded by the quadrant and sextant.--E
[9] In an after part of this narrative, the pilot informs us, that his first voyage to the island of San Thome was in 1520, and that he made five voyages to that place. If, therefore, the date of his present voyage were fixed to 1530, it would carry us back to 1450, or even earlier, for the date of this discovery, near thirteen years before the death of Don Henry.--Clarke.
In Mr Clarkes note on this passage, he erroneously calculates on the above data that the discovery might have been in 1460, which is only seventy years back from 1530. But the result of the data in the text shews, that either the pilot was mistaken as to the real date of the discovery, or that his narrative has been corrupted, so that no reliance can be placed on his dates.--E.
[10] The direction of Il Principe, or Prince's Island, from St Thomas, is N. N. E. and the distance does not exceed seventy miles.--Clarke.
[11] These batatas are probably a different species from our potatoes, and may be what are called sweet potatoes in the West Indies; perhaps the igname cicorero is the West Indian yam. Four species of igname or batata, are mentioned in Barbot as originally from Benin, Anwerre, Mani-Congo, and Saffrance. The first of these is remarkably sweet, and the second keeps well. A variety of esculent roots might prove of high utility to navigators, and are too much neglected. Among these, the parsnip and Jerusalem artichoke deserve notice, as being very nutritive, and proof against all weathers.--Clarke.



Volume 2, Chapter 5, Section 3 -- Continuation of Portuguese Discoveries, from Cape St. Catherine to the kingdom of Congo.

We are still obliged to continue the account of the Portuguese discoveries historically, from the want of any regular journals of their early voyages along the African coast. In the original efforts of the illustrious Don Henry, although the progress was extremely slow, we have much to admire in the character of that prince, who possessed genius to stretch beyond the trammels of custom and authority, boldly thinking for himself, pointing out the way of extending the knowledge of our globe by maritime discoveries, and persevering nobly in his renewed efforts, in spite of the timid ignorance of his unexperienced pilots and mariners. But it is not easy to explain the continuance of that slow progress, which was even retarded during the years which elapsed between the demise of that prince of mariners in 1463, and that of Alphonso in 1481; when the increased experience of the Portuguese, in their frequent voyages to the new discovered Atlantic islands and African coast, ought to have inspired them with fresh vigour and extended views of discovery and commerce. The military character of Alphonso may, however, explain this in a great degree, as all his energies were directed towards the extension of dominion in the Moorish kingdom of Fez; and the business of discovery was devolved as a burdensome and unprofitable task on the farmers of the trade to the coast of Africa, which appears to have become extensive and lucrative, after the discovery of Guinea and its islands, and the establishment of the sugar colonies in these islands. We learn, likewise, from the preceding voyage of the Portuguese pilot to the island of St Thomas, that the mariners still confined themselves almost entirely to creeping along the coast, from cape to cape, and from island to island, not daring to trust themselves to the trackless ocean, under the now-sure guidance of the heavenly luminaries; but which they then did not sufficiently understand, nor did they possess sufficient instruments for directing their course in the ocean. It would appear that they had then no other method of computing the longitude but by means of the log, or dead reckoning, which is liable to perpetual uncertainty from currents and lee-way, and which a storm, even of short continuance, must have thrown into total confusion. Their instruments and methods for determining even the latitudes, appear to have then been imperfect and little understood. In the sequel of this deduction, we shall find the first Portuguese squadron which sailed for India, conducted across the Indian ocean by a Moorish pilot.

