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Title: De Orbe Novo, Volume 1 (of 2) - The Eight Decades of Peter Martyr D'Anghera
Author: MacNutt, Francis Augustus [Translator]
Language: English
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The Eight Decades of Peter Martyr D'Anghera

Translated from the Latin with Notes and Introduction

By Francis Augustus MacNutt

In Two Volumes

Volume One









CARDINAL ASCANIO SFORZA From the Medallion by Luini, in the Museum at
Milan. Photo by Anderson, Rome.

LEO X. From an Old Copper Print. (No longer in the book.)




Distant a few miles from the southern extremity of Lago Maggiore, the
castle-crowned heights of Anghera and Arona face one another from
opposite sides of the lake, separated by a narrow stretch of blue
water. Though bearing the name of the former burgh, it was in
Arona[1], where his family also possessed a property, that Pietro
Martire d'Anghera first saw the light, in the year 1457[2]. He was not
averse to reminding his friends of the nobility of his family, whose
origin he confidently traced to the Counts of Anghera, a somewhat
fabulous dynasty, the glories of whose mythical domination in Northern
Italy are preserved in local legends and have not remained entirely
unnoticed by sober history. What name his family bore is unknown; the
statement that it was a branch of the Sereni, originally made by Celso
Rosini and repeated by later writers, being devoid of foundation. Ties
of relationship, which seem to have united his immediate forebears
with the illustrious family of Trivulzio and possibly also with that
of Borromeo, furnished him with sounder justification for some pride
of ancestry than did the remoter gestes of the apocryphal Counts of

[Note 1: Ranke, in his _Zur Kritik neuerer Geschichtsschreiber_,
and Rawdon Brown, in his _Calendar of State Papers relating to
England, preserved in the Archives of Venice_, mention Anghera, or
Anghiera, as the name is also written, as his birthplace. Earlier
Italian writers such as Piccinelli (_Ateneo de' Letterati Milanesi_)
and Giammatteo Toscano (_Peplus Ital_) are perhaps responsible
for this error, which passages in the _Opus Epistolarum_, that
inexplicably escaped their notice, expose. In a letter addressed to
Fajardo occurs the following explicit statement: "..._cum me utero
mater gestaret sic volente patre, Aronam, ubi plæraque illis erant
prædia domusque ... ibi me mater dederat orbi_." Letters 388, 630, and
794 contain equally positive assertions.]

[Note 2: Mazzuchelli (_Gli Scrittori d'Italia_, p. 773) states
that Peter Martyr was born in 1455, and he has been followed by the
Florentine Tiraboschi (_Storia della Letteratura Italiana_, vol. vii.)
and later historians, including even Hermann Schumacher in his
masterly work, _Petrus Martyr der Geschichtsschreiber des Weltmeeres_.
Nicolai Antonio (_Bibliotheca Hispana nova_, app. to vol. ii) is alone
in giving the date as 1559. Ciampi, amongst modern Italian authorities
(_Le Fonti Storiche del Rinascimento_) and Heidenheimer (_Petrus
Martyr Anglerius und sein Opus Epistolarum_) after carefully
investigating the conflicting data, show from Peter Martyr's own
writings that he was born on February 2, 1457. Three different
passages are in agreement on this point. In Ep. 627 written in 1518
and referring to his embassy to the Sultan of Egypt upon which he
set out in the autumn of 1501, occurs the following: ..._quatuor et
quadraginta tunc annos agebam, octo decem superadditi vires illas
hebetarunt_. Again in Ep. 1497: _Ego extra annum ad habitis tuis
litteris quadragesimum_; and finally in the dedication of the Eighth
Decade to Clement VII.: _Septuagesimus quippe annus ætatis, cui nonæ
quartæ Februarii anni millesimi quingentesimi vigesimi sexti proxime
ruentis dabunt initium, sua mihi spongea memoriam ita confrigando
delevit, ut vix e calamo sit lapsa periodus, quando quid egerimsi quis
interrogaverit, nescire me profitebor. De Orbe Novo_., p. 567. Ed.
Paris, 1587. Despite the elucidation of this point, it is noteworthy
that Prof. Paul Gaffarel both in his admirable French translation of
the _Opus Epistolarum_ (1897) and in his _Lettres de Pierre Martyr
d'Anghiera_ (1885) should still cite the chronology of Mazzuchelli and

[Note 3: The Visconti, and after them the Sforza, bore the title
of Conte d'Anghera, or Anghiera, as the name is also spelled.
Lodovico il Moro restored to the place the rank of city, which it
had lost, and of which it was again deprived when Lodovico went into

The cult of the Dominican of Verona, murdered by the Waldensians in
1252 and later canonised under the title of St. Peter Martyr, was
fervent and widespread in Lombardy in the fifteenth century. Milan
possessed his bones, entombed in a chapel of Sant' Eustorgio decorated
by Michelozzi. Under the patronage and name of Peter Martyr, the child
of the Anghera was baptised and, since his family name fell into
oblivion, _Martyr_ has replaced it. Mention of his kinsmen is
infrequent in his voluminous writings, though there is evidence that
he furthered the careers of two younger brothers when the opportunity
offered. For Giorgio he solicited and obtained from Lodovico Sforza,
in 1487, the important post of governor of Monza. For Giambattista he
procured from the Spanish sovereigns a recommendation which enabled
him to enter the service of the Venetian Republic, under whose
standard he campaigned with Nicola Orsini, Count of Pitigliano.
Giambattista died in Brescia in 1516, leaving a wife and four
daughters. A nephew, Gian Antonio, whose name occurs in several of his
uncle's letters is described by the latter as _licet ex transverso
natus_; he served under Gian Giacomo Trivulzio, and finally, despite
his bar sinister, married a daughter of Francesco, of the illustrious
Milanese family of Pepoli.[4]

[Note 4: Peter Martyr's will gave to his only surviving brother,
Giorgio, his share of the family estate, but on condition that he
should receive Giambattista's daughter, Laura, in his family and
provide for her: _emponiendola en todas las buenas costumbres y
crianza que hija de tal padre merece_ (_Coll. de Documentos ineditos
para la Hist, de España_, tom. xxxix., pp. 397). Another of
Giambattista's daughters, Lucrezia, who was a nun, received one
hundred ducats by her uncle's will.]

Concerning his earlier years and his education Peter Martyr is silent,
nor does he anywhere mention under whose direction he began his
studies. In the education deemed necessary for young men of his
quality, the exercises of chivalry and the recreations of the
troubadour found equal place, and such was doubtless the training he
received. He spent some years at the ducal court of Milan, but there
is no indication that he frequented the schools of such famous
Hellenists as Francesco Filelfo who, in 1471, was there lecturing
on the Politics of Aristotle, and of Constantine Lascaris whom the
reigning duke, Galeazzo Maria Sforza, commissioned to compile a Greek
grammar for the use of his daughter. In later years, when he found
his chief delight and highest distinction in intercourse with men of
letters, Peter Martyr would hardly have neglected to mention such
precious early associations had they existed.

The fortunes of the family of Anghera were the reverse of opulent at
that period of its history, and the sons obtained careers under the
patronage of Count Giovanni Borromeo. The times were troublous in
Lombardy. The assassination, in 1476, of Gian Galeazzo was followed
by commotions and unrest little conducive to the cultivation of the
humanities, and which provoked an exodus of humanists and their
disciples. Many sought refuge from the turbulence prevailing in the
north, in the more pacific atmosphere of Rome, where a numerous colony
of Lombards was consequently formed. The following year Peter Martyr,
being then twenty years of age, joined his compatriots in their
congenial exile. His rank and personal qualities, as well as the
protection accorded him by Giovanni Arcimboldo, Archbishop of Milan,
and Ascanio Sforza, brother of the Duke, Lodovico il Moro, assured him
a cordial welcome. For a youth devoid of pretensions to humanistic
culture, he penetrated with singular ease and rapidity into the
innermost academic circle, over which reigned the most amiable of
modern pagans, Pomponius Lætus.

It was the age of the Academies. During the Ecumenical Council of
Florence, Giovanni de' Medici, fired with enthusiasm for the study
of Platonic philosophy, brilliantly expounded by the learned Greek,
Gemisto, conceived the plan of promoting the revival of classical
learning by the formation of an academy, in imitation of that founded
by the immortal Plato. Under such lofty patronage, this genial
conception, so entirely in consonance with the intellectual tendencies
of the age, attracted to its support every Florentine who aspired to
a reputation for culture, at a time when culture was fashionable. The
Greek Cardinal, Bessarion, whom Eugene IV. had raised to the purple at
the close of the Council, carried the Medicean novelty to Rome, where
he formed a notable circle, in which the flower of Hellenic and Latin
culture was represented. Besides this group, characterised by a
theological tincture alien to the neo-pagan spirit in flimsily
disguised revolt against Christian dogma and morality, Pomponius Lætus
and Platina founded the Roman Academy--an institution destined to
world-wide celebrity. Pomponius Lætus, an unrecognised bastard of the
noble house of Sanseverini, was professor of eloquence in Rome. Great
amongst the humanists, in him the very spirit of ancient Hellas seemed
revived. What to many was but the fad or fashionable craze of the
hour, was to him the all-important and absorbing purpose of living. He
dwelt aloof in poverty; shunning the ante-chambers and tables of the
great, he and kindred souls communed with their disciples in the
shades of his grove of classic laurels. He was indifferent alike to
princely and to popular favour, passionately consecrating his efforts
to the revival and preservation of such classics as had survived the
destructive era known as the Dark Ages. Denied a name of his own,
he adopted a Latin one to his liking, thus from necessity setting a
fashion his imitators followed from affectation. When approached in
the days of his fame by the Sanseverini with proposals to recognise
him as a kinsman, he answered with a proud and laconic refusal.[5] The
Academy, formed of super-men infected with pagan ideals, contemptuous
of scholastic learning and impatient of the restraints of Christian
morality, did not long escape the suspicions of the orthodox;
suspicions only too well warranted and inevitably productive of
antagonism ending in condemnation.[6]

[Note 5: His refusal was in the following curt form: _Pomponius
Lætus cognatis et propinquis suis, salutem. Quod petitis fieri non
potest.--Valete_. Consult Tiraboschi, _Storia della Letteratura
Italiana_, vol. vii., cap. v.; Gregorovius, _Geschichte der Stadt Rom
in Mittelalter_; Burkhardt, _Die Kultur der Renaissance in Italien_,
and Voigt in his _Wiederlebung des Klassischen Alterthums_.]

[Note 6: Sabellicus, in a letter to Antonio Morosini (_Liber
Epistolarum_, xi., p. 459) wrote thus of Pomponius Lætus: ..._fuit
ab initio contemptor religionis, sed ingravesciente ætate coepit res
ipsa, ut mibi dicitur curæ esse. In Crispo et Livio reposint quædam;
et si nemo religiosius timidiusques tractavit veterum scripta ...
Græca ... vix attingit_. While to a restricted number, humanism stood
for intellectual emancipation, to the many it meant the rejection of
the moral restraints on conduct imposed by the law of the Church,
and a revival of the vices that flourished in the decadent epochs of
Greece and Rome.]

From trifles, as they may seem to us at this distance of time, hostile
ingenuity wove the web destined to enmesh the incautious Academicians.
The adoption of fanciful Latin appellations--in itself a sufficiently
innocent conceit--was construed into a demonstration of revolt against
established Christian usage, almost savouring of contempt for the
canonised saints of the Church.

Pomponius Lætus was nameless, and hence free to adopt whatever name he
chose; his associates and admiring disciples paid him the homage of
imitation, proud to associate themselves, by means of this pedantic
fancy, with him they called master. The Florentine, Buonacorsi, took
the name of Callimachus Experiens; the Roman, Marco, masqueraded as
Asclepiades; two Venetian brothers gladly exchanged honest, vulgar
Piscina for the signature of Marsus, while another, Marino, adopted
that of Glaucus.

If the neo-pagans were harmless and playful merely, their opponents
were dangerously in earnest. In 1468 a grave charge of conspiracy
against the Pope's life and of organising a schism led to the arrest
of Pomponius and Platina, some of the more wary members of the
compromised fraternity saving themselves by timely flight.

Imprisonment in Castel Sant' Angelo and even the use of torture--mild,
doubtless--failing to extract incriminating admissions from the
accused, both prisoners were unconditionally released. If the Pope
felt serious alarm, his fears seem to have been easily allayed, for
Pomponius was permitted to resume his public lectures undisturbed, but
the Roman Academy had received a check, from which it did not recover
during the remainder of the pontificate of Paul II. With the accession
of Sixtus IV., the cloud of disfavour that still hung obscuringly
over its glories was lifted. Encouraged by the Pope and frequented by
distinguished members of the Curia, its era of greatness dawned in

The assault upon the Church by the humanists, which resulted in the
partial capture of Latin Christianity, was ably directed. Although
the renascence of learning did not take its rise in Rome, where the
intellectual movement and enthusiasm imported from Florence flourished
but fitfully, according to the various humours of the successive
pontiffs, the papal capital drew within its walls eminent scholars
from all the states of the Italian peninsula. Rome was the world-city,
a centre from which radiated honours, distinctions, and fortune. Gifts
of oratory, facility in debate, ability in the conduct of diplomatic
negotiations, a masterly style in Latin composition, and even
perfection in penmanship, were all marketable accomplishments, for
which Rome was the highest bidder. If classical learning and the
graces of literature received but intermittent encouragement from the
sovereign pontiffs, both the secular interests of their government and
the vindication of the Church's dogmatic teaching afforded the most
profitable exercise for talents which sceptical humanists sold, as
readily as did the condottieri their swords--to the best paymaster,
regardless of their personal convictions. There consequently came into
existence in Rome a new _ceto_ or class, equally removed from the
nobles of feudal traditions and the ecclesiastics of the Curia, yet
mingling with both. Literary style and the art of Latin composition,
sedulously cultivated by these brilliant intellectual nomads, shed an
undoubted lustre on the Roman chancery, giving it a stamp it has
never entirely lost. They fought battles and scored victories for an
orthodoxy they derided. They defended the Church's temporalities from
the encroachments of covetous princes. Their influence on morals was
frankly pagan. Expatriated and emancipated from all laws save those
dictated by their own tastes and inclinations, these men were genially
rebellious against the restraints and discipline imposed by the
evangelical law. From the Franciscan virtues of chastity, poverty, and
obedience, preached by the _Poverello_ of Assisi, they turned with
aversion to laud the antipodal trinity of lust, license, and luxury.
The mysticism of medieval Christianity was repugnant to their
materialism, and the symbolism of its art, expressed under rigid,
graceless forms, offended eyes that craved beauty of line and beauty
of colour. They ignored or condemned any ulterior purpose of art as a
teaching medium for spiritual truths. To such men, a satire of Juvenal
was more precious than an epistle of St. Paul; dogma, they demolished
with epigrams, the philosophy of the schoolmen was a standing joke,
and a passage from Plato or Horace outweighed the definitions of an
Ecumenical Council.

The toleration extended to these heterodox scholars seems to have
been unlimited,--perhaps it was not in some instances unmixed with
contempt, for, though they lampooned the clergy of all grades, not
sparing even the Pope himself, their writings, even when not free from
positive scurrility, were allowed the freest circulation. In all
that pertained to personal conduct and morality, they directed their
exclusive efforts to assimilating classical standards of the
decadent periods, ignoring the austere virtues of civic probity,
self-restraint, and frugality, that characterised the best society of
Greek and Rome in their florescence. These same men lived on terms
of close intimacy with princes of the Church, on whose bounty they
throve, and by degrees numbers of them even entered the ranks of the
clergy, some with minor and others with holy orders. To their labours,
the world owes the recovery of the classic literature of Greece and
Rome from oblivion, while the invention and rapid adoption of the
printing-press rendered these precious texts forever indestructible
and accessible.

Into this brilliant, dissolute world of intellectual activity, Peter
Martyr entered, and through it he passed unscathed, emerging with his
Christian faith intact and his orthodoxy untainted. He gathered the
gold of classical learning, rejecting its dross; his morals were
above reproach and calumny never touched his reputation. Respected,
appreciated, and, most of all, beloved by his contemporaries, his
writings enriched the intellectual heritage of posterity with
inexhaustible treasures of original information concerning the great
events of the memorable epoch it was his privilege to illustrate.

General culture being widely diffused, the pedantic imitations of
antiquity applauded by the preceding generation ceased to confer
distinction. Latin still held its supremacy but the Italian language,
no longer reputed vulgar, was coming more and more into favour as a
vehicle for the expression of original thought. Had he remained in
Italy Martyr might well have used it, but his removal to Spain imposed
Latin as the language of his voluminous compositions.

Four years after his arrival in Rome, a Milanese noble, Bartolomeo
Scandiano, who later went as nuncio to Spain, invited Peter Martyr
to pass the summer months in his villa at Rieti, in company with the
Bishop of Viterbo. In the fifteenth letter of the _Opus Epistolarum_
he recalls the impressions and recollections of that memorable visit,
in the following terms: "Do you remember, Scandiano, with what
enthusiasm we dedicated our days to poetical composition? Then did I
first appreciate the importance of association with the learned and to
what degree the mind of youth is elevated in the amiable society of
serious men: then, for the first time, I ventured to think myself a
man and to hope that I might become somebody." The summer of 1481 may,
therefore, be held to mark his intellectual awakening and the birth of
his definite ambitions. Endowed by nature with the qualities necessary
to success, intimate association with men of eminent culture inspired
him with the determination to emulate them, and from this ideal he
never deflected. The remaining six years of his life in Rome were
devoted to the pursuit of knowledge, and in the art of deciphering
inscriptions and the geography of the ancients he acquired singular

During the pontificate of Innocent VIII., Francesco Negro, a Milanese
by birth, was governor of Rome and him Peter Martyr served as
secretary; a service which, for some reason, necessitated several
months' residence in Perugia. His relations with Ascanio Sforza,
created cardinal in 1484, continued to be close, and at one period he
may have held some position in the cardinal's household or in that
of Cardinal Giovanni Arcimboldo, Archbishop of Milan, though it is
nowhere made clear precisely what, while some authorities incline to
number him merely among the assiduous courtiers of these dignitaries
from his native Lombardy.

The fame of his scholarship had meanwhile raised him from the position
of disciple to a place amongst the masters of learning, and in his
turn he saw gathering about him a group of admirers and adulators.
Besides Pomponius Lætus, his intimates of this period were Theodore of
Pavia and Peter Marsus, the less celebrated of the Venetian brothers.
He stood in the relation of preceptor or mentor to Alonso Carillo,
Bishop of Pamplona, and to Jorge da Costa, Archbishop of Braga, two
personages of rank, who did but follow the prevailing fashion that
decreed the presence of a humanist scholar to be an indispensable
appendage in the households of the great. He read and commented the
classics to his exalted patrons, was the arbiter of taste, their
friend, the companion of their cultured leisure, and their confidant.
Replying to the praises of his disciples, couched in extravagant
language, he administered a mild rebuke, recalling them to moderation
in the expression of their sentiments: "These are not the lessons you
received from me when I explained to you the satire of the divine
Juvenal; on the contrary, you have learned that nothing more shames a
free man than adulation."[7]

[Note 7: Epist. x. _Non hæc a me profecto, quam ambobus Juvenalis
aliguando divinam illam, quæ proxima est a secunda, satiram aperirem,
sed adulatione nihil esse ingenuo foedius dedicistis_.]

The year 1486 was signalised in Rome by the arrival of an embassy from
Ferdinand and Isabella to make the usual oath of obedience on behalf
of the Catholic sovereigns of Castille and Leon to their spiritual
over-lord, the Pope. Iñigo Lopez de Mendoza, Count of Tendilla, a son
of the noble house of Mendoza, whose cardinal was termed throughout
Europe _tertius rex_, was the ambassador charged with this mission.[8]
Tendilla shone in a family in which intellectual brilliancy was a
heritage, the accomplishments of its members adding distinction to a
house of origin and descent exceptionally illustrious. Whether in the
house of his compatriot, the Bishop of Pamplona, or elsewhere, the
ambassador made the acquaintance of Peter Martyr and evidently fell
under the charm of his noble character and uncommon talents. The
duties of his embassy, and possibly his own good pleasure, detained
Tendilla in Rome from September 13, 1486, until August 29th of the
following year, and, as his stay drew to its close, he pressingly
invited the Italian scholar to return with him to Spain, an invitation
which neither the remonstrances nor supplications of his friends
in Rome availed to persuade him to refuse. No one could more
advantageously introduce a foreigner at the Court of Spain than
Tendilla. What prospects he held out or what arguments he used to
induce Martyr to quit Rome and Italy, we do not know; apparently
little persuasion was required. A true child of his times, Peter
Martyr was prepared to accept his intellectual heritage wherever he
found it. From the obscure parental village of Arona, his steps first
led him to the ducal court of Milan, which served as a stepping-stone
from which he advanced into the wider world of Rome. The papal capital
knew him first as a disciple, then as a master, but the doubt whether
he was satisfied to wait upon laggard pontifical favours is certainly
permissible. He had made warm friendships, had enjoyed the intimacy of
the great, and the congenial companionship of kindred spirits, but his
talents had secured no permanent or lucrative recognition from the
Sovereign Pontiff. The announcement of his resolution to accompany
the ambassador to Spain caused consternation amongst his friends
who opposed, by every argument they could muster, a decision they
considered displayed both ingratitude and indifferent judgment.
Nothing availed to change the decision he had taken and, since to each
one he answered as he deemed expedient, and as each answer differed
from the other, it is not easy to fix upon the particular reason which
prompted him to seek his fortune in Spain.

[Note 8: From Burchard's _Diarium_, 1483-1506, and from the
_Chronicle_ of Pulgar we learn that Antonio Geraldini and Juan de
Medina, the latter afterwards Bishop of Astorga, accompanied the

To Ascanio Sforza, who spared neither entreaties nor reproaches to
detain him, assuring him that during his lifetime his merits should
not lack recognition, Martyr replied that the disturbed state of
Italy, which he apprehended would grow worse, discouraged him; adding
that he was urged on by an ardent desire to see the world and to make
acquaintance with other lands. To Peter Marsus, he declared he felt
impelled to join in the crusade against the Moors. Spain was the seat
of this holy war, and the Catholic sovereigns, who had accomplished
the unity of the Christian states of the Iberian peninsula, were
liberal in their offers of honours and recompense to foreigners of
distinction whom they sought to draw to their court and camp. Spain
may well have seemed a virgin and promising field, in which his
talents might find a more generous recognition than Rome had awarded
them. Upon his arrival there, he showed himself no mean courtier when
he declared to the Queen that his sole reason for coming was to behold
the most celebrated woman in the world--herself. Perhaps the sincerest
expression of his feelings is that contained in a letter to Carillo.
(Ep. 86. 1490): _Formosum est cuique, quod maxime placet: id si cum
patria minime quis se sperat habiturum, tanta est hujusce rei vis, ut
extra patriam quæritet patria ipsius oblitus. Ego quam vos deservistis
adivi quia quod mihi pulchrum suaveque videbatur in ea invenire
speravi_. The divine restlessness, the _Wanderlust_ had seized him,
and to its fascination he yielded. The opportunity offered by Tendilla
was too tempting to be resisted. Summing up the remonstrances and
reproaches of his various friends, he declared that he held himself to
deserve rather their envy than their commiseration, since amidst
the many learned men in Italy he felt himself obscure and useless,
counting himself indeed as _passerunculus inter accipitres, pygmeolus
inter gigantes_.

Failing to turn his friend from his purpose, Cardinal Ascanio
Sforza exacted from him a promise to send him regular and frequent
information of all that happened at the Spanish Court. It is to this
pact between the two friends that posterity is indebted for the
Decades and the _Opus Epistolarum_, in which the events of those
singularly stirring years are chronicled in a style that portrays
with absolute fidelity the temper of an age prolific in men of
extraordinary genius and unsurpassed daring, incomparably rich in
achievements that changed the face of the world and gave a new
direction to the trend of human development.

On the twenty-ninth of August the Spanish ambassador, after taking
leave of Innocent VIII.,[9] set out from Rome on his return journey to
Spain, and with him went Peter Martyr d'Anghera.

[Note 9: _Dixi ante sacros pedes prostratus lacrymosum vale quarto
calendi Septembris 1487_. (Ep. i.)]


Spain in the year 1487 presented a striking contrast to Italy where,
from the days of Dante to those of Machiavelli, the land had echoed to
the vain cry: _Pax, pax et non erat pax_. Peter Martyr was impressed
by the unaccustomed spectacle of a united country within whose
boundaries peace reigned. This happy condition had followed upon the
relentless suppression of feudal chiefs whose acts of brigandage,
pillage, and general lawlessness had terrorised the people and
enfeebled the State during the preceding reign.

The same nobles who had fought under Isabella's standard against Henry
IV. did not scruple to turn their arms upon their young sovereign,
once she was seated upon the throne. Lucio Marineo Siculo has drawn a
sombre picture of life in Spain prior to the establishment of order
under Ferdinand and Isabella. To accomplish the needed reform, it was
necessary to break the power and humble the pretensions of the feudal
nobles. The Duke of Villahermosa, in command of an army maintained
by contributions from the towns, waged a merciless campaign, burning
castles and administering red-handed but salutary justice to rebels
against the royal authority, and to all disturbers of public order
throughout the realm.

This drastic work of internal pacification was completed before the
arrival of our Lombard scholar at the Spanish Court. Castile and
Aragon united, internal strife overcome, the remaining undertaking
worthiest to engage the attention of the monarchs was the conquest of
the unredeemed southern provinces. Ten years of intermittent warfare
had brought the Christian troops to the very walls of Granada, but
Granada still held out. Almeria and Guadiz were in possession of the
enemy and over the towers of Baza the infidel flag proudly floated.

The reception accorded Tendilla's protégé by the King and Queen in
Saragossa was benign and encouraging. Isabella already caressed the
idea of encouraging the cultivation of the arts and literature amongst
the Spaniards, and her first thought was to confide to the newcomer
the education of the young nobles and pages about the Court--youths
destined to places of influence in Church and State. She was not a
little surprised when the reputed savant modestly deprecated his
qualifications for such a responsible undertaking, and declared his
wish was to join in the crusade against the infidels in Andalusia.
Some mirth was even provoked by the idea of the foreign scholar
masquerading as a soldier.

In 1489, King Ferdinand, who had assembled a powerful force at Jaen,
marched to the assault of Baza, a strong place, ably defended at
that time by Abdullah, known under the proud title of El Zagal--the
Victorious--because of his many victories over the Christian armies he
had encountered. During the memorable siege that ended in the fall of
Baza, Peter Martyr played his dual rôle of soldier and historian. The
Moors defended the city with characteristic bravery, for they were
fighting for their property, their liberty, and their lives. From
Jaen, where Isabella had established herself to be near the seat
of war, messages of encouragement daily reached the King and his
commanders, inciting them to victory, for which the Queen and her
ladies daily offered prayers. Impregnable Baza fell on the fourth of
December, and, with its fall, the Moorish power in Spain was forever
broken. Smaller cities and numerous strongholds in the surrounding
country hastened to offer their submission and, after the humiliating
surrender of El Zagal in the Spanish camp at Tabernas, Almeria opened
its gates to the triumphant Christians who sang _Te Deum_ within its
walls on Christmas day. Peter Martyr's description of this victorious
campaign has proved a rich source from which later writers have
generously drawn, not always with adequate acknowledgment. From Jaen
the Court withdrew to Seville, where the marriage of the princess
royal to the crown prince of Portugal was celebrated.

Boabdilla still held Granada, oblivious of his engagement to surrender
that city when his rival, El Zagal, should be conquered.[1] We need
not here digress to rehearse the oft-told story of the siege of
Granada, during which Moslem rivalled Christian in deeds of chivalry.
Peter Martyr's letters in the _Opus Epistolarum_ recount these events.
He shared to the full the exultation of the victors, but was not
oblivious of the grief and humiliation of the vanquished whom
he describes as weeping and lamenting upon the graves of their
forefathers, with a choice between captivity and exile before their
despairing eyes. He portrays his impressions upon entering with the
victorious Christian host into the stately city. _Alhambrum, proh dii
immortales! Qualem regiam, romane purpurate, unicam in orbe terrarum,
crede_, he exclaims in his letter to Cardinal Arcimboldo of Milan.

[Note 1: The Moorish power was at this time weakened by an
internal dissension. El Zagal had succeeded his brother, Muley Abdul
Hassan, who, at the time of his death ruled over Baza, Guadiz,
Almeria, and other strongholds in the south-east, while his son
Boabdil was proclaimed in Granada, thus dividing the kingdom against
itself, at a moment when union was most essential to its preservation.
Boabdil had accepted the protection of King Ferdinand and had even
stipulated the surrender of Granada as the reward for his uncle's
defeat. Consult Prescott's _Ferdinand and Isabella_.]

Divers are the appreciations of the precise part played by Peter
Martyr in the course of this war. He spent quite as much time with
the Queen's court as he did at the front, and he himself advances but
modest claims to war's laurels, writing rather as one who had missed
his vocation amongst men whose profession was fighting. The career he
sought did not lie in that direction. In later years writing to his
friend Marliano, he observed: _De bello autem si consilium amici
vis, bella gerant bellatores. Philosophis inhæreat lectionis et
contemplationis studium_.

Glorious as the date of Granada's capture might have been in Spanish
history, it acquired world-wide significance from the decision given
in favour of the project of Christopher Columbus which followed as a
consequence of the Christian victory. Though he nowhere states the
fact, Martyr must at this time[2] have known the Genoese suppliant for
royal patronage. Talavera, confessor to the Queen, was the friend and
protector of both Italians.

[Note 2: Navarrete states that the two Italians had known one
another intimately prior to the siege of Granada. _Coleccion de
documentos ineditos_, tom. i., p. 68.]

Fascinated by the novelties and charms of Granada, Martyr remained in
the conquered city when the Court withdrew. His friend Tendilla was
appointed first governor of the province and Talavera became its first
archbishop. Comparing the city with others, famous and beautiful in
Italy, he declared Granada to be the loveliest of them all; for Venice
was devoid of landscape and surrounded only by sea; Milan lay in a
flat stretch of monotonous plain; Florence might boast her hills,
but they made her winter climate frigid, while Rome was afflicted by
unwholesome winds from Africa and such poisonous exhalations from the
surrounding marshes that few of her citizens lived to old age. Such,
to eyes sensitive to Nature's charms and to a mind conscious of
historical significance, was the prize that had fallen to the Catholic

[Note 3: In the month of June, 1492.]

What influences worked to prepare the change which took place in Peter
Martyr's life within the next few months are not known. After the
briefest preparation, he took minor orders and occupied a canon's
stall in the cathedral of Granada. Of a religious vocation, understood
in the theological sense, there appears to have been no pretence,
but ten years later we find him a priest, with the rank of apostolic
protonotary. Writing on March 28, 1492, to Muro, the dean of
Compostello he observed: _Ad Saturnum, cessante Marte, sub hujus
sancti viri archiepiscopi umbra tento transfugere; a thorace jam ad
togam me transtuli_. In the coherent organisation of society as it
was then ordered, men were classified in distinct and recognisable
categories, each of which opened avenues to the ambitious for
attaining its special prizes. Spain was still scarcely touched by
the culture of the Renaissance. Outside the Church there was little
learning or desire for knowledge, nor did any other means for
recompensing scholars exist than by the bestowal of ecclesiastical
benefices. A prebend, a canonry, a professorship in the schools or
university were the sole sources of income for a man of letters. Peter
Martyr was such, nor did any other road to the distinction he frankly
desired, open before him. Perhaps Archbishop Talavera made this point
clear to him. Disillusionised, if indeed he had ever entertained
serious hope of success as a soldier, it cost him no effort to change
from the military to the more congenial sacerdotal caste.

Granada, for all its charms, quickly palled, and his first enthusiasm
subsiding, gave place to a sense of confinement, isolation, and
unrest. Not the companionship of his two attached friends could make
life in a provincial town, remote from the Court, tolerable to one who
had spent ten years of his life in the cultured world of Rome. The
monotonous routine of a canon's duties meant stagnation to his keen,
curious temperament, athirst for movement and novelty. His place was
amongst men, in the midst of events where he might observe, study,
and philosophically comment. Writing to Cardinal Mendoza, he frankly
confessed his unrest, declaring that the delights and beauties of
Nature, praised by the classical writers, ended by disgusting him and
that he could never know contentment save in the society of great men.
His nature craved life on the mountain tops of distinction rather than
existence in the valley of content. He did not yearn for Tusculum.

To manage a graceful re-entry to the Court was not easy. To Archbishop
Talavera, genial and humane, had succeeded the austere Ximenes
as confessor to Isabella. The post was an important one, for the
ascendancy of its occupant over the Queen was incontestable, but,
while Peter Martyr's perspicacity was quick to grasp the desirability
of conciliating the new confessor, it equally divined the barriers
forbidding access to the remote, detached Franciscan. In one of
his letters he compared the penetration of Ximenes to that of St.
Augustine, his austerity to that of St. Jerome, and his zeal for
the faith to that of St. Ambrose. Cardinal Ximenes had admirers and
detractors, but he had no friends.

