Figures of the Renaissance - Ferdinand Magellan

Figures of the Renaissance - Ferdinand Magellan

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Figures of the Renaissance
Ferdinand Magellan

     Ferdinand Magellan was a leader of the Renaissance and a benefactor to modern science. The results of his voyage around the globe were such that the average person living during the Renaissance re-thought their paradigms of the world surrounding them, even know most scholars and other educated types knew that in fact, the world was round in shape. Ferdinand, however, proved it. Thus he lays claim to having circumnavigated the first voyage around the world.
Born 1480 to lesser nobles living near Vila Real in northern Portugal, Magellan was raised as a page to the Portuguese king John II in the royal court at Lisbon. Magellan was educated from then on, becoming interested in geography and astronomy, thus in 1496 he became a squire. In the year 1505 Magellan would get his first taste of the sea, at the age of 20. He was sent to India to install Portuguese viceroy Francisco de Almeida, as well as establish naval bases along the way. As it turns out, Magellan also had his first combat experience on this mission. A local king refused to pay a tribute to the king, and as such Magellan and Almeida’s party attacked, conquering the city of Kilwa in what is now modern-day Tanzania. Magellan continued to do well in his seafaring missions, and was eventually promoted to captain, when in 1510 he sailed a ship east without permission losing him his command and forcing him back to Portugal. After being sent on a mission against a Moorish-Moroccan force, he received a knee injury after which he was accused of illegal trade with the Moors. This coupled with a bad report of Magellan by Almeida to the Portuguese court after Magellan took leave without permission caused him to fall out of favor with current King Emanuel I, who told Magellan that after May 15, 1514. Thus Magellan renounced his nationality and changed his name from the Portuguese "Fernão de Magalhães" to the Spanish "Fernando de Magallanes" and sought to offer his services to the Spanish court.
Upon reaching Spain, Magellan found friends and gained some amount of influence in the Spanish port of Seville. One such influence worth naming is Juan Rodriguez de Fonseca, rival to Christopher Columbus. Somewhere along the way Magellan had acquired a map that indicated there was a passage through South America that led to the Pacific Ocean, Magellan believed that through this was a route to the Spice Islands, which in this time were very sought after within the spice trade.

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He wanted to attempt a voyage to see if this was in fact true. He gained some amount of support from Portuguese exiles and the like, and on March 22, 1518 the teenage King Charles approved of his plan and granted funds. With these funds five ships were purchased and Magellan sailed on August 10th, 1519. Much disease, mutiny, and distrust of Magellan led to many deaths amongst the crews of the ships, causing most ships to only have skeleton crews. One ship was lost in a storm and another sailed back to Spain. On April 27th, 1521,after having reached the Philippines Magellan died in a battle between tribes and left his crew of three ships to continue the voyage back to Spain. A ship was burned outright due to the lack of men, and the remaining crew sailed onward towards Spain. Only one ship made it back to Spain, the Victoria, as the other ship, Trinidad, was captured by the Portuguese. On September 6th, 1522, the Victoria reached Spain with only 18 men.
In the wake of this voyage, some important discoveries were made, such as: 1.”A camel without humps” possibly a llama, 2.”A black goose which had to be skinned” a penguin, 3.The current day Magellanic Clouds, which are neighbour galaxies visible from the Southern Hemisphere, 4. The extent of the earth, 69,000 Km, 5.And the conflicting dates between the calendars of those who had sailed and those who remained in Spain, which differed by one day, thus it was discovered that there was a need for an international date line. Beyond these discoveries, this voyage was the first of its kind: a massive naval circumnavigation, many such voyages were attempted afterward due to the limited success of Magellan’s voyage, which was more influenced simply by the idea of a large-scale voyage. During the Renaissance could only such an idea be attempted or much less conjured, and it is due to the emerging acts of thought which we should thank for our knowledge of the planet on which we live. Though nothing more than a very large-scale voyage, Magellan simply exemplified the kind of willingness to experiment that caused great change in the Renaissance.
Overall Magellan has proved his worth in modern history more or less due to his accomplished discovery of a gateway of sorts into the Pacific Ocean (oddly Magellan named it such as it was deemed peaceful through his eyes) through South America. And also due to the (small) success of such a voyage, that old world ideas of a flat earth were (for the most part) sent back into obscurity, and the spherical earth idea was embraced. If not for the ideas of humanism, individualism, or even of there being a “world outside our own” (to the Europeans of the Renaissance age) Magellan may have never even have become an explorer, and it is due to these ideas and his willingness to discover, that he accomplished a major feat in that he discovered the Earths true shape (debatable to some, see that confirmed him as a leader of the Renaissance.

Strong, C.F. The Early Modern World. Clarke, Irwin & Co. Ltd., 1961
­Chronology of World History. Geddes & Grosset, 1995
West and Eastman, S. Mack. World Progress. Unknown Publisher, 194?
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