We all know that Christopher Columbus discovered the great continent of America. He is a celebrated character today for his historic voyage across the Atlantic. But why was the continent named after another explorer – Amerigo Vespucci?
Gather round folks; this is the time for an odd journey in the pages of history!
First of all, Christopher Columbus wasn’t the first civilized man setting footsteps in the great continent. That credit goes to another voyager called Leif Ericsson. He discovered North America about five hundred years before the voyage of Columbus.
So, why is Columbus getting all the credit?
It’s because his journey took place in the renaissance when the whole of Europe was looking for new places for trades to fuel their wars in the homeland. You might also know that Columbus wasn’t even trying to find new land. He set his voyage to discover the prized land of India. After discovering the Bahamas, Columbus thought that he landed in the East Indies. With much joy and a sense of accomplishment, Columbus returned to Spain.
But another famed explorer Amerigo Vespucci couldn’t agree to the claims of Columbus. Amerigo discovered the northern part of South America in 1499. He even went deeper into the great river of Amazon. Later, in his third voyage to the western world in 1502, Amerigo set foot in the Bahamas. So, according to the dates of the two voyages, Columbus was the first man in the Colonial period who discovered America. But it was Amerigo who found out that the newfound land was America, not East India.
Later, Amerigo went back to Europe and spread the news of discovering the new land. He told his friends how the new land is different from the geography of India. He also told them the lifestyle of the Native Americans – their beliefs, food habits, cultural rituals, and sexual practices. This time, the Europeans got interested in the tales of this new land. Also, by this time, Vasco De Gamma, a Portuguese explorer, found his way to actual India.
The details of the findings of Amerigo reached several nations’ scholars and rulers. Notably, the Germans were fascinated with the discovery. So, the credit of introducing America to the civilized world goes to Amerigo without a doubt. Some believe that Amerigo tried to steal the credit of discovering America from Columbus. The reality wasn’t like that.
In 1507, a band of German scholars decided to create a new large world map as they were working on their study on The Introduction to Cosmology. A member of this group, Martin Waldseemüller, decided to name the two large continents in the west as North and South America. They wanted to glorify the achievement of Amerigo for introducing the great continents to the rest of the world.
Waldseemüller wrote, “I see no reason why anyone should justly object to calling this part … America, after Amerigo [Vespucci], its discoverer, a man of great ability.”
So, that was the story of Amerigo Vespucci and how America got its name.