Bartolomeu Dias

Explorer / Navigator
Date Of Birth:
c. 1450
Date Of Death:
8 May 1500
Place Of Birth:
Best Known As:
Portuguese discoverer of the Cape of Good Hope

Bartolomeu Dias was a Portugese navigator whose 1487-88 Atlantic voyage around the southern tip of Africa opened sea routes between Europe and Asia. In 1486 King João II (King John II) assigned Dias, a member of the royal court, to command a voyage with both spiritual and material aspirations: Dias was to search for the lands of Prester John -- a legendary Christian priest and African king -- and challenge the Muslim dominance of trade with Asia. By 1488 Dias had unknowingly rounded the African continent in a storm and made landfall at what is now Mossel Bay. On his return voyage he discovered what he called the Cape of Storms (Cabo Tormentoso), later re-named the Cape of Good Hope (Caboda Bõa Esperança) by João. Although Dias did not find any sign of an African Christian, his voyage established a sea route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean and Asia. In 1497 Dias accompanied Vasco da Gama on a voyage as far as the Cape Verde Islands, and in 1500 he joined Pedro Alvares Cabral's westward expedition. Dias's ship went down in a storm and he perished at sea sometime in late May (Cabral went on to make landfall in Brazil).

Extra Credit

Dias’s brother, Pero Dias, was also part of the 1487-88 voyage, commanding the supply ship… The Cape of Good Hope is sometimes thought to be the southernmost tip of the African continent, but that title belongs to Cape Agulhas… His name is sometimes spelled Bartholomew Diaz.

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