A portrait of ColumbusIn 1492 Christopher Columbus (1451–1506) sailed west across the Atlantic Ocean. He was hoping to find a sea route to East Asia, the lands of spices and silks. These lands were known to Europeans as the Indies. When Columbus set foot on land after crossing the ocean, he was certain that he had reached the Indies. He had, in fact, landed in the Americas, a continent then unknown to Europeans.
Christopher Columbus was born in the Republic of Genoa in 1451. In those days, Genoa was an independent state with its own language (he was known as Christoffa Corombo). Columbus went to sea before he was 20. He later travelled to England, and, possibly, Iceland, before moving to work as a trader in Lisbon, Portugal. Hungry for knowledge, Columbus read widely about astronomy, geography and history, including the works of Claudius Ptolemy and the travels of Marco Polo.
One of Columbus's ships, the Niña, was officially called the Santa Clara. Niña (meaning "Girl") was the ship's nickname. It was named after her owner, Juan Niño of Moguer.
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