In this dilemma Martyr felt himself alone, abandoned, and he was not
a little troubled as to his future prospects, for he was without an
advocate near the Queen. He wrote to several personages, even to the
young Prince, Don Juan, and evidently without result, for he observed
with a tinge of bitterness: "I see that King's favours, the chief
object of men's efforts, are more shifting and empty than the wind."
Fortune was kinder to him than she often shows herself to others
who no less assiduously cultivate her favour, nor was his patience
over-taxed by long waiting. With the return of peace, Queen Isabella's
interest in her plan for encouraging a revival of learning amongst
her courtiers re-awakened. It was her desire that the Spanish nobles
should cultivate the arts and literature, after the fashion prevailing
in Italy. Lucio Marineo Siculo, also a disciple of Pomponius Lætus,
had preceded Martyr in Spain by nearly two years, and was professor of
poetry and grammar at Salamanca. He was the first of the Italians who
came as torch-bearers of the Renaissance into Spain, to be followed
by Peter Martyr, Columbus, the Cabots, Gattinara, the Geraldini and
Marliano. Cardinal Mendoza availed himself of the propitious moment,
to propose Martyr's name for the office of preceptor to direct the
studies of the young noblemen. In response to a welcome summons, the
impatient canon left Granada and repaired to Valladolid where the
Court then resided.[4] The ungrateful character and dubious results
of the task before him were obvious, the chief difficulties to be
apprehended threatening to come from his noble pupils, whose minds
and manners he was expected to form. Restive under any save military
discipline, averse by temperament and custom to studies of any sort,
it was hardly to be hoped that they would easily exchange their gay,
idle habits for schoolroom tasks under a foreign pedagogue. Yet this
miracle did Peter Martyr work. The charm of his personality counted
for much, the enthusiasm of the Queen and the presence in the school
of the Infante Don Juan, whose example the youthful courtiers dared
not disdain, for still more, and the house of the Italian preceptor
became the fashionable rendezvous of young gallants who, a few months
earlier, would have scoffed at the idea of conning lessons in grammar
and poetry, and listening to lectures on morals and conduct from a
foreigner. Of his quarters in Saragossa in the first year of his
classes he wrote: _Domum habeo tota die ebullientibus Procerum
juvenibus repletam_.

[Note 4: In the month of June, 1492.]

During the next nine years of his life, Peter Martyr devoted himself
to his task and with results that gratified the Queen and reflected
credit upon her choice. In October of 1492 he had been appointed by
the Queen, _Contino de su casa_,[5] with a revenue of thirty thousand
maravedis. Shortly after, he was given a chaplaincy in the royal
household, an appointment which increased both his dignity and his
income. His position was now assured, his popularity and influence
daily expanded.

[Note 5: An office in the Queen's household, the duties and
privileges of which are not quite clear. Mariéjol suggests that the
_contini_ corresponded to the _gentilshommes de la chambre_ at
the French Court. Lucio Marineo Siculo mentioned these palatine
dignitaries immediately after the two captains and the two hundred
gentlemen composing the royal body-guard. Consult Mariéjol, _Pierre
Martyr d'Anghera, sa vie et ses oeuvres_, Paris, 1887.]

It would be interesting to know something of his system of teaching in
what proved to be a peripatetic academy, since he and his aristocratic
pupils always followed the Court in its progress from city to city;
but nowhere in his correspondence, teeming with facts and commentaries
on the most varied subjects, is anything definite to be gleaned. Latin
poetry and prose, the discourses of Cicero, rhetoric, and church
history were important subjects in his curriculum. Though he
frequently mentions Aristotle in terms of high admiration, it may be
doubted whether he ever taught Greek. There is no evidence that he
even knew that tongue. Besides the Infante Don Juan, the Duke of
Braganza, Don Juan of Portugal, Villahermosa, cousin to the King, Don
Iñigo de Mendoza, and the Marquis of Priego were numbered among his
pupils. Nor did his personal influence cease when they left his
classes. The renascence of learning did not move with the spontaneous,
almost revolutionary, vigour that characterised the revival in Italy,
nor was Peter Martyr of the paganised scholars in whom the cult
for antiquity had undermined Christian faith--else had he not been
acceptable to Queen Isabella.

Some authors, including Ranke, have described him as occupying the
post of Secretary of Latin Letters. Officially he never did. His
knowledge of Latin, in a land where few were masters of the language
of diplomatic and literary intercourse, was brought into frequent
service, and it was no uncommon thing for him to turn the Spanish
draft of a state paper or despatch into Latin.[6] He refused a chair
in the University of Salamanca, but consented on one occasion to
deliver a lecture before its galaxy of distinguished professors and
four thousand students. He chose for his subject the second satire of
Juvenal, and for more than an hour held his listeners spellbound under
the charm of his eloquence. He thus described his triumph: _Domum
tanquam ex Olympo victorem primarii me comitantur_.[7]

[Note 6: _Talvolta era incaricato di voltare in latino le
correspondenze diplomatiche pin importanti. I ministri o i lor
segretari ne faceano la minuta in ispagnuolo, ed egli le recava nella
lingua che era allora adoperata come lingua internazionale_. Ciampi,
_Nuova Antologia_, tom, iii., p. 69.]

[Note 7: _Opus Epistolarum_. Ep. lvii.]

During these prosperous years in Spain, the promise made to Cardinal
Ascanio Sforza was faithfully kept, though the latter's early fall
from his high estate in Rome diverted Martyr's letters to other
personages. With fervent and unflagging interest he followed the swift
march of disastrous events in his native Italy. The cowardly murder
of Gian Galeazzo by his perfidious and ambitious nephew, Lodovico il
Moro; the death of the magnificent Lorenzo in Florence; the accession
to power of the unscrupulous Borgia family, with Alexander VI. upon
the papal throne; the French invasion of Naples--all these and other
similar calamities bringing in their train the destruction of Italy,
occupied his attention and filled his correspondence with lamentations
and sombre presages for the future.

He was the first to herald the discovery of the new world, and to
publish the glory of his unknown compatriot to their countrymen. To
Count Giovanni Borromeo he wrote concerning the return of Columbus
from his first voyage: ..._rediit ab Antipodibus occiduis
Christophorus quidam Colonus, vir ligur, qui a meis regibus ad hanc
provinciam tria vix impetraverat navigia, quia fabulosa, que dicebat,
arbitrabantur; rediit preciosum multarum rerum sed auri precipue,
qua suapte natura regiones generant tulit_. Significant is the
introduction of the great navigator: _Christophorus quidam Colonus,
vir ligur_. There was nothing more to know or say about the sailor
of lowly origin and obscure beginnings, whose great achievement shed
glory on his unconscious fatherland and changed the face of the world.


In the year 1497 Peter Martyr was designated for a diplomatic mission
that gratified his ambition and promised him an opportunity to revisit
Rome and Milan.

Ladislas II., King of Bohemia, sought to repudiate his wife Beatrice,
daughter of King Ferdinand of Naples, and widow of Matthias Corvinus,
King of Hungary. Being a princess of Aragon, the outraged lady's
appeal in her distress to her powerful kinsman in Spain found
Ferdinand of Aragon disposed to intervene in her behalf. It was to
champion her cause that Peter Martyr was chosen to go as ambassador
from the Catholic sovereigns to Bohemia, stopping on his way at Rome
to lay the case before the Pope. In the midst of his preparations for
the journey the unwelcome and disconcerting intelligence that Pope
Alexander VI. leaned rather to the side of King Ladislas reached
Spain. This gave the case a new and unexpected complexion. The Spanish
sovereigns first wavered and then reversed their decision. The
embassy was cancelled and the disappointed ambassador cheated of the
distinction and pleasure he already tasted in anticipation.

Four years later circumstances rendered an embassy to the Sultan of
Egypt imperative. Ever since the fall of Granada, which was followed
by the expulsion of Moors and Jews from Spain or their forcible
conversion to Christianity if they remained in the country, the
Mussulman world throughout Northern Africa had been kept in a ferment
by the lamentations and complaints of the arriving exiles. Islam
throbbed with sympathy for the vanquished, and thirsted for vengeance
on the oppressors. The Mameluke Sultan of Egypt, aroused to action by
the reports of the persecution of his brethren in blood and faith,
threatened reprisals, which he was in a position to carry out on
the persons and property of the numerous Christian merchants in the
Levant, as well as on the pilgrims who annually visited the Holy Land.
The Franciscan friars, guardians of the holy places in Palestine, were
especially at his mercy. Representations had been made in Rome and
referred by the Pope to Spain. King Ferdinand temporised, denying the
truth of the reports of persecution and alleging that no oppressive
measures had been adopted against the Moors, describing whatever
hardships they may have suffered as unavoidably incidental to the
reorganisation of the recently acquired provinces. His tranquillising
assurances were not accepted with unreserved credence by the Sultan.
By the year 1501, the situation had become so strained, owing to the
knowledge spread through the Mussulman world that an edict of general
expulsion was in preparation, that it was decided to despatch an
embassy to soothe the Sultan's angry alarm and to protect, if
possible, the Christians within his dominions from the threatened
vengeance. For this delicate and novel negotiation, Peter Martyr was
chosen. The avowed object of his mission has been suspected of masking
some undeclared purpose, though what this may have been is purely a
matter of conjecture. He was also entrusted with a secret message to
the Doge and Senate of Venice, where French influences were felt to be
at work against the interests of Spain. Travelling by way of Narbonne
and Avignon, the ambassador reached Venice a few days after the death
of the Doge, Barbarigo, and before a successor had been elected.
Brief as was his stay in the city of lagoons, every hour of it was
profitably employed. He visited churches, palaces, and convents,
inspecting their libraries and art treasures; he was enraptured by the
beauty and splendour of all he beheld. Nothing escaped his searching
inquiries concerning the form of government, the system of elections,
the ship-building actively carried on in the great arsenal, and the
extent and variety of commercial intercourse with foreign nations.
Mention of his visit is made in the famous diary of the younger Marino

[Note 1: _A di 30 Septembris giunse qui uno orator dei reali di
Spagna; va al Soldano al Cairo; qual montó su le Gallie nostre di
Alessandria; si dice per prepare il Soliano relaxi i frati di Monte
Syon e li tratti bene, e che 30 mila. Mori di Granata si sono
baptizati di sua volontá, e non coacti_.]

Delightful and absorbing as he undoubtedly found it to linger amidst
the glories of Venice, the ambassador was not forgetful that the
important purpose of his mission lay elsewhere. Delivering his message
to the Senate, he crossed to Pola (Pula), where eight Venetian ships lay,
ready to sail to various ports in the Levant. The voyage to Egypt
proved a tempestuous one, and it was the twenty-third of December when
the storm-beaten vessel safely entered the port of Alexandria, after
a narrow escape from being wrecked on the rocky foundations of the
famous Pharos of antiquity. Christian merchants trading in the Levant
were at that period divided into two groups, one of which was under
the protection of Venice, the other, in which were comprised all
Spanish subjects, being under that of France. The French consul,
Felipe de Paredes, a Catalonian by birth, offered the hospitality of
his house pending the arrival of the indispensable safe-conduct and
escort from the Sultan. In the _Legatio Babylonica_, Peter Martyr
describes, with lamentations, the squalor of the once splendid city of
Alexandria, famous for its beautiful gardens, superb palaces, and rich
libraries. The ancient capital of the Ptolemies was reduced to a mere
remnant of its former size, and of its former glories not a vestige
was perceptible.[2] Cansu Alguri[3] reigned in Cairo. A man personally
inclined to toleration, his liberty of action was fettered by the
fanaticism of his courtiers and the Mussulman clergy. The moment was
not a propitious one for an embassy soliciting favours for Christians.
The Portuguese had but recently sunk an Egyptian vessel off Calicut,
commercial rivalries were bitter, and the harsh treatment of the
conquered Moors in Spain had aroused religious antagonism to fever
pitch and bred feelings of universal exasperation against the foes of

[Note 2: Writing to Pedro Fajardo he thus expressed himself:
_Alexandriam sepe perambulavi: lacrymosum est ejus ruinas intueri;
centum millium atque eo amplius domorum uti per ejus vestigere licet
colligere meo judicio quondam fuit Alexandria; nunc quatuor vix
millibus contenta est focis; turturibus nunc et columbis pro
habitationibus nidos prestat, etc_.]

[Note 3: Also spelled Quansou Ghoury and Cansa Gouri; Peter Martyr
writes _Campsoo Gauro_.]

From Rosetta Peter Martyr started on January 26th on his journey to
the Egyptian Babylon,[4] as he was pleased to style Cairo, travelling
by boat on the Nile and landing at Boulaq in the night. The next
morning a Christian renegade, Tangriberdy by name, who held the
important office of Grand Dragoman to the Sultan, presented himself to
arrange the ceremonial to be observed at the audience with his master.
This singular man, a Spanish sailor from Valencia, had been years
before wrecked on the Egyptian coast and taken captive. By forsaking
his faith he saved his life, and had gradually risen from a state
of servitude to his post of confidence near the Sultan's person.
Tangriberdy availed himself of the opportunity afforded by his duties,
to relate to the ambassador the story of his life and his forcible
conversion, declaring that, in his heart, he clung to the Christian
faith and longed to return to his native Spain. Whether his sentiments
were sincere or feigned, his presence in an influential capacity
at the Sultan's court was a fortuitous circumstance of which the
ambassador gladly took advantage. The audience was fixed for the
following morning at daybreak, and that night Tangriberdy lodged the
embassy in his own palace.

[Note 4: Cairo was thus called in the Middle Ages, the name
belonging especially to one of the city's suburbs. See _Quatremère
Mémoires geographiques te historiques sur l'Egypt_. Paris, 1811.]

Traversing the streets of Cairo, thronged with a hostile crowd curious
to view the _giaour_, Peter Martyr, accompanied by the Grand Dragoman
and his Mameluke escort, mounted to the citadel, where stood the
stately palace built by Salah-Eddin. After crossing two courts he
found himself in a third, where sat the Sultan upon a marble dais
richly draped and cushioned. The prostrations exacted by Eastern
etiquette were dispensed with, the envoy being even invited to sit in
the august presence. Thrice the Sultan assured him of his friendly
disposition; no business was transacted, and after these formalities
the ambassador withdrew as he had come, a second audience being fixed
for the following Sunday.

Meanwhile, the envoys from the Barbary States, who were present for
the purpose of defeating the negotiations, excited the populace by
appeals to their fanaticism, reminding them of the cruelties endured
by their brethern of the true faith at the hands of Spaniards. They
even declared that if Cansu Alguri consented to treat with the
infidels, he was no true son of Islam. A council of military chiefs
was summoned which quickly decided to demand the immediate dismissal
of the Christian ambassador. Tangriberdy, who sought to alter this
determination, was even threatened with death if he persisted in his
opposition. Remembering that he owed his throne to the Mamelukes, who
had exalted and destroyed no less than four Sultans within as many
years, Cansu Alguri quailed before the outburst of popular fury. He
ordered Tangriberdy to conduct the obnoxious visitor from the capital
without further delay. Peter Martyr, however, received this intimation
with unruffled calm and, to the stupefaction of Tangriberdy, refused
to leave until he had accomplished his mission. Such audacity in a
mild-mannered ecclesiastic was as impressive as it was unexpected. The
Grand Dragoman had no choice but to report the refusal to the Sultan.
By what arguments he prevailed upon Cansu Alguri to rescind his
command, we know not, but a secret audience was arranged in which
Martyr describes himself as speaking with daring and persuasive
frankness to the Sultan. He availed himself in the most ample manner
of diplomatic license in dealing with facts, and succeeded in
convincing his listener that no Moors had been forced to change their
religion, that the conquest of Granada was but the re-establishment of
Spanish sovereignty over what had been taken by conquest, and
finally that nobody had been expelled from the country, save lawless
marauders, who refused to abide by the terms of the fair treaty of
peace concluded between Boabdil and the Catholic sovereigns. He closed
his plea by adroitly introducing a scapegoat in the person of the
universally execrated Jew, against whom it was the easiest part of his
mission to awaken the dormant hatred and contempt of the Sultan. Into
willing Mussulman ears he poured a tirade of abuse, typical of the
epoch and the nation he represented: ..._proh si scires quam morbosum,
quam pestiferum; quamque contagiosum pecus istud de quo loqueris sit,
tactu omnia fedant, visu corrumpunt sermone destruunt, divina et
humana preturbant, inficiunt, prostrant miseros vicinos circumveniunt,
radicitus expellant, funestant; ubicumque pecunias esse presentiunt,
tamquam odori canes insequunt; detegunt, effundiunt, per mendacia,
perjuria, dolos insidias per litas, si catera non seppelunt,
extorquere illas laborant: aliena miseria, dolore, gemitu, mestitia
gaudent_. With every word of this diatribe, the representative of the
Prophet was in perfect agreement. United in the bonds of a common
hatred, than which no union is closer, a treaty between the two powers
was easily concluded. The military chiefs were converted to the
advantages of friendly relations with Spain, and means were devised to
calm the popular excitement.

Assisted by some monks of the Mount Sion community, the successful
ambassador drafted the concessions he solicited, all of which were
graciously accorded by the mollified Egyptians. Christians were
henceforth to be permitted to rebuild and repair the ruined
sanctuaries throughout the Holy Land; the tribute levied on pilgrims
was lightened and guaranties for their personal safety were given. It
is noteworthy that only religious interests received attention, no
mention being made of commercial privileges. More noteworthy still, is
the absence of anything tangible given by the adroit envoy in exchange
for what he got. The Sultan was reassured as to the status of such
Moors as might remain under Spanish rule, and was encouraged to
count upon unspecified future advantages from the friendship of King
Ferdinand. A truly singular result of negotiations begun under such
unfavourable auspices, though the value of concessions, to
the observance of which nothing constrained the Sultan, seems
problematical, and was certainly less than the ambassador, in his
naive vanity, hastened to assume and proclaim.

While the text of the treaty was being prepared, Peter Martyr occupied
himself in collecting information concerning the mysterious land where
he found himself. Egypt was all but unknown to his contemporaries,
whose most recent information concerning the country was derived from
the writings of the ancients. The _Legatio Babylonica_, consisting of
three reports to the Spanish sovereigns, to which addenda were later
made, contains a mass of historical and geographical facts, of which
Europeans were ignorant; nothing escaped the ambassador's omnivorous
curiosity and discerning scrutiny, during what proved to be a
veritable voyage of discovery. He treats of the flora and fauna of
the country; he studied and noted the characteristics of the great
life-giver of Egypt--the Nile. The Mamelukes engaged his particular
attention, though much of the information furnished him about them was
erroneous. He plunged into antiquity, visited, measured, and described
the Sphinx and the Pyramids--also with many errors. Christian
tradition and pious legends have their place in his narrative,
especially that of Matarieh--_ubi Christus latuerat_ when carried
by his parents into Egypt to escape the Herodian massacre of the

On the twenty-first of February, Peter Martyr, escorted by a guard of
honour composed of high court officials and respectfully saluted by
a vast concourse of people, repaired to the palace for his farewell
audience. In taking an affectionate leave of him, the Sultan presented
him with a gorgeous robe, heavy with cunningly-wrought embroideries.
Christian and Mussulman were friends. Six days later he left the
capital for Alexandria, where he embarked on April 22d for Venice.


Leonardo Loredano had meantime been elected Doge in succession to
the deceased Agostino Barbarigo. Spanish interests in the kingdom of
Naples were seriously compromised, and the diligence of the French
envoys threatened to win Venice from the neutral policy the Republic
had adopted and convert it into an ally of Louis XII.

On June 30th, Peter Martyr landed in Venice and immediately sought
audience of the new Doge, to whom he repeated the message he had
delivered a few months before to the Senate. Perceiving the headway
made by French influence, he wrote to Spain, explaining the situation
and urging the sovereigns immediately to despatch an embassy to
counteract the mischievous activity of the French. He offered, as
an alternative, to himself assume the negotiations if the requisite
instructions were sent to him. King Ferdinand ignored the proffer of
service, but, acting upon the information sent him, entrusted the
business to Lorenzo Suarez de Figueroa, who had been his ambassador
in Venice in 1495. Zealous for his adopted country and, possibly,
overconfident in consequence of his easy success in Egypt, Peter
Martyr did not wait for the credentials he had solicited but made the
mistake of treating affairs for which he had received no mandate. The
French envoys were quick to detect his opposition, and as prompt to
take advantage of the false position in which the diplomatic
novice had unwarily placed himself. His unaccredited presence and
officiousness in the capital of the Doges were made to appear both
offensive and ridiculous. The adherents of the French party denounced
him as an intriguer, and spread the report that he was a spy in the
pay of Spain. His position speedily became intolerable, unsafe even,
and he was forced to escape secretly from the city; nor did he stop
until he reached his native Lombardy, where he might rely upon the
protection of his kinsmen, the Marshal Trivulzio and the Borromeos, to
shield him from the consequences of his indiscretion.

He writes with emotion of the visit he paid to his native town of
Arona and the scenes of his childhood, where he renewed acquaintance
with the charms of one of the loveliest landscapes in Italy. He
yielded to early memories, and the gentle dream of one day returning
to the shores of Maggiore, there to pass his declining years, took
shape in his fancy. When peace between France and Spain was later
restored, after King Ferdinand's marriage to the Princess Germaine
de Foix, he obtained the King's intercession to procure for him the
abbacy of St. Gratian at Arona. He himself solicited the protection
of the Cardinal d'Amboise to obtain him this favour, declaring the
revenues from the abbacy were indifferent to him, as he would only use
them to restore to its pristine splendour the falling church in which
reposed the holy relics of SS. Gratian, Fidelius, and Carpophorus.
The peace between the two countries was too ephemeral to permit the
realisation of his pious hope.

The Marshal Trivulzio accompanied his kinsman to Asti and from
thence to Carmagnola where they obtained an audience of the Cardinal
d'Amboise, Legate for France. Despite his undisguised hostility to
Spaniards, the Legate furnished the ambassador with a safe-conduct
over the frontier into Spain.

If the Catholic monarchs felt any vexation at the excess of zeal their
envoy had displayed in Venice, they betrayed none. Peter Martyr's
reception was not wanting in cordiality, the Queen, especially,
expressing her gratitude for the important service he had rendered
the Christian religion, and he received another appointment[1] which
augmented his income by thirty thousand maravedis yearly. Having taken
holy orders about this time and the dignity of prior of the cathedral
chapter of Granada falling vacant, this benefice was also given to
him, _regis et reginæ beneficentia_.

[Note 1: _Maestro de los cabelleros de su corte en las artes
liberates_. He had long exercised the functions of this office, as
has been described: the formal appointment was doubtless but a means
invented for granting him an increase of revenue.]

On November 26th in the year 1504, the death of Isabella of Castile
plunged the Court and people into mourning and produced a crisis in
the government that threatened the arduously accomplished union of
the peninsula with disruption. None mourned the Queen's death more
sincerely than did her Italian chaplain. He accompanied the funeral
cortège on its long journey to Granada, where the body was laid in the
cathedral of the city her victorious arms had restored to the bosom
of Christendom. During several months, Martyr lingered in Granada,
hesitating before returning uninvited to King Ferdinand's Court. To a
letter from the Secretary of State, Perez Almazen, summoning him to
rejoin the King without delay, he somewhat coyly answered, deprecating
his ability to be of further service to His Majesty, adding, however,
that he asked nothing better than to obey the summons. Elsewhere,
in one of his Epistles, he states that he returned to the court at
Segovia, as representative of his chapter, to secure the continuation
of certain revenues paid from the royal treasury to the clergy of

The political situation created by the Queen's death was both
perplexing and menacing.[2] Doña Juana, wife of the Archduke Philip,
inherited the crown of Castile from her mother in default of male
heirs, but her mental state excluded the possibility of her assuming
the functions of government. Already during her mother's lifetime, the
health of this unhappy princess, who has passed into history under the
title of Juana the Mad, gave rise to serious anxiety. Deserted by the
handsome and frivolous Philip at a time when she most required his
presence, she sank into a state of profound melancholy. She waited, in
vain, for the return of the husband whom her unreasoning jealousy and
amorous importunities had driven from her.

[Note 2: The Infante Don Juan died in October, 1497, shortly after
his early marriage with the Archduchess Margaret of Austria, and
without issue. Isabella, Queen of Portugal, died after giving birth to
a son, in whom the three crowns of Portugal, Castile, and Aragon would
have been united had the prince not expired in 1500, while still a
child. Doña Juana, second daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella and next
heir, had married, in 1496, the Archduke Philip of Austria, Duke of
Burgundy, and became the mother of Charles I. of Spain, commonly known
by his imperial title of Charles V.]

In conformity with the late Queen's wishes, Ferdinand hastened to
proclaim his daughter and Philip sovereigns of Castile, reserving to
himself the powers of regent. He was willing to gratify the archduke's
vanity by conceding him the royal title, while keeping the government
in his own hands, and had there been no one but his absent son-in-law
with whom to reckon, his policy would have stood a fair chance of
success. It was thwarted by the intrigues of a powerful faction
amongst the aristocracy, who deemed the opportunity a promising one
for recovering some of the privileges of which they had been shorn.

Ferdinand of Aragon had gained little hold on the affections of the
people of his wife's dominions, hence his position became one of
extreme difficulty. His opponents urged the archduke to hasten his
arrival in Spain and to assume the regency in the name of his invalid
wife. Rumours that Louis XII. had accorded his son-in-law permission
to traverse France at the head of a small army rendered the regency
insecure, and to forestall the complication of a possible alliance
between Philip and King Louis, Ferdinand, despite his advanced age and
the recent death of his wife, asked the hand of a French princess,
Germaine de Foix, in marriage, offering to settle the crown of Naples
upon her descendants. To conciliate Philip, he proposed to share with
him the regency. Upon the arrival of the latter at Coruña in the month
of May, Martyr was chosen by the King to repair thither and obtain
the archduke's adhesion to this proposal. That the latter had
distinguished the Italian savant by admitting him to his intimacy
during his former stay in Spain, did not save the mission from
failure, and where Peter Martyr failed, Cardinal Ximenes was later
equally unsuccessful. Ferdinand ended by yielding and, after a final
interview with his son-in-law in Remesal, at which Peter Martyr was
present, he left Spain on his way to Naples, the latter remaining with
the mad queen to observe and report the course of events.

The sudden death of King Philip augmented the unrest throughout the
country, for the disappearance of this ineffective sovereign left the
state without even a nominal head. Ferdinand, who had reached Porto
Fino when the news was brought to him, made no move to return,
confident that the Castilians would soon be forced to invite him to
resume the government; on the contrary, he tranquilly continued his
journey to Naples. Rivals, he had none, for his grandson, Charles,
was still a child, while the unfortunate Juana passed her time in
celebrating funeral rites for her dead husband, whose coffin she
carried about with her, opening it to contemplate the body, of which
she continued to be so jealous that all women were kept rigorously at
a distance. A provisional government, formed to act for her, consisted
of Cardinal Ximenes, the Constable of Castile and the Duke of Najera,
but inspired little confidence. Peter Martyr perceived that, besides
Ferdinand, there was no one capable of restoring order and governing
the state. He wrote repeatedly to the secretary, Perez Almazen, and to
the King himself, urging the latter's speedy return as the country's
only salvation from anarchy. Events proved the soundness of his
judgment, for the mere news of the King's landing at Valencia sufficed
to restore confidence; he resumed the regency unopposed and continued
to govern Castile, in his daughter's name, until his own death.

Doña Juana ceased her lugubrious peregrinations and took up her
residence in the monastery of Santa Clara at Tordesillas, where she
consented to the burial of her husband's body in a spot visible from
her windows. Peter Martyr was one of the few persons who saw the
unhappy lady and even gained some influence over her feeble mind.
Mazzuchelli states that, at one period, there were but two bishops and
Peter Martyr to whom the Queen consented even to listen. Now and
again the figure of the insane queen appears like a pallid spectre in
Martyr's pages. Her caprices and vagaries are noted from time to time
in the _Opus Epistolarum_; indeed the story of her sufferings is all
there. The insanity of Doña Juana was not seriously doubted by her
contemporaries--certainly not by Martyr, whose portrait of her
character is perhaps the most accurate contemporary one we possess.
He traces her malady from its incipiency, through the successive
disquieting manifestations of hysteria, melancholia, and fury,
broken by periods of partial and even complete mental lucidity. Such
intervals became rarer and briefer as time went on.[3]

[Note 3: The efforts of the historian Bergenroth to establish
Doña Juana's sanity and to depict her as the victim of religious
persecution because of her suspected orthodoxy have been conclusively
refuted by Maurenbrecher, Gachard, and other writers, who have
demolished his arguments and censured his methods of research
and interpretation. The last mention of Doña Juana in the _Opus
Epistolarum_ occurs in Epistle DCCCII. Peter Martyr describes the
visit paid her by her daughter Isabella, who was about to be married
to the Infante of Portugal. The insanity of the Queen was used as a
political pawn by both her husband and her father, each affirming or
denying as it suited his purpose for the moment. The husband, however,
was stronger than the father, for the unhappy Juana would have signed
away her crown at his bidding in exchange for a caress. Consult
Hoefler, _Doña Juana_; Gachard, _Jeanne la Folle_; Maurenbrecher,
_Studien und Skizzen zur Geschichte der Reformationszeit_; Pedro de
Alcocer, _Relacion de algunas Cosas_; and Bergenroth's _Calendar of
Letters, Despatches, and State Papers_, etc. (1869).]

Upon the death of King Ferdinand in 1516, the regency devolved upon
Cardinal Ximenes, pending the arrival of the young King, Charles, from
the Netherlands. The character of Cardinal Ximenes and his methods of
government have been extolled by his admirers and condemned by his
adversaries. The judgment of Peter Martyr is perhaps the least biassed
of any expressed by that statesman's contemporaries. His personal
dislike of the Cardinal did not blind him to his qualities, nor
dull his appreciation of the obstacles with which the latter had to
contend. In the _Opus Epistolarum_ he seeks, not always with entire
success, to do justice to the great regent. Through his laborious
efforts to be fair to the statesman, there pierces his personal
dislike of the man. Trivial jibes and small criticisms at the
Cardinal's expense are not wanting. The writer shared the feeling of
the Spanish Grandees, that it was "odious to be governed by a friar."
He also derided the Cardinal's military spirit. One of the regent's
earliest measures suppressed all pensions, but though he excepted
Martyr by name, pending the King's decision, no answer came from the
Netherlands; the Italian fared as did other pensioners, and he
never forgave the Cardinal. Many of his letters of this period were
addressed to his compatriot, Marliano, who was the young King's
doctor, and were evidently intended for the monarch's eye. In
these epistles, adverse judgments and censures of Cardinal Ximenes
frequently recur, and the writer used the greatest frankness in
describing men and events in Spain, and even in offering suggestions
as to the King's policy upon his arrival.

Yielding to the repeated instances of the regent, Charles finally set
out to take possession of his unknown kingdom. He landed, after a
tempestuous voyage, near Gijon, bringing with him a numerous train
of Flemish courtiers and officials, whose primary interest lay in
preventing a meeting between himself and the regent, and whose
presence was destined to cause a serious estrangement between the
monarch and his Castilian subjects. Their first purpose was easily
accomplished. While the Cardinal awaited him near Roa, the King
avoided him by proceeding directly to Tordesillas to visit his mother.
This ungracious and unmerited snub was applauded by Martyr, who
dismissed the incident with almost flippant mention; nor did he
afterwards touch upon the aged Cardinal's death which occurred
simultaneously with the reception of the unfeeling message sent by
Charles to the greatest, the most faithful and the most disinterested
of his servants.[4]

[Note 4: Consult Héfélé, _Vie de Ximenez; Cartas de los
Secretarios del Cardinal_; Ferrer del Rio, _Comunidades de Castilla_;
Ranke, _Spanien unter Karl V_.]

During the opening years of his reign, the boy-king proved a docile
pupil under the control of his ministers.[5] Peter Martyr wrote of
him: "He directs nothing but is himself directed. He has a happy
disposition, is magnanimous, liberal, generous--but what of it, since
these qualities contribute to his country's ruin?" So reserved was the
royal youth in his manner, so slow of speech, that his mental capacity
began to be suspected. People remembered his mother. The story of the
troubled beginnings of what proved to be one of the most remarkable
reigns in modern history, is related in the _Opus Epistolarum_. The
writer watched from vantage-ground the conflict of interests, the
strife of parties; zealous for the welfare of his adopted country,
he was still a foreigner, identified with no party. Gifted with
rare perspicacity, moderation, and keen judgment, he maintained his
attitude of impartial observation. By temperament and habit he was an
aristrocrat--_placet Hispana nobilitas_--he confessed, admitting also
that _de populo nil mihi curæ_, yet he sided with the _comuneros_
against the Crown. While deploring their excesses, he sympathised with
the cause they defended, and he lashed the insolence and the rapacity
of the Flemish favourites with all the resources of invective and
sarcasm of which he was master. In one of his letters (Ep. 709), he
describes the disorders everywhere prevalent throughout the country.
"The safest roads are no longer secure from brigands and you enrich
bandits and criminals, and oppress honest folks. The ruling power is
now in the hands of assassins." Despite his undisguised hostility to
the Flemings and his outspoken criticisms on the abuses they fomented,
Charles V. bestowed new honours and emoluments upon the favoured
counsellor of his grandparents. In September, 1518, the Royal Council
proposed his name to the King as ambassador to Constantinople, there
to treat with the victorious Sultan, whose sanguinary triumphs in
Persia and Egypt were feared to foreshadow an Ottoman invasion of
Europe. Alleging his advanced age and infirmities, the cautious
nominee declined the honour, preferring doubtless to abide by his
facile diplomatic laurels won in Cairo. There was reason to anticipate
that the formidable Selim would be found less pliant than Cansu
Alguri. The event proved his wisdom, as Garcia Loaysa who went in his
stead, learned to his cost.