On the accession of John II. to the throne of Portugal in 1481, the discoveries along the coast of Africa were resumed with a new spirit. While infante or hereditary prince, his principal revenue was derived from the profits of the Guinea trade, and of the importation of gold from the haven of Mina; and among the first measures of his reign, he turned his attention to the improvement and extension of that valuable branch of commerce. For this purpose, he gave orders to make all necessary preparations for building a fortress and church at the port of Mina. All the requisite materials, even to stones and tiles, were accordingly shipped from Lisbon in a squadron of ten caravels and two transports, with 500 soldiers and 200 labourers or workmen of various kinds. This expedition was placed under the command of Don Diego d'Azumbuja, an experienced officer, under whom were the following naval captains: Gonçalez da Fonseca, Ruy d'Oliveira, Juan Rodrigues Gante, Juan Alfonso, Diego Rodrigues Inglez, Bartholomew Diaz, Pedro d'Evora, and Gomez Aires. This last was a gentleman belonging to the household of Pedro king of Arragon, all the others being noblemen of the household of King John. Pedro de Cintra and Fernam d'Alfonso commanded the transports, and a small vessel attended the squadron as an advice-boat. This squadron sailed on the 11th December 1481, and reached their destination on the 19th January 1482, at an African village named Aldea, where they found Juan Bernardo, who had previously sailed for the coast in quest of gold.

Bernardo was immediately sent by Azumbuja, to inform Camarança, the Negro chief of the district, with the arrival of the Portuguese armament, and to desire a conference, with directions to endeavour to impress that chief with a high sense of the rank and character of the Portuguese officers, and of the irresistible power of the armament now upon his coast. Early next morning, Azambuja landed with all his followers, who were secretly armed, in case of meeting with any hostilities from the natives; and moved forwards in great form to a large tree, not far from the Negro village of Aldea, on a spot which had been chosen as a convenient situation for the intended fortress. A flag, bearing the royal arms of Portugal, was immediately displayed upon the tree, and an altar was placed under the shade of its boughs, at which the whole company united in assisting at the first mass that was celebrated in Guinea, offering up their solemn prayers to God for the speedy conversion of the idolatrous natives, and for the perpetual continuance and prosperity of the church which was to be erected on this spot. The day on which this impressive ceremony was performed being dedicated to St Sebastian, that name was given to the valley on which the tree stood, under which they were now assembled.

Soon after the completion of this religious ceremony, Camarança approached with a numerous train. Azambuja, sumptuously dressed, and ornamented by a rich golden collar, prepared to receive the Negro chief, seated on an elevated chair, having all his retinue arranged before him, so as to form an avenue. The Negroes were armed with spears, shields, bows, and arrows, and wore a kind of helmets made of skins, thickly studded with fish teeth, giving them a very martial appearance. The subordinate chiefs were distinguished by chains of gold hanging from their necks, and had various golden ornaments on their heads, and even on their beards. After the exchange of presents, and other tokens of mutual respect and confidence, Azambuja made a speech to Camarança, through the mediation of an interpreter, in which he explained the purpose of his embassy and expedition, and used every argument he could think of, to conciliate the friendship of the Negro chief, to make him fully sensible of the power of the king of Portugal, and to reconcile him to the intended permanent establishment upon the toast. Camarança listened to the harangue, and the explanation of it by the interpreter, in respectful silence, keeping his eyes steadily fixed on the countenance of Azambuja. After which, casting his eyes for some time on the ground, as if profoundly meditating on what he had heard, he is said to have made the following guarded and judicious answer:

"I am fully sensible of the high honour done me on this occasion by your sovereign. I have always endeavoured to deserve his friendship, by dealing strictly with his subjects, and by constantly exerting myself to procure immediate ladings for their ships. Hitherto the Portuguese who have visited my country were meanly dressed, and easily satisfied with the commodities we had to give them; and so far from desiring to remain in the country, were always anxious to complete their cargoes, and to return whence they came. This day I observe a wonderful difference. A great number of persons, richly dressed, are eager for permission to build themselves houses, and to remain among us. But assuredly, persons of such rank, under the guidance of a commander who claims his descent from the God who created the day and the night, would never be able to endure the hardships of our climate, and could not procure in this country those luxuries they have been accustomed to in their own. Those passions which are common to all men, will certainly produce disputes between us; and it were much better that we should continue on the same footing as hitherto, allowing your ships to come and go as they have always done before; in which case, the desire of seeing each other occasionally, and of mutual intercourse in trade, will preserve peace between you and us. The sea and the land, which are always neighbours, are continually at variance, contending for the mastery; the sea always violently endeavouring to subdue the land, which, with equal obstinacy, defends itself against the encroachments of the sea."

