Gama, Vasco da vă´skō də gă´mə, Port. väsh´kō dä gä´mə [key]
, c.1469–1524, Portuguese navigator, the first European to journey by sea to India. His epochal voyage (1497–99) was made at the order of Manuel I
. With four vessels, he rounded the Cape of Good Hope, passed the easternmost point reached by Bartolomeu Dias
in 1488, continued up the east coast of Africa to Malindi, and sailed across the uncharted Indian Ocean to Calicut. This voyage opened up a way for Europe to reach the wealth of the Indies, and immediately Portugal gained great riches from the spice trade; out of it ultimately grew the Portuguese Empire. Gama dictated the instructions for Cabral's voyage (1500–1502) to India, and in 1502 he himself led a fleet of 20 ships on his second India voyage. With this force he attempted to establish Portuguese power in Indian waters and sought to secure the submission of a number of chiefs on the African coast. He was harsh in his methods and was not as good an administrator as many of the Portuguese captains who later went to the East, but he was the first, and he was honored with many tributes and the title of count of Vidigueria. In 1524 he was sent back to India as viceroy, but he died soon after his arrival. Gama's voyage is the subject of Camões
's epic The Lusiads.
See A Journal of the First Voyage of Vasco da Gama (1898), the journal of one of Gama's subordinates; G. Corrêa, The Three Voyages of Vasco da Gama and His Viceroyalty (1869, repr. 1964); K. G. Jayne, Vasco da Gama and His Successors (1910, repr. 1970); H. H. Hart, Sea Route to the Indies (1950, repr. 1971); N. Cliff, Holy War: How Vasco da Gama's Epic Voyages Turned the Tide in a Centuries-Old Clash of Civilizations (2011) and The Last Crusade: The Epic Voyages of Vasco Da Gama (2012).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Explorers, Travelers, and Conquerors: Biographies