[Note 5: Guillaume de Croÿ, Sieur de Chièvres, who had been the
young prince's governor during his minority, became all powerful in
Spain, where he and his Flemish associates pillaged the treasury,
trafficked in benefices and offices, and provoked the universal hatred
of the Spaniards. Peter Martyr shared the indignation of his adopted
countrymen against the King's Flemish parasites. His sympathies for
the _Comuneros_ were frankly avowed in numerous of his letters.
Consult Hoefler, _Der Aufstand der Castillianischen Städte_;
Robertson, _Charles V_.]

In 1520, Peter Martyr was appointed historiographer, an office
yielding a revenue of eighty thousand maravedis. The conscientious
discharge of the duties of this congenial post, for which he was
conspicuously fitted, won the approval of Mercurino Gattinara, the
Italian chancellor of Charles V. Lucio Marineo Siculo speaks of Martyr
as far back as December, 1510, as _Consiliarius regius_, though
this title could, at that time, be given him only in his quality of
chronicler of the India Council, his effective membership really
dating from the year 1518. He was later appointed secretary to that
important body, which had control over all questions relating to
colonial expansion in the new world. In 1521 he renewed his efforts to
obtain the abbacy of St. Gratian in Arona, which had been refused him
ten years earlier. To his friend, Giovanni di Forli, Archbishop of
Cosenza, he wrote, protesting his disinterestedness, adding: "Don't be
astonished that I covet this abbey: you know I am drawn to it by love
of my native soil." It was not to be, and his failure to obtain this
benefice was one of the severest disappointments of his life. The
ambitions of Peter Martyr were never excessive, for he was in all
things a man of moderation; the honours he obtained, though many, were
sufficiently modest to protect him from the competition and jealousy
of aspiring rivals, yet he would certainly not have refused a
bishopric. After seeing four royal confessors raised to episcopal
rank, he slyly remarked that, "amongst so many confessors, it would
have been well to have one Martyr."[6]

[Note 6: "Tra tanti confessori, sarebbe stato ancora bene un
Martire," _Chevroeana_, p. 39. Ed. 1697.]

Arriving in Spain a foreign scholar of modest repute, and dependent on
the protection of his patron, the Count of Tendilla, Peter Martyr had
risen in royal favour, until he came to occupy honourable positions in
the State and numerous benefices in the Church. His services to his
protectors were valued and valuable. His house, whereever he happened
for the time to be, was the hospitable meeting-place where statesmen,
noblemen, foreign envoys, great ecclesiastics, and papal legates came
together with navigators and conquerors, cosmographers, colonial
officials, and returning explorers from antipodal regions--Spain's
empire builders. It was in such society he collected the mass of
first-hand information he sifted and chronicled in the Decades and the
_Opus Epistolarum_, which have proven such an inexhaustible mine for
students of Spanish and Spanish-American history. Truly of him may it
be said that nothing human was alien to his spirit. Intercourse with
him was prized as a privilege by the great men of his time, while he
converted his association with them to his own and posterity's profit.

Amongst the Flemish counsellors of Charles V., Adrian of Utrecht,
preceptor of the young prince prior to his accession, had arrived in
Spain in the year 1515 as representative of his interests at King
Ferdinand's court. Upon that monarch's death, Adrian, who had meantime
been made Bishop of Tortosa and created Cardinal, shared the regency
with Cardinal Ximenes. A man of gentle manners and scholastic
training, his participation in the regency was hardly more than
nominal. Ignorant alike of the Spanish tongue and the intricacies of
political life, he willingly effaced himself in the shadow of his
imperious and masterful colleague. Peter Martyr placed his services
entirely at the disposition of Adrian, piloting him amongst the
shoals and reefs that rendered perilous the mysterious sea of Spanish
politics. When Adrian was elected Pope in 1522, his former mentor
wrote felicitating him upon his elevation and reminding him of the
services he had formerly rendered him: _Fuistis a me de rebus quæ
gerebantur moniti; nec parum commodi ad emergentia tunc negotia
significationes meas Cæsaris rebus attulisse vestra Beatitudo
fatetur_. Although the newly elected Pontiff expressed an amiable wish
to see his old friend in Rome, he offered him no definite position in
Curia. The correspondence that ensued between them was inconclusive;
Martyr, always declaring that he sought no favour, still persisted in
soliciting a meeting which the Pope discouraged. Adrian accepted his
protests of disinterestedness literally, and their last meeting at
Logroño was unproductive of aught from the Pope, save expressions
of personal esteem and regard. Peter Martyr excused himself from
following His Holiness to Rome, on the plea of his advanced years and
failing health. If disappointed at receiving no definite appointment,
he concealed his chagrin, and, though evidently not desiring his
services in Curia, one of Adrian's first acts upon arriving in Rome
was to invest him with the archpriest's benefice of Ocaña in Spain.
The ever generous King was less niggardly, and, in 1523, conferred
upon Martyr the German title of Pfalzgraf, with the privilege of
naming imperial notaries and legitimising natural children.

On August 15, 1524, the King presented his name to Clement VII. for
confirmation as mitred abbot of Santiago in the island of Jamaica, a
benefice rendered vacant by the translation of Don Luis Figueroa to
the bishopric of San Domingo and La Concepcion.[7] A greater title
would have doubtless pleased him less, since this one linked his name
with the Church in the New World, of which he was the first historian.
He surrendered his priory of Granada to accept the Jamaican dignity,
the revenues from which he devoted to the construction of the first
stone church built at Sevilla del 'Oro in that island. Above its
portal an inscription bore witness to his generosity: _Petrus Martyr
ab Angleria, italus civis mediolanensis, protonotarius apostolicus
hujus insulæ, abbas, senatus indici consiliarius, ligneam priusædem
hanc bis igne consumptam, latericio et quadrato lapide primus a
fundamentis extruxit_.[8]

[Note 7: The King instructed his ambassador in Rome to propose
Luis Figueroa to succeed Alessandro Geraldino as bishop of Santo
Domingo and Concepcion, and for the vacant abbacy of Jamaica
_presentareis de nuestra parte al protonotario Pedro Mártir de nuestro
Consejo. Dejando tambien Mártir el priorado de Granada que posée_,
etc. Coleccion de Indias. vii., 449.]

[Note 8: Cantu, _Storia Universale_, tom, i., p. 900.]

In the month of June, 1526, the Court took up its residence in Granada
with Peter Martyr, as usual, in attendance. Before the walls of
Moorish Granada he had begun his career in Spain; within the walls of
Christian Granada he was destined to close it and be laid to his final
rest. A sufferer during many years from a disease of the liver, he was
aware of his approaching end, and made his will on September 23,[9]
bequeathing the greater part of the property he had amassed to his
nephews and nieces in Lombardy, though none of his friends and
servants in Spain was forgotten. He devoted careful attention to the
preparations for his funeral; eminently a friend of order and decorum,
he left nothing to chance, but provided for the precise number of
masses to be said, the exact amount of wax to be consumed, and the
kind of mourning liveries to be worn by his servants. He asked that
his body should be borne to its grave by the dean and the canons of
the cathedral, an honour to which his dignity of prior of that chapter
entitled him; but in order to ensure the chapter's participation, as
he quaintly expressed it, "with more goodwill," he set aside a legacy
of three thousand maravedis as compensation. Not only were his wishes
in this and all respects carried out, but the cathedral chapter
erected a tablet to his memory, upon which an epitaph he would not
have disdained was inscribed: _Rerum Ætate Nostra Gestarum--Et
Novi Orbis Ignoti Hactenus--Illustratori Petro Martyri
Mediolanensi--Cæsareo Senatori--Qui, Patria Relicta--Bella Granatensi
Miles Interfuit--Mox Urbe Capta, Primum Canonico--Deinde Priori
Hujus Ecclesiæ--Decanus Et Capitulum--Carissimo Collegae Posuere
Sepulchrum--Anno MDXXVI_.[10]

[Note 9: His last will was published in the _Documentos Ineditos_,
tom, xxxix., pp. 400-414.]

[Note 10: Harrisse, in his _Christoph Colomb_, fixes upon the 23d
or 24th of September as the date of Martyr's death, believing that his
last will was executed on his deathbed. There is, however, nothing
that absolutely proves that such was the fact. The epitaph gives but
the year. In the _Documentos Ineditos_ the month of September is given
in one place, that of October in another.]


Peter Martyr was perhaps the first man in Spain to realise the
importance of the discovery made by Columbus. Where others beheld but
a novel and exciting incident in the history of navigation, he,
with all but prophetic forecast, divined an event of unique and
far-reaching importance. He promptly assumed the functions of
historian of the new epoch whose dawn he presaged, and in the month
of October, 1494, he began the series of letters to be known as the
_Ocean Decades_, continuing his labours, with interruptions, until
1526, the year of his death. The value of his manuscripts obtained
immediate recognition; they were the only source of authentic
information concerning the New World, accessible to men of letters and
politicians outside Spain.

His material was new and original; every arriving caravel brought
him fresh news; ship-captains, cosmographers, conquerors of fabulous
realms in the mysterious west, all reported to him; even the common
sailors and camp-followers poured their tales into his discriminating
ears. Las Casas averred that Peter Martyr was more worthy of credence
than any other Latin writer.[1]

[Note 1: Las Casas, _Histo. de las Indias_., tom, ii, p. 272: _A
Pedro Martyr se le debe was credito que à otro ninguno de los que
escribieran en latin, porque se hallo entonces en Castilla par
aquellos tiempos y hablaba con todos, y todos holgaban de le dar
cuenta de lo que vian y hallaban, como à hombre de autioridad y el que
tenia cuidado de preguntarlo_.]

No sooner had Columbus returned from his first voyage than Martyr
hastened to announce his success to his friends, Count Tendilla and
Archbishop Talavera. _Meministis Colonum Ligurem institisse in Castris
apud reges de percurrendo per occiduos antipodes novo terrarum
hæmisphærio; meminisse opportet_. He was present in Barcelona and
witnessed the reception accorded the successful discoverer by the
Catholic sovereigns. He, who had gone forth an obscure adventurer upon
whose purposes, and even sanity, doubts had been cast, returned, a
Grandee of Spain, Admiral of the Ocean, and Viceroy of the Indies. In
the presence of the court, standing, he, alone, by invitation of the
sovereigns, sat. The ambassadors from his native Republic of Genoa,
Marchisio and Grimaldi, witnessed the exaltation of their fellow
countryman with eyes that hardly trusted their own vision.

An alien amidst the most exclusive and jealous of occidental peoples,
Martyr's abilities and fidelity won a recognition from the successive
monarchs he served, that was only equalled by the voluntary tributes
of respect and affection paid him by the generation of Spanish nobles
whose characters he was so influential in forming. Of all the Italians
who invaded Spain in search of fortune and glory, he was the most
beloved because he was the most trusted. Government functionaries
sought his protection, Franciscan and Dominican missionaries gave him
their confidence and, after he was appointed to a seat in the India
Council, he had official cognisance of all correspondence relating to
American affairs. Prior to the appearance in Spain of the celebrated
Letters of Cortes, Peter Martyr's narrative stood alone. Heidenheimer
rightly describes him: _Als echter Kind seiner Zeit, war Peter
Martyr Lehrer und Gelehrter, Soldat und Priester, Schriftsteller und
Diplomat_. It was characteristic of the epoch of the Renaissance
that a man of culture should embrace all branches of learning, thus
Martyr's observation extended over the broadest field of human
knowledge. Diligent, discriminating, and conscientious, he was keen,
clever, and tactful, not without touches of dry humour, but rarely
brilliant. Scientific questions, the variations of the magnetic pole,
calculations of latitude and longitude, the newly discovered Gulf
Stream and the _mare sargassum_, and the whereabouts of a possible
strait uniting the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean, occupied his
speculations. Likewise are the flora and the fauna of the New World
described to his readers, as they were described to him by the
home-coming explorers. Pages of his writings are devoted to the
inhabitants of the islands and of the mainland, their customs and
superstitions, their religions and forms of government. He has tales
of giants, harpies, mermaids, and sea-serpents. Wild men living in
trees, Amazons dwelling on lonely islands, cannibals scouring seas and
forests in search of human prey, figure in his narrative. Erroneous
facts, mistaken judgments due to a credulity that may seem to us
ingenuous, are frequent, but it must be borne in mind that he worked
without a pre-established plan, his chronicle developing as fresh
material reached him; also that he wrote at a time when the world
seemed each day to expand before the astonished eyes of men, revealing
magic isles floating on unknown seas, vaster horizons in whose heavens
novel constellations gleamed; mysterious ocean currents, flowing
whence no man knew, to break upon the shores of immense continents
inhabited by strange races, living amidst conditions of fabulous
wealth and incredible barbarism. The limits of the possible receded,
discrimination between truth and fiction became purely speculative,
since new data, uninterruptedly supplied, contradicted former
experience and invalidated accepted theories. The Decades were
compiled from verbal and written reports from sources the writer was
warranted in trusting.

Since geographical surprises are now exhausted, and the division of
land and water on the earth's surface has passed from the sphere of
navigation into that of politics, no writer will ever again have such
material at his disposition. The arrival of his letters in Italy
was eagerly awaited and constituted a literary event of the first
magnitude. Popes sent him messages urging him to continue, the King of
Naples borrowed copies from Cardinal Sforza, and the contents of these
romantic chronicles furnished the most welcome staple of conversation
in palaces and universities. Leo X. had them read aloud during supper,
in the presence of his sister and a chosen group of cardinals. It must
be noted that the form of the Decades did not escape criticism at the
pontifical court, nor did the censures, passed on the liberties he
took with the tongue of Cicero, fail to reach and sting his ears. In
several passages, he defends his use of words taken from the Italian
and Spanish languages. He handled Latin as a living, not as a dead
language, and his style is vigorous, terse, vitalised. He cultivated
brevity and was chary of lengthy excursions into the classics in
search of comparisons and sanctions. His letters frequently show signs
of the haste in which they were composed: sometimes the messenger who
was to carry them to Rome, was waiting, booted and spurred, in the
ante-chamber. Juan Vergara, secretary to Cardinal Ximenes, declared
his opinion that no more exact and lucid record of contemporary events
existed than the letters of Peter Martyr, adding that he had himself
often been present and witnessed with what haste they were written, no
care being taken to correct and polish their style.

The cultivated ears of Ciceronian Latinists--such as Cardinal Bembo
who refused to read the Vulgate for fear of spoiling his style--were
naturally offended by the phraseology of the Decades. Measured by
standards so precious, the Latin of Peter Martyr is faulty and crude,
resembling rather a modern dialect than the classical tongue of
ancient Rome.[2]

[Note 2: Ciampi's comment is accurate and just: _Non si, puo dire
che sia un latino bellisimo. E quale lo parlavano e scriveano gli
uomini d'affari. A noi é, pero, men discaro che non sia ai forestieri,
in quanta che noi troviamo dentro il movimento, il frassegiare proprio
della nostra lingua, e sotto la frase incolta latina, indoviniamo
il pensiero nato in italiano che, spogliato da noi della veste
imbarazzanta ci ritorna ignudo si, ma schietto ed efficace_.]

It is their substance, not their form, that gives Martyr's writings
their value, though his facile style is not devoid of elegance, if
measured by other than severely classical standards. Not as a man of
letters, but as an historian does he enjoy the perennial honour to
which in life he aspired. Observation is the foundation of history,
and Martyr was pre-eminently a keen and discriminating observer, a
diligent and conscientious chronicler of the events he observed, hence
are the laurels of the historian equitably his. Similar to the hasty
entries in a journal, daily written, his letters possess an unstudied
freshness, a convincing actuality, that would undoubtedly have been
marred by the retouching required to perfect their literary style. The
reproach of carelessness in neglecting to systematise his manuscripts
applies more to the collection in the _Opus Epistolarum_ than to the
letters composing the Decades which we are especially considering, and
likewise in the former work are found those qualities of lightness
and frivolity, justifying Sir Arthur Helps's description of him as
a gossipy man of letters, reminding English readers occasionally of
Horace Walpole and Mr. Pepys. Hakluyt praised his descriptions of
natural phenomena as excelling those penned by Aristotle, Pliny,
Theophrastus, and Columella.[3]

[Note 3: Lebrija praised Martyr's verses, declaring him to be
the best poet amongst the Italians in Spain. One of his poems, Pluto
Furens, was dedicated to Alexander VI., whom he cordially detested and
whose election to the papal chair he deplored. Unfortunately none of
his poems has been preserved.]

After a period of partial oblivion, Alexander von Humboldt, in the
early years of the nineteenth century, rediscovered the neglected
merits of our author and, by his enlightened criticism and
commentaries, restored to his writings the consideration they had
originally enjoyed. Ratified by Prescott, Humboldt's judgment has been
confirmed by all subsequent historians.

No further claim is made for this present translation of the Decades
than fidelity and lucidity. Its purpose is to render more easily
accessible to English readers, unfamiliar with the original Latin, the
earliest historical work on the New World.



_P. Martyris Angli_ [sic] _mediolanensis opera. Legatio Babylonica,
Oceani Decas, Poemata, Epigrammata_. Cum privilegio. Impressum Hispali
cum summa diligentia per Jacobum Corumberger Alemanum, anno millesimo
quingentessimo XI, mense vero Aprili, in fol.

This Gothic edition contains only the First Decade.

Two Italian books compiled from the writings of Peter Martyr antedate
the above edition of 1511. Angelo Trevisan, secretary to the Venetian
ambassador in Spain, forwarded to Domenico Malipiero certain material
which he admitted having obtained from a personal friend of Columbus,
who went as envoy to the Sultan of Egypt. The reference to Peter
Martyr is sufficiently clear. The work of Trevisan appeared in 1504
under the title, _Libretto di tutta la navigazione del re di Spagna
de le isole et terreni novamente trovati_. Published by Albertino
Vercellese da Lisbona. Three years later, in 1507, a compilation
containing parts of this same work was printed at Vicenza by
Fracanzio, at Milan by Arcangelo Madrignano in 1508, and at Basle
and Paris by Simon Gryneo. The volume was entitled _Paesi novamente
ritrovati et Novo Mondo_, etc. Peter Martyr attributed the piracy to
Aloisio da Cadamosto, whom he consequently scathingly denounces in the
seventh book of the Second Decade.

In the year 1516 the first edition of the Decades, _De rebus oceanis
et Orbe Novo Decades tres_, etc., was printed at Alcalá de Henares
under the supervision of Peter Martyr's friend, the eminent Latinist,
Antonio de Nebrija, who even took care to polish the author's Latin
where the composition fell short of his own exacting standard. _Cura
et diligentia Antonii Nebrissensis fuerent hæ tres protonotari Petri
Martyris decades impressas in contubernio Arnaldi Guillelmi in
illustri oppido Carpetanæ provinciæ, compluto quod vulgariter dicitur
Alcalà_. Factum est nonis Novembris, anno 1516 in fol. The appearance
of this edition had the character of a veritable literary event and
the success of the work was immediate and widespread. The narrative
covered a period of somewhat more than twenty years, beginning with
the first expedition of Columbus.

Four years later a Fourth Decade was published by its author, this
being the last work he gave to the press during his lifetime. The
earliest known copy was printed in Basle in 1521, the title being _De
insulis nuper repertis simultaque incolarum moribus_. An Italian and
a German edition of the same in 1520 are noted by Harrisse. (Consult
_Bibliotheca Americana Vetustissima_, p. 77, Additions, p. 80.)

_De Insulis nuper inventis Ferdinandi Cortesii ad Carolum V. Rom.
Imperatorem Narrationes, cum alio quodam Petri Martyris ad Clementem
VII. Pontificem Maximum consimilis argumenti libello_. Coloniæ
ex officina Melchioris Novesiani, anno MDXXXII. Decimo Kalendar

The Fourth Decade under the title, _De Insulis nuper inventis_, etc.,
was republished in Basle in 1533 and again in Antwerp in 1536.

_De Legatione Babylonica_, Parisiis, 1532, contains also the first
three Decades. Mazzuchelli mentions an edition of the eight Decades
published in Paris in 1536.

_De Orbe Novo Petri Martyris ab Angleria, mediolanensis protonotarii
Cæsaris senatoris Decades_. Cum privilegio imperiali. Compluti apud
Michælem d'Eguia, anno MDXXX, in fol.

_De rebus Oceanicis et Novo Orbe Decades tres Petri Martyres ab
Angheria Mediolanensis, item ejusdem de Babylonica Legationis libri
ires. Et item, De Rebus Æthiopicis_, etc. Coloniæ, apud Gervinum
Caleniumet hæredes Quentelios. MDLXXIIII.

_De Orbe Novo Petri Martyris Anglerii mediolanensis, protonotarii et
Caroli quinti Senatoris, decades octo, diligente temporum observatione
et utilissimis annotationibus illustratæ, suoque nitore restitæ labore
et industria Richardi Hakluyti Oxoniensis, Arngli_. Parisiis apud
Guillelmum Auvray, 1587.

This edition is dedicated to Sir Walter Raleigh: "_illustri et
magannimo viro Gualtero Ralegho_."

An exceedingly rare and precious book published in Venice in 1534
contains extracts from the writings of Peter Martyr. It bears the
title: _Libro primo della historia dell' Indie Occidentali. Summario
de la generate historia dell' Indie Occidentali cavato da libri
scritti dal Signer Don Pietro Martyre_, etc., Venezia, 1534. Under the
same title this summario is published in the third volume of Ramusio,
_Delle Navigationi et Viaggi_.

An Italian translation of _De Legatione Babylonica_ entitled _Pietro
Martyre Milanese, delle cose notabile dell' Egitto, tradotto dalla
Lingue Latina in Lingua Italiana da Carlo Passi_. In Venezia 1564.

_Novus Orbis, idest navigationes primæ in Americam. Roterodami per
Jo. Leonardum Berevout_, 1616. A French translation of this work was
printed in Paris by Simon de Colimar, _Extrait ou Recueil des Iles
nouvellement trouvées en la grande Mer Océane au temps du Roy
d'Espagne Ferdinand et Elizabeth_, etc.

_The history of Travayle in the West and East Indies, and other
countries lying eyther way towardes the fruitfull and rich Moluccæs.
With a discourse on the Northwest passage_. Done into English by
Richarde Eden. Newly set in order, augmented and finished by Richarde
Willes. London, 1577. Richarde Jugge.

Republished in Edward Arber's work, _The First Three English Books on
America_, Birmingham, 1885.

_De Orbe Novo or the Historie of the West Indies, etc., comprised
in eight decades. Whereof three have beene formerly translated into
English by R. Eden, whereunto the other five are newly added by the
industries and painfull Travails of M. Lok_. London. Printed for
Thomas Adams, 1612.

_The Historie of the West Indies, containing the Actes and Adventures
of the Spaniards which have conquered and settled those countries_,
etc. Published in Latin by Mr. Hakluyt and translated into English by
Mr. Lok, London. Printed for Andrew Hebb. The book bears no date, but
was printed in 1625.

_Opus Epistolarum Petri Martyris Anglerii Mediolanensia_. Amstelodami
Typis Elzivirianis, Veneunt Parisiis apud Fredericum Leonard. 1670.

_De Orbe Novo Petri Martyris Anglerii, regio rerum indicarum senatu,
Decades octo, quas scripsit ab anno 1493 ad 1526_. Edition published
at Madrid by Don Joaquin Torres Asensio, domestic prelate and canon of
the cathedral, in 1892. Two vols. octavo.

_De Orbe Novo de Pierre Martyr Anghiera. Les huit Décades traduites
du latin avec notes et commentaires_, par Paul Gaffarel, Paris.


PHILIPPI ARGELATI: Bononiensis, _Bibliotheca Scriptorum
Mediolanensium_. Mediolani, MDCCXLV.

PICCINELLI: _Ateneo di Letterati Milanesi_. Milano, 1670.


GIROLAMO TIRABOSCHI: _Storia della Letteratura Italiana_. Modena,

R.P. NICERON: _Mémoires pour servir a l'histoire des hommes illustres
dans la République des Lettres_, Paris, 1745.

GIOVANNI MAZZUCHELLI: _Gli Scrittori d'Italia_. Brescia, 1753-1763.

NICOLAI ANTONII: _Bibliotheca Hispana nova sive Hispanorum
Scriptorum_. Madrid, 1783.

FABRICII: _Bibliotheca Latina mediæ et infimæ latinitatis_. Padua,
1754. _Coleccion de Documentos ineditos para la historia de España_,
tom, xxxix.

JUAN B. MUÑOZ: _Historia, de nuevo mundo_. 1793.

L. VON RANKE: _Zur Kritik neuerer Geschichtsschreiber_. 1824.

A. DE HUMBOLDT: _Examen critique de l'histoire de la géographie du
nouveau continent_. 1837.

WASHINGTON IRVING: _Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus_.

H. HALLAM: _Introduction to the Literature of Europe_. 1839.

WM. PRESCOTT: _Conquest of Mexico; History of Ferdinand and Isabella_.

SIR A. HELPS: _The Spanish Conquest in America_. 1867.

M. PASCAL D'AVEZAC: _Les Décades de Pierre Martyr_, etc. (Bulletin de
la Société de Géographie, tom. xiv. Paris 1857-)

OSCAR PESCHEL: _Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckung_. 1858.

MARTIN FERNANDEZ DE NAVARRETE: _Coleccion de los viajes y
descubrimientos que hicieron par mar los españoles_, etc. Madrid,
1858-59. _Coleccion de Documentos ineditos ... sacados en su mayor
parte del R. Archivo de Indias_. Madrid, 1864.

IGNAZIO CIAMPI: _Pietro Martire d'Anghiera_, in volume xxx of the
_Nuova Antologia_, 1875.

HERMANN SCHUMACHER: _Petrus Martyrus der Geschichtsschreiber des
Weltmeeres_. 1879.

H. HEIDENHEIMER: _Petrus Martyrus Anglerius und sein Opus

J. GERIGK: _Das Opus Epistolarum des Petrus Martyrus_. 1881.

P. GAFFAREL ET L'ABBÉ SOUROT: _Lettres de Pierre Martyr Anghiera_.

J.H. MARIÉJOL: _Un lettré italien a la cour d'Espagne_. (1488-1526.)
_Pierre Martyr d'Anghera, sa vie et ses oeuvres_, 1887.

H. HARRISSE: _Bibliotheca Americana Vetustissima_. New York, 1866.
_Additions_. Paris, 1872.

J. BERNAYS: _Petrus Martyrus und sein Opus Epistolarum_. 1891.

GIUSEPPE PENNESI: _Pietro Martire d'Anghiera e le sue Relazione sulle
scoperte oceaniche_. 1894.

The First Decade

[Illustration: Cardinal Ascanio Sforza. From the Medallion by Luini,
in the Museum at Milan. Photo by Anderson, Rome.]



It was a gentle custom of the ancients to number amongst the gods
those heroes by whose genius and greatness of soul unknown lands were
discovered. Since we, however, only render homage to one God in Three
Persons, and consequently may not adore the discoverers of new lands,
it remains for us to offer them our admiration. Likewise should
we admire the sovereigns under whose inspiration and auspices the
intentions of the discoverers were realised; let us praise the one and
the other, and exalt them according to their merits.

Attend now to what is told concerning the recently discovered islands
in the Western ocean. Since you have expressed in your letters a
desire for information I will, to avoid doing injustice to any one,
recount the events from their beginnings.

A certain Christopher Columbus, a Genoese, proposed to the Catholic
King and Queen, Ferdinand and Isabella, to discover the islands which
touch the Indies, by sailing from the western extremity of this
country. He asked for ships and whatever was necessary to navigation,
promising not only to propagate the Christian religion, but also
certainly to bring back pearls, spices and gold beyond anything ever
imagined. He succeeded in persuading them and, in response to his
demands, they provided him at the expense of the royal treasury with
three ships[1]; the first having a covered deck, the other two being
merchantmen without decks, of the kind called by the Spaniards
_caravels_. When everything was ready Columbus sailed from the coast
of Spain, about the calends of September in the year 1492, taking with
him about 220 Spaniards.[2]

[Note 1: This statement is not absolutely exact, as the funds came
from various sources. Columbus, assisted by the Pinzon brothers of
Palos, furnished one eighth of the amount, or the cost of one vessel.
Two vessels were supplied by the town of Palos, in response to a royal
order; the town owing such service to the crown. The ready money
required was advanced by Santangel, receiver of the ecclesiastical
revenues of Aragon.]

[Note 2: From Palos on August 3d, 1492. The inscription on the
floor of Seville Cathedral reads: _con tres galeras y 90 personas_. It
follows that Peter Martyr's figures are exaggerated, for only Oviedo
amongst early authorities exceeds the number ninety, and he numbers
the united crews at 120 men.]

The Fortunate Isles, or, as the Spaniards call them, the Canaries,
were long since discovered in the middle of the ocean. They are
distant from Cadiz about three hundred leagues; for, according to the
masters of the art of navigation, each marine league is equal to
four thousand paces.[3] In ancient times these islands were called
Fortunate, because of the mild temperature they enjoyed. The islanders
suffered neither from the heat of summer nor the rigours of winter:
some authors consider that the real Fortunate Isles correspond to the
archipelago which the Portuguese have named Cape Verde. If they are at
present called the Canaries, it is because they are inhabited by men
who are naked and have no religion. They lie to the south and are
outside European climates. Columbus stopped there to replenish his
supply of provisions and water, and to rest his crew before starting
on the difficult part of his enterprise.

[Note 3: According to the computations of Columbus, four miles
were equal to one marine league; the Italian mile, assumed to have
been used by him, was equal to 1842 English feet. Fifty-six and
two-thirds miles were equal to a degree.]

Since we are speaking of the Canaries, it may not be thought
uninteresting to recall how they were discovered and civilised. During
many centuries they were unknown or rather forgotten. It was about
the year 1405 that a Frenchman called Bethencourt[4] rediscovered
the seven Canaries. They were conceded to him in gift by the Queen
Katherine, who was Regent during the minority of her son John.
Bethencourt lived several years in the archipelago, where he took
possession of the two islands of Lancerote and Fuerteventura, and
civilised their inhabitants. Upon his death, his heir sold these two
islands to the Spaniards. Afterwards Ferdinando Pedraria and his wife
landed upon two other of the Canaries, Ferro and Gomera. Within our
own times the Grand Canary was conquered by Pedro de Vera, a Spanish
nobleman from Xeres; Palma and Teneriffe were conquered by Alonzo de
Lugo, but at the cost of the royal treasury. The islands of Gomera and
Ferro were conquered by the same Lugo, but not without difficulty; for
the natives, although they lived naked in the woods and had no other
arms than sticks and stones, surprised his soldiers one day and killed
about four hundred of them. He finally succeeded in subduing them, and
to-day the whole archipelago recognises the Spanish authority.

[Note 4: Maciot de Bethencourt. Consult Bergeron, _Histoire de la
première dêcouverte et conquéte des îles Canaries_; Pascal d'Avezac,
_Notice des dêcouvertes ... dans l'ocêan Atlantique_, etc., Paris,
1845; Viera y Clavigo, _Historia gênêral de las islas de Canaria_,
1773; also the works of Major, Barker-Webb, Sabin Berthelot, and Bory
de St. Vincent.]

Upon leaving these islands and heading straight to the west, with
a slight deviation to the south-west, Columbus sailed thirty-three
successive days without seeing anything but sea and sky. His
companions began to murmur in secret, for at first they concealed
their discontent, but soon, openly, desiring to get rid of their
leader, whom they even planned to throw into the sea. They considered
that they had been deceived by this Genoese, who was leading them to
some place from whence they could never return. After the thirtieth
day they angrily demanded that he should turn back and go no farther;
Columbus, by using gentle words, holding out promises and flattering
their hopes, sought to gain time, and he succeeded in calming their
fears; finally also reminding them that if they refused him their
obedience or attempted violence against him, they would be accused of
treason by their sovereigns. To their great joy, the much-desired land
was finally discovered.[5] During this first voyage Columbus visited
six islands, two of which were of extraordinary magnitude; one of
these he named Hispaniola, and the other Juana,[6] though he was not
positive that the latter was an island. While sailing along the coasts
of these islands, in the month of November, the Spaniards heard
nightingales singing in the dense forests, and they discovered great
rivers of fresh water, and natural harbours sufficient for the largest
fleets. Columbus reconnoitred the coast of Juana in a straight line
towards the north-west for no less than eight hundred thousand paces
or eighty leagues, which led him to believe that it was a continent,
since as far as the eye could reach, no signs of any limits to the
island were perceptible. He decided to return,[7] also because of
the tumultuous sea, for the coast of Juana towards the north is very
broken, and at that winter season, the north winds were dangerous to
his ships. Laying his course eastwards, he held towards an island
which he believed to be the island of Ophir; examination of the maps,
however, shows that it was the Antilles and neighbouring islands. He
named this island Hispaniola. Having decided to land, Columbus put in
towards shore, when the largest of his ships struck a concealed rock
and was wrecked. Fortunately the reef stood high in the water, which
saved the crew from drowning; the other two boats quickly approached,
and all the sailors were taken safely on board.

[Note 5: Land was discovered on the morning of October 12th,
Julian calendar. Efforts to identify the island on which Columbus
first landed have been numerous. The natives called it Guanahani and
Columbus named it San Salvador. Muñoz believed it to be the present
Watling's Island; Humboldt and Washington Irving thought Cat Island
more likely, while Navarrete identified it as Grand Turk. Captain G.V.
Fox, U.S.N., published in Appendix 18 to the Report for 1880, the
conclusions he had reached after exhaustive examinations conducted in
the Bahamas, with which islands and their seas long service had made
him familiar. He selected Samana or Atwood Cay as the first land

[Note 6: In honour of the Infante Don Juan, heir to the Castilian
crown. It has, however, always borne its native name of Cuba.]