The prudential jealousy and distrust displayed on this occasion by Camarança, astonished and perplexed the Portuguese commander; and it required the exercise of much address on his part, to prevail upon the Negro chief to allow the fulfilment of his orders, and to prevent the necessity of having recourse to violent measures. When the workmen were making preparations next day to lay the foundations of the intended fortress on the coast, they observed a large rock, which lay very commodious for serving them as a quarry, and accordingly proceeded to work it for that purpose. This happened unfortunately to be venerated by the Negroes as one of their Gods, and they immediately flew to arms in opposition against the sacrilegious violation of the sanctified rock, and many of the workmen were wounded, before the natives could be pacified by numerous presents. At length, after the constant labour of twenty days, the fort began to assume a formidable appearance, and received the name of Fortaleza de San Jorge da Mina, or Fort St George at Mina. In a church constructed within its walls, a solemn mass was appointed to be celebrated annually, in honour of Don Henry, Duke of Viseo, of illustrious memory. Azambuja continued governor of this place during two years and seven months, and was honoured, on his return to Portugal, with particular marks of royal favour. In 1486, King John bestowed on this new establishment all the privileges end immunities of a city.

Impressed with the great advantages that might be derived to his kingdom, through the prosecution of the maritime discoveries in Africa, and more especially by opening a passage by sea to India, of which his hopes were now sanguine, the king of Portugal, who had now added to his titles that of Lord of Guinea, made application to the pope, as universal father and lord of Christendom, for a perpetual grant of all the countries which the Portuguese had already discovered, or should hereafter discover, towards the east, with a strict prohibition against the interference of any European State in that immense field of discovery, commerce, and colonization. The pope conceded this enormous grant, probably without the most distant idea of its extent and importance: not only prohibiting all Christian powers from intruding within those prodigious, yet indefinite bounds, which he had bestowed upon the crown of Portugal, but declaring, that all discoveries that were or might be made in contravention, should belong to Portugal. Hitherto, the Portuguese navigators, in the course of their discoveries along the shores of Western Africa, had been in use to erect wooden crosses, as indications of their respective discoveries. But the king now ordered that they should erect stone crosses, about six feet high, inscribed with, the arms of Portugal, the name of the reigning sovereign, that of the navigator, and the date of the discovery.

In the year 1484, Diego Cam or Cano proceeded beyond Cape St Catherine, in lat. 1° 40' S. the last discovery of the reign of King Alphonso, and reached the mouth of a considerable river, in lat. 5° 10' S. called Zayre by the natives, now called Congo river, or the Rio Padron. Diego proceeded some distance up this river, till he met with some of the natives, but was unable to procure any satisfactory intelligence from them, as they were not understood by the Negro interpreters on board his ship. By means of signs, however, he understood that the country was under the dominion of a king who resided at a considerable distance from the coast, in a town or city called Banza, since named San Salvador by the Portuguese; on which he sent a party of his crew, conducted by the natives, carrying a considerable present far the king, and meaning to wait their return. Unavoidable circumstances, however, having protracted the return of his people far beyond the appointed time, Diego resolved to return into Portugal with an account of his discovery; and, having gained the confidence of the natives, he prevailed on four of them to embark with him, that they might be instructed in the Portuguese language, to serve as interpreters for future intercourse with this newly discovered region, and made the natives understand by means of signs, that, after the expiration of fifteen moons, these persons should be returned in safety.

These Africans were men of some consequence in their own country, and were of such quick apprehensions, that they acquired a sufficient knowledge of the Portuguese language during the voyage back to Lisbon, as to be able to give a competent account of their own country, and of the kingdoms or regions beyond it, to the southwards. The king of Portugal was much gratified by this discovery, and treated the Africans brought over by Diego with much munificence. Next year, Diego Cam returned to the river of Congo, where he landed the four natives, who carried many presents from King John to their own sovereign, and were directed to express his anxious desire that he and his subjects would embrace the Christian faith.

