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The Greatest People in History and What We Can Learn from Them - Christopher Columbus the Explorer

Updated on May 23, 2013

One of the Greatest People in History - Christopher Columbus


Replicas of Columbus' Ships


The Greatest People in History - Christopher Columbus

Columbus, the Explorer Who Established the Link Between the Western and Eastern Hemispheres

Columbus, the discoverer of the New World was one of many explorers who had designs on finding a new path to the merchandise and wealth of the area called the 'Indies' in the far east, of which Constantinople was the trade center between Europe and Asia. It is widely believed that in the 15th century, the world was thought to be flat, but in actual fact, many explorers were beginning to suspect that the world was round. Columbus was a part of this new way of thinking and along with other sailors and explorers, he believed that if he sailed west he would eventually reach the wealth laden east. The truth is, if Columbus hadn't attempted the voyage first as he believed was his god-given right, it wouldn't have taken long for another explorer to etch their name in the annals of history by discovering the Americas. Thus by perseverance and faith, Christopher Columbus changed the world drastically and became one of the greatest people in history in the process.

The Vikings Were First

Evidence has been found that Vikings visited the New World around the year 1000 and settled for a short time on the coast of North America, however, for unknown reasons they remained only for a short time before leaving. This previous discovery by the Vikings was never known by the Europeans though. As far as they knew, they were the first.

The Great Need for the Discovery of a New Route to the East

When Columbus was 2 years old, the seeds of his greatness were already being sown in the form of the Ottoman invasion and take-over of the trade center between the East and West, Constantinople. Suddenly, Europeans had no access to the merchandise and wealth of what they called the Indies - the area of India, China, the East Indies, and Japan.

This was serious.

In the Indies was a vast supply of gold, silk, gems and spices, the luxuries of European life, and the goods that had made many traders wealthy overnight. At first, traders managed to get around this problem by sailing around the tip of Africa and sailing East across the Indian Ocean. Soon though, Europeans began dreaming of reaching the East by sailing West across the Atlantic Ocean and this was the opportunity that the ever-persistent Columbus had been waiting for. This was his opportunity to become one of the greatest people in history, no doubt that was one reason for his undoubtedly resolute efforts.

The Four Voyages of Christopher Columbus

Purple - 1st, green - 2nd, yellow - 3rd, red - 4th
Purple - 1st, green - 2nd, yellow - 3rd, red - 4th | Source

The Birth and Upbringing of One of the Greatest people in History

Christopher Columbus was born in the fall of the year 1451, in Genoa, Italy and little is known of Columbus' early life except that Genoa remained his home until he was about 25. His father was a woolen weaver, and his mother was the daughter of a weaver. Christopher and his brothers, Bartholomew and Diego, were trained as apprentices and it was their resourcefulness that often saved their neglectful father from ruin.

Genoa was a fishing port and the perfect location for an aspiring sailor to learn his trade. It was the beginning of the legacy of Christopher Columbus, the explorer and at the young age of 14 Columbus was piloting his own small boat. His first taste of adventure and no doubt part of the reason for his obsession for exploration came when as a 14 year old he completed 2 long voyages, one to an island in the Aegean and another across the Mediterranean to Africa. He was also known for his 'little exaggerations,' a name coined by his friends for his imaginary journeys and embellishments throughout his life. He was showing signs of all the prerequisites required to become an explorer, imagination, daring, initiative, and a thirst for exploration - all the things that would see him labeled as one of the greatest people in history by many.

Columbus' Many Names

It would have surprised Columbus to know that he would go down in history as Christopher Columbus, as this was not the name he called himself. Columbus signed many different variations of his name throughout his lifetime such as, Colombo, Colomo, Colom, and Colon. However, the name he was most fond of was Christophe Colon and this was the name he favored the most once his adventures at sea had earned him fame.

Asking the Spanish King and Queen for Support


The Santa Maria at Anchor












Meeting the Natives


Persistence Leads to Success for Columbus

Obstacle One: When Columbus was 25 he set sail from Genoa with a fleet of five caravels - sturdy ships the Portuguese had invented that were known for their ability to sail against the wind. The fleet was carrying merchandise to be sold up north along the Atlantic coast of Europe but one the of the first and greatest obstacles of Columbus' life was to confront him just after he had sailed past the Gibraltar Strait. Lying in wait for his fleet were thirteen Portuguese and French men-of-war ships to pounce upon them and in the ensuing battle, Columbus' entire fleet was sunk and he was left among the debris clinging to an oar, wounded and alone.