[Note 7: But for this infelicitous change in his course, Columbus
must have discovered the coast of Mexico.]

It was at this place that the Spaniards, on landing, first beheld the
islanders. Upon seeing strangers approaching, the natives collected
and fled into the depths of the forests like timid hares pursued by
hounds. The Spaniards followed them, but only succeeded in capturing
one woman, whom they took on board their ships, where they gave her
plenty of food and wine and clothes (for both sexes lived absolutely
naked and in a state of nature); afterwards this woman, who knew where
the fugitives were concealed, returned to her people, to whom she
showed her ornaments, praising the liberality of the Spaniards; upon
which they all returned to the coast, convinced that the newcomers
were descended from heaven. They swam out to the ships, bringing gold,
of which they had a small quantity, which they exchanged gladly for
trifles of glass or pottery. For a needle, a bell, a fragment of
mirror, or any such thing, they gladly gave in exchange whatever gold
was asked of them, or all that they had about them. As soon as
more intimate relations were established and the Spaniards came
to understand the local customs, they gathered by signs and by
conjectures that the islanders were governed by kings. When they
landed from their ships they were received with great honour by these
kings and by all the natives, making every demonstration of homage
of which they were capable. At sunset, the hour of the Angelus, the
Spaniards knelt according to Christian custom, and their example was
immediately followed by the natives. The latter likewise adored the
Cross as they saw the Christians doing.[8]

[Note 8: The first report Columbus made to the Catholic sovereigns
was most flattering to the American aborigines. _Certifico a vuestras
altezas que en el mundo creo que no hay mejor gente ni mejor tierra:
ellos aman a sus projimos como a si mismo_. Like most generalisations,
these were found, upon closer acquaintance with native character and
customs, to be too comprehensive as well as inaccurate.]

These people also brought off the men from the wrecked ship, as well
as all it contained, transporting everything in barques which they
called canoes. They did this with as much alacrity and joy as though
they were saving their own relatives; and certainly amongst ourselves
greater charity could not have been displayed.

Their canoes are constructed out of single tree-trunks, which they dig
out with tools of sharpened stone. They are very long and narrow, and
are made of a single piece of wood. It is alleged that some have been
seen capable of carrying eighty rowers. It has been nowhere discovered
that iron is used by the natives of Hispaniola. Their houses are most
ingeniously constructed, and all the objects they manufacture for
their own use excited the admiration of the Spaniards. It is positive
that they make their tools out of very hard stones found in the
streams, and which they polish.

The Spaniards learned that there were other islands not far distant,
inhabited by fierce peoples who live on human flesh; this explained
why the natives of Hispaniola fled so promptly on their arrival. They
told the Spaniards later that they had taken them for the cannibals,
which is the name they give to these barbarians. They also call them
_Caraibes_. The islands inhabited by these monsters lie towards the
south, and about half-way to the other islands. The inhabitants of
Hispaniola, who are a mild people, complained that they were exposed
to frequent attacks from the cannibals who landed amongst them and
pursued them through the forests like hunters chasing wild beasts.
The cannibals captured children, whom they castrated, just as we do
chickens and pigs we wish to fatten for the table, and when they were
grown and become fat they ate them.[9] Older persons, who fell into
their power, were killed and cut into pieces for food; they also ate
the intestines and the extremities, which they salted, just as we do
hams. They did not eat women, as this would be considered a crime and
an infamy. If they captured any women, they kept them and cared for
them, in order that they might produce children; just as we do with
hens, sheep, mares, and other animals. Old women, when captured, were
made slaves. The inhabitants of these islands (which, from now on we
may consider ours), women and men, have no other means of escaping
capture by the cannibals, than by flight. Although they use wooden
arrows with sharpened points, they are aware that these arms are of
little use against the fury and violence of their enemies, and they
all admit that ten cannibals could easily overcome a hundred of their
own men in a pitched battle.

[Note 9: See Henry Harrisse, _Christophe Colombe_, ii., p. 72.
Letter of Simone Verde to Nicoli.]

Although these people adore the heavens and the stars, their religion
is not yet sufficiently understood; as for their other customs, the
brief time the Spaniards stopped there and the want of interpreters
did not allow full information to be obtained. They eat roots which in
size and form resemble our turnips, but which in taste are similar to
our tender chesnuts. These they call _ages_. Another root which they
eat they call _yucca_; and of this they make bread. They eat the ages
either roasted or boiled, or made into bread. They cut the yucca,
which is very juicy, into pieces, mashing and kneading it and then
baking it in the form of cakes. It is a singular thing that they
consider the juice of the yucca to be more poisonous than that of the
aconite, and upon drinking it, death immediately follows. On the other
hand, bread made from this paste is very appetising and wholesome: all
the Spaniards have tried it. The islanders also easily make bread with
a kind of millet, similar to that which exists plenteously amongst the
Milanese and Andalusians. This millet is a little more than a palm in
length, ending in a point, and is about the thickness of the upper
part of a man's arm. The grains are about the form and size of peas.
While they are growing, they are white, but become black when ripe.
When ground they are whiter than snow. This kind of grain is called

The islanders set some value on gold and wear it in the form of fine
leaves, fixed in the lobes of their ears and their nostrils. As soon
as our compatriots were certain that they had no commercial relations
with other peoples and no other coasts than those of their own
islands, they asked them by signs whence they procured the gold. As
nearly as could be conjectured, the natives obtain gold from the sands
of the rivers which flow down from the high mountains. This process
was not a difficult one. Before beating it into leaves, they form it
into ingots; but none was found in that part of the island where the
Spaniards had landed. It was shortly afterwards discovered, for when
the Spaniards left that locality and landed at another point to obtain
fresh water and to fish, they discovered a river of which the stones
contained flakes of gold.

With the exception of three kinds of rabbits, no quadruped is found in
these islands. There are serpents, but they are not dangerous. Wild
geese, turtle-doves, ducks of a larger size than ours, with plumage as
white as that of a swan, and red heads, exist. The Spaniards brought
back with them some forty parrots, some green, others yellow, and some
having vermilion collars like the parrakeets of India, as described by
Pliny; and all of them have the most brilliant plumage. Their wings
are green or yellow, but mixed with bluish or purple feathers,
presenting a variety which enchants the eye. I have wished, most
illustrious Prince, to give you these details about the parrots; and
although the opinion of Columbus[10] seems to be contradictory to the
theories of the ancients concerning the size of the globe and its
circumnavigation, the birds and many other objects brought thence seem
to indicate that these islands do belong, be it by proximity or
by their products, to India; particularly when one recalls what
Aristotle, at the end of his treatise _De Cælo et Mundo_, and Seneca,
and other learned cosmographers have always affirmed, that India was
only separated from the west coast of Spain by a very small expanse of

[Note 10: Columbus died in the belief that the countries he
had discovered formed part of the Indies. They were thus described
officially by the Spanish sovereigns.]

Mastic, aloes, cotton, and similar products flourish in abundance.
Silky kinds of cotton grow upon trees as in China; also rough-coated
berries of different colours more pungent to the taste than Caucasian
pepper; and twigs cut from the trees, which in their form resemble
cinnamon, but in taste, odour, and the outer bark, resemble ginger.

Happy at having discovered this unknown land, and to have found
indications of a hitherto unknown continent, Columbus resolved to take
advantage of favouring winds and the approach of spring to return
to Europe; but he left thirty-eight of his companions under the
protection of the king of whom I have spoken, in order that they
might, during his absence, acquaint themselves with the country and
its condition. After signing a treaty of friendship with this king
who was called by his enemies Guaccanarillo,[11] Columbus took all
precautions for ensuring the health, the life, and the safety of
the men whom he left behind. The king, touched with pity for these
voluntary exiles, shed abundant tears, and promised to render them
every assistance in his power. After mutual embraces, Columbus gave
the order to depart for Spain. He took with him six islanders,[12]
thanks to whom all the words of their language have been written down
with Latin characters. Thus they call the heavens _tueri_, a house
_boa_, gold _cauni_, a virtuous man _taino_, nothing _nagani_. They
pronounce all these names just as distinctly as we do Latin.

[Note 11: Otherwise Guacanagari.]

[Note 12: One of these Indians died at sea on the voyage, and
three others landed very ill at Palos; the remaining six were
presented to Ferdinand and Isabella at Barcelona, and were afterwards

You are now acquainted with such details concerning this first voyage
as it has seemed expedient to me to record. The King and Queen,
who, above everything and even in their sleep, thought about the
propagation of the Christian faith, hoping that these numerous and
gentle peoples might be easily converted to our religion, experienced
the liveliest emotions upon hearing these news. Columbus was received
upon his return with the great honour he merited for what he had
accomplished.[13] They bade him sit in their presence, which for the
Spanish sovereigns is regarded as a proof of the greatest friendship
and the highest mark of gratitude. They commanded that henceforward
Columbus should be called "_Præfectus Marinus_," or, in the Spanish
tongue, _Amiral_. His brother Bartholomew, likewise very proficient in
the art of navigation, was honoured by them with the title of Prefect
of the Island of Hispaniola, which is in the vulgar tongue called
_Adelantado_.[14] To make my meaning clear I shall henceforth employ
these usual words of Admiral and Adelantado as well as the terms
which are now commonly used in navigation. But let us return to our

[Note 13: The historian Oviedo, who was present, describes the
reception of Columbus at Barcelona. _Hist. Nat. de las Indias_, tom.
ii., p. 7.]

[Note 14: This statement is premature; Bartholomew's appointment
was made considerably later.]

It was thought, as Columbus had moreover declared in the beginning,
that in these islands would be found riches such as all struggle to
obtain. There were two motives which determined the royal pair to plan
a second expedition, for which they ordered seventeen ships to be
equipped; three of these were vessels with covered decks, twelve were
of the kind called caravels by the Spaniards, which had none, and
two were larger caravels, of which the height of the masts made it
possible to adapt decks. The equipment of this fleet was confided
to Juan de Fonseca, Dean of Seville, a man of illustrious birth, of
genius and initiative.[15] In obedience to his orders more than twelve
hundred foot-soldiers, amongst whom were all sorts of labourers and
numerous artisans, were commanded to embark. Some noblemen were found
amongst the company. The Admiral took on board mares, sheep, cows and
the corresponding males for the propagation of their species; nor did
he forget vegetables, grain, barley, and similar seeds, not only for
provisions but also for sowing; vines and young plants such as were
wanting in that country were carefully taken. In fact the Spaniards
have not found any tree in that island which was known to them except
pines and palms; and even the palms were extraordinarily high, very
hard, slender, and straight, owing, no doubt, to the fertility of the
soil. Even the fruits they produce in abundance were unknown.

[Note 15: The evil that has been attributed to Juan Fonseca, Bishop
of Burgos, may exceed his dues, but the praise here and elsewhere
given him by Peter Martyr is excessive and all but unique. That he
cordially hated Columbus and after him Cortes, Las Casas and most of
the men of action in the New World, is undeniable.]

The Spaniards declare that there is not in the whole universe a more
fertile region. The Admiral ordered his work people to take with them
the tools of their trades, and in general everything necessary to
build a new city. Won by the accounts of the Admiral and attracted by
the love of novelty, some of the more intimate courtiers also decided
to take part in this second voyage. They sailed from Cadiz with a
favourable wind, the seventh day of the calends of October in the year
of grace 1493.[16] On the calends they touched the Canaries. The last
of the Canaries is called Ferro by the Spaniards. There is no potable
water on it, save a kind of dew produced by one sole tree standing
upon the most lofty point of the whole island; and from which it falls
drop by drop into an artificial trough. From this island, Columbus put
to sea the third day of the ides of October. We have learned this news
a few days after his departure. You shall hear the rest later. Fare
you well.

[Note 16: The sailing date was Sept. 25, 1493.]

From the Court of Spain, the ides of November, 1493.



You renew to me, Most Illustrious Prince, your desire to know all that
treats of the Spanish discoveries in the New World. You have let me
know that the details I have given you concerning the first voyage
pleased you; listen now to the continuation of events.

Medina del Campo is a town of Ulterior Spain, as it is called in
Italy, or of Old Castile, as it is called here. It is distant about
four hundred miles from Cadiz. While the Court sojourned there the
ninth day of the calends of April, messengers sent to the King and
Queen informed them that twelve ships returning from the islands had
arrived at Cadiz, after a happy voyage. The commander of the squadron
did not wish to say more by the messengers to the King and Queen
except that the Admiral had stopped with five ships and nine hundred
men at Hispaniola, which he wished to explore. He wrote that he would
give further details by word of mouth. The eve of the nones of April,
this commander of the squadron, who was the brother of the nurse of
the eldest royal princes, arrived at Medina, being sent by Columbus. I
questioned him and other trustworthy witnesses, and shall now repeat
what they told me, hoping by so doing to render myself agreeable to
you. What I learned from their mouths you shall now in turn learn from

The third day of the ides of October the Spaniards left the island of
Ferro,[1] which is the most distant of the Canaries from Europe, and
put out upon the high seas in seventeen ships. Twenty-one full days
passed before they saw any land; driven by the north wind they were
carried much farther to the south-west than on the first voyage, and
thus they arrived at the archipelago of the cannibals, or the Caribs,
which we only know from the descriptions given by the islanders. The
first island they discovered was so thickly wooded that there was
not an inch of bare or stony land. As the discovery took place on
a Sunday, the Admiral wished to call the island Domingo.[2] It was
supposed to be deserted, and he did not stop there. He calculated that
they had covered 820 leagues in these twenty-one days. The ships had
always been driven forward by the south-west wind. At some little
distance from Domingo other islands were perceived, covered with
trees, of which the trunks, roots, and leaves exhaled sweet odours.
Those who landed to visit the island found neither men nor animals,
except lizards of extraordinarily great size. This island they called
Galana. From the summit of a promontory, a mountain was visible on
the horizon and thirty miles distant from that mountain a river
of important breadth descended into the plain. This was the first
inhabited land[3] found since leaving the Canaries, but it was
inhabited by those odious cannibals, of whom they had only heard by
report, but have now learned to know, thanks to those interpreters
whom the Admiral had taken to Spain on his first voyage.

[Note 1: The chronology throughout is erroneous. Columbus had sailed
from Cadiz on September 25th, arriving at Gomera on October 5th.]

[Note 2: The first island was discovered on November 3d, and was named
La Deseada, or The Desired; five others, including Domingo and Maria
Galante were discovered on the same date.]

[Note 3: The island of Guadeloupe, called by the natives Caracueira.]

While exploring the island, numerous villages, composed of twenty or
thirty houses each, were discovered; in the centre is a public square,
round which the houses are placed in a circle. And since I am speaking
about these houses, it seems proper that I should describe them to
you. It seems they are built entirely of wood in a circular form. The
construction of the building is begun by planting in the earth very
tall trunks of trees; by means of them, shorter beams are placed in
the interior and support the outer posts. The extremities of the
higher ones are brought together in a point, after the fashion of
a military tent. These frames they then cover with palm and other
leaves, ingeniously interlaced, as a protection against rain. From
the shorter beams in the interior they suspend knotted cords made of
cotton or of certain roots similar to rushes, and on these they lay

[Note 4: Hamacs, which are still commonly used in _tierra caliente_
of the West Indies, Mexico, and Central America.]

The island produces cotton such as the Spaniards call _algodon_ and
the Italians _bombasio_. The people sleep on these suspended beds or
on straw spread upon the floor. There is a sort of court surrounded by
houses where they assemble for games. They call their houses _boios_.
The Spaniards noticed two wooden statues, almost shapeless, standing
upon two interlaced serpents, which at first they took to be the gods
of the islanders; but which they later learned were placed there
merely for ornament. We have already remarked above that it is
believed they adore the heavens; nevertheless, they make out of
cotton-fabric certain masks, which resemble imaginary goblins they
think they have seen in the night.

But let us return to our narrative. Upon the arrival of the Spaniards,
the islanders, both men and women, abandoned their houses and fled.
About thirty women and children whom they had captured in the
neighbouring islands and kept either as slaves or to be eaten, took
refuge with the Spaniards. In the houses were found pots of all kinds,
jars and large earthen vessels, boxes and tools resembling ours. Birds
were boiling in their pots, also geese mixed with bits of human flesh,
while other parts of human bodies were fixed on spits, ready for
roasting. Upon searching another house the Spaniards found arm and
leg bones, which the cannibals carefully preserve for pointing their
arrows; for they have no iron. All other bones, after the flesh
is eaten, they throw aside. The Spaniards discovered the recently
decapitated head of a young man still wet with blood. Exploring the
interior of the island they discovered seven rivers,[5] without
mentioning a much larger watercourse similar to the Guadalquivir
at Cordoba and larger than our Ticino, of which the banks were
deliciously umbrageous. They gave the name of Guadaloupe to this
island because of the resemblance one of its mountains bore to the
Mount Guadaloupe, celebrated for its miraculous statue of the Virgin
Immaculate. The natives call their island Caracueira, and it is
the principal one inhabited by the Caribs. The Spaniards took from
Guadaloupe seven parrots larger than pheasants, and totally unlike any
other parrots in colour. Their entire breast and back are covered with
purple plumes, and from their shoulders fall long feathers of the same
colour, as I have often remarked in Europe is the case with the capons
peasants raise. The other feathers are of various colours,--green,
bluish, purple, or yellow. Parrots are as numerous in all these
islands as sparrows or other small birds are with us; and just as we
keep magpies, thrushes, and similar birds to fatten them, so do these
islanders also keep birds to eat, though their forests are full of

[Note 5: In reality, these so-called rivers were unimportant mountain

The female captives who had taken refuge with our people received by
the Admiral's order some trifling presents, and were begged by signs
to go and hunt for the cannibals, for they knew their place of
concealment. In fact they went back to the men during the night,
and the following morning returned with several cannibals who were
attracted by the hope of receiving presents; but when they saw our
men, these savages, whether because they were afraid or because they
were conscious of their crimes, looked at one another, making a low
murmur, and then, suddenly forming into a wedge-shaped group, they
fled swiftly, like a flock of birds, into the shady valleys.

Having called together his men who had passed some days exploring the
interior of the island, Columbus gave the signal for departure. He
took no cannibal with him, but he ordered their boats, dug out of
single tree-trunks, to be destroyed, and on the eve of the ides of
November he weighed anchor and left Guadaloupe.

Desiring to see the men of his crew whom he had left the preceding
year at Hispaniola to explore that country, Columbus passed daily by
other islands which he discovered to the right and left. Straight
ahead to the north appeared a large island. Those natives who had been
brought to Spain on his first voyage, and those who had been delivered
from captivity, declared that it was called Madanina, and that it was
inhabited exclusively by women.[6] The Spaniards had, in fact, heard
this island spoken of during their first voyage. It appeared that the
cannibals went at certain epochs of the year to visit these women,
as in ancient history the Thracians crossed to the island of Lesbos
inhabited by the Amazons. When their children were weaned, they sent
the boys to their fathers, but kept the girls, precisely as did the
Amazons. It is claimed that these women know of vast caverns where
they conceal themselves if any man tries to visit them at another than
the established time. Should any one attempt to force his way into
these caverns by violence or by trickery, they defend themselves with
arrows, which they shoot with great precision. At least, this is the
story as it is told, and I repeat it to you. The north wind renders
this island unapproachable, and it can only be reached when the wind
is in the south-west.

[Note 6: This is the island of Martinique; the legend of its Amazons
is purely fantastic.]

While still in view of Madanina at a distance of about forty miles,
the Spaniards passed another island, which, according to the accounts
of the natives, was very populous and rich in foodstuffs of all kinds.
As this island was very mountainous they named it Montserrat. Amongst
other details given by the islanders on board, and as far as could
be ascertained from their signs and their gestures, the cannibals of
Montserrat frequently set out on hunts to take captives for food, and
in so doing go a distance of more than a thousand miles from their
coasts. The next day the Spaniards discovered another island, and as
it was of spherical form, Columbus named it Santa Maria Rotunda. In
less time he passed by another island discovered next day, and which,
without stopping, he dedicated to St. Martin, and the following day
still a third island came into view. The Spaniards estimated its width
from east to west at fifty miles.

It afterwards became known that these islands were of the most
extraordinary beauty and fertility, and to this last one the name of
the Blessed Virgin of Antigua was given. Sailing on past numerous
islands which followed Antigua, Columbus arrived, forty miles farther
on, at an island which surpassed all the others in size, and which the
natives called Agay. The Admiral gave it the name of Santa Cruz. Here
he ordered the anchor to be lowered, in order that he might replenish
his supply of water, and he sent thirty men from his vessel to land
and explore. These men found four dogs on the shore, and the same
number of youths and women approached with hands extended, like
supplicants. It was supposed they were begging for assistance or to be
rescued from the hands of those abominable people. Whatever decision
the Spaniards might take in regard to them, seemed better to them
than their actual condition. The cannibals fled as they had done at
Guadaloupe, and disappeared into the forests.

Two days were passed at Santa Cruz, where thirty of our Spaniards
placed in an ambuscade saw, from the place where they were watching, a
canoe in the distance coming towards them, in which there were eight
men and as many women. At a given signal they fell upon the canoe; as
they approached, the men and women let fly a volley of arrows with
great rapidity and accuracy. Before the Spaniards had time to protect
themselves with their shields, one of our men, a Galician, was killed
by a woman, and another was seriously wounded by an arrow shot by that
same woman. It was discovered that their poisoned arrows contained a
kind of liquid which oozed out when the point broke. There was one
woman amongst these savages whom, as nearly as could be conjectured,
all the others seemed to obey, as though she was their queen. With her
was her son, a fierce, robust young man, with ferocious eyes and a
face like a lion's. Rather than further expose themselves to their
arrows, our men chose to engage them in a hand to hand combat. Rowing
stoutly, they pushed their barque against the canoe of the savages,
which was overturned by the shock; the canoe sank, but the savages,
throwing themselves into the water, continued while swimming to shoot
their arrows with the same rapidity. Climbing upon a rock level with
the water, they still fought with great bravery, though they were
finally captured, after one had been killed and the son of the queen
had received two wounds. When they were brought on board the Admiral's
ship, they no more changed their ferocious and savage mood than do the
lions of Africa, when they find themselves caught in nets. There was
no one who saw them who did not shiver with horror, so infernal and
repugnant was the aspect nature and their own cruel character had
given them. I affirm this after what I have myself seen, and so
likewise do all those who went with me in Madrid to examine them.

I return to my narrative. Each day the Spaniards advanced farther.
They had covered a distance of five hundred miles. Driven first by the
south wind, then by the west wind, and finally by the wind from the
north-west, they found themselves in a sea dotted with innumerable
islands, strangely different one from another; some were covered with
forests and prairies and offered delightful shade, while others, which
were dry and sterile, had very lofty and rocky mountains. The rocks of
these latter were of various colours, some purple, some violet, and
some entirely white. It is thought they contain metals and precious

The ships did not touch, as the weather was unfavourable, and also
because navigation amongst these islands is dangerous. Postponing
until another time the exploration of these islands which, because of
their confused grouping could not be counted, the Spaniards continued
their voyage. Some lighter ships of the fleet did, however, cruise
amongst them, reconnoitring forty-six of them, while the heavier
ships, fearing the reefs, kept to the high sea. This collection of
islands is called an archipelago. Outside the archipelago and directly
across the course rises the island called by the natives Burichena,
which Columbus placed under the patronage of San Juan.[7] A number of
the captives rescued from the hands of the cannibals declared they
were natives of that island, which they said was populous and well
cultivated; they explained that it had excellent ports, was covered
with forests, and that its inhabitants hated the cannibals and were
constantly at war with them. The inhabitants possessed no boats by
which they could reach the coasts of the cannibals from their island;
but whenever they were lucky in repulsing a cannibal invasion for
the purpose of plundering, they cut their prisoners into small bits,
roasted, and greedily ate them; for in war there is alternative good
and bad fortune.

[Note 7: Porto Rico.]

All this was recounted through the native interpreters who had been
taken back to Spain on the first voyage. Not to lose time, the
Spaniards passed by Burichena; nevertheless some sailors, who landed
on the extreme western point of the island to take a supply of fresh
water, found there a handsome house built in the fashion of the
country, and surrounded by a dozen or more ordinary structures, all of
which were abandoned by their owners. Whether the inhabitants betake
themselves at that period of the year to the mountains to escape the
heat, and then return to the lowlands when the temperature is fresher,
or whether they had fled out of fear of the cannibals, is not
precisely known. There is but one king for the whole of the island,
and he is reverently obeyed. The south coast of this island, which the
Spaniards followed, is two hundred miles long.

During the night two women and a young man, who had been rescued from
the cannibals, sprang into the sea and swam to their native island.
A few days later the Spaniards finally arrived at the much-desired
Hispaniola, which is five hundred leagues from the nearest of the
cannibal islands. Cruel fate had decreed the death of all those
Spaniards who had been left there.

There is a coast region of Hispaniola which the natives call Xarama,
and it was from Xarama that Columbus had set sail on his first
voyage, when he was about to return to Spain, taking with him the ten
interpreters of whom I spoke above, of whom only three survived; the
others having succumbed to the change of climate, country, and food.

Hardly were the ships in sight of the coast of Xarama, which Columbus
called Santa Reina,[8] than the Admiral ordered one of these
interpreters to be set at liberty, and two others managed to jump into
the sea and swim to the shore. As Columbus did not yet know the sad
fate of the thirty-eight men whom he had left on the island the
preceding year, he was not concerned at this flight. When the
Spaniards were near to the coast a long canoe with several rowers came
out to meet them. In it was the brother of Guaccanarillo, that king
with whom the Admiral had signed a treaty when he left Hispaniola,
and to whose care he had urgently commended the sailors he had left
behind. The brother brought to the Admiral, in the king's name, a
present of two golden statues; he also spoke in his own language--as
was later understood,--of the death of our compatriots; but as there
was no interpreter, nobody at the time understood his words.

[Note 8: Xarama is also spelled in the Latin editions _Xamana_, and
Santa Reina, _Sancteremus_.]

Upon arriving, however, at the blockhouse and the houses, which were
surrounded by an entrenchment, they were all found reduced to ashes,
while over the place a profound silence reigned. The Admiral and his
companions were deeply moved by this discovery. Thinking and hoping
that some of the men might still be alive, he ordered cannon and guns
to be fired, that the noise of these formidable detonations echoing
amongst the mountains and along the coasts might serve as a signal of
his arrival to any of our men who might be hidden among the islanders
or among wild beasts. It was in vain; for they were all dead.

The Admiral afterwards sent messengers to Guaccanarillo, who, as far
as they could understand, related as follows: there are on the island,
which is very large, a number of kings, who are more powerful than he;
two of these, disturbed by the news of the arrival of the Spaniards,
assembled considerable forces, attacked and killed our men and burned
their entrenchments, houses, and possessions; Guaccanarillo had
striven to save our men, and in the struggle had been wounded with an
arrow, his leg being still bandaged with cotton; and for this reason
he had not, despite his keen desire, been able to go to meet the

There do exist several sovereigns on the island, some more powerful
than the others; just as we read that the fabulous Æneas found Latium
divided amongst several kings, Latinus, Mezentius, Turnus, and
Tarchon, all near neighbours who fought over the territory. The
islanders of Hispaniola, in my opinion, may be esteemed more fortunate
than were the Latins, above all should they become converted to the
true religion. They go naked, they know neither weights nor measures,
nor that source of all misfortunes, money; living in a golden age,
without laws, without lying judges, without books, satisfied with
their life, and in no wise solicitous for the future. Nevertheless
ambition and the desire to rule trouble even them, and they fight
amongst themselves, so that even in the golden age there is never a
moment without war; the maxim _Cede, non cedam_, has always prevailed
amongst mortal men.

The following day the Admiral sent to Guaccanarillo a Sevillan called
Melchior, who had once been sent by the King and the Queen to the
sovereign Pontiff when they captured Malaga. Melchior found him
in bed, feigning illness, and surrounded by the beds of his seven
concubines. Upon removing the bandage [from his leg] Melchior
discovered no trace of any wound, and this caused him to suspect that
Guaccanarillo was the murderer of our compatriots. He concealed his
suspicions, however, and obtained the king's assurance that he would
come the following day to see the Admiral on board his ship, which he
did. As soon as he came on board, and after saluting the Spaniards and
distributing some gold among the officers, he turned to the women whom
we had rescued from the cannibals and, glancing with half-opened eyes
at one of them whom we called Catherine, he spoke to her very softly;
after which, with the Admiral's permission, which he asked with great
politeness and urbanity, he inspected the horses and other things he
had never before seen, and then left.

Some persons advised Columbus to hold Guaccanarillo prisoner, to
make him expiate in case it was proven that our compatriots had been
assassinated by his orders; but the Admiral, deeming it inopportune to
irritate the islanders, allowed him to depart.

The day after the morrow, the brother of the king, acting in his own
name or in that of Guaccanarillo, came on board and won over the
women, for the following night Catherine, in order to recover her own
liberty and that of all her companions, yielded to the solicitation of
Guaccanarillo or his brother, and accomplished a feat more heroic than
that of the Roman Clelia, when she liberated the other virgins who had
served with her as hostages, swam the Tiber and thus escaped from the
power of Lars Porsena. Clelia crossed the river on a horse, while
Catherine and several other women trusted only to their arms and swam
for a distance of three miles in a sea by no means calm; for that,
according to every one's opinion, was the distance between the ships
and the coast. The sailors pursued them in light boats, guided by the
same light from the shore which served for the women, of whom they
captured three. It is believed that Catherine and four others escaped
to Guaccanarillo, for at daybreak, men sent out by the Admiral
announced that he and the women had fled together, taking all their
goods with them; and this fact confirmed the suspicion that he had
consented to the assassination of our men.

Melchior, whom I have mentioned, was then despatched with three
hundred men to search for him. In the course of his march he came upon
a winding gorge, overlooked by five lofty hills in such wise as to
suggest the estuary of a large river. There was found a large harbour,
safe and spacious, which they named Port Royal. The entrance of this
harbour is crescent-shaped, and is so regularly formed that it is
difficult to detect whether ships have entered from the right or the
left; this can only be ascertained when they return to the entrance.
Three large ships can enter abreast. The surrounding hills form the
coasts, and afford shelter from the winds. In the middle of the
harbour there rises a promontory covered with forests, which are full
of parrots and many other birds which there build their nests and fill
the air with sweet melodies. Two considerable rivers empty into this

In the course of their explorations of this country the Spaniards
perceived in the distance a large house, which they approached,
persuaded that it was the retreat of Guaccanarillo. They were met by a
man with a wrinkled forehead and frowning brows, who was escorted by
about a hundred warriors armed with bows and arrows, pointed lances
and clubs. He advanced menacingly towards them. "_Tainos_," the
natives cried, that is to say, good men and not cannibals. In response
to our amicable signs, they dropped their arms and modified their
ferocious attitude. To each one was presented a hawk's bell, and they
became so friendly that they fearlessly went on board the ships,
sliding down the steep banks of the river, and overwhelmed our
compatriots with gifts. Upon measuring the large house which was of
spherical form, it was found to have a diameter of thirty-five long
paces; surrounding it were thirty other ordinary houses. The ceilings
were decked with branches of various colours most artfully plaited
together. In reply to our inquiries about Guaccanarillo, the natives
responded,--as far as could be understood,--that they were not
subjects of his, but of a chief who was there present; they likewise
declared they understood that Guaccanarillo had left the coast to take
refuge in the mountains. After concluding a treaty of friendship with
that cacique, such being the name given to their kings, the Spaniards
returned to report what they had learned to the Admiral.

Columbus had meanwhile sent some officers with an escort of men to
effect a reconnaissance farther in the interior; two of the most
conspicuous of these were Hojeda and Corvalano, both young and
courageous noblemen. One of them discovered three rivers, the other
four, all of which had their sources in these same mountains. In the
sands of these rivers gold was found, which the Indians, who acted as
their escort, proceeded in their presence to collect in the following
manner: they dug a hole in the sand about the depth of an arm, merely
scooping the sand out of this trough with the right and left hands.
They extracted the grains of gold, which they afterwards presented to
the Spaniards. Some declared they saw grains as big as peas. I have
seen with my own eyes a shapeless ingot similar to a round river
stone, which was found by Hojeda, and was afterwards brought to Spain;
it weighed nine ounces. Satisfied with this first examination they
returned to report to the Admiral.

Columbus, as I have been told, had forbidden them to do more than
examine and reconnoitre the country. The news spread that the king
of the mountain country, where all these rivers rise, was called the
Cacique Caunaboa, that is to say, the Lord of the Golden House; for in
their language _boa_ is the word for a house, _cauna_ for gold, and
_cacique_ for king, as I have above written. Nowhere are better
fresh-water fish to be found, nor more beautiful nor better in taste,
and less dangerous. The waters of all these rivers are likewise very

Melchior has told me that amongst the cannibals the days of the month
of December are equal to the nights, but knowledge contradicts this
observation. I well know that in this self-same month of December,
some birds made their nests and others already hatched out their
little ones; the heat was also considerable. When I inquired
particularly concerning the elevation of the north star above the
horizon, he answered me that in the land of the cannibals the Great
Bear entirely disappeared beneath the arctic pole. There is nobody who
came back from this second voyage whose testimony one may more safely
accept than his; but had he possessed knowledge of astronomy he would
have limited himself to saying that the day is about as long as the
night. For in no place in the world does the night during the solstice
precisely equal the day; and it is certain that on this voyage the
Spaniards never reached the equator, for they constantly beheld on the
horizon the polar star, which served them as guide. As for Melchior's
companions, they were without knowledge or experience, therefore I
offer you few particulars, and those only casually, as I have been
able to collect them. I hope to narrate to you what I may be able to
learn from others. Moreover Columbus, whose particular friend I am,
has written me that he would recount me fully all that he has been
fortunate enough to discover.[9]

[Note 9: The letter of Columbus here mentioned is not known to exist.]

