Columbus Day myths and legends

posted at 11:01 am on October 13, 2013 by Jazz Shaw

Since the Beltway occupants are mostly taking a day off from the Shutdownpalooza, perhaps we can do likewise, at least for a little while. Tomorrow is one of the more frequently debated of the federal holidays – Columbus Day – and Christopher Wanjek assembled some of the most common misconceptions about Christopher Columbus himself. I thought I might open these up for discussion – as well as the “controversy” over the holiday itself – because I wasn’t even familiar with a couple of them.

His first myth is that “Columbus set out to prove the world was round.” After scratching my head for a while I think we were told stories back in my high school days (back in the dark ages, of course) about some of his sailors being afraid they might sail off the edge of the world. But it really doesn’t make much sense. Early scientists and thinkers were, as the article notes, pretty sure that the planet was round thousands of years before Columbus set sail. Also, sailors were almost undoubtedly some of the earliest people to be aware of the curvature of the Earth, needing to know how far away the true horizon was when other ships or shores would pop up or drop out of sight. But perhaps the biggest argument against this was Columbus’ stated intent of finding a way to sail to Asia by heading West. The Europeans already knew about Japan, China and India. Columbus just thought there was a faster way to get there.

Another of the theories under discussion was that Columbus introduced syphilis to Europe. Really?

This is hotly debated. Syphilis was presented in pre-Columbus America. Yet syphilis likely existed for millennia in Europe, as well, but simply wasn’t well understood. The ancient Greeks describe lesions rather similar to that from syphilis. Perhaps by coincidence, an outbreak of syphilis occurred in Naples in 1494 during a French invasion, just two years after Columbus’ return. This sealed the connection.

But aside from descriptions of syphilis-like lesions by Hippocrates, many researchers believe that there was a syphilis outbreak in, of all places, a 13th-century Augustinian friary in the English port of Kingston upon Hull. This coastal city saw a continual influx of sailors from distant lands, and you know what sailors can do. Carbon dating and DNA analysis of bones from the friary support the theory of syphilis being a worldwide disease before Columbus’ voyages.

I’d never heard that one before. I suppose I always assumed that Europeans and Asians were dying of it long before the era of Western exploration. There are a few others, such as the idea that Columbus died in poverty and never really accomplished anything, but I’ll leave you to read those for yourself.

But to this day, people still protest the idea of celebrating Columbus with a national holiday. He seems to be somehow blamed for everything from the enslavement and overthrow of all the indigenous peoples to the burning of the rain forests. Columbus was wrong about many things, to be sure. (He still thought he’d made it to Asia right up until he died.) But what were the great evils he represents which get people so up in arms? The guy set out into the great unknown and wound up unleashing a new era in human development and enterprise. He was hardly perfect, but it still seems fitting to celebrate his accomplishments.


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Gotta say–I find Columbus Day so much more enjoyable these days simply because liberals and/or hipsters find it so enraging. Three cheers for Columbus! :)

But regarding discounting the voyage by Columbus because people already knew the world was spherical–that’s a bit silly. Okay, the guy knew he wasn’t going to fall off the planet. That doesn’t make the dangers of mutiny, disease, shipwreck, starvation, piracy, or just showing up on a strange shore any less challenging. The explorers of that time were made of pretty strong stuff to knowingly face death and extreme deprivation and set out on uncharted waters like that. And–okay–Columbus wasn’t the first guy to discover the new lands. McDonald’s didn’t make the first hamburger, either. But they did something the countless others who preceded them didn’t, and that’s why–love them or hate them–the Golden Arches are recognizable around the world. Being first doesn’t count for much if nothing ever comes of it.

Of course Columbus wasn’t perfect. But we’re not celebrating the guy’s lifestyle or congeniality with the holiday. We’re honoring a man who accidentally but boldly and bravely made one of the greatest discoveries of all time and opened the door to a new world.

Yay, Columbus–liberal hate or not.

butterflies and puppies on October 14, 2013 at 12:14 AM

Actually the Indians discovered America before anyone else! They came by way of Siberia and the Aleutians about 15,000 years ago. Others, including the Chinese could have followed this land route but I know of no evidence to support that.

Annar on October 13, 2013 at 2:20 PM

This is so much hogwash. The “Indians” may have gotten here first, but they didn’t discover anything. Who did they report it to? Columbus discovered the continent for civilization and it was widely reported in Europe during his time. Where were the reports from the “Indians”? Nowhere to be found, that’s where. Maybe the bison and the deer and the bears discovered the continent before the “Indians” did.