Having landed the Negroes, and received back his own men whom he had left on his former voyage, Diego proceeded to discover the coast to the southwards of the Congo river; leaving a respectful message for the king of Congo, that he must postpone the honour of paying his respects to him till his return from the south. The farther progress of Diego is very indefinitely related by the Portuguese historians; who say, that after a run of twenty leagues, he erected two stone crosses, as memorials of his progress, one at a cape called St Augustine, in lat. 13° S. but the other on Cape Padron, in 22° S. This last latitude would extend the discovery of Diego between the latitude of the Congo river and this high latitude, to 280 Portuguese leagues, instead of twenty. Besides, Cape Padron forms the southern point at the mouth of the river of Congo, and is only in lat. 6° 15' S. The high probability is, that the first cross erected by Diego Cam in this voyage, was at Cape Palmerinho, in lat. 9° 15' S. and the other may have been at Rocca Boa, in lat. 13° 20' S. Clarke[1] is disposed to extend the second cross to Cabo Negro, in lat. 16° S. Either influenced by his provisions running short, or desirous of forming a friendly, connection with the king of Congo, Diego measured back his way to the Congo river, where he was received in a most satisfactory manner by the sovereign of that country. The reports of his subjects who had been in Portugal, and the liberal presents which they had brought to him from King John, had made a deep impression on the mind of this African monarch. He made many inquiries respecting the Christian religion, and being highly gratified by its sublime and consolatory doctrines, perhaps influenced by the reports his subjects had brought him of its magnificent ceremonies, he appointed one of his principal noblemen, named Caçuta or Zazut, to accompany Diego Cam, as his ambassador to King John; anxiously requesting the king of Portugal to allow this nobleman and his attendants to be baptized, and that he would be pleased to send some ministers of his holy religion to convert him and his subjects from their idolatrous errors. Diego Cam arrived safely in Portugal with Caçuta; who was soon afterwards baptized by the name of John Silva, the king and queen of Portugal doing him the honour of attending on him as sponsors at the holy font; and the splendid ceremonial was closed by the baptism of his sable attendants.

Some time previous to this event, Alphonso de Aviero carried an ambassador from the king of Benin to the king of Portugal, requesting that some missionaries might be sent for the conversion of his subjects; and, although the artful conduct of that African prince threw many difficulties in the way of this mission, many of the Negroes of that country were converted. From the ambassador of Benin, the king of Portugal received information of a powerful monarch, named Organe, whose territories lay at the distance of 250 leagues beyond the kingdom of Benin, and who possessed a supremacy over all the adjacent states. Assuming Cape Lopo Gonçalves, in lat. 1° S. as the southern boundary of the kingdom of Benin, 250 Portuguese leagues would bring us to the kingdom of Benguela, or that of Jaa Caconda, about lat. 14° or 15° S. Yet some persons have strangely supposed that this king Organe or Ogané was a corruption of Jan or Janhoi, the title given by the Christians of the east to the king of Abyssinia. "But it is very difficult to account for this knowledge of Abyssinia in the kingdom of Benin, not only on account of the distance, but likewise because several of the most savage nations in the world, the Galla and Shangalla, occupy the intervening space. The court of Abyssinia did indeed then reside in Shoa, the south-east extremity of the kingdom; and, by its power and influence, might have pushed its dominion through these barbarians to the neighbourhood of Benin on the western ocean. But all this I must confess to be a mere conjecture of mine, of which, in the country itself, I never found the smallest confirmation."[2] To these observations of the celebrated Abyssinian traveller, it may be added, that the distance from Benin to Shoa exceeds six hundred Portuguese leagues.