Despite his predicament, that fateful day would, incredibly, contribute to his success as an explorer as he washed up on the shores of the one land where he could perfect the skills that would soon make him one of the most outstanding navigators and greatest people in history, Portugal.

The Portuguese nursed Columbus back to health and when he was better he headed right for Lisbon - the world's greatest seaport. For many years the Portuguese had been the world's most powerful and adventurous seafarers, forging into the unknown territories of the South Atlantic, establishing towns along the coasts of Africa, and discovering new islands in its adjoining seas.

Obstacle Two: At the age of 22 Columbus, due to his lack of any schooling, was completely illiterate. However, he didn't allow that to stop him in his pursuit of the education he needed in order to become an exceptional person and Admiral. In Lisbon he learned mathematics, astronomy, navigation, and Spanish and Portuguese. He studied geography, as best it could be studied in the early 15th century. That meant primarily that he studied the works of Ptolemy, an Egyptian geographer who lived during the 100's AD. Ptolemy's map showed that most of the world was covered by land. From his studies, Columbus began to formulate a plan to sail to the West Indies. From this, we see that becoming one of the world's greatest people in history was certainly no formality, on the contrary, Columbus made the best of each situation as we all should.

Obstacle Three: In the mid 1480's Columbus decided it was time to put into action, his plan to Sail to the West Indies, however, there was one more obstacle which he was required to overcome and it was to be the toughest of all the obstacles. Financial backing and that kind of financial muscle could only come from a King. The obvious choice, to begin with was the King of Portugal as not only were they his adopted country, but also current masters of sea exploration. After reviewing his plan, the King rejected it. This didn't discourage Columbus and he then approached Spain with the plan and was again rejected, after a two year wait much to his annoyance.

It would be over six years between the time Columbus first proposed his voyage and the time Spain conquered Granada. But in those six years, Columbus refused to let his dream die. He sent his brother Bartholomew to appeal to the King of England, Henry VII. Henry too consulted his experts but they called the plan "a joke." Next Bartholomew tried King Charles VIII of the France. He too found the plan insensible and expensive.

During his wait to have his plan accepted, Columbus continued to study and read in order to increase his knowledge and skills. He drew extensive maps and he pored over the Bible, looking for clues as to the design of the globe. Perhaps his favorite book was The Travels of Marco Polo, which he always carried with him on his voyages. Marco Polo had traveled to Asia overland two hundred years before and had returned with glorious reports of the riches of Kublai Khan and his empire.

To become one of the greatest people in history then, Columbus toiled and perhaps most importantly of all - had faith. Without faith, would he have discovered the Americas?

Christopher Columbus Claiming the Americas


Christopher Columbus Museum in Spain

Christopher Columbus Museum:
Christopher Columbus Museum, C/ Colón, S/N, 47005 Valladolid, Spain

get directions

Learn From one of the Greatest People in History

The Discovery

Finally, when Columbus was 41 years old, Spain won their war against the Moors and were free, financially. Despite being warned by their advisers king Ferdinand and queen Isabella decided to take a chance on Columbus and they gave him the financial backing he needed. He set sail on August 3 from a small port in southwestern Spain called Palos and eventually discovered the Americas on October 12, and not a moment too soon as his men were on the verge of mutiny.

A Lesson from Columbus:

Pursue your dream no matter how many obstacles and how much opposition you may be faced with on the journey to it's attainment. It worked out that Columbus' challenges actually better prepared him for the great journey across the Atlantic Ocean to discover the Americas. Think of those obstacles as necessary lessons that must be learned in order for you to successfully see your dream manifested before you. Pursue your dream with a vigor and eagerness and devour each and every lesson you are confronted with, because not only will you become highly knowledgeable, diligent, disciplined and educated in life, but you will also be READY to fulfill your dream. If it isn't attainable yet, that doesn't mean it is out of your reach. It merely means that you are not ready for it. Christopher Columbus was not ready for a very long time but he never stopped working to further his cause and become one of the greatest people in history.

