Menu
Search

The discovery of America in Latin Posted by on Feb 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

Here is a selection of short texts from the Latin translation of Columbus’ letter to Gabriel Sanchez, treasurer of the kingdom of Aragon, on March 14, 1493, giving news of his first voyage to the Indies. The Castilian text was soon translated into Latin by Leandro de Cosco for spreading rapidly the news of the discovery of new islands throughout Europe, as Latin was like the English of our time.

 

Heading:

Epistola Christofori Colom, cui aetas nostra multum debet, missa ad magnificum dominum Gabrielem Sanchis, serenissimorum regum tesaurarium, de insulis Indiae super ganger nuper inventis; ad quas perquirendas octavo antea mense auspiciis et aere invictissimorum Fernandi et Helisabet, Hispaniarum Regum, missus fuerat; quam nobilis ac litteratus vir, Leander de Cosco, ab hispano idiomate in latinum convertit tertio kalendas Maii MCCCCXCIII, pontificatus Alexandri Sexti Anno Primo.

 

Columbus discovers new islands in the Indies, takes possession of them and gives them names:

In this first piece they give the news of the discovery and the taking, with the imposition of new names to the discovered islands. Note that Columbus states that he reached the Mare Indicum, the Indian Ocean. The new names are religious or personal names of the royal family.

Tricesimo tertio die postquam Gadibus discessi, in Mare Indicum perveni, ubi plurimas insulas habitatas innumeris hominibus repperi. Quarum omnium possessionem accepi pro felicissimo rege nostro, praeconio celebrato et vexillis extensis, contradicente nemine; primae earum “Divi Salvatoris” nomen imposui; cuius auxilio fretus, tam ad hanc quam ad ceteras pervenimus. Eam vero Indi “Guanahanin” vocant. Aliarum etiam unamquamque novo nomine nuncupavi: quippe aliam insulam “Sanctae Mariae Conceptionis”, aliam “Fernandinam”, aliam “Hysabellam”, aliam “Ioanam”, et sic de reliquis appellari iussi.

Gadibus: Cadiz, but should refer to Palos de la Frontera.
Divi Salvatoris: San Salvador Island in the Bahamas.
Sancta Conceptio, Fernandina, Hysabella: names identified with some of the islands of the Bahamas.
Iona: Cuba.

 

Description of the island of Ioana (Cuba) and adjacents:

Cuba is described in all its exuberance. The description reveals admiration for the place, but also the potential resources that justify the exploitation of it.

Dicta Ioana et aliae insulae ibidem quam fertilissime existunt. Haec multis atque tutissimis et latis, nec aliis quos unquam viderim comparandis, portibus est circumdata. Multi maximi et salubres hanc interfluunt fluvii; multi quoque et eminentissimi in ea sunt montes. (…) Garriebat philomela et alli passeres, varii ac innumeri, mense Novembris, quo ipse per eas deambulabam. Sunt praeterea in dicta insula Ioana septem vel octo palmarum genera, quae proceritate et pulchritudine (quemadmodum ceterae omnes arbores, herbae, fructusque) nostras facile exsuperant. Sunt et mirabiles pinus, agri, et prata vastissima, variae aves, varia mella, variaque metalla, ferro excepto.

 

On the island of Hispaniola (Haiti-Santo Domingo) Colom and his men were taken as beings coming from the sky:

Immo firmissi credunt omnem vim, omnem potentiam, omniaque denique bona esse in caelo et me inde cum his navibus et nautis descendisse.

 

Cannibals and Amazons in the West Indies:

This text reveals the classical culture of the men of the discovery with the appearance of  possible Amazons. Columbus described what he saw in accordance with what he had learned and interpreted the new place with the eyes of a man educated in the classics.

Itaque monstra aliqua non vidi neque eorum cognitionem alicubi habui, excepta quadam insula “Charis” nuncupata; (…) Quam gens quaedam, a finitimis habita ferocior, incolit. Hi carne humana vescuntur. Praedicti habent biremium genera plurima, quibus in ominis Indicas Insulas traiiciunt, depraedant, surripiuntque quaecumque possunt. Nihil ab aliis diferunt, nisi quod gerunt more femineo crines. Utuntur arcubus et spiculis arundineis (…). Hi sunt qui coeunt cum quibusdam feminis, quae solae insulam “Mateunin” habitant. Hae autem feminae nullum sui sexus opus exercent: utuntur enim arcubus et spiculis, sicut de earum coniugibus dixi. Muniunt sese laminis aeneis, quarum maxima copia apud eas existit. Aliam insulam mihi affirmant, supradicta Hispaniola maiorem. Eius incolae carent pilis auroque inter alias potissium exuberat. Homines huius insulae et aliarum, quas vidi, mecum porto, qui testimonium horum quae dixi perhibent.

Charis: Dominica island in the Caribbean.
Mateunin: island of Martinique in the Antilles.

 

Tags: , , ,
Keep learning Latin with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it