While the king of Portugal continued to encourage his navigators to proceed to the southwards in discovering the African coast, he became anxious lest some unexpected rival might interpose to deprive him of the expected fruits of these discoveries, which had occupied the unremitting attentions of his predecessors and himself for so many years. Learning that John Tintam and William Fabian, Englishmen, were preparing, at the instigation of the Duke of Medina Sidonia, in 1481, to proceed on a voyage to Guinea, he sent Ruy de Sousa as his ambassador, to Edward IV. of England, to explain the title which he held from the pope as lord of that country, and to induce him to forbid his subjects from navigating to the coast of Africa, in which negotiation he was completely successful. He likewise used every exertion to conceal the progress of his own navigators on the western coast of Africa, and to magnify the dangers of the voyage; representing that the coast was quite inhospitable, surrounded by most tremendous rocks, and inhabited by savage cannibals, and that no vessels could possibly live in those tempestuous seas, in which every quarter of the moon produced a furious storm, except those of a peculiar construction, which had been invented by the Portuguese ship-builders.

A Portuguese pilot, who had often made the voyage to Guinea, had the temerity to assert, that any kind of ship could make this redoubted voyage, as safely as the royal caravels, and was sent for to court by the king, who gave him a public reprimand for his ignorance and presumption. Some months afterwards, the same pilot appeared again at court, and told the king, "That being of an obstinate disposition, he had attempted the voyage to Guinea in a different kind of vessel from those usually employed, and found it to be impossible." The king could not repress a smile at this solemn nonsense; yet honoured the politic pilot with a private audience, and gave him money to encourage him to propagate the deception. About this period, likewise, hearing that three Portuguese seamen, who were conversant in the navigation of the coast of Africa, had set out for Spain, intending to offer their services in that country, John immediately ordered them to be pursued as traitors. Two of them were killed, and the third was brought a prisoner to Evora, where he was broke on the wheel. Hearing that the Portuguese seamen murmured at the severity of this punishment, the king exclaimed, "Let every man abide by his own element, I love not travelling seamen."

Encouraged by the successful progress of Diego Cam in 1484 and 1485, King John became sanguine in his hopes of completing the discovery of a maritime route to India, around the continent of Africa, and determined upon using every exertion for this purpose. His first views were to endeavour to procure some information respecting India, by means of a journey overland; and with this object, Antonio de Lisboa, a Franciscan friar, together with a nameless lay companion, were dispatched to make the attempt of penetrating into India, through Palestine and Egypt. But, being ignorant of the Arabic language, these men were unable to penetrate beyond Jerusalem, whence they returned into Portugal. Though disappointed in this attempt, by the ignorance or want of enterprise of his agents, his resolution was not to be repressed by difficulties, and he resolved upon employing fresh exertions both by sea and land, for the accomplishment of his enterprise. He accordingly fitted out a small squadron under Bartholomew Diaz, a knight of the royal household, to attempt the passage by sea.

[1] Prog, of Mar. Disc. I. 329. note r.
[2] Bruce's Abyssinia, II. 105.



Volume 2, Chapter 5, Section 4 -- Discovery of the Cape of Good Hope, by Bartholomew Diaz, in 1486.[1]

For this important enterprise, Bartholomew Diaz was only supplied with two small caravels of fifty ton each, accompanied by a still smaller vessel, or tender, to carry provisions. Of these vessels, one was commanded by Bartholomew Diaz, as commodore, the second caravel by Juan Infante, another cavalier or gentleman of the court, and Pedro Diaz, brother to the commander in chief of the expedition, had charge of the tender. The preparations being completed, Bartholomew sailed in the end of August 1486, steering directly to the southwards.

