Christopher Columbus is famous as the man who discovered the New World, better known today as North America. While it’s been established that some of the things you were taught in elementary school about the man were exaggerated a bit, there remain numerous details about the man and his life that you probably never realized were altered, skewed, or altogether fabricated. We suppose the best lesson here is that at the end of the day, your teachers were full of it. Here are some things you probably never realized about Christopher Columbus.
He Never Intended to Prove the Earth was Round
Everyone always perpetuates the idea that one of the primary goals of the voyage of Christopher Columbus was to disprove the common theory that the world was flat. Columbus believed the world was round, and his intention was to prove that if he circumnavigated the globe he’d wind up right back where he started. You know, because it’s a giant sphere.
Except that’s not at all the case. Well, not the sphere part. The world is obviously one massive, volatile basketball, there’s no doubting that. But the fact is Columbus never set out to prove the world wasn’t flat because by the time he made his voyage, that wasn’t a common theory at all. In fact, educated people hadn’t believed the world was flat since Pythagoras debunked that myth way back in the 6th century BC. In other words, people had already known the Earth was round for 2000 freaking years, so trying to reprove the same thing would have been a gigantic waste of time.
He Did Not Have Ships Called the Nina or the Pinta
One of the first things you’re taught in school about Christopher Columbus is that when in 1492 and Columbus sailed the ocean blue, he did so with ships called the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. The problem here is that he never actually had ships called the Nina or the Pinta. Kind of throws a whole wrench into that rhyme your teachers taught you as a kid, doesn’t it? So where the heck did the Nina and the Pinta come from, anyway?
They were nicknames given to two of the ships by the sailors and not the actual names of the ships. So, yes, they actually referred to them now and then as the Nina and the Pinta, but Nina was nicknamed after the ship’s owner, Juan Nino, and Pinta means prostitute in Spanish. So basically when your teachers were telling you about how Columbus sailed across the ocean with the Pinta, they were basically telling you a filthy sailor joke about Columbus riding a whore across the Atlantic.
He was a Slave Trader and Probably a Mass Murderer, Too
Now here’s some fun stuff your teachers absolutely withheld from you in your elementary school history class. Columbus is pretty much glorified as one of the great explorers from history these days, but everyone just kind of skims over the fact that he was, without question, a slave trader. To be fair, if you lived in that day and age and you had a fleet of ships at your disposal then you probably got in on slave trade, so he wasn’t exactly alone in that abhorrent endeavor.
But while he trafficked in human life, he is also believed to have taken it away at an alarming rate. Much of this is linked to the time he served as Governor of the island of Espanola when over an eight-year span the native population saw a staggering decline, believed by some historians to have been the work of a form of genocide by Columbus. Now, his direct involvement in the deaths of the numerous indigenous people of Espanola is not known, despite being largely suspected considering he, you know, ran the island. However, what cannot be debated is his involvement in the slave trade. It’s historical fact that before he ever set out to discover the New World, he had already been engaging in the slave trade for Portugal for years.
He Didn’t Discover the New World
The biggest thing Christopher Columbus is credited with is the discovery of North America. That’s why Americans celebrate Columbus Day because without him stumbling across the giant continent, white Europeans wouldn’t have had a place to go and wipe out the natives who stood in their way of land ownership. Liberal spin aside, the plain fact is Columbus did not in fact discover the New World because it had already been discovered much, much earlier.
You know, by the people who were already living there? Yeah, it’s tough to “discover” a continent when it’s already filled to the brim with an indigenous population that has lived and thrived there for thousands of years before Columbus was even born. And even if you take them out of the equation and simply talk about the European discovery of the New World, it’s still inaccurate to say Columbus was the first to find it since a Viking named Leif Ericson had already established a Norse colony in what is now the Canadian province of Newfoundland hundreds of years before Columbus set out on his first voyage. So really, if we want to name a holiday after a European who found the New World, couldn’t we name one after Ericson? Just imagine a federal holiday that encourages people to dress like Vikings. How awesome would that be?
His Name Wasn’t Actually Christopher Columbus
Oh yeah, that little tidbit. Yeah, as it turns out the dude named Christopher Columbus who we’ve all been reading about for centuries now? Christopher Columbus wasn’t even his name. Instead, we’ve all been taught the anglicized version of his given Spanish name and no one has ever bothered to teach kids what the man was really called in his time. So what was his real name? Cristobal Colon.
But wait, there’s even one more twist! Columbus, or Colon, wasn’t even born as Cristobal Colon, either. He was actually born in Italy with the name Cristoforo Colombo, and later took on the name of Cristobal Colon when he moved to Spain. Maybe it’s for the best that history has changed it, though, because celebrating “Colon Day” just sounds like a yearly reminder to get your prostate checked.