Monday, October 14, 2013

Columbus Myth

Incidentally, educated folks in Columbus's day didn't think the world was flat. This is actually a myth, spread first by anti-Catholic groups, and later by folks seeking to discredit religion in general by claiming that those Medieval folks were really dumb. But folks have known the world was round since the ancient Greeks (who calculated the size of the earth by measuring the different angles of the sun at different latitudes on the same day.) Certainly the Spanish monarchs wouldn't have given him a bunch of ships just so he could sail them off the edge of the world. The technical debate Columbus had to contend with was about the size of the Earth--he believed it was much smaller than we now know it is (due to a translation error). He really did think eastern Asia lay somewhere in the Caribbean, and that he could make it to Japan with the little bit of food he could carry on those tiny boats. His crews were mutinous not so much because they feared the edge of the world, but because they were facing actual starvation... So it's quite lucky for them that they found land. Not so lucky for the people they met, of course.

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