We have no relation of the particulars of this voyage, and only know that the first spot on which Diaz placed a stone pillar, in token of discovery and possession, was at Sierra Parda, in about 24°40' S. which is said to have been 120 leagues farther to the south than any preceding navigator. According to the Portuguese historians, Diaz sailed boldly from this place to the southwards, in the open sea, and never saw the land again until he was forty leagues to the east of the Cape of Good Hope, which he had passed without being in sight of land. The learned geographer Major Rennel informs us that Sir Home Popham and Captain Thompson, while exploring the western coast of Africa in 1786, found a marble cross, on which the arms of Portugal were engraved, in latitude 26°37' S. near a bay named Angra Pequena. But, as the Portuguese long continued to frequent these coasts exclusively, and considered them all as belonging to their dominions under the papal grant, this latter cross, on which the inscription was not legible, may have been erected at a considerably subsequent period. At all events, the track of Diaz was far beyond the usual adventure of any former navigator, as he must have run a course of from seven to ten degrees of latitude, and at least between two or three degrees of longitude, in utterly unknown seas, without sight of land. The first land seen by Diaz is said to have been forty leagues to the eastward of the cape, where he came in sight of a bay on the coast, which he called Angra de los Vaqueros, or bay of herdsmen, from observing a number of cows grazing on the land. The distance of forty Portuguese leagues, would lead us to what is now called Struys bay, immediately east of Cabo das Agullias, which latter is in lat. 34° 50' S. and long. 20° 16' E. from Greenwich. From this place Diaz continued his voyage eastwards, to a small island or rock in the bay, which is now called Zwartkops or Algoa, in long. 27° E. on which rocky islet he placed a stone cross or pillar, as a memorial of his progress, and named it, on that account, Santa Cruz, or El Pennol de la Cruz. In his progress to this place from the Angra de los Vaqueros, he had set some Negroes on shore in different places, who had been brought from Portugal for this purpose, and who were well clothed, that they might be respected by the natives. These Negroes were likewise provided with small assortments of toys for bartering with the natives, and were especially charged to make inquiry as to the situation and distance of the dominions of Prester John. Of the fate of these Negroes we are nowhere informed, but may be well assured they would receive no intelligence respecting the subject of their inquiry, from the ignorant Hottentots and Caffres of Southern Africa.

It would appear that Diaz was still unconscious that he had reached and overpassed the extreme southern point of Africa, although now nearly nine degrees to the east of the Cape of Good Hope, and at least one degree back towards the north of his most southern range; but he may have supposed himself in a deep bite or bay of the coast, similar to the well- known gulf of Guinea. Under this impression, that he had not accomplished the grand object of his enterprize, he was anxious to continue his voyage still farther towards the east: But, as the provisions on board his two caravels were nearly exhausted, and the victualling tender under the command of his brother was missing, the crews of the caravels became exceedingly urgent to return, lest they might perish with famine. With some difficulty he prevailed on the people to continue their course about twenty-five leagues farther on, as he felt exceedingly mortified at the idea of returning to his sovereign without accomplishing the discovery on which he was sent. They accordingly reached the mouth of a river, which was discovered by Juan Infante, and was called from him, Rio del Infante, now known by the name of Great-Fish River, in about lat. 33°27' N. long. 28°20' E. The coast still trended towards the eastwards, with a slight inclination towards the north; so that, in an eastern course of about thirteen degrees, they had neared the north about six degrees, though still unsatisfied of having absolutely cleared the southern point of Africa.

From this river, the extreme boundary of the present voyage, Diaz commenced his return homewards, and discovered, with great joy and astonishment, on their passage back, the long sought for and tremendous promontory, which had been the grand object of the hopes and wishes of Portuguese navigation during seventy-four years, ever since the year 1412, when the illustrious Don Henry first began to direct and incite his countrymen to the prosecution of discoveries along the western shores of Africa. Either from the distance which the caravels had been from the land, when they first altered their course to the eastwards, or from the cape having been concealed in thick fogs, it had escaped notice in the preceding part of the voyage. At this place Diaz erected a stone cross in memory of his discovery; and, owing to heavy tempests, which he experienced off the high table land of the Cape, he named it Cabo dos Tormentos, or Cape of storms; but the satisfaction which King John derived from this memorable discovery, on the return of Diaz to Portugal in 1487, and the hope which it imparted of having opened a sure passage by sea from Europe through the Atlantic into the Indian ocean, by which his subjects would now reap the abundant harvest of all their long and arduous labours, induced that sovereign to change this inauspicious appellation for one of a more happy omen, and he accordingly ordered that it should in future be called, Cabo de boa Esperança, or Cape of Good Hope, which it has ever since retained.

