Bartolomeu Dias (Dictionary of World Biography: Renaissance)
Article abstract: Dias was the first to command a sea expedition around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, a feat that had been attempted for more than fifty years before his success and one that led to the opening of sea trade between Portugal and the Orient.
Bartolomeu Dias, like many Portuguese explorers of his time, remains an enigma. Nothing is known about his life except for an incomplete account of his voyage around the Cape of Good Hope in 1488 and two other references regarding one previous and one subsequent voyage. He may have been related to Dinis Dias, another Portuguese captain, who also explored the African coast in search of a sea route to the Orient in 1445. Dias had at least one brother, Pedro, who accompanied him on the historic voyage around the cape. Dias was undoubtedly from a poor social class, since most seamen and explorers shared a similar humble upbringing, some of them even having criminal records.
The major reason for the lack of any solid information about Dias is that virtually all the early Portuguese explorations were conducted under strict secrecy. Portugal and Spain were in fierce competition at the time, both attempting to discover the most profitable trade route to the Orient. Since land routes from Europe through the Middle East to Asia were nearly impossible to traverse because of the Muslim Empire’s hostile monopoly of the area, a sea route around the uncharted...
(The entire section is 2456 words.)
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