HiJack on October 14, 2013 at 12:44 AM

Bill Nye the Science Guy is the greatest scientist evah!

racquetballer on October 13, 2013 at 8:36 PM

LOL, he couldn’t even come up with an original TV show.

Beakman’s World did it earlier & better than The Science Guy.

itsnotaboutme on October 14, 2013 at 12:47 AM

…& Beakman did it without our tax dollars.

itsnotaboutme on October 14, 2013 at 12:47 AM

Communism was ‘Western’?? Who knew…well, not in its implementation anyways, Russia has never been part of ‘Western Europe’ or ever shared much of the Western European ethos and ideas…your assertion is correct only if you think Marx (a Westerner) is responsible for communism….

jimver on October 13, 2013 at 2:18 PM

Marxism is Western European in origin and born of the Enlightenment and Rationalist movements-the same basic origin of both the American and French Revolutions.

Early on Marx dismissed Russia as having any potential to achieve Socialism as they were still in the Feudal age and had not gone through the Capitalist age (what Soviet and Red Chinese theorists figured out, I’m guessing in the 1960s? thus Nixon’s visit to China, Most Favored Nation trade status and in Russia Glasnost and Perestroika).

Marx was visited by Russian revolutionaries and he amended some of his theories in such a way as to convince himself that Russia could become Socialist since he, Engels and others had made little headway in Western Europe.

————-

The Chinese had a problem with modeling real things in nature, because only the real could contain all of the vital elements-a model could not, therefore was a weak and somewhat useless representation of the reality of Nature.

China did not go through the Bubonic Plague and the Renaissance. As a result of the Renaissance, learned men studying science in Western Europe began to model everything and found much success with this (what would become the scientific method and theory formation). In fact, they believed that all of Creation was a vast clockwork mechanism and the job of the natural philosopher was to determine how each part worked.

The model, be it mathematical, qualitative or physical was what they devised.

China stayed in the Feudal system well into the 1940s.

Dr. ZhivBlago on October 14, 2013 at 12:48 AM

As the Egyptians invented paper I doubt it.

Bubba Redneck on October 13, 2013 at 10:23 PM

You’re confusing papyrus with paper Bubba.

DarkCurrent on October 14, 2013 at 9:57 AM

black chattel slavery,

libfreeordie on October 13, 2013 at 11:19 AM

Which was supported by Democrats…

Which are supported by libfreeordie…

Which tells you all you need to know about his moral compass.

dominigan on October 14, 2013 at 10:16 AM

Jazz, when speculating about Columbus, perhaps you should have gone with the prime source. If you want to know why Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean…

“No one should fear to undertake any task in the name of our Saviour, if it is just and if the intention is purely for His holy service.” — Christopher Columbus

“I am a most noteworthy sinner, but I have cried out to the Lord for grace and mercy, and they have covered me completely. I have found the sweetest consolation since I made it my whole purpose to enjoy His marvellous Presence.” — Christopher Columbus

“Gold is a treasure, and he who possesses it does all he wishes to in this world, and succeeds in helping souls into paradise.” — Christopher Columbus

Treasures were not his end game, but a means to an end… to finance his missionary beliefs. He had to describe riches to the king and queen to obtain financing for his travels, but his end goal was reaching people for God’s kingdom, not man’s.

Oh, and I live in Columbus OH (named for him), and we have a scale replica of the Santa Maria. It is far SMALLER than you would believe! It would take a huge amount of courage to get in that and sail across an ocean!

dominigan on October 14, 2013 at 10:36 AM

“No one should fear to undertake any task in the name of our Saviour, if it is just and if the intention is purely for His holy service.” — Christopher Columbus

“I am a most noteworthy sinner, but I have cried out to the Lord for grace and mercy, and they have covered me completely. I have found the sweetest consolation since I made it my whole purpose to enjoy His marvellous Presence.” — Christopher Columbus

“Gold is a treasure, and he who possesses it does all he wishes to in this world, and succeeds in helping souls into paradise.” — Christopher Columbus

Treasures were not his end game, but a means to an end… to finance his missionary beliefs. He had to describe riches to the king and queen to obtain financing for his travels, but his end goal was reaching people for God’s kingdom, not man’s.

dominigan on October 14, 2013 at 10:36 AM

Well, that right there explains why liberals hate him so much. They just use the “poor Indians” motif as a prop for their hate.

Sterling Holobyte on October 14, 2013 at 11:41 AM

Happy Columbus Day!