Soon after the discovery of the Cape, by which shorter name it is now generally preeminently distinguished, Diaz fell in with the victualler, from which he had separated nine months before. Of nine persons who had composed the crew of that vessel, six had been murdered by the natives of the west coast of Africa, and Fernand Colazzo, one of the three survivors, died of joy on again beholding his countrymen. Of the circumstances of the voyage home we have no account; but it is not to be doubted that Diaz and his companions would be honourably received by their sovereign, after a voyage of such unprecedented length and unusual success.

[1] Clarke, I. 342.



Volume 2, Chapter 5, Section 5 -- Journey overland to India and Abyssinia, by Covilham and de Payva.[1]

Soon after the departure of Diaz, King John dispatched Pedro de Covilham and Alphonso de Payva, both well versed in the Arabic language, with orders to travel by land into the east, for the discovery of the country of Presbyter, or Prester John, and to trace the steps of the lucrative commerce then carried on with India by the Venetians for spices and drugs; part of their instructions being to endeavour to ascertain the practicability of navigating round the south extremity of Africa to the famed marts of Indian commerce, and to make every possible inquiry into the circumstances of that important navigation. Some writers have placed this journey as prior in point of time to the voyage of Diaz, and have even imagined that the navigator was directed or instructed by the report which Covilham transmitted respecting India. Of the relation of this voyage by Alvarez, which Purchas published in an abbreviated form, from a translation out of the Italian in the collection of Ramusio, found among the papers of Hakluyt, Purchas gives the following character: "I esteem it true in those things which he saith he saw: In some others which he had by relation of enlarging travellers, or boasting Abassines, he may perhaps sometimes rather mendacia dicere, than mentiri." To tell lies rather than make them.

Covilham, or Covillan, was born in a town of that name in Portugal, and went, when a boy, into Castile, where he entered the service of Don Alphonso, duke of Seville. On a war breaking out between Portugal and Castile, he returned into his native country, where he got into the household of King Alphonso, who made him a man-at-arms. After the death of that king, he was one of the guard of King John, who employed him on a mission into Spain, on account of his knowledge in the language. He was afterwards employed in Barbary, where he remained some time, and acquired the Arabic language, and was employed to negotiate a peace with the king of Tremesen. He was a second time sent into Barbary on a mission to King Amoli-bela-gegi, to procure restitution of the bones of the infant Don Fernando, in which he was successful.

After his return, he was joined in commission, as before-mentioned, with Alphonso de Payva, and these adventurous travellers left Lisbon in May 1487. Covilham was furnished with a very curious map for these times, by the Prince Emanuel, afterwards king of Portugal, which had been copied and composed, with great care and secrecy, by the licentiate Calzadilla, afterwards bishop of Viseo, assisted by Doctor Rodrigo, and a Jewish physician named Moses; which map asserted the practicability of passing by sea to India round the southern extremity of Africa, on some obscure information which had been collected by those who constructed it.

With a supply of 500 crowns in money, and a letter of credit, or bills of exchange, Covilham and De Payva went first to Naples, where their bills of exchange were paid by the son of Cosmo de Medici. From Naples they went by sea to the island of Rhodes, and thence to Alexandria in Egypt, whence they travelled as merchants to Grande Cairo, and proceeded with the caravan to Tor[2] on the Red Sea, near the foot of Mount Sinai. They here received some information respecting the trade which then subsisted between Egypt and Calicut, and sailed from that place to Aden, a trading city of Yemen, on the outside of the Straits of Babelmandeb. The travellers here separated; Covilham embarking in one vessel for India, while De Payva took his passage in another vessel bound for Suakem on the Abyssinian coast of the Red Sea, having engaged to rejoin each other at Cairo, after having carried the directions of their sovereign into effect.