The Admiral selected an elevation near the port as the site for a
town[10]; and, within a few days, some houses and a church were built,
as well as could be done in so short a time. And there, on the feast
of the Three Kings (for when treating of this country one must speak
of a new world, so distant is it and so devoid of civilisation and
religion) the Holy Sacrifice was celebrated by thirteen priests.[11]

[Note 10: The first Spanish settlement was named Isabella, as was
likewise the cape on which it stood. Long after it was abandoned and
had fallen into ruin, the site was reputed to be haunted. See Las
Casas, _Historia de las Indias_, vol. i., p. 72.]

[Note 11: There were certainly not as many as thirteen priests
with Columbus. The text reads ...._divina nostro ritu sacra sunt
decantata tredecim sacerdotibus ministrantibus_. The number doubtless
includes all laymen who took any part, as acolytes, etc., in the

As the time when he had promised to send news to the King and Queen
approached, and as the season was moreover favourable [for sailing],
Columbus decided not to prolong his stay. He therefore ordered the
twelve caravels, whose arrival we have announced, to sail, though he
was much afflicted by the assassination of his comrades; because, but
for their death, we should possess much fuller information concerning
the climate and the products of Hispaniola.

That you may inform your apothecaries, druggists, and perfumers
concerning the products of this country and its high temperature, I
send you some seeds of all kinds, as well as the bark and the pith of
those trees which are believed to be cinnamon trees. If you wish to
taste either the seeds or the pith or the bark, be careful, Most
Illustrious Prince, only to do so with caution; not that they are
harmful, but they are very peppery, and if you leave them a long time
in your mouth, they will sting the tongue. In case you should burn
your tongue a little in tasting them, take some water, and the burning
sensation will be allayed. My messenger will also deliver to Your
Eminence some of those black and white seeds out of which they make
bread. If you cut bits of the wood called aloes, which he brings, you
will scent the delicate perfumes it exhales.

Fare you well.

From the Court of Spain, the third day of the calends of May, 1494.



You desire that another skilful Phaeton should drive the car of the
Sun. You seek to draw a sweet potion from a dry stone. A new world, if
I may so express myself, has been discovered under the auspices of the
Catholic sovereigns, your uncle Ferdinand and your aunt Isabella, and
you command me to describe to you this heretofore unknown world; and
to that effect you sent me a letter of your uncle, the illustrious
King Frederick.[1] You will both receive this precious stone, badly
mounted and set in lead. But when you later observe that my beautiful
nereids of the ocean are exposed to the furious attacks of erudite
friends and to the calumnies of detractors, you must frankly confess
to them that you have forced me to send you this news, despite my
pressing occupations and my health. You are not ignorant that I have
taken these accounts from the first reports of the Admiral as rapidly
as your secretary could write under my dictation. You hasten me by
daily announcing your departure for Naples in company of the Queen,
sister of our King and your paternal aunt, whom you had accompanied
to Spain. Thus you have forced me to complete my writings. You will
observe that the first two chapters are dedicated to another, for I
had really begun to write them with a dedication to your unfortunate
relative Ascanio Sforza, Cardinal and Vice-chancellor. When he fell
into disgrace,[2] I felt my interest in writing also decline. It is
owing to you and to the letters sent me by your illustrious uncle,
King Frederick, that my ardour has revived. Enjoy, therefore, this
narrative, which is not a thing of the imagination.

Fare you well. From Granada, the ninth of the calends of May of the
year 1500.

[Note 1: Frederick III., of Aragon, succeeded his nephew Frederick
II., as King of Naples in 1496. Five years later, when dispossessed
by Ferdinand the Catholic, he took refuge in France, where Louis XII.
granted him the duchy of Anjou and a suitable pension. He died in

[Note 2: Upon the death of Innocent VIII., four members of the
Sacred College were conspicuous _papabili_: Raffæle Riario and
Giuliano della Rovere, nephews of Sixtus IV., and Roderigo Borgia and
Ascanio Sforza. Borgia was elected and took the title of Alexander VI.
He rewarded Cardinal Sforza for his timely assistance in securing
his elevation, by giving him the Vice-Chancellorship he had himself
occupied as Cardinal, the town of Nepi and the Borgia Palace in Rome.
Dissensions between Alexander and the Sforza family soon became acute;
Giovanni Sforza, Lord of Pesaro and sometime husband of Lucrezia
Borgia, was expelled, and his brother, Cardinal Ascanio was included
in the papal disfavour. He sought refuge in Lombardy, where he was
taken prisoner by Louis XII., of France. Peter Martyr had foreseen,
in a measure, the turbulent events of Alexander's pontificate; the
Spanish sovereigns charged him to express to Cardinal Sforza their
disapproval of his action in supporting the Borgia party, that
Cardinal, though a Spaniard, being _persona non grata_ to them; and in
so doing he wrote to his friend the dubious augury, "God grant he may
be grateful to you." Ep. 119.]

I have narrated in a preceding book how the Admiral Columbus, after
having visited the cannibal islands, landed at Hispaniola on the
fourth day of the nones of February, 1493, without having lost a
single vessel. I shall now recount what he discovered while exploring
that island and another neighbouring one, which he believed to be a

According to Columbus, Hispaniola is the island of Ophir mentioned in
the third book of Kings.[3] Its width covers five degrees of south
latitude, for its north coast extends to the twenty-seventh degree and
the south coast to the twenty-second; its length extends 780 miles,
though some of the companions of Columbus give greater dimensions.[4]
Some declare that it extends to within forty-nine degrees of Cadiz,
and others to an even greater distance. The calculation concerning
this has not been made with precision.

[Note 3: Ortelius, in his _Geographia Sacra_, gives the name of
Ophir to Hayti; and it was a commonly held opinion that Solomon's
mines of Ophir were situated in America. Columbus shared this belief,
and he later wrote of Veragua, when he discovered the coasts of
Darien, that he was positive the gold mines there were those of

[Note 4: Hayti is 600 kilometres long from east to west, and 230
broad, from north to south, with a superficial area of 74,000 square

The island is shaped like a chestnut leaf. Columbus decided to found
a town[5] upon an elevated hill on the northern coast, since in
that vicinity there was a mountain with stone-quarries for building
purposes and chalk to make lime. At the foot of this mountain a vast
plain[6] extends for a distance of sixty miles in length, and of
an average of twelve leagues in breadth, varying from six in the
narrowest part to twenty in the broadest. This plain is fertilised by
several rivers of wholesome water, of which the largest is navigable
and empties into a bay situated half a stadium from the town. As the
narrative proceeds you will learn how fruitful this valley is, and how
fertile is its soil. The Spaniards laid out parcels of land on the
river bank, which they intended to make into gardens, and where they
planted all kinds of vegetables, roots, lettuces, cabbages, salads,
and other things. Sixteen days after the sowing, the plants had
everywhere grown; melons, pumpkins, cucumbers, and other similar
products were ripe for picking thirty-six days after they were
planted, and nowhere had our people tasted any of finer flavour.
Throughout the whole year one might thus have fresh vegetables.
Cane-roots, from the juice of which sugar is extracted (but not
crystallised sugar) grew to a height of a cubit within fifteen days
after planting, and the same happened to graftings of vines. Excellent
grapes may be eaten from these vines the second year after planting,
but on account of their exaggerated size, the bunches were not
numerous. A certain peasant planted a foot of wheat about the calends
of February, and wonderful to say, in the sight of everybody he
brought into the town a bunch of ripe grain on the third day of the
calends of April, which fell in that year on the eve of Easter. Two
harvests of vegetables may be counted upon within the year. I have
repeated what is told to me about the fertility of the country by
all those, without exception, who have returned from there. I would
notice, however, that according to some observations wheat does not
grow equally well throughout the whole country.

[Note 5: The town of Santo Domingo, standing at the mouth of the
Ozama river.]

[Note 6: This valley is the actual Vega Real.]

During this time the Admiral despatched some thirty of his men in
different directions to explore the district of Cipangu, which is
still called Cibao. This is a mountainous region covered with rocks
and occupying the centre of the island, where, the natives explained
by signs, gold is obtained in abundance. The Admiral's explorers
brought back marvellous reports of the riches of the country. Four
large rivers rise in these mountains, into which other streams flow,
thus dividing the island by an extraordinary natural arrangement into
four almost equal parts. The first, which the natives call Junua, lies
towards the east; the second, which borders on it and extends to the
west, is called Attibinico; the third lies to the north and is called
Iachi, while the fourth, Naiba, lies to the south.

But let us consider how the town was founded. After having surrounded
the site with ditches and entrenchments for defence against possible
attacks by the natives on the garrison he left there, during his
absence, the Admiral started on the eve of the ides of March
accompanied by all the gentlemen and about four hundred foot-soldiers
for the southern region where the gold was found. Crossing a river,
he traversed the plain and climbed the mountain beyond it. He reached
another valley watered by a river even larger than the former one, and
by others of less importance. Accompanied by his force he crossed this
valley, which was in no place more elevated than the first one, and
thus he reached the third mountain which had never been ascended. He
made the ascent and came down on the other side into a valley where
the province of Cibao begins. This valley is watered by rivers and
streams which flow down from the hills, and gold is also found in
their sands. After penetrating into the interior of the gold region a
distance of some seventy-two miles from the town, Columbus resolved to
establish a fortified post on an eminence commanding the river banks,
from which he might study more closely the mysteries of this region.
He named this place San Tomas.

While he was occupied in building this fortification he was delayed by
the natives, who came to visit him in the hope of getting some bells
or other trifles. Columbus gave them to understand that he was very
willing to give them what they asked, if they would bring him gold.
Upon hearing this promise the natives turned their backs and ran to
the neighbouring river, returning soon afterwards with hands full of
gold. One old man only asked a little bell in return for two grains of
gold weighing an ounce. Seeing that the Spaniards admired the size of
these grains, and quite amazed at their astonishment, he explained to
them by signs that they were of no value; after which, taking in his
hands four stones, of which the smallest was the size of a nut and the
largest as big as an orange, he told them that in his country, which
was half a day's journey distant, one found here and there ingots of
gold quite as large. He added that his neighbours did not even take
the trouble to pick them up. It is now known that the islanders set no
value on gold as such; they only prize it when it has been worked by
a craftsman into some form which pleases them. Who amongst us pays
attention to rough marble or to unworked ebony? Certainly nobody;
but if this marble is transformed by the hand of a Phidias or a
Praxiteles, and if it then presents to our eyes the form of a Nereid
with flowing hair, or a hamadryad with graceful body, buyers will not
be wanting. Besides this old man, a number of natives brought ingots,
weighing ten or twelve drachmas,[7] and they had the effrontery to
say that in the region where they had found them, they sometimes
discovered ingots as big as the head of a child whom they indicated.

[Note 7: The Greek drachma weighed one eighth of an ounce.]

During the days he passed at San Tomas, the Admiral sent a young
nobleman named Luxan, accompanied by an escort, to explore another
region. Luxan told even more extraordinary things, which he had heard
from the natives, but he brought back nothing; it is probable that he
did this in obedience to the Admiral's orders. Spices, but not those
we use, abound in their forests, and these they gather just as they do
gold; that is to say, whenever they wish to trade with the inhabitants
of the neighbouring islands for something which pleases them; for
example, long plates, seats, or other articles manufactured out of a
black wood which does not grow in Hispaniola. On his return journey,
towards the ides of March, Luxan found wild grapes of excellent
flavour, already ripe in the forest, but the islanders take no account
of them. The country, although very stony (for the word Cibao means
in their language _rocky_) is nevertheless covered with trees and
grasses. It is even said that the growth on the mountains, which
strictly speaking is only grass, grows taller than wheat within four
days after it has been mown. The rains being frequent, the rivers and
streams are full of water, and as gold is everywhere found mixed with
the sand of the river-beds, it is conjectured that this metal is
washed down from the mountains by the streams. It is certain that the
natives are extremely lazy, for they shiver with cold among their
mountains in winter, without ever thinking of making clothes for
themselves, although cotton is found in abundance. In the valleys and
lowlands they have nothing to fear from cold.

Having carefully examined the region of Cibao, Columbus returned on
the calends of April, the day after Easter, to Isabella; this being
the name he had given to the new city. Confiding the government
of Isabella and the entire island to his brother[8] and one Pedro
Margarita, an old royal courtier, Columbus made preparations for
exploring the island which lies only seventy miles from Hispaniola,
and which he believed to be a continent. He had not forgotten the
royal instructions, which urged him to visit the new coasts, without
delay, lest some other sovereign might take possession of them. For
the King of Portugal made no secret of his intention also to discover
unknown islands. True it is that the Sovereign Pontiff, Alexander VI.,
had sent to the King and Queen of Spain his bull, sealed with lead, by
which it was forbidden to any other sovereign to visit those unknown
regions.[9] To avoid all conflict, a straight line from north to south
had been drawn, first at one hundred leagues and afterwards by common
accord at three hundred leagues west of the parallel of the isles of
Cape Verde. We believe these islands to be those formerly called
the Hesperides. They belong to the King of Portugal. The Portuguese
mariners have continued their explorations to the east of that line;
following the coast of Africa on their left, they directed their
course to the east, crossing the Ethiopian seas, and up to the present
time none of them has yet sailed to the west of the Hesperides, or
towards the south.

[Note 8: According to the judgment of Las Casas, Bartholomew
Columbus was a man of superior character and well qualified to rule,
had he not been eclipsed by his famous brother. _Hist. Ind_., ii., p.

[Note 9: Bull granted May 4, 1493: _Ac quibuscumque personis . . .
districtius inhibemus, ne ad insulas et terras firmas inventas, et
inveniendas detectas et detegendas, versus occidentem et meridiem,
fabricando et construendo lineam a Polo Arctico ad Polum antarcticum,
sive terræ firmæ, Insulæ inventæ et inveniendae sint versus aliam
quamcumque partem quæ linea distet a qualibet insularum quæ vulgariter
appellantur de los Azores el Capo Verde, centum leucis versus
occidentem et meridiem ut præfertur pro mercibus habendis, vel
quavis alia de causa accedere præsumant, absque vestra et hæredum
et subcesorum vestrorum prædictorum licentia spetiali_.... By the
agreement signed at Tordesillas, the distance was increased by common
consent between Spain and Portugal, not as Martyr says, to 300, but to
370 leagues.]

Leaving Hispaniola,[10] the Admiral sailed with three vessels in the
direction of the land he had taken for an island on his first voyage,
and had named Juana. He arrived, after a brief voyage, and named the
first coast he touched Alpha and Omega, because he thought that there
our East ended when the sun set in that island, and our West began
when the sun rose. It is indeed proven that on the west side India
begins beyond the Ganges, and ends on the east side. It is not without
cause that cosmographers have left the boundaries of Ganges India
undetermined.[11] There are not wanting those among them who think
that the coasts of Spain do not lie very distant from the shores of

[Note 10: He left Hispaniola on April 24th.]

[Note 11: This was the general opinion of cosmographers and
navigators at that period; contemporary maps and globes show the
Asiatic continent in the place actually occupied by Florida and
Mexico. See map of Ptolemeus de Ruysch, _Universalior coquiti orbis
tabula ex recentibus confecta observationibus_, Rome, 1508.]

The natives called this country Cuba.[12] Within sight of it, the
Admiral discovered at the extremity of Hispaniola a very commodious
harbour formed by a bend in the island. He called this harbour, which
is barely twenty leagues distant from Cuba, San Nicholas.

[Note 12: Always deeming Cuba to be an extension of Asia, Columbus
was anxious to complete his reconnaissance, and then to proceed to
India and Cathay.]

Columbus covered this distance, and desiring to skirt the south coast
of Cuba, he laid his course to the west; the farther he advanced the
more extensive did the coast become, but bending towards the south, he
first discovered, to the left of Cuba, an island called by the natives
Jamaica,[13] of which he reports that it is longer and broader
than Sicily. It is composed of one sole mountain, which rises in
imperceptible gradations from the coasts to the centre, sloping so
gently that in mounting it, the ascent is scarcely noticeable. Both
the coast country and the interior of Jamaica are extremely fertile
and populous. According to the report of their neighbours, the
natives of this island have a keener intelligence and are cleverer in
mechanical arts, as well as more warlike than others. And indeed, each
time the Admiral sought to land in any place, they assembled in armed
bands, threatening him, and not hesitating to offer battle. As they
were always conquered, they ended by making peace with him. Leaving
Jamaica to one side, the Admiral sailed to the west for seventy days
with favourable winds. He expected to arrive in the part of the world
underneath us just near the Golden Chersonese, which is situated to
the east of Persia. He thought, as a matter of fact, that of the
twelve hours of the sun's course of which we are ignorant he would
have only lost two.

[Note 13: The island is about eighty-five miles from Cuba. The
name Jamaica, which has survived, meant in the native tongue "land of
wood and water." It was really discovered on May 13th, but was not
colonised until 1509.]

It is known that the ancients have only followed the sun during the
half of its course, since they only knew that part of the globe which
lies between Cadiz and the Ganges, or even to the Golden Chersonese.

During this voyage, the Admiral encountered marine currents as
impetuous as torrents, with great waves and undercurrents, to say
nothing of the dangers presented by the immense number of neighbouring
islands; but he was heedless of these perils, and was determined to
advance until he had ascertained whether Cuba was an island or a
continent. He continued, therefore, coasting the shores of the island,
and always towards the west, to a distance, according to his report,
of two hundred and twenty-two leagues, which is equal to about one
thousand three hundred miles. He gave names to seven thousand islands,
and moreover beheld on his left hand more than three thousand others
rising from the waves. But let us return to those matters worthy to be
remembered which he encountered during this voyage.

While the Admiral was carefully examining the character of these
places, coasting along the shore of Cuba, he first discovered, not far
from Alpha (that is from the end of it), a harbour sufficient for many
ships. Its entrance is in the form of a scythe, shut in on the two
sides by promontories that break the waves; and it is large and of
great depth. Following the coast of this harbour, he perceived at a
short distance from the shore two huts, and several fires burning here
and there. A landing was made, but no people were found; nevertheless
there were wooden spits arranged about the fire, on which hung fish,
altogether of about a hundred pounds' weight, and alongside lay two
serpents eight feet long.[14] The Spaniards were astonished, and
looked about for some one with whom to speak, but saw nobody. Indeed,
the owners of the fish had fled to the mountains on seeing them
approach. The Spaniards rested there to eat, and were pleased to find
the fish, which had cost them nothing, much to their taste; but they
did not touch the serpents. They report that these latter were in no
wise different from the crocodiles of the Nile, except in point of
size. According to Pliny, crocodiles as long as eighteen cubits have
been found; while the largest in Cuba do not exceed eight feet. When
their hunger was satisfied, they penetrated into the neighbouring
woods, where they found a number of these serpents tied to the trees
with cords; some were attached by their heads, others had had their
teeth pulled out. While the Spaniards busied themselves in visiting
the neighbourhood of the harbour, they discovered about seventy
natives who had fled at their approach, and who now sought to know
what these unknown people wanted. Our men endeavoured to attract them
by gestures and signs, and gentle words, and one of them, fascinated
by the gifts which they exhibited from a distance, approached, but no
nearer than a neighbouring rock. It was clear that he was afraid.

[Note 14: As will be later seen, these so-called serpents are
iguanas. They are still a common article of food throughout the
islands, and _tierra caliente_ of Mexico and Central America, and make
savoury dishes.]

During his first voyage the Admiral had taken a native of Guanahani
(an island near by Cuba), whom he had named Diego Columbus, and had
brought up with his own children. Diego served him as interpreter, and
as his maternal tongue was akin to the language of the islander who
had approached, he spoke to him. Overcoming his fears, the islander
came amongst the Spaniards, and persuaded his companions to join him
as there was nothing to fear. About seventy natives then descended
from their rocks and made friends, and the Admiral offered them

They were fishermen, sent to fish by their cacique, who was preparing
a festival for the reception of another chief. They were not at
all vexed when they found that their fish had been eaten and their
serpents left, for they considered these serpents the most delicate
food. Common people among them eat less often of the serpents than
they would with us of pheasants or peacocks. Moreover they could catch
as many fish as the Spaniards had eaten, in one hour. When asked why
they cooked the fish they were to carry to their cacique, they replied
that they did so to preserve it from corruption. After swearing a
mutual friendship they separated.

From that point of the Cuban coast which he had named Alpha, as we
have said, the Admiral sailed towards the west. The middle portions of
the shores of the bay were well wooded but steep and mountainous. Some
of the trees were in flower, and the sweet perfumes they exhaled were
wafted out across the sea,[15] while others were weighted with fruit.
Beyond the bay the country was more fertile and more populous. The
natives were likewise more civilised and more desirous of novelties,
for, at the sight of the vessels, a crowd of them came down to the
shore, offering our men the kind of bread they ate, and gourds full of
water. They begged them to come on land.

[Note 15: The fragrant odours blown out to sea from the American
coasts are mentioned by several of the early explorers.]

On all these islands there is found a tree about the size of our elms,
which bears a sort of gourd out of which they make drinking cups; but
they never eat it, as its pulp is bitterer than gall, and its shell is
as hard as a turtle's back. On the ides of May the watchers saw from
the height of the lookout an incredible multitude of islands to the
south-west; two of them were covered with grass and green trees, and
all of them were inhabited.

On the shore of the continent there emptied a navigable river of which
the water was so hot that one could not leave one's hand long in it.
The next day, having seen a canoe of fishermen in the distance, and
fearing that these fishermen might take to flight at sight of them,
the Admiral ordered a barque to cut off their retreat; but the men
waited for the Spaniards without sign of fear.

Listen now to this new method of fishing. Just as we use French dogs
to chase hares across the plain, so do these fishermen catch fish
by means of a fish trained for that purpose. This fish in no wise
resembles any that we know. Its body is similar to that of a large
eel, and upon its head it has a large pouch made of a very tough skin.
They tie the fish to the side of the boat, with just the amount of
cord necessary to hold it under the water; for it cannot stand contact
with the air. As soon as a large fish or turtle is seen (and these
latter are as large as a huge shield), they let the fish go. The
moment it is freed, it attacks, with the rapidity of an arrow, the
fish or turtle, on some part exposed from the shell, covering it with
the pouch-like skin, and attaching itself with such tenacity that the
only way to pull it off alive is by rolling a cord round a pole and
raising the fish out of the water, when contact with the air causes
it to drop its prey. This is-done by some of the fishermen who throw
themselves into the water, and hold it above the surface, until their
companions, who remained in the barque, have dragged it on board. This
done, the cord is loosened enough for the fisherman-fish to drop back
into the water, when it is fed with pieces of the prey which has been

The islanders call this fish _guaicano_, and our people call it
_riverso_.[16] Four turtles which they caught in this fashion and
presented to the Spaniards almost filled a native barque. They highly
prize the flesh of turtles, and the Spaniards made them some presents
in exchange which highly pleased them. When our sailors questioned
them concerning the size of the land, they answered that it had no
end towards the west. They insisted that the Admiral should land, or
should send some one in his name to salute their cacique, promising
moreover that if the Spaniards would go to visit the cacique, the
latter would make them various presents; but the Admiral, not wishing
to retard the execution of his project, refused to yield to their
wishes. The islanders asked him his name, and told him the name of
their cacique.

[Note 16: A sea-lamprey, also called _remora_ and _echineis_.
Oviedo gives details concerning the manner of catching, raising,
and training the young lampreys to serve as game-fish. _Hist. delle
Indie_, cap. x., in Ramusio. The account is interesting and despite
obvious inaccuracies may have a basis of truth.]

Continuing his route towards the west, the Admiral arrived several
days later in the neighbourhood of a very lofty mountain, where,
because of the fertility of the soil, there were many inhabitants. The
natives assembled in crowds, and brought bread, cotton, rabbits, and
birds on board the ships. They inquired with great curiosity of the
interpreter, if this new race of men was descended from heaven. Their
king, and a number of wise men who accompanied him, made known
by signs that this land was not an island. Landing on another
neighbouring island, which almost touched Cuba, the Spaniards were
unable to discover a single inhabitant; everybody, men and women, had
fled on their approach. They found there four dogs which could not
bark and were of hideous aspect. The people eat them just as we do
kids. Geese, ducks, and herons abound in that island. Between these
islands and the continent there were such strong currents that the
Admiral had great difficulty in tacking, and the water was so shallow
that the keels of the ships sometimes scraped the sand. For a space of
forty miles the water of these currents was white, and so thick that
one would have sworn the sea was sprinkled with flour. Having finally
regained the open, the Admiral discovered, eighty miles farther on,
another very lofty mountain. He landed to replenish his supply of
water and wood. In the midst of the thick palm and pine groves two
springs of sweet water were found. While the men were busy cutting
wood and filling their barrels, one of our archers went off in the
woods to hunt. He there suddenly encountered a native, so well dressed
in a white tunic, that at the first glance he believed he saw before
him one of the Friars of Santa Maria de la Merced, whom the Admiral
had brought with him. This native was soon followed by two others,
likewise coming out of the forest, and then by a troop of about thirty
men, all of them clothed. Our archer turned and ran shouting, as
quickly as he could, towards the ships. These people dressed in tunics
shouted after him, and tried by all means of persuasion in their power
to calm his fears. But he did not stop in his flight. Upon hearing
this news, the Admiral, delighted finally to discover a civilised
nation, at once landed a troop of armed men, ordering them to advance,
if necessary, as far as forty miles into the country, until they
should find those people dressed in tunics, or at least some other
inhabitants.[17] The Spaniards marched through the forest and emerged
on an extensive plain overgrown with brush, amidst which there was
no vestige of a path. They sought to cut a pathway through the
undergrowth, but wandered about so hopelessly that they hardly
advanced a mile. This underbrush was indeed as high as our grain when
ripe. Worn out and fatigued, they returned without having discovered
a trail. The next day the Admiral sent out a new troop of twenty-five
men, urging them to use the greatest diligence to discover the
inhabitants of that country. They, however, having come upon the
tracks of some large animals, amongst which they thought they
recognised those of lions, were terrified and retraced their
steps.[18] In the course of their march, they had found a forest
overgrown with wild vines, which hung suspended from the loftiest
trees, and also many other spice-producing trees. They brought back to
Spain heavy and juicy bunches of grapes. As for the other fruits they
collected, it was impossible to bring them to Spain, because there
were no means of preserving them on board the ships; hence they
rotted, and when they were spoiled they threw them into the sea. The
men said that they had seen flocks of cranes twice as large as ours in
the forest.

[Note 17: None of the natives of the islands wore white tunics,
nor indeed any but the most scanty covering. It has been surmised that
the soldier who made this report may indistinctly and from a distance
have descried a flock of tall white cranes, otherwise he was either
the victim of an hallucination or an inventor of strange tales to
astonish his fellows. Humboldt (_Histoire de la Géographie du nouveau
Continent_) quotes an instance of the colonists of Angostora once
mistaking a flock of cranes for a band of soldiers.]

[Note 18: There were no lions nor large beasts of prey in the
island; it has been suggested that these tracks may have been
footprints of an alligator.]

Pursuing his course, the Admiral sailed towards other mountains; he
observed upon the shore two huts, in which only one man was found,
who, when he was brought on board the ships, shook his head and hands,
indicating by signs that the country about these mountains was very
populous. All along this coast the Admiral encountered numerous canoes
which came to meet him, and on one side and the other friendly signals
were exchanged. The man Diego, who, from the beginning of the voyage
understood the language of the islanders, did not understand that of
this newcomer. It was known, indeed, that the languages vary in the
different provinces of Cuba.[19] The natives gave it to be understood
that a powerful sovereign, who wore clothes, lived in the interior of
the country. The whole of the coast was inundated by waters, the beach
being muddy and strewn with trees like in our swamps. When they landed
to replenish their supply of water, they found some shells with pearls
in them. Columbus nevertheless continued on his way, for he sought
at that time, in obedience to the royal instructions, to explore the
greatest possible extent of sea. As they proceeded on their course,
lighted fires were observed on all the hilltops of the coast country,
as far as to another mountain eighty miles distant. There was not a
single lookout upon the rocks from which smoke did not rise.

[Note 19: Pezuela gives interesting information concerning the
tribal languages of Cuba. _Diccionario Geografico, Estadistico,
Historico de la isla de Cuba_.]

It was doubtful whether these fires had been lighted by the natives
for domestic purposes or whether it was their custom in time of war
thus to signal to warn their neighbours to provide for their safety
and unite their forces to repel our attacks.

What is more probable is that they assembled to inspect our ships, as
though they were something prodigious, concerning which they knew not
what course to adopt. The coast-line began to recede in a southerly
direction, and the sea continued to be encumbered with islands. Some
of the ships, which had been scraped by the reefs, had sprung; ropes,
sails, and other tackle were rotted, and provisions were spoiled by
the humidity. The Admiral was, consequently, obliged to retrace his
course.[20] The extreme point of this country reached by him, and
which he believed to be a continent, he named Evangelista.

[Note 20: Two or three days more would have sufficed to
demonstrate the insular character of Cuba, and would doubtless have
made Columbus the discoverer of Yucatan.]

During the return voyage, Columbus passed among many other islands
more distant from the continent, and reached a sea where he found such
numbers of huge turtles that they obstructed the advance of his fleet.
He likewise crossed currents of whitish water, similar to those he had
already seen.[21] Fearing to sail amongst these islands he returned,
and coasted along the one he believed to be a continent.

[Note 21: The milky colour was produced by quantities of chalky
sand, churned up from the bottom by the currents.]

As he had never maltreated the natives, the inhabitants, both men and
women, gladly brought him gifts, displaying no fear. Their presents
consisted of parrots, bread, water, rabbits, and most of all, of doves
much larger than ours, according to the Admiral's account. As he
noticed that these birds gave forth an aromatic odour when they were
eaten, he had the stomach of one of them opened, and found it filled
with flowers. Evidently that is what gave such a superior taste to
these doves; for it is credible that the flesh of animals assimilates
the qualities of their food.

While assisting at Mass one day, Columbus beheld a man eighty years
old, who seemed respectable though he wore no clothes, coming towards
him, accompanied by a number of his people. During the rest of the
ceremony this man looked on full of admiration; he was all eyes and
ears. Then he presented the Admiral with a basket he was carrying,
which was filled with native fruits, and finally sitting beside him,
made the following speech which was interpreted by Diego Columbus,
who, being from a neighbouring country, understood his language:

"It is reported to us that you have visited all these countries, which
were formerly unknown to you, and have inspired the inhabitants with
great fear. Now I tell and warn you, since you should know this, that
the soul, when it quits the body, follows one of two courses; the
first is dark and dreadful, and is reserved for the enemies and the
tyrants of the human race; joyous and delectable is the second, which
is reserved for those who during their lives have promoted the peace
and tranquillity of others. If, therefore, you are a mortal, and
believe that each one will meet the fate he deserves, you will harm no

Thanks to his native interpreter, the Admiral understood this speech
and many others of the same tenor, and was astonished to discover such
sound judgment in a man who went naked. He answered: "I have knowledge
of what you have said concerning the two courses and the two destinies
of our souls when they leave our bodies; but I had thought until now
that these mysteries were unknown to you and to your countrymen,
because you live in a state of nature." He then informed the old man
that he had been sent thither by the King and Queen of Spain to take
possession of those countries hitherto unknown to the outside world,
and that, moreover, he would make war upon the cannibals and all the
natives guilty of crimes, punishing them according to their deserts.
As for the innocent, he would protect and honour them because of their
virtues. Therefore, neither he nor any one whose intentions were pure
need be afraid; rather, if he or any other honourable man had been
injured in his interests by his neighbours he had only to say so.

These words of the Admiral afforded such pleasure to the old man that
he announced that, although weakened by age, he would gladly go with
Columbus, and he would have done so if his wife and sons had not
prevented him. What occasioned him great surprise was to learn that
a man like Columbus recognised the authority of a sovereign; but his
astonishment still further increased when the interpreter explained
to him how powerful were the kings and how wealthy, and all about the
Spanish nation, the manner of fighting, and how great were the cities
and how strong the fortresses. In great dejection the man, together
with his wife and sons, threw themselves at the feet of Columbus,
with their eyes full of tears, repeatedly asking if the country which
produced such men and in such numbers was not indeed heaven.

It is proven that amongst them the land belongs to everybody, just as
does the sun or the water. They know no difference between _meum_ and
_tuum_, that source of all evils. It requires so little to satisfy
them, that in that vast region there is always more land to cultivate
than is needed. It is indeed a golden age, neither ditches, nor
hedges, nor walls to enclose their domains; they live in gardens open
to all, without laws and without judges; their conduct is naturally
equitable, and whoever injures his neighbour is considered a criminal
and an outlaw. They cultivate maize, yucca, and ages, as we have
already related is the practice in Hispaniola.

