Postclassical Era (500-1500)

Drake’s Journey Begins – 12/13/1577

History has recorded explorations achieved by man for centuries. When looking at the technology that is available to those seeking to explore today, one cannot help but wonder how early explorers were able to accomplish all that they did. One particular boon for exploration was that it was not limited to one nation which meant there was more of a chance of areas around the world to be discovered. Spain was known for the success of their explorers as one of them is celebrated today as a national holiday; the holiday is Columbus Day which is named after the Spanish explorer known as Christopher Columbus. Although a certain British explorer does not have a holiday named after him, what he did was an achievement in the eyes of the British people.Francis Drake was an English seaman who set sail from Plymouth, England on December 13th, 1577 with 164 men on five ships. Their assignment was to sail to the Pacific coast to acquire Spanish holdings in the New World as well as to explore the Pacific Ocean. Drake’s voyage back to Plymouth three years later marked the first time a British explorer had circumnavigated the earth. Drake had to leave behind two of his vessels in South America once he crossed the Atlantic and then with the ships remaining set forth into the Straits of Magellan. Unfortunately, several destructive storms had devastating effects on his expedition within the treacherous straits; one vessel had to sail back to England while the other was destroyed. The only ship to reach the Pacific Ocean was The Golden Hind but Drake still sailed on up the western coast of South America; Drake and his crew was able to secure a wealthy treasure vessel as well as raiding Spanish settlements.Looking for an alternative northeast route back to the Atlantic, Drake sailed up the western coast of North America. He ended up as far north as where Washington presently is, he turned back end stopped to repair his vessel in June of 1579 close to San Francisco; Drake was getting prepared for his voyage across the Pacific. He acknowledged the territory for Queen Elizabeth I and named it “Nova Albion.”The ship began its’ voyage across the Pacific in July and investigated some islands until returning to the Atlantic Ocean by rounding Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. The Golden Hind had finally arrived in Plymouth, England on September 26th, 1580 with spice, treasure and important information regarding the greatest oceans of the world. Drake had accomplished being the original captain to travel on his own vessel completely around the world. Portuguese’s explorer Ferdinand Magellan did travel three quarters of the journey around the world earlier in the century; however, he had been murdered in the Philippines which left the Basque navigator Juan Sebastian de Elcano to finish the voyage.During a visit to Drake’s ship in 1581, Queen Elizabeth I knighted the son of a tenant farmer; Francis Drake. Sir Francis Drake would soon play a pivotal part in the Spanish Armada’s defeat as well as being remembered as the most renowned of the Elizabethan seamen.

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Postclassical Era (500-1500)

Magellan Reaches The Pacific – 11/28/1520

Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan arrives with three ships at the Pacific Ocean, previously navigating through the deadly straits under South America that currently has his name; Magellan officially has become the original European explorer to sail from the Atlantic to the Pacific.Ferdinand decides to leave Spain to set sail in an attempt to discover a western sea route to reach Indonesia’s rich Spice Islands on September 20th, 1519. Magellan traveled to West Africa and continued to Brazil in control of 270 men and five ships, where Ferdinand looked through the South American coast to find a strait that would lead him to the Pacific. Trying to find a way through, he looked through a big estuary south of Brazil known as the Rio de la Plata; unsuccessful, he moved south down the coast of Patagonia. The expedition prepared winter quarters at Port St. Julian at the end of March in 1520. Eventually, the Spanish captains rebelled against Magellan at midnight on Easter day; however, the mutiny was crushed and punishment was one of the leaders was left on shore after leaving St. Julian in August while the other leader was executed. Finally, Ferdinand had found the strait he had been looking for on October 21st, 1520. Now known as the Strait of Magellan, it can be found roughly at the tip of South America, separating the continental mainland and Tierra del Fuego. Unfortunately, only three vessels made it to the passage as one had to be deserted while the other was wrecked. Navigation of the deadly strait took 38 days and when the ocean could be seen at the strait’s end, Ferdinand wept with happiness. His fleet achieved the crossing westward of the ocean in a total of 99 days; the waters were strangely peaceful in which the ocean earned the name of Pacific which comes from the Latin word pacificus meaning tranquil. The men had no food by the end and survived by eating leather parts from their gear. An expedition arrived on the island of Guam on March 6th, 1521.Only roughly being 400 miles away from the Spice Islands ten days later, the ships dropped anchor on the Philippine island of Cebu. The chief of Cebu met with Magellan and after the tribe was converted to Christianity, the chief convinced the Europeans to aid him in attacking a rival tribe on the nearby island of Mactan. Ferdinand was shot and struck by a poisoned arrow during the attack on April 27th and his retreating comrades left him to his death.The remaining two ships that held the survivors set sail to the Moluccas after Magellan’s death and filled their ships with spice. Sailing in different directions, one ship made an effort to head back through the Pacific failed. The other ship known as the Vittoria, sailed west lead by Basque navigator Juan Sebastian de Elcano. His ship traveled through the Indian Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope and finally arrived on September 6th, 1522 at the Spanish port of Sanlucar de Barrameda; they succeeded in becoming the original vessel to circumnavigate the world.       