The Moorish ship from Aden in which Covilham had embarked, landed him at Cananor on the coast of Malabar, whence, after some stay, he went to Calicut and Goa, being the first of the Portuguese nation who had navigated the Indian ocean; having seen pepper and ginger, and heard of cloves and cinnamon. From India he went by sea to Sofala on the eastern coast of Africa, where he is said to have examined the gold mines, and where he procured some information respecting the great island of Madagascar, called by the Moors the Island of the Moon. With the various and valuable information he had now acquired, relative to the productions of India and their marts, and of the eastern coast of Africa, he now determined to return to Egypt, that he might be able to communicate his intelligence to Portugal. At Cairo he was met by messengers from King John, informing him that Payva had been murdered, and directing him to go to Ormuz and the coast of Persia, in order to increase his stock of commercial knowledge. The two messengers from the king of Portugal whom Covilham met with at Cairo, were both Jewish rabbis, named Abraham of Beja and Joseph of Lamego. The latter returned into Portugal with letters from Covilham, giving an account of his observations, and assuring his master that the ships which sailed to the coast of Guinea, might be certain of finding a termination of the African Continent, by persisting in a southerly course; and advising, when they should arrive in the eastern ocean, to inquire for Sofala and the Island of the Moon.

Covilham and Rabbi Abraham went from Cairo, probably by sea, to Ormuz and the coast of Persia, whence they returned in company to Aden. From that place, Abraham returned by the way of Cairo to Portugal with the additional information which had been collected in their voyage to the Gulf of Persia; though some authors allege that Joseph was the companion of this voyage, and that he returned from Bassora by way of the desert to Aleppo, and thence to Portugal.

From Aden, Covilham crossed the straits of Babelmandeb to the south-eastern coast of Abyssinia, where he found Alexander the king, or negus, at the head of an army, levying tribute or contributions from his rebellious subjects of the southern provinces of his dominions. Alexander received Covilham with kindness, but more from motives of curiosity than for any expectations of advantage that might result from any connection or communication with the kingdom of Portugal. Covilham accompanied the king to Shoa, where the seat of the Abyssinian government was then established; and from a cruel policy, which subsists still in Abyssinia, by which strangers are hardly ever permitted to quit the country, Covilham never returned into Europe. Though thus doomed to perpetual exile in a strange and barbarous land, Covilham was well used. He married, and obtained ample possessions, enjoying the favour of several successive kings of Abyssinia, and was preferred to some considerable offices in the government. Frequent epistolary intercourse took place between him and the king of Portugal, who spared no expence to keep open the interesting correspondence. In his dispatches, Covilham described the several ports which he had visited in India; explained the policy and disposition of the several princes; and pointed out the situation and riches of the gold mines of Sofala; exhorting the king to persist, unremittingly and vigorously, in prosecuting the discovery of the passage to India around the southern extremity of Africa, which he asserted to be attended with little danger, and affirmed that the cape was well known in India. He is said to have accompanied his letters and descriptions with a chart, in which the cape and all the cities on the coast of Africa were exactly represented, which he had received in India from a Moor. Covilham was afterwards seen by, and intimately acquainted with Francesco Alvarez, his historian, who was sent on an embassy into Abyssinia by Emmanuel king of Portugal. Alvarez, who appears to have been a priest, calls Covilham his spiritual son, and says that he had been thirty-three years in great credit with Prette Janni, so he calls the king of Abyssinia, and all the court, during all which time he had never confessed his sins, except to GOD in secret, because the priests of that country were not in use to keep secret what had been committed to them in confession. This would protract the residence of Covilham in Abyssinia, at least to the year 1521, or 1522; but how long he may have lived there afterwards does not appear.

[1] Clarke, i. 384. Purchas, II. 1091.
[2] El Tor is on the Arabian coast of the Red Sea, near the mouth of the Bahr Assuez, or Gulf of Suez, in lat. 28° 10' N. long. 33° 36' E.--E.


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