The Greatest People in History - Christopher Columbus

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Which of the Greatest People in History do you Admire the Most, and Why?

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    • Richawriter profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard J ONeill 

      7 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Thanks again Wba for stopping by and adding to the information already here in this hub with your comment.

      In my reading and studying of Columbus I had never heard of the 2 bodies washing up on shore. Thanks for that little tid bit!

      You take care and I'll see you very soon!

      Peace. :)

    • profile image 

      7 years ago from upstate, NY

      I believe Christopher Columbus to have achieved much. The spoils go to those with the courage to pursue their dreams. The risks that the Spanish took paid off of handsomely as they became a world power due to wealth gained through trade and colonization of new lands.

      I know that columbus has taken a bad rap lately but those who critize Columbus are the same people who think the western culture to be the armpit of the world. These people like to blame everything on Europe and America so they disregard the context of history to fit their own storyline.

      Columbus had probably heard rumors of the Viking colony in Greenland and of their discoveries of new lands in the Alantic Islands. The discovery of two exotic looking people who washed ashore in the Azores, made columbus even more sure that their were poeples across the Atlantic. This occurred shortly before his first voyage to America.

    • Richawriter profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard J ONeill 

      7 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Hey Cardisa.

      Oh man, the material I used to research Columbus didn't mention anything at all about the slavery and ill-treatement of the natives and your people who were taken there. After seeing your message I was alarmed and looked up some more information on him and found that he was pro-slavery and sold slaves for profit.

      Sorry, Cardisa.

      I have to pick from so many great people and I guess sometimes there might be some negative aspect of them that I fail to see, such as with Columbus.

      To me, all people are equal. In fact I have heard that we all originate from the continent of Africa and if that is true, I'm happy. I make no distinction between colors,creeds or culture. We are all equally human.

      The problem is, there will always be powerful people who take advantage of the many weaker and poorer people. It is happening to us every second of every day through the advertising and selling of cigarettes, alcohol to fund the goverments and then the ridiculous fees imposed on us for taxes, rent, the use of clean water etc.

      Who the hell decided it was a good idea to lay claim to lands and give them names and seal them off from anyone different? The greedy few who were in power. It is happening all over our world. Where did these Demon spawn come from?

      I say do away with the borders that separate countries, do away with the nationalities, do away with the ridiculous salaries stars, sportsmen, rulers etc get and spread the wealth of the world equally.

      It belongs equally to everyone. Who has a right to say I can't go to this place and enjoy it if I have no permit and passport!

      Why do farmers make so little money? Why don't they make what football players make? Because we labeled them unimportant socially. We seem to value, above all else, social status. Movie stars are worshipped and get paid ridiculous sums yet do they have to go and study at university for 10 years as life-saving Doctors do? Nope. They are beautiful and everything we want to be, therefore it is acceptable to pay them ridiculous money! Stupid.

      If farmers were to stop producing food, the entire planet would come to a grinding halt and most would die. If the movie industry went bust, we'd all have more time and stop feeling so inadequate next to these mega pop stars.

      The world, unfortunately, Cardisa, is a place ruled by those in power and we are at the mercy of their whims. Whatever they decide, us, the good, the regulated, the good little followers doing as we are told can do nothing about it.

      There will come a time when humanity recovers and we begin giving back to the planet that has given us so much. We won't have money. We won't lay claim to lands that don't belong solely to us. All lands will be open and free to all. We will all contribute to the food supplies, growth of the race, nurturing of the planet without this curse of money that allows the powerful to keep the rest of us at their mercy.

      200 years, maybe 500 and it may happen.

      Geez I went on a bit there Cardisa. Sorry. I just wanted to show you that I do care.

      You take care Cardisa. I'll see you very soon on one of your hubs.

      Peace :)

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Richie, I am not a big fan of Christopher Columbus. I believe if he did not "discover" the New World my people would not have been enslaved. I recently wrote a poem about slavery and it was specifically about Christopher Columbus' role in the enslavement of several peoples.


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