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Vasco da Gama

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Estevão da Gama, was Alcaide Mor of Sines, and Commendador of Cercal, and held an important office at court under Alfonso V After the return of Bartolomeu Dias, Estevão was chosen by João II to command the next expedition of discovery, but, both died before the project could be carried into execution. 

Vasco, had already distinguished himself at the beginning of the year 1490/1492 by defending the Portuguese colonies on the coast of Guinea against French encroachments. In January, 1497, the command of the Indian expedition was solemnly conferred upon Vasco da Gama, and on 8 July, 1497, the fleet sailed from Lisbon under the leadership of Vasco, his brother Paulo, and Nicoláo Coelho, with a crew of about one hundred and fifty men. Goncalo Alvares commanded the flagship Sao (Saint) Gabriel. Paulo, da Gama's brother, commanded the Sao Rafael. The other two ships were the Berrio and the Starship. Most of the men working on the ship were convicts and were treated as expendable. On 16 December, the fleet arrived at Natal.

He skipped, Mozambique and Mombasa, both controlled by the Arabs, and was received in a friendly manner at Melinda, East Africa (14 April, 1498). They reached under the guidance of Ahmad Ibn Majid, a famous Arab pilot on 20 May, 1498 their journey's end, the harbor of Calicut, India, which, from the fourteenth century, had been the principal market for trade in spices, precious stones, and pearls.

At first, the Portuguese were well received and accepted by the Hindu ruler. There was a great ceremony, and da Gama was taken to a Hindu temple. However, this immediate reaction did not last. The ruler later felt insulted by the gifts that Vasco da Gama brought, because they were of little value to him. Da Gama was not able to establish his trading station or negotiate a trading agreement, because the Zamorin (samudrin raja, the Hindu King) did not want to alienate the local merchants. The Portuguese goods that had been well accepted in Africa were not suitable for the prestigious Indian market. The Muslim merchants despised the Portuguese interference in their business and often threatened to not trade with them. Finally, when da Gama wanted to leave, the Zamorin told him that he had to pay a heavy tax and leave all the Portuguese goods as a form of collateral. Da Gama was enraged, and on August 29, 1498, da Gama and his crew departed from Caljicut with all of their possessions and five hostages. Da Gama also took a letter from the Zamorin stating that the Zamorin would trade spices and gems if the Portuguese could get scarlet cloth, coral, silver, and gold.

On 5 October, 1498, the fleet began its homeward voyage from the Indian shores. Coelho arrived in Portugal on 10 July, 1499; Paulo da Gama died at Angra; Vasco reached Lisbon in September, where a brilliant reception awaited him. 

He was appointed to the newly created post of Admiral of the Indian Ocean, which carried with it a high salary 

Second Expedition:

In 1502 Gama was again sent out, with his uncle Vicente Sodré and his nephew Estevão, and a new fleet of twenty ships, to safeguard the interests of the commercial enterprises established in the meantime in India by Cabral, and of the Portuguese who had settled there and prepared for an encounter with the Muslim traders. He set sail with 20 well-armed ships, hoping to force his way into the market and to get revenge on the Muslims for the opposition in 1498. On the outward voyage he proceeded with unscrupulous might and cruelty, against the Arabian merchant ships and the Samudrian (or Zamorin) of Calicut. He laid seige to the city, annihilated a fleet of twenty-nine warships, and concluded favourable treaties and alliances with the native princes.


When da Gama arrived in Calicut on October 30, 1502, the Zamorin was willing to sign a treaty. His commercial success was especilly brilliant, the value of the merchandise which he brought with him amounting to more than a million in gold. 

In February of 1503, da Gama returned home. 

Third Expedition:

Once again, in 1524, he was sent to India by the Crown, under João III, to supersede the Viceroy Eduardo de Menezes, who was no longer master of the situation. He re-established order, but at the end of the year he was stricken by death at Cochin. In 1539, his remains, which up to that time had lain in the Franciscan church there, were brought to Portugual and interred at Vidigueira. 

To commemorate the first voyage to India, the celebrated convent of the Hieronymites in Belem was erected. A large part of the "Lusiad" of Camoens deals with the voyages and discoveries of Vasco da Gama.

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