On his return from Cuba to Hispaniola, the Admiral again came in sight
of Jamaica, and this time he skirted its southern coast from west to
east. Upon reaching the eastern extremity of this island, he beheld in
the north and on his left high mountains, which he believed to be the
southern coast of Hispaniola which he had not before visited. On the
calends of September he reached the port he had named San Nicholas,
and there repaired his ships, intending to again ravage the cannibal
islands and burn the canoes of the natives. He was determined that
these rapacious wolves should no longer injure the sheep, their
neighbours; but his project could not be realised because of his bad
health. Long watches had weakened him; borne on shore half dead by the
sailors of Port Isabella, and surrounded by his two brothers and his
friends, he finally recovered his former health, but he could not
renew his attack on the cannibal islands, because of the disturbances
which had broken out amongst the Spaniards he had left in Hispaniola.
Concerning these I shall later explain. Fare you well.



When Columbus returned from the land which he believed to be the
Indian continent, he learned that the Friar Boyl[1] and Pedro
Margarita,[2] the nobleman who formerly enjoyed the King's friendship,
as well as several others to whom he had confided the government of
Hispaniola, had departed for Spain animated by evil intentions. In
order that he might justify himself before the sovereigns, in case
they should have been prejudiced by the reports of his enemies, and
also for the purpose of recruiting colonists to replace those who had
left, and to replenish the failing foodstuffs, such as wheat, wine,
oil, and other provisions which form the ordinary food of Spaniards,
who do not easily accustom themselves to that of the natives, he
decided to betake himself to the Court, which at that time was
resident at Burgos, a celebrated town of Old Castile. But I must
relate briefly what he did before his departure.

[Note 1: The character of Padre Boyl has been somewhat
rehabilitated by Padre Fita, S.J. (_Memoires du Congr. Amer. de
Madrid_, 1881), but he can hardly be deemed comparable as a missionary
to the zealous, self-sacrificing friars who followed with such perfect
evangelic spirit a few years later. He was at perpetual enmity with
both the Admiral and his brother.]

[Note 2: Pedro de Margarita had been appointed by Columbus
military commander in the island; his conduct was marked by
ingratitude towards the Admiral.]

The caciques of the island had always been contented with little, for
they lived a peaceful and tranquil life. When they saw the Spaniards
establishing themselves upon their native soil, they were considerably
troubled, and desired above all things either to expel the newcomers
or to destroy them so completely that not even their memory should
remain. It is a fact that the people who accompanied the Admiral in
his second voyage were for the most part undisciplined, unscrupulous
vagabonds, who only employed their ingenuity in gratifying their
appetites. Incapable of moderation in their acts of injustice, they
carried off the women of the islanders under the very eyes of their
brothers and their husbands; given over to violence and thieving, they
had profoundly vexed the natives. It had happened in many places that
when our men were surprised by the natives, the latter strangled them,
and offered them as sacrifices to their gods. Convinced that he should
put down a general insurrection by punishing the murderers of the
Spaniards, Columbus summoned the cacique of this valley, lying at the
foot off the Ciguano Mountains, which are described in the preceding
book. This cacique was called Guarionex. He had been pleased to give
his sister to be the wife of that Diego Columbus who had been from his
infancy brought up by the Admiral, and had served him as interpreter
during his occupation of Cuba. Guarionex had hoped by these means to
establish a more intimate friendship with the Admiral. He afterwards
sent one of his officers to Caunaboa, cacique of the mountains of
Cibao, which is the gold region. The people of this Caunaboa had
besieged Hojeda and fifty soldiers in the blockhouse of San Tomas and,
had they not heard of the approaching arrival of Columbus in person at
the head of imposing reinforcements, they would never have raised the
siege.[3] The Admiral chose Hojeda as his envoy, and while the latter
was engaged in his mission, several caciques[4] sent from different
parts to urge Caunaboa not to allow the Christians to settle in the
island, unless he wished to exchange independence for slavery; for if
the Christians were not expelled to the last man from the island, all
the natives would sooner or later become their slaves. Hojeda, on the
other hand, negotiated with Caunaboa, urging him to come in person to
visit the Admiral, and contract a firm alliance with him. The envoys
of the caciques promised Caunaboa their unlimited support for the
expulsion of the Spaniards, but Hojeda threatened to massacre him if
he chose war rather than peace with the Christians. Caunaboa was very
undecided. Besides, the consciousness of his crimes disturbed him, for
he had cut off the heads of twenty of our men whom he had surprised.
If, therefore, he desired peace on the one hand, on the other he
feared the interview with the Admiral. Having carefully planned his
treachery, he decided that under cover of peace he would seize the
first occasion to destroy Columbus and his men. He set out, escorted
by all his household and a large number of soldiers, armed after the
fashion of the country, to meet the Admiral. When asked why he took
such a numerous troop of men, he answered that it was not becoming
for such a great king as he to quit his house and journey without an
escort. In this event, however, things turned out differently from
what he had expected and he fell into the net that he had himself
prepared. Hardly had he left his house before he regretted his
decision, but Hojeda succeeded by flatteries and promises in bringing
him to Columbus, where he was at once seized and put in irons.[5] The
souls of our dead might rest in peace.

[Note 3: A cacique of the Vega, who was a vassal of Guarionex,
Juatinango by name, had succeeded in killing ten Spaniards and in
setting fire to a house which served as a hospital for forty others
who were confined there ill. After these exploits, he besieged the
blockhouse of Magdalena, which Luis de Arriaga only succeeded in
defending by the greatest efforts. Herrera, _Hist. Ind_., tom, i.,
lib. ii., cap. xvi.]

[Note 4: The principal caciques of Hayti at that time numbered
five. They were: Caunaboa, who was the most powerful of all;
Guarionex, Gauccanagari, Behechio, and Cotubanama.]

[Note 5: Hojeda tricked this cacique into allowing him to fasten
handcuffs on him; after which the helpless chief was carried sixty
leagues through the forests. Pizarro, in his _Varones Illustres_,
relates the story, as does likewise Herrera.]

After the capture of Caunaboa and all his household, the Admiral
resolved to march throughout the whole island. He was informed that
the natives suffered from such a severe famine that more than 50,000
men had already perished, and that people continued to die daily as do
cattle in time of pest.

This calamity was the consequence of their own folly; for when they
saw that the Spaniards wished to settle in their island, they thought
they might expel them by creating a scarcity of food. They, therefore,
decided not only to plant no more crops, but also to destroy and tear
up all the various kinds of cereals used for bread which had already
been sown, and which I have mentioned in the first book. This was
to be done by the people in each district, and especially in the
mountainous region of Cipangu and Cibao; that was the country where
gold was found in abundance, and the natives were aware that the
principal attraction which kept the Spaniards in Hispaniola was gold.
At that time the Admiral sent an officer with a troop of armed men
to reconnoitre the southern coast of the island, and this officer
reported that the regions he had visited had suffered to such an
extent from the famine, that during six days he and his men had eaten
nothing but the roots of herbs and small plants, or such fruits as
grow on the trees. Guarionex, whose territory had suffered less than
the others, distributed some provisions amongst our people.

Some days later Columbus, with the object of lessening journeys and
also to provide more numerous retreats for his men in case of sudden
attack by the natives, had another blockhouse built, which he called
Concepcion. It is situated between Isabella and San Tomas in the
territory of Cibao, upon the frontiers of the country of Guarionex. It
stands upon an elevation, well watered by a number of fresh streams.
Seeing this new construction daily nearing completion, and our fleet
half ruined lying in the port, the natives began to despair of liberty
and to ask one another dejectedly whether the Christians would ever
evacuate the archipelago.

It was during these explorations in the interior of the mountainous
district of Cibao that the men of Concepcion obtained an ingot of
massive gold, shaped in the form of a sponge-like stone; it was as
large as a man's fist, and weighed twenty ounces. It had been found by
a cacique, not on a river bank but in a dry mound. I saw it with my
own eyes in a shop at Medina del Campo in Old Castile, where the Court
was passing the winter; and to my great admiration I handled it and
tested its weight. I also saw a piece of native tin, which might have
served for bells or apothecaries' mortars or other such things as are
made of Corinthian brass. It was so heavy that not only could I not
lift it from the ground with my two hands, but could not even move it
to the right or left. It was said that this lump weighed more than
three hundred pounds at eight ounces to the pound. It had been found
in the courtyard of a cacique's house, where it had lain for a long
time, and the old people of the country, although no tin has been
found in the island within the memory of any living man, nevertheless
knew where there was a mine of this metal. But nobody could ever learn
this secret from them, so much were they vexed by the Spaniards'
presence.[6] Finally they decided to reveal its whereabouts, but it
was entirely destroyed, and filled in with earth and rubbish. It is
nevertheless easier to extract the metal than to get out iron from the
mines, and it is thought that if workmen and skilled miners were sent
out, it would be possible to again work that tin mine.

[Note 6: _Adeo jam stomacho pleni in nostros vivebant_.]

Not far from the blockhouse of Concepcion and in these same mountains,
the Spaniards discovered a large quantity of amber, and in some
caverns was distilled a greenish colour very much prized by painters.
In marching through the forest there were places where all the trees
were of a scarlet colour which are called by Italian merchants
_verzino_, and by the Spaniards brazil wood.

At this point, Most Illustrious Prince, you may raise an objection and
say to yourself: "If the Spaniards have brought several shiploads of
scarlet wood and some gold, and a little cotton and some bits of amber
back to Europe, why did they not load themselves with gold and all the
precious products which seem to abound so plenteously in the country
you describe?"

Columbus answered such questions by saying that the men he had taken
with him thought more of sleeping and taking their ease than about
work, and they preferred fighting and rebellion to peace and
tranquillity. The greater part of these men deserted him. To establish
uncontested authority over the island, it was necessary to conquer
the islanders and to break their power. The Spaniards have indeed
pretended that they could not endure the cruelty and hardship of the
Admiral's orders, and they have formulated many accusations against
him. It is in consequence of these difficulties that he has not so
far thought about covering the expenses of the expeditions. I will
nevertheless observe that in this same year, 1501, in which I am
writing to you, the Spaniards have gathered 1200 pounds of gold in two

But let us return to our narrative. At the proper time I will
describe to you in detail what I have only just touched upon in this

The Admiral was perfectly aware of the alarm and disturbance that
prevailed amongst the islanders, but he was unable to prevent the
violence and rapacity of his men, whenever they came into contact
with the natives. A number of the principal caciques of the frontier
regions assembled to beg Columbus to forbid the Spaniards to wander
about the island because, under the pretext of hunting for gold or
other local products, they left nothing uninjured or undefiled.
Moreover, all the natives between the ages of fourteen and seventy
years bound themselves to pay him tribute in the products of the
country at so much per head, promising to fulfil their engagement.
Some of the conditions of this agreement were as follows: The
mountaineers of Cibao were to bring to the town every three months a
specified measure filled with gold. They reckon by the moon and
call the months moons. The islanders who cultivated the lands which
spontaneously produced spices and cotton, were pledged to pay a fixed
sum per head. This pact suited both parties, and it would have been
observed by both sides as had been agreed, save that the famine
nullified their resolutions. The natives had hardly strength to hunt
food in the forests and for a long time they contented themselves
with roots, herbs, and wild fruits. Nevertheless the majority of the
caciques, aided by their followers, did bring part of the established
tribute. They begged as a favour of the Admiral to have pity on their
misery, and to exempt them till such time as the island might recover
its former prosperity. They bound themselves then to pay double what
was for the moment failing.

Owing to the famine, which had affected them more cruelly than the
others, very few of the mountaineers of Cibao paid tribute. These
mountaineers did not differ in their customs and language from the
people of the plain more than do the mountaineers of other countries
differ from those who live in the capital. There exist amongst them,
however, some points of resemblance, since they lead the same kind of
simple, open-air life.

But let us return to Caunaboa, who, if you remember, had been taken

This cacique, when he found himself put in irons, gnashed his teeth
like an African lion and fell to thinking, night and day, upon the
means to recover his liberty.[7] He begged the Admiral, since the
region of Cipangu was now under his authority, to send Spanish
garrisons to protect the country against the attacks of neighbours who
were his ancient enemies. He said that it was reported to him that the
country was ravaged, and the property of his subjects considered by
his enemies as their lawful plunder. As a matter of fact it was a trap
he was preparing. He hoped that his brother and other relatives in
Cibao would, either by force or by trickery, capture as many Spaniards
as would be required to pay his ransom. Divining this plot, Columbus
sent Hojeda, but with an escort of soldiers sufficient to overcome
all resistance of the inhabitants of Cibao. Hardly had the Spaniards
entered that region when the brother of Caunaboa assembled about 5000
men, equipped in their fashion, that is to say, naked, armed with
arrows without iron points, clubs, and spears. He succeeded in
surrounding the Spaniards, and held them besieged in a small house.
This chief showed himself under the circumstances to be a veritable
soldier. When he had approached within a distance of one stadium, he
divided his men into five groups, stationing them in a circle, and
assigning to each one his post, while he himself marched directly
against the Spaniards. When all his arrangements were completed, he
ordered his soldiers to advance, shouting all together, so as to
engage in a hand-to-hand combat. He hoped that, by thus surrounding
the Spaniards, none of them would escape. But our men, persuaded that
it was better to attack than to await their assault, fell upon the
most numerous band they saw in the open country. The ground was
adapted for cavalry manoeuvres and the horsemen, opening their charge,
rode down the enemy, who were easily put to flight. Those who awaited
the encounter were massacred; the others, overcome with fright, fled,
abandoning their huts, and seeking refuge in the mountains and upon
inaccessible rocks. They begged for mercy, promising and swearing
to observe all the conditions imposed upon them, if they were only
permitted to live with their families. The brother of the cacique was
finally captured, and each of his men was sent to his own home. After
this victory that region was pacified.

[Note 7: Las Casas (_Hist, de las Indias_, tom, i., p. 102)
relates that Caunaboa never forgave Columbus for his treatment of him,
while he had, on the contrary, great respect for Hojeda, the latter's
clever ruse, deftly executed, being precisely the kind of trickery he
was able to appreciate and admire.]

The mountain valley where the cacique lived is called Magona. It
is traversed by auriferous rivers, is generously productive and
marvellously fertile. In the month of June of this same year occurred
a frightful tempest; whirlwinds reaching to the skies uprooted the
largest trees that were swept within their vortex. When this typhoon
reached the port of Isabella, only three ships were riding at anchor;
their cables were broken, and after three or four shocks--though
there was no tempest or tide at the time--they sank. It is said that
in that year the sea penetrated more deeply than usual into the earth,
and that it rose more than a cubit. The natives whispered that the
Spaniards were the cause of this disturbance of the elements and these
catastrophes. These tempests, which the Greeks called typhoons, are
called by the natives _huracanes_.[8] According to their accounts
hurricanes are sufficiently frequent in the island, but they never
attain such violence and fury. None of the islanders living, nor any
of their ancestors remembers that such an atmospheric disturbance,
capable of uprooting the greatest trees, had ever swept the island;
nor, on the other hand, had the sea ever been so turbulent, or the
tidewater so ravaged. Wherever plains border the sea, flowery meadows
are found nearby.

[Note 8: The word _hurricane_ is from _Hurakan_, the name of the
god or culture hero who, in the mythology of Yucatan, corresponded to
Quetzalcoatl of the Mexicans. Being the god of the winds, storms were
ascribed to his fury, and the typhoons and tempests which broke out
at times with destructive violence over the seas and countries were
called by his name.]

Let us now return to Caunaboa. When it was sought to take them to the
sovereigns of Spain, both he and his brother died of grief on
the voyage. The destruction of his ships detained the Admiral at
Hispaniola; but, as he had at his disposal the necessary artisans, he
ordered two caravels to be built immediately.

While these orders were being carried out, he despatched his brother,
Bartholomew Columbus,--Adelantado, the Spaniards call him, of the
island,--with a number of miners and a troop of soldiers, to the gold
mines, which had been discovered by the assistance of the natives
sixty leagues from Isabella in the direction of Cipangu, As some
very ancient pits were found there, the Admiral believed that he had
rediscovered in those mines the ancient treasures which, it is stated
in the Old Testament, King Solomon of Jerusalem had found in the
Persian Gulf. Whether this be true or false is not for me to decide.
These mines cover an area of six miles. The miners, in sifting some
dry earth gathered at different places, declared that they had found
such a great quantity of gold hidden in that earth that a miner could
easily collect three drachmas in a day's work. After they had
explored that region, the Adelantado and the miners wrote to Columbus
acquainting him with their discovery. The ships being then ready,
Columbus immediately and with great delight embarked to return to
Spain; that is to say, the fifth day of the ides of March in the year
1495.[9] He confided the government of the province with full powers
to his brother, the Adelantado, Bartholomew Columbus.

[Note 9: Columbus sailed on March 10, 1496.]



Acting upon the parting counsel of his brother, the Adelantado,
Bartholomew Columbus, constructed a blockhouse at the mines, which
he called El Dorado,[1] because the labourers discovered gold in the
earth with which they were building its walls. It required three
months to manufacture the necessary tools for washing and sifting the
gold, but famine obliged him to abandon this enterprise before it
was terminated. At a place sixty miles farther on, where he and the
greater part of his soldiers went, he succeeded in procuring from the
islanders a small quantity of the bread they make, to such a bad state
were affairs at that time reduced. Unable to prolong his stay, he left
ten men at El Dorado, furnishing them with a small part of the bread
that remained. He moreover left with them an excellent hunting dog for
chasing the game, which I have above said resembles our rabbits, and
which are called _utias_; after which he left to return to Concepcion.
It was at that time that the tribute from the caique Guarionex and one
of his neighbours called Manicavex was due. The Adelantado remained
there the whole month of June, and obtained from the caciques, not
only the sum total of the tribute, but also provisions necessary to
support himself and the 400 men of his escort.

[Note 1: The name first given to the place was San Cristobal.]

About the calends of July three caravels arrived, bringing
provisions--wheat, oil, wine, and salted pork and beef. In obedience
to the orders from Spain, they were distributed amongst all the
Europeans, but as some of the provisions had rotted, or were spoiled
by the damp, people complained. Fresh instructions from the sovereigns
and from the Admiral were sent to Bartholomew Columbus by these ships.
After frequent interviews with the sovereigns, Columbus directed his
brother to transfer his residence to the southern coast of the island,
nearer to the mines. He was likewise ordered to send back to Spain,
in chains, the caciques who had been convicted of assassinating the
Christians, and also those of their subjects who had shared their
crimes; Three hundred islanders were thus transported to Spain.[2]

[Note 2: This transport marks the beginning of the slave trade in

After having carefully explored the coast, the Adelantado transferred
his residence and built a lofty blockhouse near a safe harbour, naming
the fort Santo Domingo, because he had arrived at that place on a
Sunday. There flows into that harbour a river, whose wholesome waters
abound in excellent fish, and whose banks are delightfully wooded.
This river has some unusual natural features. Wherever its waters
flow, the most useful and agreeable products flourish, such as palms
and fruits of all kinds. The trees sometimes droop their branches,
weighted with flowers and fruit over the heads of the Spaniards, who
declare that the soil of Santo Domingo is as fertile, or even perhaps
more so, than at Hispaniola. At Isabella there only remained the
invalids and some engineers to complete the construction of two
caravels which had been begun, all the other colonists coming south
to Santo Domingo. When the blockhouse was finished, he placed there
a garrison of twenty men, and prepared to lead the remainder of his
people on a tour of exploration through the western parts of the
island, of which not even the name was known. Thirty leagues distant
from Santo Domingo, that is to say, at the ninetieth mile, they came
upon the river Naiba, which flows south from the mountains of Cibao
and divides the island into two equal parts. The Adelantado crossed
this river, and sent two captains, each with an escort of twenty-five
soldiers, to explore the territory of the caciques who possessed
forests of red trees. These men, marching to the left, came upon
forests, in which they cut down magnificent trees of great value,
heretofore respected. The captains piled the red-coloured wood in the
huts of the natives, wishing thus to protect it until they could load
it on the ships. During this time the Adelantado, who had marched to
the right, had encountered at a place not far from the river Naiba
a powerful cacique, named Beuchios Anacauchoa, who was at that time
engaged in an expedition to conquer the people along the river, as
well as some other caciques of the island. This powerful chieftain
lives at the western extremity of the island, called Xaragua. This
rugged and mountainous country is thirty leagues distant from the
river Naiba, but all the caciques whose territory lies in between are
subject to him.[3] All that country from the Naiba to the western
extremity produces no gold. Anacauchoa, observing that our men put
down their arms and made him amicable signs, adopted a responsive air,
either from fear or from courtesy, and asked them what they wanted of
him. The Adelantado replied: "We wish you to pay the same tribute
to my brother, who is in command here in the name of the Spanish
sovereigns, as do the other caciques." To which he answered: "How can
you ask tribute from me, since none of the numerous provinces under my
authority produce gold?" He had learned that strangers in search of
gold had landed on the island, and he did not suspect that our men
would ask for anything else. "We do not pretend," continued the
Adelantado, "to exact tribute from anybody which cannot be easily
paid, or of a kind not obtainable; but we know that this country
produces an abundance of cotton, hemp, and other similar things, and
we ask you to pay tribute of those products." The cacique's face
expressed joy on hearing these words, and with a satisfied air he
agreed to give what he was asked, and in whatever quantities they
desired; for he sent away his men, and after despatching messengers in
advance, he himself acted as guide for the Adelantado, conducting him
to his residence, which, as we have already said, was situated about
thirty leagues distant. The march led through the countries of subject
caciques; and upon some of them a tribute of hemp was imposed, for
this hemp is quite as good as our flax for weaving ships' sails;
upon others, of bread, and upon others, of cotton, according to the
products of each region.

[Note 3: Xaragua includes the entire western coast from Cape
Tiburon to the island of Beata on the south.]

When they finally arrived at the chieftain's residence in Xaragua,
the natives came out to meet them, and, as is their custom, offered
a triumphal reception to their king, Beuchios Anacauchoa, and to our
men. Please note amongst other usages these two, which are remarkable
amongst naked and uncultivated people. When the company approached,
some thirty women, all wives of the cacique, marched out to meet
them, dancing, singing, and shouting; they were naked, save for a
loin-girdle, which, though it consisted but of a cotton belt, which
dropped over their hips, satisfied these women devoid of any sense of
shame. As for the young girls, they covered no part of their bodies,
but wore their hair loose upon their shoulders and a narrow ribbon
tied around the forehead. Their face, breast, and hands, and the
entire body was quite naked, and of a somewhat brunette tint. All were
beautiful, so that one might think he beheld those splendid naiads or
nymphs of the fountains, so much celebrated by the ancients. Holding
branches of palms in their hands, they danced to an accompaniment of
songs, and bending the knee, they offered them to the Adelantado.
Entering the chieftain's house, the Spaniards refreshed themselves at
a banquet prepared with all the magnificence of native usage. When
night came, each, according to his rank, was escorted by servants
of the cacique to houses where those hanging beds I have already
described were assigned to them, and there they rested.

Next day they were conducted to a building which served as a theatre,
where they witnessed dances and listened to songs, after which two
numerous troops of armed men suddenly appeared upon a large open
space, the king having thought to please and interest the Spaniards by
having them exercised, just as in Spain Trojan games (that is to say,
tourneys) are celebrated. The two armies advanced and engaged in
as animated a combat as though they were fighting to defend their
property, their homes, their children or their lives. With such vigour
did they contest, in the presence of their chieftain, that within the
short space of an hour four soldiers were killed and a number were
wounded; and it was only at the instance of the Spaniards that the
cacique gave the signal for them to lay down their arms and cease
fighting. After having advised the cacique to henceforth plant more
cotton along the river banks, in order that he might more easily pay
the tribute imposed on each household, the Adelantado left on the
third day for Isabella to visit the invalids, and to see the ships in
construction. About three hundred of his men had fallen victims to
divers maladies, and he was therefore much concerned and hardly knew
what course to adopt, for everything was lacking, not only for caring
for the sick, but also for the necessities of life; since no ship had
arrived from Spain to put an end to his uncertainty, he ordered
the invalids to be distributed in the several blockhouses built in
different provinces. These citadels, existing in a straight line from
Isabella to Santo Domingo, that is to say, from north to south,
were as follows: thirty-six miles from Isabella stood Esperanza;
twenty-four miles beyond Esperanza came Santa Caterina; twenty miles
beyond Santa Caterina, Santiago. Twenty miles beyond Santiago had been
constructed a fortification stronger than any of the others; for it
stood at the foot of the mountains of Cibao, in a broad and fertile
plain which was well peopled. This was called La Concepcion. Between
La Concepcion and Santo Domingo, the Adelantado built an even stronger
fortress, which stood in the territory of a chieftain, who was obeyed
by several thousands of subjects. As the natives called the village
where their cacique lived, _Bonana_, the Adelantado wished the
fortress to have the same name.

Having distributed the invalids amongst these fortresses or in the
houses of the natives in the neighbourhood, the Adelantado left for
Santo Domingo, collecting tribute from the caciques he encountered on
his way. He had been at Santo Domingo but a few days when the report
was brought that two of the caciques in the neighbourhood of La
Concepcion were driven to desperation by the Spaniards' rule, and were
planning a revolt. Upon the reception of this news he set out for that
region by rapid marches.

He learned upon his arrival that Guarionex had been chosen by the
other caciques as their commander-in-chief. Although he had already
tested and had reason to fear our arms and our tactics, he had allowed
himself to be partly won over. The caciques had planned a rising of
about 15,000 men, armed in their fashion, for a fixed day, thus making
a new appeal to the fortunes of battle. After consultation with the
commander at La Concepcion and the soldiers he had with him, the
Adelantado determined to take the caciques in their villages, while
they were off their guard and before they had assembled their
soldiers. Captains were thus sent against the caciques, and surprising
them in their sleep, before their scattered subjects could collect,
invaded their houses which were unprotected either by ditches, walls,
or entrenchments; they attacked and seized them, binding them with
cords, and bringing them, as they had been ordered, to the Adelantado.
The latter had dealt with Guarionex himself, as he was the most
formidable enemy, and had seized him at the appointed hour. Fourteen
caciques were thus brought prisoners to La Concepcion, and shortly
afterwards two of those who had corrupted Guarionex and the others,
and who had favoured the revolt were condemned to death. Guarionex and
the rest were released, for the Adelantado feared that the natives,
affected by the death of the caciques, might abandon their fields,
which would have occasioned a grievous damage to our people, because
of the crops. About six thousand of their subjects had come to solicit
their freedom. These people had laid down their arms, making the air
ring and the earth shake with their clamour. The Adelantado spoke to
Guarionex and the other caciques, and by means of promises, presents,
and threats, charged them to take good care for the future to engage
in no further revolt. Guarionex made a speech to the people, in which
he praised our power, our clemency to the guilty, and our generosity
to those who remained faithful; he exhorted them to calm their spirits
and for the future neither to think nor to plan any hostilities
against the Christians, but rather to be obedient, humble, and
serviceable to them, unless they wished worse things to overtake
them. When he had finished his speech, his people took him on their
shoulders in a hammock, and in this wise they carried him to the
village where he lived, and within a few days the entire country was

Nevertheless the Spaniards were disturbed and depressed, for they
found themselves abandoned in a strange country. Fifteen months had
elapsed since the departure of the Admiral. The clothes and the food
to which they were accustomed were wanting, and so they marched with
sad faces and eyes bent on the ground.[4] The Adelantado strove
as best he might to offer consolation. At this juncture, Beuchios
Anacauchoa, for such was the name of the king of the western province
of Xaragua of which we have before spoken, sent to the Adelantado
notifying him that the cotton and other tribute he and his subjects
were to pay, were ready. Bartholomew Columbus marched thither,
therefore, and was received with great honours, by the cacique and by
his sister. This woman, formerly the wife of Caunaboa, King of Cibao,
was held in as great esteem throughout the kingdom as her brother.
It seems she was gracious, clever, and prudent.[5] Having learned a
lesson from the example of her husband, she had persuaded her brother
to submit to the Christians, to soothe and to please them. This woman
was called Anacaona.

[Note 4: The story of the disorders, privations, and unrest, as
told by Las Casas, Columbus, and others, makes cheerless reading; the
misfortunes of the colonists were due to their inveterate idleness,
their tyranny, which had alienated the good-will of the natives, and
to the disillusionment that had dispersed their hope of speedily and
easily won riches.]

[Note 5: Herrera (iii., 6) speaks of her as _la insigne Anacaona
... mujer prudente y entendida_... etc. She composed with unusual
talent the _arreytos_ or folk-ballads the natives were fond of
singing. Las Casas describes her dreadful death in his _Brevissima

Thirty-two caciques were assembled in the house of Anacauchoa, where
they had brought their tribute. In addition to what had been agreed
upon, they sought to win favour by adding numerous presents, which
consisted of two kinds of bread, roots, grains, utias, that is to
say, rabbits, which are numerous in the island, fish, which they
had preserved by cooking them, and those same serpents, resembling
crocodiles, which they esteem a most delicate food. We have described
them above, and the natives call them iguanas. They are special to
Hispaniola.[6] Up to that time none of the Spaniards had ventured to
eat them because of their odour, which was not only repugnant but
nauseating, but the Adelantado, won by the amiability of the cacique's
sister, consented to taste a morsel of iguana; and hardly had his
palate savoured this succulent flesh than he began to eat it by the
mouthful. Henceforth the Spaniards were no longer satisfied to barely
taste it, but became epicures in regard to it, and talked of nothing
else than the exquisite flavour of these serpents, which they found
to be superior to that of peacocks, pheasants, or partridges. If,
however, they are cooked as we do peacocks and pheasants, which are
first larded and then roasted, the serpent's flesh loses its good
flavour. First they gut them, then wash and clean them with care,
and roll them into a circle, so that they look like the coils of a
sleeping snake; after which they put them in a pot, just large enough
to hold them, pouring over them a little water flavoured with the
pepper found in the island. The pot is covered and a fire of odorous
wood which gives very little light is kindled underneath it. A juice
as delicious as nectar runs drop by drop from the insides. It is
reported that there are few dishes more appetising than iguana eggs
cooked over a slow fire. When they are fresh and served hot they are
delicious, but if they are preserved for a few days they still further
improve. But this is enough about cooking recipes. Let us pass on to
other subjects.

[Note 6: Iguanas are found in all the _tierras calientes_ of the

The tribute of cotton sent by the caciques filled the Adelantado's
hut, and, in addition, he accepted their promise to furnish him all
the bread he needed. While waiting for the bread to be made in the
different districts, and brought to the house of Beuchios Anacauchoa,
King of Xaragua, he sent to Isabella directing that one of the
caravels he had ordered to be built be brought to him, promising the
colonists that he would send it back to them loaded with bread. The
delighted sailors made the tour of the island with alacrity, and
landed on the coast of Xaragua. As soon as that brilliant, prudent,
and sensible woman called Anacaona, sister of Beuchios Anacauchoa,
heard that our ship had reached the coast of her country, she
persuaded her brother to accompany her to visit it. The distance from
the royal residence to the coast was only six miles. They halted
for the night at a village about halfway, where the queen kept her
treasure; this treasure did not consist of gold, silver, or pearls,
but of utensils necessary to the different requirements of life, such
as seats, platters, basins, cauldrons, and plates made of black wood,
brilliantly polished; they display great art in the manufacture of
all these articles. That distinguished savant, your doctor, Joannes
Baptista Elysius, thinks that this black wood is ebony. It is to the
manufacture of these articles that the islanders devote the best of
their native ingenuity. In the island of Ganabara which, if you have
a map, you will see lies at the western extermity of Hispaniola and
which is subject to Anacauchoa, it is the women who are thus employed;
the various pieces are decorated with representations of phantoms
which they pretend to see in the nighttime, and serpents and men and
everything that they see about them. What would they not be able to
manufacture, Most Illustrious Prince, if they knew the use of iron and
steel? They begin by softening the inner part of pieces of wood in the
fire, after which they dig them out and work them with shells from the

Anacaona presented to the Adelantado fourteen seats and sixty earthen
vessels for the kitchen, besides four rolls of woven cotton of immense
weight. When they all reached the shore where the other royal town is
situated, the Adelantado ordered out a barque fully equipped. The king
also commanded two canoes to be launched, the first for the use
of himself and his attendants, the second for his sister and her
followers, but Anacaona was unwilling to embark on any other than the
boat which carried the Adelantado. As they approached the ship, a
cannon was fired at a given signal. The sound echoed over the sea like
thunder, and the air was filled with smoke. The terrified islanders
trembled, believing that this detonation had shattered the terrestrial
globe; but when they turned towards the Adelantado their emotion
subsided. Upon approaching closer to the ship the sound of flutes,
fifes, and drums was heard, charming their senses by sweet music, and
awakening their astonishment and admiration. When they had been over
the whole ship, from stern to prow, and had carefully visited the
forecastle, the tiller, and the hold, the brother and sister looked at
one another in silence; their astonishment being so profound that they
had nothing to say. While they were engaged in visiting the ship, the
Adelantado ordered the anchor to be raised, the sails set, and to
put out on the high sea. Their astonishment was redoubled when they
observed that, without oars or the employment of any human force, such
a great boat flew over the surface of the water. It was blowing a land
wind, which was favourable to this manoeuvre, and what astonished them
most was to see that the ship which was advanced by the help of this
wind likewise turned about, first to the right and then to the left,
according to the captain's will.