Pork-Chop on October 14, 2013 at 12:14 PM

Spain sent Columbus to find, not a shorter way but a safer/reliable way to trade with the far east. They had just rid Spain of the last of the Muslim plague and expected to make no deals with Islam that would allow them reasonable access to far eastern goods that would have to pass through Muslim territory. So you can thank Islam for the discovery of the Americas.

BL@KBIRD on October 13, 2013 at 1:23 PM

There is an interesting connection here. The Spanish Reconquista is inextricably linked to the history of our country.

Exactly where did Christopher Columbus receive the support of Ferdinand and Isabella?

The Salón de los Embajadores (Hall of the Ambassadors) is the largest in the Alhambra and occupies all the Torre de Comares. It is a square room, the sides being 12 m (37 ft) in length, while the centre of the dome is 23 m (75 ft) high. This was the grand reception room, and the throne of the sultan was placed opposite the entrance. It was in this setting that Christopher Columbus received Isabel and Ferdinand’s support to sail to the New World.

Muslims still resent the Reconquista, and everything it represents, including the spread of Christianity to America.

This is an example of how a modern-day Muslim sees it…

One of the last cities to fall into the hands of Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, during the “Reconquest” of Southern Spain, Granada’s Palace of the Alhambra was the scene from which those same monarchs sent off Christopher Columbus to discover the New World.

Note how that author, Idris Tawfiq, makes no mention of the original Umayyad conquest of Hispania, and sees this not in terms of a genuine Christian re-conquest, but rather as a “fall into the hands of Catholic monarchs” and the author puts the word “Reconquest” in quotes, is if to de-legitimize that word. To say Reconquest without the quotes would force the author to acknowledge the original Muslim Conquest. He can’t do that, because in his mind, the Muslims are the rightful rulers, and the Christians are the conquering imperialists.

They hate everything that Ferdinand and Isabella did, including their sponsorship of Christopher Columbus’ journey to America.

They want to undo everything that Ferdinand and Isabella did, and have their own “Reconquest” that will include all of Europe and America.

Michelle Obama’s visit to Arab areas of Spain, including the Alhambra, was extremely symbollic from an Islamic point of view. You will never hear Michelle or Barack praise Christopher Columbus. To the contrary, they appear to be enabling the “Cordoba Initiative”.

ITguy on October 14, 2013 at 12:30 PM

I copied some of the material in my comment above from the following post and its comments:

Michelle Obama’s trip to Spain was not “Tone Deaf”, it was Pitch-Perfect…

ITguy on October 14, 2013 at 12:31 PM

Happy Indigenous People’s Day!

urban elitist on October 14, 2013 at 1:05 PM

Muslims still resent the Reconquista, and everything it represents,

ITguy on October 14, 2013 at 12:30 PM

Yep. People should remember that the Ground Zero mosque was being run under “The Cordoba Project” initially. Sadly, most Americans had no idea what the significance of that name was and the left and MSM did their utmost to ignore it cover it up.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on October 14, 2013 at 1:08 PM

….and shouldn’t California revert to “LAS CALIFORNIAS” (the mexican name for it) before we stole it from them?

If we’re going to do this p.c. stuff, let’s do it right.

PappyD61 on October 14, 2013 at 1:24 PM

black chattel slavery,

libfreeordie on October 13, 2013 at 11:19 AM

Leave Obamacare out of this.

mankai on October 14, 2013 at 1:40 PM

Sadly, most Americans had no idea what the significance of that name was…

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on October 14, 2013 at 1:08 PM

Indeed.

The capital of the last caliphate was Cordoba.

The official name of the “Ground Zero Mosque” was/is “Cordoba House”.

Michelle Obama’s trip to Spain wasn’t “tone-deaf”, it was “pitch perfect”… to the Cordoba Initiative.

ITguy on October 14, 2013 at 2:20 PM

Aren’t newspapers and magazines made of paper? Or where they using Flintstone newspapers?

blink on October 13, 2013 at 2:52 PM

Perhaps they were using a set of 3 seashells.

BillH on October 14, 2013 at 2:34 PM

If it came out that Columbus was gay they’d give a new meaning to the word sextant*.

* I know wrong tool for the time … work with me here.

kregg on October 14, 2013 at 5:42 PM

Isn’t it amazing that everything we and all the people over the last 500 years knew about the bible, Columbus, homosexuality,and a healthy diet was all wrong! Thank god for all the modern super brains that somehow have obtained knowlege that had eluded mortals for hundreds of years. It was unknown even to the people that were there! Thank god for the (jewish)History channel that gives us “bible mysteries explained” or in other words “why jesus was a fake”. What would all the ignorant christians do without that?

Redglen on October 15, 2013 at 11:52 AM

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