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Postclassical Era (500-1500)

Pizarro Traps Incan Emperor Atahualpa - 11/16/1532

Today in November 16, 1532, a Spanish explorer and conquistador Francisco Pizarro led an expedition that conquered Incan empire. With less than 200 men against a few thousand, Pizarro baits Incan's emperor, Atahualpa to a banquet in his honor and afterward starts shooting at the unarmed Incans. Pizarro's men slaughtered the Incans and catch Atahualpa, compelling him to change over to Christianity before in the end murdering him. Pizarro had perfectly planned for his victory of the empire. In 1532, the Inca Empire was involved in a civil war that had crushed the population of the empire, divided them and they could no longer act like one. Atahualpa, the younger child of previous Incan ruler Huayna Capac, had quite recently ousted his half-brother Huascar and was amidst rejoining his kingdom when Pizarro landed in 1531, with the support of Spain's King Charles V. Pizarro heard of the war and started enlisting soldiers that were faithful to Huascar before he got to Incan's capital. Atahualpa and his men were outside Cajamarca when he met Pizarro. They met in a little Incan town buried in the valley of Andes. Meeting Atahualpa, Pizarro sent his sibling Hernan as an emissary to the emperor and then invited Atahualpa back to Cajamarca for a banquet to pay tribute to Atahualpa's ascendance to the throne. With Atahualpa in the mountains were 80,000 soldiers, yet he decided to attend the banquet with just 5,000 unarmed men. On getting to the feast, he met Vicente de Valverde, a monk traveling with Pizarro, while Pizarro men lay in wait. The monk Valverde advised Atahualpa to denounce his religion and acknowledge Charles V as sovereign, which he rebuffed angrily. The monk realized Atahualpa would not change his mind, and then gave the signal for Pizarro to start shooting. Caught in the middle with no way of escaping, the already frightened Incan men became an easy prey for the Spanish. Pizarro's men butchered the 5,000 Incans in only 60 minutes, with Pizarro being the only one who sustained a minor injury, a cut on his hand as he spared Atahualpa from death.Acknowledging Atahualpa was more important alive than dead, the emperor was kept in bondage while Pizarro arranged to assume control over his empire. Realizing that his captors were greedy, Atahualpa offered them a room brimming with gold and silver in return for his freedom. Pizarro agreed, however, after he got the payoff, charges of insubordination was brought up against Atahualpa. Fortunately, he was able to play his part in uniting the kingdom before Pizarro thought of him as a threat. Atahualpa was sentenced to death and was to be burned at the stake (the type of death Spanish believed pagans deserved). Eventually, Valverde offered him mercy if he would only denounce his faith and embrace Christianity, which he accepted. On August 29, 1533, Atahualpa was killed by strangling.The battle between the Spanish and the Incas continued even after the death of Atahualpa. However, Pizarro's triumph at Cajamarca paved way for European colonization of South America and ended the Inca Empire. 

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Postclassical Era (500-1500)

Christopher Columbus Starts Expedition – 8/3/1492

It was on this day, August 3rd, in 1492 that Italian explorer, Christopher Columbus, set sail on one of the most famous explorations known to man, although it was a “failure.” He was in charge on three different ships: the Santa Maria, Pinta and Nina. The expedition was in hopes to find the islands of Asia, which rumored to have good gold and spice resources, as well as finding a sea route to China and India. After a couple months of sailing, Columbus stumbled upon the first land, which was somewhere near the Watling Island of the Bahamas, although he thought it was Spain. Not long after, he discovered more land that he thought was China, although it was Cuba. One month later, he landed on what he thought was Japan, although he was really on Hispaniola. In Hispaniola, he set up a small colony with 39 others that were traveling with him. When he returned to Spain, he had gold, spice and he had taken captive of some “Indians.” The Spanish court honored him with the highest honors for his expedition.Columbus was the first person in Europe to explore the Americas, although he thought it was something different, since Greenland and Newfoundland were explored by the Vikings in the 10th century.Columbus would later go on more expeditions to places that hadn’t really been touched by his area. Throughout his lifespan, he would end up going on a total of four expeditions to what was known as the New World. In his journeys, he would discover a number of islands in the Caribbean, as well as the Gulf of Mexico, South American mainland, Central American mainland and others. His main goal was always the same, though. That was to find a route to the amazing cities that were located in Asia. It was a goal he set for himself, but would never live to tell the tale.Christopher Columbus would later die in 1506 without knowing what he really did for Europe. He had seen his expeditions as a failure since he never truly found Asia. However, what he did find was the New World, an area unknown to Spain. Their resources there would help turn Spain into one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations on Earth at that time.Since then, people have shown criticism over Christopher Columbus for the way he treated “Indians.” Many people don’t think he is worthy of all of the praise he receives every year, especially since we now have a certain day dedicated to him in celebration of his travels.Despite the criticism, he did do a lot of good for Spain, although it would all come after his death. If they are finding it hard to give him praise, at least look at the good he did, which was help turn that nation into something special by devoting his life to traveling and exploration. Especially noting that they didn’t have the technology or transportation that we have now-a-days. That was remarkable. 

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