At the conclusion of these manoeuvres the ship was loaded with bread,
roots, and other gifts, and the Adelantado after offering them some
presents took leave of Beuchios Anacauchoa and his sister, their
followers and servants of both sexes. The impression left upon the
latter by this visit was stupefying. The Spaniards marched overland
and returned to Isabella. On arriving there, it was learned that
a certain Ximenes Roldan, formerly chief of the miners and
camp-followers, whom the Admiral had made his equerry and raised to
the grade of chief justice, was ill-disposed towards the Adelantado.
It was simultaneously ascertained that the Cacique Guarionex, unable
longer to put up with the rapacity of Roldan and the other Spaniards
at Isabella, had been driven by despair to quit the country with
his family and a large number of his subjects, taking refuge in the
mountains which border the northern coast only ten leagues to the west
of Isabella. Both these mountains and their inhabitants bear the same
name, _Ciguaia_. The chief of all the caciques inhabiting the mountain
region is called Maiobanexios, who lived at a place called Capronus.
These mountains are rugged, lofty, inaccessible, and rise from the sea
in a semicircle. Between the two extremities of the chain, there lies
a beautiful plain, watered by numerous rivers which rise in these
mountains. The natives are ferocious and warlike, and it is thought
they are of the same race as the cannibals, for when they descend from
their mountains to fight with their neighbours in the plain, they eat
all whom they kill. It was with the cacique of these mountains that
Guarionex took refuge, bringing him gifts, consisting of things which
the mountaineers lack. He told him that the Spaniards had spared him
neither ill-treatment nor humiliation nor violence, while neither
humility nor pride had been of the least use in his dealings with
them. He came, therefore, to him as a suppliant, hoping to be
protected against the injustice of these criminals. Maiobanexios
promised him help and succour to the extent of his power.

Hastening back to La Concepcion the Adelantado summoned Ximenes
Roldan, who, accompanied by his adherents, was prowling amongst the
villages of the island, to appear before him. Greatly irritated,
the Adelantado asked him what his intentions were. To which Roldan
impudently answered: "Your brother, the Admiral is dead, and we fully
understand that our sovereigns have little care for us. Were we to
obey you, we should die of hunger, and we are forced to hunt for
provisions in the island. Moreover, the Admiral confided to me, as
well as to you, the government of the island; hence, we are determined
to obey you no longer." He added other equally misplaced observations.
Before the Adelantado could capture him, Roldan, followed by about
seventy men, escaped to Xaragua in the western part of the island,
where, as the Adelantado reported to his brother, they gave themselves
over to violence, thievery, and massacre.[7]

[Note 7: Some of the principal colonists, including Valdiviesso
and Diego de Escobar, favoured Roldan. The sketchy description of this
notable rebellion here given may be completed by consulting Herrera,
Dec. I., 3, i.; Fernando Columbus, _Storia del Almirante_; Irving,
_Columbus and his Companions_, book xi., caps iv., v., etc.]

While these disturbances were in progress, the Spanish sovereigns
finally granted the Admiral eight vessels, which Columbus promptly
ordered to sail from the town of Cadiz, a city consecrated to
Hercules. These ships were freighted with provisions for the
Adelantado. By chance they approached the western coast of the island,
where Ximenes Roldan and his accomplices were. Roldan won over the
crews by promising them fresh young girls instead of manual labour,
pleasures instead of exertion, plenty in place of famine, and repose
instead weariness and watching.

During this time Guarionex, who had assembled a troop of allies,
made frequent descents upon the plain, killing all the Christians
he surprised, ravaging the fields, driving off the workmen, and
destroying villages.

Although Roldan and his followers were not ignorant that the Admiral
might arrive from one day to another, they had no fears, since they
had won over to their side the crews of the ships that had been sent
on ahead. In the midst of such miseries did the unfortunate Adelantado
await from day to day the arrival of his brother. The Admiral sailed
from Spain with the remainder of the squadron but instead of sailing
directly to Hispaniola, he first laid his course to the south.[8] What
he accomplished during this new voyage, what seas and countries he
visited, what unknown lands he discovered, I shall narrate, and I
shall also explain at length the sequel of these disorders in the
following books. Fare you well.

[Note 8: This was the third voyage of Columbus, concerning which
some of the best sources of information are as follows: Oviedo, _Hist.
Gen. de las Indias_, lib. iii., 2, 4; Navarrete, tom iii., _Lettera di
Simone Verde a Mateo Curi_; Fernando Columbus, _op. cit_.; Herrera,
dec. i., 7; R.H. Major, Hakluyt Society, 1870, _Select Letters of



On the third day of the calends of June, 1498,[1] Columbus sailed from
the port of San Lucar de Barrameda, which is situated at the mouth
of the Guadalquivir not far from Cadiz. His fleet consisted of eight
heavily freighted ships. He avoided his usual route by way of the
Canaries, because of certain French pirates who were lying in wait for
him. Seven hundred and twenty miles north of the Fortunate Isles he
sighted Madeira, which lies four degrees to the south of Seville; for
at Seville, according to the mariners' report, the north star rises
to the 36th degree, whereas at Madeira it is in the 32d. Madeira was,
therefore, his first stop, and from thence he despatched five or six
ships loaded with provisions directly to Hispaniola, only keeping for
himself one ship with decks and two merchant caravels. He laid his
course due south and reached the equinoctial line, which he purposed
to follow directly to the west, making new discoveries and leaving
Hispaniola to the north on his starboard side. The thirteen islands
of the Hesperides lie in the track of this voyage. They belong to the
Portuguese, and all, save one, are inhabited. They are called the Cape
Verde islands, and are distant only a day's sail from the western part
of Ethiopia. To one of these islands the Portuguese have given the
name of Bona Vista[2]; and each year numerous lepers are cured of
their malady by eating the turtles of this island.

[Note 1: The date was May 30, 1498, and the number of ships under
his command was six, instead of eight. Much delay had occurred in
fitting out the fleet for the voyage, owing to the poor management of
the royal functionaries, especially the Bishop of Burgos, whose enmity
towards Columbus was from thenceforward relentless.]

[Note 2: Properly _Boavista_. A leper colony had been established
here by the Portuguese.]

The climate being very bad, the Admiral quickly left the archipelago
behind, and sailed 480 miles towards the west-south-west. He reports
that the dead calms and the fierce heat of the June sun caused such
sufferings that his ships almost took fire. The hoops of his water
barrels burst, and the water leaked out. His men found this heat
intolerable. The pole star was then at an elevation of five degrees.
Of the eight days during which they endured these sufferings only the
first was clear; the others being cloudy and rainy, but not on that
account less oppressive. More than once, indeed, did he repent having
taken this course. After eight days of these miseries a favourable
wind rose from the south-west, by which the Admiral profited to sail
directly west, and under this parallel he observed new stars in the
heavens, and experienced a more agreeable temperature. In fact,
all his men agree in saying that after three days' sailing in that
direction, the air was much cooler. The Admiral affirms that, while
he was in the region of dead calms and torrid heat, the ship always
mounted the back of the sea, just as when climbing a high mountain one
seems to advance towards the sky, and yet, nevertheless, he had seen
no land on the horizon. Finally, on the eve of the calends of July, a
watcher announced with a joyful cry, from the crow's nest, that he saw
three lofty mountains.[3] He exhorted his companions to keep up their
courage. The men were, indeed, much depressed, not merely because they
had been scorched by the sun, but because the water-supply was short.
The barrels had been sprung by the extreme heat, and lost the water
through the cracks. Full of rejoicing they advanced, but as they were
about to touch land they perceived that this was impossible, because
the sea was dotted with reefs, although in the neighbourhood they
descried a harbour which seemed a spacious one. From their ships
the Spaniards could see that the country was inhabited and well
cultivated; for they saw well-ordered gardens and shady orchards,
while the sweet odours, exhaled by plants and trees bathed in the
morning dew, reached their nostrils.

[Note 3: Alonzo Perez Nirando, a sailor from Huelva, made the
joyous announcement, and the sailors sang the _Salve Regina_ in
thanksgiving. Columbus named the island _Trinidad_, having already
decided to dedicate the first sighted land to the Holy Trinity. The
three mountain peaks close together seemed to render the name all the
more appropriate.]

Twenty miles from that place, the Admiral found a sufficiently large
port to shelter his ships, though no river flowed into it. Sailing
farther on he finally discovered a satisfactory harbour for repairing
his vessels and also replenishing his supply of water and wood.
He called this land Punta del Arenal.[4] There was no sign of any
habitation in the neighbourhood of the harbour, but there were many
tracks of animals similar to goats, and in fact the body of one of
those animals, closely resembling a goat, was found. On the morrow, a
canoe was seen in the distance carrying eighty men, all of whom were
young, good-looking, and of lofty stature. Besides their bows and
arrows they were armed with shields, which is not the custom among the
other islanders. They wore their hair long, parted in the middle,
and plastered down quite in the Spanish fashion. Save for their
loin-cloths of various coloured cottons, they were entirely naked.

[Note 4: The narrative at this point is somewhat sketchy, but
the author, doubtless, faithfully recounted the events as they were
reported to him. The ships approached the island from the east, and
then coasted its shore for five leagues beyond the cape named by
Columbus _La Galera_, because of it's imagined resemblance to a galley
under sail. The next day he continued his course westwards, and named
another headland _Punta de la Playa_; this was a Wednesday, August the
first; and as the fleet passed between La Galera and La Playa, the
South American continent was first discovered, some twenty-five
leagues distant. Fernando Columbus affirms that his father, thinking
it was another island, called it _Isla Santa_; but in reality Columbus
named the continent _Tierra de Gracia_. Punta del Arenal forms the
south-western extremity of the island and is separated by a channel,
according to Columbus, two leagues broad.]

The Admiral's opinion was that this country was nearer to the sky than
any other land situated in the same parallel and that it was above the
thick vapours which rose from the valleys and swamps, just as the high
peaks of lofty mountains are distant from the deep valleys. Although
Columbus declared that during this voyage he had followed without
deviation the parallel of Ethiopia, there are the greatest possible
physical differences between the natives of Ethiopia and those of the
islands; for the Ethiopians are black and have curly, woolly hair,
while these natives are on the contrary white, and have long,
straight, blond hair. What the causes of these differences may be, I
do not know. They are due rather to the conditions of the earth than
to those of the sky; for we know perfectly well that snow falls and
lies on the mountains of the torrid zone, while in northern countries
far distant from that zone the inhabitants are overcome by great heat.

In order to attract the natives they had met, the Admiral made them
some presents of mirrors, cups of bright polished brass, bells, and
other similar trifles, but the more he called to them, the more
they drew off. Nevertheless, they looked intently and with sincere
admiration at our men, their instruments and their ships, but without
laying down their oars. Seeing that he could not attract them by his
presents, the Admiral ordered his trumpets and flutes to be played,
on the largest ship, and the men to dance and sing a chorus. He hoped
that the sweetness of the songs and the strange sounds might win them
over, but the young men imagined that the Spaniards were singing
preparatory to engaging in battle, so in the twinkling of an eye they
dropped their oars and seized their bows and arrows, protecting their
arms with their shields, and, while waiting to understand the meaning
of the sounds, stood ready to let fly a volley against our men. The
Spaniards sought to draw near little by little, in such wise as to
surround them; but the natives retreated from the Admiral's vessel
and, confident in their ability as oarsmen, they approached so near to
one of the smaller ships that from the poop a cloak was given to the
pilot of the canoe, and a cap to another chief. They made signs to the
captain of the ship to come to land, in order that they might the more
easily come to an understanding; but when they saw that the captain
drew near to the Admiral's vessel to ask permission to land, they
feared some trap, and quickly jumped into their canoe and sped away
with the rapidity of the wind.

The Admiral relates that to the west of that island and not far
distant he came upon a strong current flowing from east to west.[5] It
ran with such force that he compared its violence to that of a vast
cataract flowing from a mountain height. He declared that he had never
been exposed to such serious danger since he began, as a boy, to sail
the seas. Advancing as best he could amongst these raging waves,
he discovered a strait some eight miles long, which resembled the
entrance of a large harbour. The current flowed towards that strait,
which he called Boca de la Sierpe, naming an island beside it,
Margarita. From this strait there flowed another current of fresh
water, thus coming into conflict with the salt waters and causing such
waves that there seemed to rage between the two currents a terrible
combat. In spite of these difficulties, the Admiral succeeded in
penetrating into the gulf, where he found the waters drinkable and

[Note 5: Columbus was then near the mouth of the Orinoco River.]

Another very singular thing the Admiral has told me, and which is
confirmed by his companions (all worthy of credence and whom I
carefully questioned concerning the details of the voyage), is that he
sailed twenty-six leagues, that is to say, one hundred and forty-eight
miles, in fresh water; and the farther he advanced to the west,
the fresher the water became.[6] Finally, he sighted a very lofty
mountain, of which the eastern part was inhabited only by a multitude
of monkeys with very long tails. All this side of the mountain is
very steep, which explains why no people live there. A man, sent to
reconnoitre the country, reported however that it was all cultivated
and that the fields were sown, though nowhere were there people or
huts. Our own peasants often go some distance from their homes to sow
their fields. On the western side of the mountain was a large plain.
The Spaniards were well satisfied to drop anchor in such a great
river.[7] As soon as the natives knew of the landing of an unknown
race on their coasts, they collected about the Spaniards anxious to
examine them, and displaying not the slightest fear. It was learned by
signs that that country was called Paria, that it was very extensive,
and that its population was most numerous in its western part. The
Admiral invited four natives to come on board and continued his course
to the west.

[Note 6: See _Orinoco Illustrado_, by Gumilla, 1754, also
Schomburgk's _Reisen in Guiana und Orinoco_. The fresh waters of the
estuary are in fact driven a considerable distance out to sea.]

[Note 7: This was the first landing of the Spaniards on the
American continent, but Columbus, being ill, did not go on shore.
Pedro de Torreros took possession in the Admiral's name (Navarrete,
tom. iii., p. 569). Fernando Columbus states that his father suffered
from inflamed eyes, and that from about this time he was forced to
rely for information upon his sailors and pilots (_Storia_, cap.
lxv.-lxxiii.). He seemed nevertheless to divine the immensity of the
newly discovered land, for he wrote to the sovereigns _y creo
esta tierra que agora, mandaron discrubir vuestras altezzas sea

Judging by the agreeable temperature, the attractiveness of the
country, and the number of people they daily saw during their voyage,
the Spaniards concluded that the country is a very important one, and
in this opinion they were not wrong, as we shall demonstrate at the
proper time. One morning at the break of dawn the Spaniards landed,
being attracted by the charm of the country and the sweet odours
wafted to them from the forests. They discovered at that point a
larger number of people than they had thus far seen, and as they were
approaching the shore, messengers came in the name of the caciques
of that country, inviting them to land and to have no fears. When
Columbus refused, the natives urged by curiosity, flocked about the
ships in their barques. Most of them wore about their necks and arms,
collars and bracelets of gold and ornaments of Indian pearls, which
seemed just as common amongst them as glass jewelry amongst our
women. When questioned as to whence came the pearls, they answered by
pointing with their fingers to a neighbouring coast; by grimaces and
gestures they seemed to indicate that if the Spaniards would stop with
them they would give them basketfuls of pearls. The provisions which
the Admiral destined for the colony at Hispaniola were beginning to
spoil, so he resolved to defer this commercial operation till a more
convenient opportunity. Nevertheless he despatched two boats loaded
with soldiers, to barter with the people on land for some strings of
pearls and, at the same time, to discover whatever they could about
the place and its people. The natives received these men with
enthusiasm and pleasure, and great numbers surrounded them, as though
they were inspecting something marvellous. The first who came forward
were two distinguished persons, for they were followed by the rest of
the crowd. The first of these men was aged and the second younger,
so that it was supposed they were the father and his son and future
successor. After exchanging salutations the Spaniards were conducted
to a round house near a large square. Numerous seats of very black
wood decorated with astonishing skill were brought, and when the
principal Spaniards and natives were seated, some attendants served
food and others, drink. These people eat only fruits, of which they
have a great variety, and very different from ours. The beverages they
offered were white and red wine, not made from grapes but from various
kinds of crushed fruits, which were not at all disagreeable.

This repast concluded, in company with the elder chief, the younger
one conducted the Spaniards to his own house, men and women crowding
about in great numbers, but always in separate groups from one

The natives of both sexes have bodies as white as ours, save those
perhaps who pass their time in the sun. They were amiable, hospitable,
and wore no clothes, save waist-cloths of various coloured cotton
stuffs. All of them wore either collars or bracelets of gold or
pearls, and some wore both, just as our peasants wear glass jewelry.
When they were asked whence the gold came, they indicated with the
finger that it was from a mountainous country, appearing at the
same time to dissuade our men from going there, for they made them
understand by gestures and signs that the inhabitants of that country
were cannibals. It was not, however, entirely clear whether they meant
cannibals or savage beasts. They were much vexed to perceive that the
Spaniards did not understand them, and that they possessed no means of
making themselves intelligible to one another. At three o'clock in
the afternoon the men who had been sent on shore returned, bringing
several strings of pearls, and the Admiral, who could not prolong his
stay, because of his cargo of provisions, raised anchor and sailed. He
intends, however, after putting the affairs of Hispaniola in order,
shortly to return. It was another than he who profited by this
important discovery.

The shallowness of the sea and the numerous currents, which at each
change of the tide dashed against and injured the lesser vessels,
much retarded the Admiral's progress, and to avoid the perils of the
shallows he always sent one of the lighter caravels ahead; this vessel
being of short draught took repeated soundings and the other larger
ones followed. At that time two provinces of the vast region of Paria,
Cumaná and Manacapana, were reached, and along their shores the
Admiral coasted for two hundred miles. Sixty leagues farther on begins
another country called Curiana. As the Admiral had already covered
such a distance, he thought the land lying ahead of him was an island,
and that if he continued his course to the west he would be unable to
get back to the north and reach Hispaniola. It was then that he came
upon the mouth of a river whose depth was thirty cubits, with an
unheard-of width which he described as twenty-eight leagues. A little
farther on, always in a westerly direction though somewhat to the
south, since he followed the line of the coast, the Admiral sailed
into a sea of grass of which the seeds resemble those of the lentil.
The density of this growth retarded the advance of the ships.

The Admiral declares that in the whole of that region the day
constantly equals the night. The north star is elevated as in Paria
to five degrees above the horizon, and all the coasts of that newly
discovered country are on the same parallel. He likewise reports
details concerning the differences he observed in the heavens, which
are so contradictory to astronomical theories that I wish to make some
comments. It is proven, Most Illustrious Prince, that the polar star,
which our sailors call Tramontane, is not the point of the arctic pole
upon which the axis of the heavens turns. To realise this easily,
it is only necessary to look through a small hole at the pole star
itself, when the stars are rising. If one then looks through the same
aperture at the same star when dawn is paling the stars, it will be
seen that it has changed its place; but how can it be in this newly
discovered country that the star rises at the beginning of twilight in
the month of June to a height of only five degrees above the horizon,
and when the stars are disappearing before the sunrise, it should be
found by the same observer to be in the fifteenth degree? I do not at
all understand it, and I must confess the reasons the Admiral gives
by no means satisfy me. Indeed, according to his conjectures, the
terrestrial globe is not an absolute sphere, but had at the time of
its creation a sort of elevation rising on its convex side, so that
instead of resembling a ball or an apple, it was more like a pear, and
Paria would be precisely that elevated part, nearest to the sky.
He has also persisted in affirming that the earthly paradise[8] is
situated on the summit of those three mountains, which the watcher
from the height of the crow's nest observed in the distance, as I have
recounted. As for the impetuous current of fresh water which rushed
against the tide of the sea at the beginning of that strait, he
maintains that it is formed of waters which fall in cascades from the
heights of these mountains. But we have had enough of these things
which to me seem fabulous. Let us return to our narrative.

[Note 8: Speaking of the earthly paradise, Columbus describes it
as _adonde ne puede llegar nadie, sabro par voluntad divina_. Vespucci
it was who thought it would be found in the New World; _se nel mondo e
alcun paradiso terrestre_.]

Seeing his course across that vast gulf had, contrary to his
expectation, been arrested, and fearing to find no exit towards the
north through which he might reach Hispaniola, the Admiral retraced
his course and sailing north of that country he bent towards the east
in the direction of Hispaniola.

Those navigators who later explored this region more carefully believe
that it is the Indian continent, and not Cuba, as the Admiral thought;
and there are not wanting mariners who pretend that they have sailed
all round Cuba. Whether they are right or whether they seek to gratify
their jealousy of the author of a great discovery, I am not bound to
decide.[9] Time will decide, and Time is the only truthful judge. The
Admiral likewise discusses the question whether or not Paria is
a continent; he himself thinks it is. Paria lies to the south of
Hispaniola, a distance of 882 leagues, according to Columbus. Upon the
third day of the calends of September of the year 1498, he reached
Hispaniola, most anxious to see again his soldiers and his brother
whom he had left there. But, as commonly happens in human affairs,
fortune, however favourable, mingles with circumstances, sweet and
pleasant, some grain of bitterness. In this case it was internecine
discord which marred his happiness.

[Note 9: Rivalry and perhaps jealousy existed among the
navigators, each bent on eclipsing the achievements of his fellows,
and the former feeling was a spur to enterprise. Yañez Pinzon, Amerigo
Vespucci, Juan Diaz de Solis all explored the American coasts,
discovering Yucatan, Florida, Texas, and Honduras.]



Upon his arrival at Hispaniola, the Admiral found an even greater
state of disorder than he had feared, for Roldan had taken advantage
of his absence to refuse obedience to his brother, Bartholomew
Columbus. Resolved not to submit to him who had formerly been his
master and had raised him in dignity, he had stirred up the multitude
in his own favour and had also vilified the Adelantado and had written
heinous accusations to the King against the brothers. The Admiral
likewise sent envoys to inform the sovereigns of the revolt, begging
them at the same time to send soldiers to put down the insurrection
and punish the guilty, according to their crimes. Roldan and his
accomplices preferred grave charges against the Admiral and the
Adelantado, who, according to them, were impious, unjust men, enemies
to the Spaniards, whose blood they had profusely shed. They were
accused of torturing, strangling, decapitating and, in divers other
ways, killing people on the most trifling pretexts. They were envious,
proud, and intolerable tyrants; therefore, people avoided them as they
would fly from wild beasts, or from the enemies of the Crown. It had
in fact been discovered that the sole thought of the brothers was to
usurp the government of the island. This had been proven by different
circumstances, but chiefly by the fact that they allowed none but
their own partisans to work the gold-mines.

In soliciting reinforcements from the sovereigns, sufficient to deal
with the rebels according to their merits, the Admiral explained that
those men who dared thus to accuse him were guilty of misdemeanours
and crimes; for they were debauchees, profligates, thieves, seducers,
ravishers, vagabonds. They respected nothing and were perjurers and
liars, already condemned by the tribunals, or fearful, owing to their
numerous crimes, to appear before them. They had formed a faction
amongst themselves, given over to violence and rapine; lazy,
gluttonous, caring only to sleep and to carouse. They spared nobody;
and having been brought to the island of Hispaniola originally to do
the work of miners or of camp servants, they now never moved a step
from their houses on foot, but insisted on being carried about the
island upon the shoulders of the unfortunate natives, as though they
were dignitaries of the State.[1] Not to lose practice in the shedding
of blood, and to exercise the strength of their arms, they invented a
game in which they drew their swords, and amused themselves in
cutting off the heads of innocent victims with one sole blow. Whoever
succeeded in more quickly landing the head of an unfortunate islander
on the ground with one stroke, was proclaimed the bravest, and as
such was honoured.[2] Such were the mutual accusations bandied about
between the Admiral and the partisans of Roldan, not to mention many
other imputations.

[Note 1: _Ab insularibus namque miseris pensiles per totam
insulam, tanquam ædiles curules, feruntur_.]

[Note 2: See Las Casas, _Brevissima Relacion_, English
translation, pub. by G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1909.]

Meanwhile the Admiral, desiring to put a stop to the dangerous attacks
of the Ciguana tribe which had revolted under the leadership of
Guarionex, sent his brother the Adelantado with ninety foot-soldiers
and some horsemen against them. It may be truthfully added that about
three thousand of the islanders who had suffered from the invasions of
the Ciguana tribe, who were their sworn enemies, joined forces with
the Spaniards. The Adelantado led his troops to the bank of a great
river which waters the plain between the sea and the two extremes of
the mountain chain of Ciguana, of which we have already spoken.
He surprised two of the enemy's spies who were concealed in the
underbrush, one of whom sprang into the sea, and, swimming across the
river at its mouth, succeeded in escaping to his own people. From the
one who was captured, it was learned that six thousand natives of
Ciguana were hidden in the forest beyond the river and were prepared
to attack the Spaniards when they crossed over. The Adelantado
therefore marched along the river bank seeking a ford. This he soon
found in the plain, and was preparing to cross the river when the
Ciguana warriors rushed out from the forest in compact battalions,
yelling in a most horrible manner. Their appearance is fearsome and
repulsive, and they march into battle daubed with paint, as did the
Thracians and Agathyrses. These natives indeed paint themselves from
the forehead to the knees, with black and scarlet colours which they
extract from certain fruits similar to pears, and which they carefully
cultivate in their gardens. Their hair is tormented into a thousand
strange forms, for it is long and black, and what nature refuses
they supply by art. They look like goblins emerged from the infernal
caverns. Advancing towards our men who were trying to cross the river,
they contested their passage with flights of arrows and by throwing
pointed sticks; and such was the multitude of projectiles that they
half darkened the light of the sun, and had not the Spaniards received
the blows on their shields the engagement would have ended badly for

A number of men were wounded in this first encounter, but the
Adelantado succeeded in crossing the river and the enemy fled, the
Spaniards pursuing them, though they killed few, as the islanders are
good runners. As soon as they gained the protection of the woods, they
used their bows to repulse their pursuers, for they are accustomed to
woods, and run naked amongst underbrush, shrubs, and trees, like wild
boars, heedless of obstacles. The Spaniards, on the contrary, were
hindered amongst this undergrowth by their shields, their clothes,
their long lances, and their ignorance of the surroundings. After a
night passed uselessly in the woods the Adelantado, realising the next
morning that they could catch nobody, followed the counsel of those
islanders who are the immemorial enemies of the Ciguana tribe, and
under their guidance marched towards the mountains where the King
Maiobanexius lived at a place called Capronus. Twelve miles' march
brought them to the village of another cacique, which had been
abandoned by its terrified inhabitants, and there he established his
camp. Two natives were captured, from whom it was learned that King
Maiobanexius and ten caciques with eight thousand soldiers were
assembled at Capronus. During two days there were a few light
skirmishes between the parties, the Adelantado not wishing to do more
than reconnoitre the country. Scouts were sent out the following night
under the guidance of some islanders who knew the land. The people of
Ciguana caught sight of our men from the heights of their mountains,
and prepared to give battle, uttering war-cries as is their custom.
But they did not venture to quit their woods, because they thought the
Adelantado had his entire army with him. Twice on the following day,
when the Adelantado marched on with his men, the natives tested the
fortune of war; hurling themselves against the Spaniards with fury,
they wounded many before they could protect themselves with their
shields, but the latter, getting the better of them, pursued them,
cutting some in pieces, and taking a large number prisoners. Those who
escaped took refuge in the forests, from which they were careful not
to emerge.

The Adelantado selected one of the prisoners, and sending with him
one of his allies, he despatched them both to Maiobanexius with the
following message: "The Adelantado has not undertaken to make war upon
you and your people, O Maiobanexius, for he desires your friendship;
but he formally demands that Guarionex, who has taken refuge with
you and has drawn you into this conflict to the great damage of your
people, shall be delivered to him to be punished as he merits. He
counsels you, therefore, to give up this cacique; if you consent, the
Admiral will count you among his friends and protect and respect your
territory. If you refuse you will be made to repent, for your entire
country will be devastated with fire and sword, and all you possess
will be destroyed." Maiobanexius, upon hearing this message, replied:
"Everybody knows that Guarionex is a hero, adorned with all the
virtues, and therefore I have esteemed it right to assist and protect
him. As for you, you are violent and perfidious men, and seek to shed
the blood of innocent people: I will neither enter into relations with
you, nor form any alliance with so false a people."

When this answer was brought to the Adelantado, he burnt the
village where he had established his camp and several others in the
neighbourhood. He again sent envoys to Maiobanexius, to ask him to
name one of his trusty advisers to treat for peace. Maiobanexius
consented to send one of the most devoted of his counsellors,
accompanied by two other chiefs. The Adelantado earnestly conjured
them not to jeopardise the territory of Maiobanexius solely in the
interests of Guarionex. He advised Maiobanexius, if he did not wish to
be ruined himself and to be treated as an enemy, to give him up.

When his envoys returned, Maiobanexius called together his people and
explained the conditions. The people cried that Guarionex must be
surrendered, cursing and execrating the day he had come amongst them
to disturb their tranquillity. The cacique reminded them, however,
that Guarionex was a hero, and had rendered him services when he
fled to him for protection, for he had brought him royal presents.
Moreover, he had taught both the cacique himself and his wife to
sing and dance, a thing not to be held in mediocre consideration.
Maiobanexius was determined never to surrender the prince who had
appealed to his protection, and whom he had promised to defend. He was
prepared to risk the gravest perils with him rather than to merit the
reproach of having betrayed his guest. Despite the complaints of the
people, the cacique dissolved the assembly, and calling Guarionex to
him, he pledged himself for the second time to protect him and to
share his fortunes as long as he lived.

Maiobanexius resolved to give no further information to the
Adelantado: on the contrary he ordered his first messenger to station
himself with some faithful soldiers at a place on the road where the
Adelantado's envoys usually passed, and to kill any Spaniards who
appeared, without further discussion. The Adelantado had just sent
his messengers, and both these men, one of whom was a prisoner
from Ciguana and the other from amongst the native allies, were
decapitated. The Adelantado, escorted by only ten foot-soldiers and
four horsemen, followed his envoys and discovered their bodies lying
in the road, which so incensed him that he determined to no longer
spare Maiobanexius. He invaded the cacique's village of Capronus with
his army. The caciques fled in every direction, abandoning their
chief, who withdrew with his entire family into places of concealment
in the mountain districts. Some others of the Ciguana people sought to
capture Guarionex, since he was the occasion of the catastrophe; but
he succeeded in escaping and concealed himself almost alone amidst
the rocks and desert mountains. The soldiers of the Adelantado were
exhausted by this long war, which dragged on for three months; the
watches, the fatigues, and the scarcity of food. In response to their
request they were authorised to return to Concepcion, where they owned
handsome plantations of the native sort; and thither many withdrew.
Only thirty companions remained with the Adelantado, all of whom were
severely tried by these three months of fighting, during which they
had eaten nothing but cazabi, that is to say, bread made of roots,
and even they were not always ripe. They also procured some utias, or
rabbits, by hunting with their dogs, while their only drink had been
water, which was sometimes exquisitely fresh, but just as often muddy
and marshy. Moreover the character of the war obliged them to pass
most of the time in the open air and perpetual movement.

With his little troop the Adelantado determined to scour the mountains
to seek out the secret retreats where Maiobanexius and Guarionex had
concealed themselves. Some Spaniards, who had been driven by hunger
to hunt utias for want of something better, met two servants of
Maiobanexius, whom the cacique had sent into the villages of his
territory, and who were carrying back native bread. They forced
these men to betray the hiding-place of their chief, and under their
leadership, twelve soldiers who had stained their bodies like the
people of Ciguana succeeded by trickery in capturing Maiobanexius,
his wife, and his son, all of whom they brought to the Admiral at
Concepcion. A few days later hunger compelled Guarionex to emerge from
the cavern where he was concealed, and the islanders, out of fear of
the Admiral, betrayed him to the hunters. As soon as he learned his
whereabouts, the Admiral sent a body of foot-soldiers to take him,
just at the moment when he was about to quit the plain, and return to
the mountains. These men caught him and brought him back, after which
that region was pacified, and tranquillity restored.

A relative of Maiobanexius who was married to a cacique whose
territory had not yet been invaded, shared the former's misfortunes.
Everybody agreed in saying that she was the most beautiful of the
women nature had created in the island of Hispaniola. Her husband
loved her dearly, as she merited, and when she was captured by the
Spaniards he almost lost his reason, and wandered distractedly in
desert places, doubtful what course to pursue. Finally he presented
himself before the Admiral, promising that he and his people would
submit without conditions, if he would only restore him his wife.
His prayer was granted and at the same time several others of the
principal captives were likewise freed. This same cacique then
assembled five thousand natives who instead of weapons carried
agricultural implements, and went himself to labour and plant the
crops in one of the largest valleys in his territories. The Admiral
thanked him by means of presents, and the cacique came back rejoicing.
This news spread throughout Ciguana, and the other caciques began to
hope that they too might be treated with clemency, so they came in
person to promise they would in future obey the orders given them.
They asked that their chief and his family might be spared, and in
response to their petition, the wife and children were delivered to
them, but Maiobanexius was held a prisoner.

