Vasco da Gama (Dictionary of World Biography: Renaissance)
Article abstract: Da Gama was the first European during the Age of Discovery to reach India by sailing around Africa. His voyage culminated decades of Portuguese efforts at exploration and began Portugal’s era as a spice empire.
Vasco da Gama was born about 1460 (although possibly as late as 1469) at the small coastal town of Sines in southern Portugal. His parents, Estevano da Gama and Isabel de Sodre, were members of ancient but poor families of the lesser nobility. Their marriage produced four children, of whom Vasco was the third son. His two elder brothers were Paulo and Estevano (or Ayres), and there was a sister named Theresa. When he reached the proper age, Vasco was sent to school at the inland town of Evora. What he studied, however, is not known, and little other information survives concerning his early life.
All da Gama men had a reputation for bravery. That reputation was supplemented by a certain notoriety for being quarrelsome and unruly people. According to tradition, Vasco da Gama repelled by sheer force of personality the alcalde and night watch of Setubal during a nocturnal confrontation. His first documentable historical appearance occurred in 1492, during a diplomatic crisis between King John II of Portugal and Charles VIII, the King of France. As part of the effort to prepare Portugal for the possibility of a war, the king sent da Gama to Setubal to take care of affairs in...
(The entire section is 2134 words.)
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