While the Admiral was thus engaged in administering the affairs of
Hispaniola, he was ignorant of the intrigues his adversaries were
carrying on against him at the Spanish Court.[3] Wearied by these
continuous quarrels, and above all annoyed at receiving but a small
quantity of gold and valuable products because of these dissensions
and revolts, the sovereigns, appointed another Governor,[4] who, after
a careful enquiry, should punish the guilty and send them back to
Spain, I do not precisely know what has come to light against either
the Admiral or his brother the Adelantado, or their enemies; but this
is certain, that the Admiral and his brother were seized, put in
irons, deprived of all their property, and brought to Spain; and of
this, Most Illustrious Prince, you are not ignorant. It is true that
the sovereigns, when they learned that the Columbus brothers had
arrived at Cadiz loaded with irons, promptly sent their secretaries to
order their release and that their children should be allowed to
visit them; nor did they conceal their disapproval of this rough
treatment.[5] It is claimed that the new Governor has sent to the
sovereigns some letters in the handwriting of the Admiral, but in
cipher, in which the latter summoned his brother the Adelantado, who
was at that time absent with his soldiers, to hasten back and repel
force with force, in case the Governor sought to use violence. The
Adelantado preceded his soldiers, and the Governor seized him and his
brother before their partisans could rejoin them. What will be the
outcome, time will show, for time is the supreme arbiter of events.
Fare you well.

[Note 3: One of the most inveterate of his enemies was Juan de
Fonseca, afterwards Bishop of Burgos, who was unfortunately in a
position to do Columbus serious harm.]

[Note 4: Francisco de Bobadilla, commander of Calatrava.]

[Note 5: The sovereigns made what amends they could for the
abusive execution of their orders by over-zealous agents; they sent
Columbus a present of two thousand ducats--not an insignificant sum at
the time--and wrote him a letter, full of affectionate expressions of
confidence; he was admitted to audience on December 17th.]



I have presented to you this immense and hitherto unknown ocean which
the Admiral, Christopher Columbus, discovered, under the auspices of
our sovereigns, in the guise of a necklace of gold, although, owing to
the poor skill of the artisan, it is but poorly executed. Yet I have
judged it worthy, Most Illustrious Prince, of your splendour. Accept
now a necklace of pearls which, suspended from the former, will
ornament your breast.

Some of the Admiral's ship-captains who had made a study of the
different wind-currents sought the royal permission to prosecute
discoveries at their own expense,[1] proposing to relinquish to the
Crown its due, that is to say, one fifth of the profits. The most
fortunate of these adventurers was a certain Pedro Alonzo Nuñez,[2]
who sailed towards the south; and it is of his expedition that I will
first write. To come at once to the essential details of this voyage,
this Nuñez had but one ship, fitted out at his expense, though some
people claimed that he was helped.[3] The royal edict forbade him to
anchor within fifty leagues of any place discovered by the Admiral.
He sailed towards Paria, where, as I have said, Columbus found both
native men and women wearing bracelets and necklaces of pearls. In
obedience to the royal decree he coasted along this shore, leaving
behind him the provinces of Cumana and Manacapana, and thus arrived
at a country called by its inhabitants Curiana, where he discovered a
harbour quite similar to that of Cadiz.

[Note 1: See Navarrete, tom, ii., 1867; Gomara, _Historia
General_, p. 50.]

[Note 2: Also called Niño; he had sailed with Columbus on his
first two voyages. Oviedo, _op. cit_., xix., I, also describes this

[Note 3: Nuñez was poor and only found assistance from a merchant
of Seville called Guerro, on condition that the latter's brother,
Christobal, should command the one ship his loan sufficed to provide.
This vessel was only fifty tons burden, and carried a crew of
thirty-three persons.]

Upon entering this harbour he found a number of houses scattered along
the banks, but when he landed it was discovered to be a group of eight
houses; about fifty men, led by their chief, promptly came from a
populous village only three miles distant. These men, who were naked,
invited Alonzo Nuñez to land on their coast, and he consented. He
distributed some needles, bracelets, rings, glass pearls, and other
pedlar's trifles amongst them, and in less than an hour he obtained
from them in exchange fifteen ounces of the pearls they wore on their
necks and arms. The natives embraced Nuñez affectionately, insisting
more and more that he should come to their village, where they
promised to give him any amount of pearls he might desire. The next
day at dawn the ship drew near to the village and anchored. The entire
population assembled and begged the men to land, but Nuñez, seeing
that they were very numerous and considering that he had only thirty
men, did not venture to trust himself to them. He made them understand
by signs and gestures that they should come to the ship in barques
and canoes. These barques, like the others, are dug out of a single
tree-trunk, but are less well shaped and less easy to handle than
those used by the cannibals and the natives of Hispaniola. They are
called _gallitas_. The natives all brought strings of pearls, which
are called _tenoras_, and showed themselves desirous of Spanish

They are amiable men; simple, innocent, and hospitable, as was made
clear after twenty days of intercourse with them. The Spaniards very
soon ceased to fear to enter their houses, which are built of wood
covered with palm leaves. Their principal food is the meat of the
shellfish from which they extract pearls, and their shores abound
with such. They likewise eat the flesh of wild animals, for deer,
wild-boar, rabbits whose hair and colour resemble our hares, doves,
and turtle-doves exist in their country. The women keep ducks and
geese about the houses, just as ours do; peacocks fly about in the
woods, but their colours are not so rich or so varied as ours and the
male bird differs little from the female. Amongst the undergrowth
in the swamps, pheasants are from time to time seen. The people of
Curiana are skilful hunters and generally with one single arrow shot
they kill beasts or birds at which they aim. The Spaniards spent
several days amongst the abundance of the country. They traded four
needles for a peacock, only two for a pheasant, and one for a dove or
a turtle-dove. The same, or a glass bead, was given for a goose.
In making their offers and bargaining and disputing, the natives
conducted their commercial affairs just about the same as do our women
when they are arguing with pedlars. As they wore no clothes, the
natives were puzzled to know the use of needles, but when the
Spaniards satisfied their naive curiosity by showing them that needles
were useful for getting thorns from beneath the skin, and for cleaning
the teeth, they conceived a great opinion of them. Another thing which
pleased them even more was the colour and sound of hawk-bells, which
they were ready to buy at good prices.

From the native houses the roaring of large animals[4] was audible
amidst the dense and lofty forest trees, but these animals are not
fierce, for, although the natives constantly wander through the
woods with no other weapons than their bows and arrows, there is no
recollection of any one being killed by these beasts. They brought the
Spaniards as many deer and wild-boar, slain with their arrows, as the
latter desired. They did not possess cattle or goats or sheep, and
they ate bread made of roots and bread made of grain the same as the
islanders of Hispaniola. Their hair is black, thick, half curly, and
long. They try to spoil the whiteness of their teeth, for almost the
entire day they chew a herb which blackens them, and when they spit it
out, they wash their mouth. It is the women who labour in the fields
rather than the men, the latter spending their time in hunting,
fighting, or leading dances and games.

[Note 4: Supposed to have been tapirs, animals unknown in Europe.]

Pitchers, cups with handles, and pots are their earthenware utensils,
which they procure from elsewhere, for they frequently hold markets,
which all the neighbouring tribes attend, each bringing the products
of his country to be exchanged for those of other places. In fact,
there is nobody who is not delighted to obtain what is not to be had
at home, because the love of novelty is an essential sentiment
of human nature. They hang little birds and other small animals,
artistically worked in base gold,[5] to their pearls. These trinkets
they obtain by trade, and the metal resembles the German gold used for
coining florins.

[Note 5: A kind of alloyed gold called by the natives _guanin_;
the Spaniards were often deceived by its glitter.]

The men either carry their private parts enclosed in a little gourd
which has been opened at the back, like our cod-piece, or they use a
seashell. The gourd hangs from a cord tied round the waist.[6] The
presence of the animals above mentioned, and many other indications
not found in any of the islands, afford evidence that this land is a
continent. The most conclusive proof[7] seems to be that the Spaniards
followed the coast of Paria for a distance of about three thousand
miles always in a westerly direction, but without discovering any
end to it. When asked whence they procured their gold, the people of
Curiana answered that it came from a country called Cauchieta situated
about six suns distant (which means six days) to the west, and that it
was the artisans of that region who worked the gold into the form in
which they saw it. The Spaniards sailed towards Cauchieta and anchored
there near the shore on the calends of November, 1500. The natives
fearlessly approached and brought them gold, which in its rough state
is not valued amongst them. The people also wore pearls round their
throats; but these came from Curiana, where they had been obtained in
exchange for gold, and none of them wanted to part with anything they
had obtained by trade. That is to say the people of Curiana kept their
gold, and the people of Cauchieta their pearls, so that very little
gold was obtained at Cauchieta.[8] The Spaniards brought away some
very pretty monkeys and a number of parrots of varied colours, from
that country.

[Note 6: The text continues: _alibi in eo tractu intra vaginam
mentularemque nervum reducunt, funiculoque præputium alligant_.]

[Note 7: Navarrete, iii., 14.]

[Note 8: _Auri tamen parum apud Cauchietenses: lectum reperere_
meaning, doubtless, that they traded away most of their gold for

The temperature in the month of November was delicious, without a sign
of cold. Each evening the stars which mark the north pole disappeared,
so near is that region to the equator; but it was not possible to
calculate precisely the polar degrees. The natives are sensible and
not suspicious, and some of the people of Curiana passed the entire
night in company with our men, coming out in their barques to join
them. Pearls they call _corixas_. They are jealous, and when strangers
visit them, they make their women withdraw behind the house, from
whence the latter examine the guests as though they were prodigies.
Cotton is plentiful and grows wild in Cauchieta, just as shrubs do in
our forests, and of this they make trousers which they wear.

Continuing their course along the same coast, the Spaniards suddenly
encountered about two thousand men armed according to the fashion of
the country, who prevented them from landing. They were so barbarous
and ferocious that it was impossible to establish the smallest
relations with them or to effect any trade; so, as our men were
satisfied with the pearls they had procured, they returned by the
same course to Curiana, where they remained for another twenty days
bountifully supplied with provisions.

It seems to me neither out of place nor useless to this history, to
here narrate what happened when they arrived within sight of the
coasts of Paria. They encountered by chance a squadron of eighteen
canoes full of cannibals engaged in a man-hunt: this was near the Boca
de la Sierpe and the strait leading to the gulf of Paria, which I have
before described. The cannibals unconcernedly approached the ship,
surrounding it, and shooting flights of arrows and javelins at our
men. The Spaniards replied by a cannon shot, which promptly scattered
them. In pursuing them, the ship's boat came up with one of their
canoes, but was able to capture only a single cannibal and a bound
prisoner, the others having all escaped by swimming. This prisoner
burst into tears, and by his gestures and rolling his eyes, gave it
to be understood that six of his companions had been cruelly
disembowelled, cut into pieces, and devoured by those monsters, and
that the same fate awaited him on the morrow. They made him a present
of the cannibal, upon whom he immediately threw himself, gnashing his
teeth and belabouring him with blows of a stick and his fists and with
kicks, for he believed that the death of his companions would not be
sufficiently avenged till he beheld the cannibal insensible and beaten
black and blue. When questioned as to the customs and usages of the
cannibals when they made expeditions to other countries, he said
they always carried with them, wherever they went, sticks prepared
beforehand which they planted in the ground at the place of their
encampment, and beneath whose shelter they passed the night.

Hanging over the door of one of the chieftains in Curiana, the
Spaniards found the head of a cannibal, which was regarded as a sort
of standard or helmet captured from the enemy, and constituted a great
honour for this chief.

There is a district on the coast of Paria, called Haraia, which is
remarkable for a peculiar kind of salt found there. It is a vast plain
over which the waves of the sea are driven in heavy weather and
when the waves subside and the sun comes out, the pools of water
crystallise into masses of the whitest salt, in sufficient quantity
for the natives to load all the ships that sail, did they arrive
before it rained. The first rainfall melts the salt, which is then
absorbed by the sands and thus returns through fissures in the earth,
to the sea which produces it. Others pretend that this plain is not
inundated by the sea, but that it possesses saline springs, more
bitter than sea water, which send forth their waters when the tempest
rages. The natives set great store on these salines, and they not
only use the salt in the same way that we do, but they mould it into
brick-shaped forms and trade it to foreigners for articles which they
do not themselves possess.

The bodies of the chiefs of the country are laid upon biers under
which a slow fire is lighted which consumes the flesh, little by
little, but leaves the bones and the skin intact. These dried bodies
are then piously preserved, as though they were their _penates_. The
Spaniards say that in one district they saw a man being thus dried for
preservation and in another a woman.

When, on the eighth day of the ides of February, the Spaniards were
ready to leave the country of Curiana, they found they had ninety-six
pounds of pearls at eight ounces to the pound, which they had obtained
at an average price of five cents.

Although their return voyage was shorter than when they came from
Hispaniola, it lasted sixty-one days, because continual currents
running from east to west not only retarded their speed, but sometimes
completely stopped the ship. Finally they arrived, loaded with pearls
like other people come loaded with straw. The commander, Pedro Alonzo
Nuñez, concealed an important quantity of valuable pearls, and thus
cheated the royal revenues, to which a fifth of all merchandise
belongs.[9] His fellows denounced him, and Fernando de Vega, a learned
statesman, who was Governor of Galicia where they landed, arrested
him, and he was held in prison for a long time, but was finally
released; and even to this day he still claims they robbed him of his
share of the pearls. Many of these stones are as large as nuts, and
resemble oriental pearls, but as they are badly pierced, they are less

[Note 9: Navarrete, iii., 78. The treasure was sold in August,
1501, and the proceeds divided among the sailors.]

One day, when lunching with the illustrious Duke of Medina-Sidonia in
Seville, I saw one of these pearls which had been presented to him. It
weighed more than a hundred ounces, and I was charmed by its beauty
and brilliancy. Some people claim that Nuñez did not find these pearls
at Curiana, which is more than one hundred and twenty leagues distant
from Boca de la Sierpe, but in the little districts of Cumana and
Manacapana near by the Boca and the island of Margarita. They declare
that Curiana is not rich in pearls. This question has not been
decided; so let us treat of another subject. You now perceive what, in
the course of years, may be the value of this newly discovered country
and western coasts, since after a superficial exploration they have
yielded such evidences of wealth.



Vincent Yañez Pinzon and his nephew Arias, who accompanied the Admiral
Columbus on his first voyage as captains of two of the smaller vessels
which I have above described as caravels, desirous of undertaking new
expeditions and making fresh discoveries, built at their own expense
four caravels in their native port of Palos, as it is called by the
Spaniards.[1] They sought the authorisation of the King and towards
the calends of December, 1499, they left port. Now Palos is on the
western coast of Spain, situated about seventy-two miles distant from
Cadiz and sixty-four miles from Seville in Andalusia, and all the
inhabitants without exception are seafaring people, exclusively
occupied in navigation.

[Note 1: An interesting account of this expedition may be read in
Washington Irving's _Companions of Columbus_; see also Navarrete, _op.
cit_., 82, 102, 113.]

Pinzon coasted along the Fortunate Isles,[2] and first laid his course
for the Hesperides, otherwise called the islands of Cape Verde, or
still better, the Medusian Gorgons. Sailing directly south on the
ides of January, from that island of the Hesperides called by the
Portuguese San Juan, they sailed before the south-west wind for about
three hundred leagues, after which they lost sight of the north star.
As soon as it disappeared they were caught in winds and currents
and continual tempests, though in spite of these great dangers they
accomplished by the aid of this wind two hundred and forty leagues.
The north star was no longer to be seen. They are in contradiction
with the ancient poets, philosophers, and cosmographers over the
question whether that portion of the world on the equinoctial line
is or is not an inaccessible desert. The Spaniards affirm that it is
inhabited by numerous peoples,[3] while the ancient writers maintain
that it is uninhabitable because of the perpendicular rays of the sun.
I must admit, however, that even amongst ancient authorities some have
been found who sought to maintain that that part of the world was
habitable.[4] When I asked the sailors of the Pinzons if they had seen
the polar star to the south, they said that they had seen no star
resembling the polar star of our hemisphere, but they did see entirely
different stars,[5] and hanging on the higher horizon a thick sort of
vapour which shut off the view. They believe that the middle part
of the globe rises to a ridge,[6] and that the antarctic star is
perceptible after that elevation is passed. At all events they have
seen constellations entirely different from those of our hemisphere.
Such is their story, which I give you as they told it. _Davi sunt, non

[Note 2: Meaning the Canaries in which the ancients placed the
Garden of the Hesperides. From them Ptolemy began to reckon longitude.
The names Hesperia, Hesperides, Hesperus, etc., were used to indicate
the west; thus Italy is spoken of by Macrobius: _illi nam scilicet
Græci a stella Hespero dicunt Venus et Hesperia Italia quæ occasui
sit_; Saturnalium, lib. i., cap. iii. Ptolemy likewise says: _Italia
Hesperia ab Hespero Stella quod illius occasui subjecta sit_, and
again in his _Historia tripartita_, lib. viii: _Quum Valentinianus
Imperator as oras Hesperias navigaret, id est ad Italiam, et
Hispaniam_. Elsewhere the same author mentions the islands off the
west coast of Africa, of which he received some vague information as:
_Incognitam terram qui communi vocabulo Hesperi appellantur Ethiopes_.
Pliny, Strabo, in the last chapter _De Situ Orbis_, Diodorus, and
others make similar usage of the terms. St. Anselm, _De Imagine
Mundi_, lib. i., cap. xx., _Juxta has, scilicet Gorgonas Hesperidum
ortus_; Pomponius Mela, lib. iii. cap. ix., x., xi.]

[Note 3: The sub-equatorial regions of Africa had already been
visited by numerous navigators since the time of Prince Henry of
Portugal, and the fact that they were inhabited was well known to the

[Note 4: Plato, Cicero, Aristotle, Anaxagoras, Mela, and others
were amongst those who believed in the existence of the Antipodes.]

[Note 5: Aristotle, _De Cælo et Terra_, ii., 14. The constellation
of the Southern Cross was known from the writings of the Arab

[Note 6: First noted by Columbus in a letter written from
Hispaniola in October, 1498.]

[Note 7: _Davus sum non Oedipus_, Andria, Act I, Scene II. The
quotation, transposed by Martyr from the singular into the plural
number, is from Terrence, Davus being a comic character in the comedy
of _Andria_.]

On the seventh day of the calends of February, land was finally
discovered on the horizon.[8] As the sea was troubled, soundings were
taken and the bottom found at sixteen fathoms. Approaching the coast
they landed at a place where they remained two entire days without
seeing a single inhabitant, though some traces of human beings were
found on the banks. After writing their names and the name of the
King, with some details of their landing, on the trees and rocks, the
Spaniards departed. Guiding themselves by some fires they saw during
the night, they encountered not far from their first landing-place
a tribe encamped and sleeping in the open air. They decided not to
disturb them until daybreak and when the sun rose forty men, carrying
arms, marched towards the natives. Upon seeing them, thirty-two
savages, armed with bows and javelins, advanced, followed by the rest
of the troop armed in like manner. Our men relate that these natives
were larger than Germans or Hungarians. With frowning eyes and
menacing looks they scanned our compatriots, who thought it unwise to
use their arms against them. Whether they acted thus out of fear or to
prevent them running away, I am ignorant, but at any rate, they sought
to attract the natives by gentle words and by offering them presents;
but the natives showed themselves determined to have no relation with
the Spaniards, refusing to trade and holding themselves ready to
fight. They limited themselves to listening to the Spaniards' speech
and watching their gestures, after which both parties separated.
The natives fled the following night at midnight, abandoning their

[Note 8: The present Cape San Augustin; it was sighted Jan. 28,
1500, and named Santa Maria de la Consolacion.]

The Spaniards describe these people as a vagabond race similar to the
Scythians, who had no fixed abode but wandered with their wives and
children from one country to another at the harvest seasons. They
swear that the footprints left upon the sand show them to have feet
twice as large as those of a medium-sized man.[9] Continuing their
voyage, the Spaniards arrived at the mouth of another river, which
was, however, too shallow for the caravels to enter. Four shallops of
soldiers were therefore sent to land and reconnoitre. They observed
on a hillock near the bank a group of natives, to whom they sent a
messenger to invite them to trade. It is thought the natives wanted to
capture one of the Spaniards and take him with them, for, in exchange
for a hawk's-bell which he had offered them as an attraction, they
threw a golden wedge of a cubit's length towards the messenger, and
when the Spaniard stooped to take up the piece of gold, the natives
surrounded him in less time than it takes to tell it, and tried to
drag him off. He managed to defend himself against his assailants,
using his sword and buckler until such time as his companions in the
boats could come to his assistance. To conclude in a few words, since
you spoke to me so urgently of your approaching departure, the natives
killed eight of the Spaniards and wounded several others with their
arrows and javelins. They attacked the barques with great daring from
the river banks, seeking to drag the boats ashore; although they were
killed like sheep by sword strokes and lance thrusts (for they were
naked); they did not on that account yield. They even succeeded in
carrying off one of the barques, which was empty, and whose pilot had
been struck by an arrow and killed. The other barques succeeded in
escaping, and thus the Spaniards left these barbarous natives.

[Note 9: One of the numerous tales of giants in America, which
circulated and for a long time obtained credence.]

Much saddened by the loss of their companions, the Spaniards followed
the same coast in a north-westerly direction and, after proceeding
some forty leagues, they arrived at a sea whose waters are
sufficiently fresh to admit of their replenishing their supply of
drinking water. Seeking the cause of this phenomenon they discovered
that several swift rivers which pour down from the mountains came
together at that point, and flowed into the sea.[10] A number of
islands dotted this sea, which are described as remarkable for
their fertility and numerous population. The natives are gentle and
sociable, but these qualities are of little use to them because they
do not possess the gold or precious stones which the Spaniards seek.
Thirty-six of them were taken prisoners. The natives call that entire
region Mariatambal. The country to the east of this great river is
called Canomora, and that on the west Paricora. The natives gave it
to be understood by signs that in the interior of the country gold of
good quality was found. Continuing their march, directly north, but
always following the windings of the coast, the Spaniards again
sighted the polar star. All this coast is a part of Paria, that land
so rich in pearls which Columbus himself discovered, as we have
related; he being the real author of these discoveries. The coast
reconnoitred by the Pinzons continues past the Boca de la Sierpe,
already described, and the districts of Cumana, Manacapana, Curiana,
Cauchieta, and Cauchibachoa, and it is thought that it extends to the
continent of India.[11] It is evident that this coast is too extended
to belong to an island, and yet, if one takes it altogether, the whole
universe may be called an island.[12]

[Note 10: Possibly the estuary of the Amazon.]

[Note 11: _Propterea Gangetidis Indiæ continentem putans_. The
Ruysch map (1516) shows the junction of the American continent with

[Note 12: _Licet universum terræ, orbem, large sumptum, insulam
dicere fas sit_.]

From the time when they left the land where they lost sight of the
pole star, until they reached Paria, the Spaniards report that
they proceeded towards the west for a distance of three hundred
uninterrupted leagues. Midway they discovered a large river called
Maragnon, so large in fact that I suspect them of exaggerating; for
when I asked them on their return from their voyage if this river was
not more likely a sea separating two continents, they said that the
water at its mouth was fresh, and that this quality increased the
farther one mounted the river. It is dotted with islands and full
of fish. They above all declare that is it more than thirty leagues
broad, and that its waters flow with such impetuosity that the sea
recedes before its current.[13]

[Note 13: The mouth of the Maragnon or Amazon is, in fact, sixty
leagues wide.]

When we recall what is told of the northern and southern mouths of
the Danube, which drive back the waters of the sea to such a great
distance and may be drunk by sailors, we cease to be astonished if the
river described be represented as still larger. What indeed hinders
nature from creating a river even larger than the Danube, or indeed
a still larger one than the Maragnon? I think it is some river[14]
already mentioned by Columbus when he explored the coasts of Paria.
But all these problems will be elucidated later, so let us now turn
our attention to the natural products of the country.

[Note 14: Referring to the Orinoco.]

In most of the islands of Paria the Spaniards found a forest of
red-coloured wood, of which they brought back three thousand pounds.
This is the wood which the Italians call _verzino_ and the Spaniards
brazil wood. They claim that the dye-woods of Hispaniola are superior
for the dyeing of wools. Profiting by the north-west wind, which the
Italians call the _grecco_[15] they sailed past numerous islands,
depopulated by the ravages of the cannibals, but fertile, for they
discovered numerous traces of destroyed villages. Here and there they
descried natives, who, prompted by fear, quickly fled to the mountain
crags and the depths of the forests, as soon as they saw the ships
appear. These people no longer had homes but wandered at large because
they feared the cannibals. Huge trees were discovered, which produce
what is commonly called cinnamon-bark and which is claimed to be
just as efficacious for driving off fevers as the cinnamon which the
apothecaries sell. At that season the cinnamon was not yet ripe. I
prefer to rely on those who have made these reports rather than to
weary myself to discuss these questions. Pinzon's men further claim
that they have found huge trees in that country which sixteen men
holding hands and forming a circle could scarcely encompass with their

[Note 15: The different points of the compass were designated
by the winds: north being _tramontane_; north-east, _grecco_; east
_levante_; south-east _scirocco_; south, _ostro_; south-west,
_libeccio_; west, _ponente_; north-west, _mæstrale_.]

An extraordinary animal[16] inhabits these trees, of which the muzzle
is that of the fox, while the tail resembles that of a marmoset, and
the ears those of a bat. Its hands are like man's, and its feet like
those of an ape. This beast carries its young wherever it goes in
a sort of exterior pouch, or large bag. You have seen one of these
animals, at the same time that I did. It was dead, but you have
measured it, and you have wondered at that pouch or curious stomach
with which nature has provided this remarkable animal for carrying
its young and protecting them either against hunters or beasts.
Observation has proven that this animal never takes its young out of
this pouch save when they are at play or nursing, until the time comes
when they are able to fend for themselves. The Spaniards captured one
such with its young, but the little ones died one after another, on
shipboard. The mother survived a few months, but was unable to bear
the change of climate and food. Enough, however, about this animal,
and let us return to the discoverers.

[Note 16: The animal here described is doubtless the opossum; the
only non-Australian marsupial found in America.]

The Pinzons, uncle and nephew, have endured severe hardships during
this voyage. They had explored six hundred leagues along the coast
of Paria, believing themselves the while to be at the other side of
Cathay on the coast of India, not far from the river Ganges, when in
the month of July they were overtaken by such a sudden and violent
storm that, of the four caravels composing the squadron, two were
engulfed before their eyes. The third was torn from its anchorage and
disappeared; the fourth held good, but was so shattered that its seams
almost burst. The crew of this fourth ship, in despair of saving
it, landed. They did not know what to do next, and first thought of
building a village and then of killing all the neighbouring people to
forestall being massacred themselves. But happily the luck changed.
The tempest ceased; the caravel which had been driven off by the fury
of the elements returned with eighty of the crew, while the other
ship, which held to her anchorage, was saved. It was with these
ships that, after being tossed by the waves and losing many of their
friends, they returned to Spain, landing at their native town of
Palos, where their wives and children awaited them. This was the eve
of the calends of October.

Pinzon's companions brought a quantity of woods[17] which they
believed to be cinnamon and ginger; but, to excuse the poor quality of
these spices, they said they were not ripe when they were gathered.
Baptista Elysius, who is a remarkable philosopher and doctor of
medicine, was in possession of certain small stones they had gathered
on the shores of that region, and he thinks they are topazes. He told
you this in my presence. Following the Pinzons and animated by the
spirit of imitation, other Spaniards have made long voyages toward the
south, following the track of their forerunners, such as Columbus,
and coasting, in my opinion, along the shores of Paria. These latter
explorers have collected cinnamon bark, and that precious substance
the fumes of which banish headaches, and which the Spaniards call
_Anime Album_.[18] I have learned nothing else worthy of your
attention; thus I will conclude my narration since you hasten me by
announcing your departure.

[Note 17: Pinzon obtained license to sell a quantity of brazil
wood to pay his debts, his creditors having seized the ships and their

[Note 18: _Cassiam et hi fistulam pretiosumque illud ad capitis
gravidinem suo suffumigio tollendam quod Hispani animen album vocant

Nevertheless, to conclude my decade, listen still to some details
concerning the ridiculous superstitions of Hispaniola. If it is not
a decade in the style of Livy, it is only because its author, your
Martyr, has not been blessed, as he should have been according to the
theory of Pythagoras, with the spirit of Livy. You also know what
mountains in travail bring forth. These things are only the fancies
of the islanders; nevertheless, though fanciful, they are more
interesting than the true histories of Lucian, for they really do
exist in the form of beliefs, while the histories were invented as a
pastime; one may smile at those who believe them.

The Spaniards lived for some time in Hispaniola without suspecting
that the islanders worshipped anything else than the stars, or that
they had any kind of religion; I have indeed several times reported
that these islanders only adored the visible stars and the heavens.
But after mingling with them for some years, and the languages
becoming mutually intelligible, many of the Spaniards began to notice
among them divers ceremonies and rites. Brother Roman,[19] a hermit,
who went, by order of Columbus, amongst the caciques to instruct them
in the principles of Christianity, has written a book in the Spanish
language on the religious rites of the islanders. I undertake to
review this work, leaving out some questions of small importance. I
now offer it to you as follows:

It is known that the idols to whom the islanders pay public worship
represent goblins which appear to them in the darkness, leading them
into foolish errors; for they make images, in the forms of seated
figures, out of plaited cotton, tightly stuffed inside, to represent
these nocturnal goblins and which resemble those our artists paint
upon walls.

[Note 19: Roman Pane was a Jeronymite friar who, as here stated,
wrote by order of Columbus. His work was in twenty-six chapters
covering eighteen pages, and was inserted at the end of the
sixty-first chapter of the _Storia_ of Fernando Columbus. The original
Spanish MS. is lost, the text being known in an Italian translation
published in Venice in 1571. Brasseur de Bourbourg published a French
translation in his work on Yucatan, _Relation des Choses de Yucatan de
Diego Landa_. Paris, 1864.]

I have sent you four of these images, and you have been able to
examine them and verify their resemblance to the goblins. You will
also be able to describe them to the most serene King, your uncle,
better than I could do in writing. The natives call these images
_zemes_. When they are about to go into battle, they tie small images
representing little demons upon their foreheads, for which reason
these figures, as you will have seen, are tied round with strings.
They believe that the _zemes_ send rain or sunshine in response to
their prayers, according to their needs. They believe the _zemes_ to
be intermediaries between them and God, whom they represent as one,
eternal, omnipotent, and invisible. Each cacique has his _zemes_,
which he honours with particular care. Their ancestors gave to the
supreme and eternal Being two names, Iocauna and Guamaonocon. But this
supreme Being was himself brought forth by a mother, who has five
names, Attabeira, Mamona, Guacarapita, Iella, and Guimazoa.

Listen now to their singular beliefs relating to the origin of man.
There exists in Hispaniola a district called Caunauna, where the human
race took its origin in a cavern on a certain mountain. The greater
number of men came forth from the larger apertures, and the lesser
number from the smaller apertures of this cavern. Such are their
superstitions. The rock on whose side the opening of this cavern
is found is called Cauta, and the largest of the caverns is called
Cazabixaba, the smaller Amaiauna. Before mankind was permitted to come
forth, they ingeniously affirm that each night the mouths of the
caves were confided to the custody of a man called Machochael. This
Machochael, having deserted the two caves from a motive of curiosity,
was surprised by the sun, whose rays he could not endure, and so was
changed into stone. They relate amongst their absurdities that when
men came out of their caverns in the night because they sought to sin
and could not get back before the rising of the sun, which they were
forbidden to see, they were tranformed into myrobolane trees,[20] of
which Hispaniola plentiously produces great numbers.

[Note 20: This name is comprehensive of several kinds of trees
whose fruits are used in compounding astringent and slightly purgative

They also say that a chief called Vagoniona sent from the cavern where
he kept his family shut up, a servant to go fishing. This servant,
being surprised by the sun, was likewise turned in like manner into a
nightingale. On every anniversary of his transformation he fills the
night air with songs, bewailing his misfortunes and imploring his
master Vagoniona to come to his help. Such is the explanation they
give for the nightingale's song. As for Vagoniona, he dearly loved
this servant, and therefore deeply lamented him; he shut up all the
men in the cavern and only brought out with him the women and nursing
children, whom he led to an island called Mathinino, off the coasts;
there he abandoned the women and brought back the children with him.
These unfortunate infants were starving, and upon reaching the river
bank they cried "_Toa, Toa_" (that is like children crying, Mamma,
Mamma), and immediately they were turned into frogs. It is for this
reason that in the springtime the frogs make these sounds, and it is
also the reason why men alone are frequently found in the caverns
of Hispaniola, and not women. The natives say that Vagoniona still
wanders about the island, and that by a special boon he always remains
as he was. He is supposed to go to meet a beautiful woman, perceived
in the depths of the sea, from whom are obtained the white shells
called by the natives _cibas_, and other shells of a yellowish colour
called _guianos_, of both of which they make necklaces. The caciques
in our own time regard these trinkets as sacred.[21]

[Note 21: The following passage does not lend itself to admissible
translation. _Viros autem illos, quos sine feminis in antris relictos
diximus, lotum se ad pluviarum acquarum receptacula noctu referunt
exiisse; atque una noctium, animalia quædam feminas æmulantia, veluti
formicarum agmina, reptare par arbores myrobolanos a longe vidisse. Ad
feminea ilia animalia procurrunt, capiunt: veluti anguillæ de manibus
eorum labuntur. Consilium ineunt. Ex senioris consilio, scabiosos
leprososque, si qui sint inter eos, conquirunt, qui manos asperas
callossasque habeant ut apræhensa facilius queant ritenere. Hos
homines ipsi caracaracoles appellant. Venatum proficiscuntur: ex
multis quas capiebant quatuor tantum retinent; pro feminis illis
uti adnituntur, carere feminea natura comperiunt. Iterum accitis
senioribus, quid facieudum consulunt. Ut picus avis admittatur, qui
acuto rostra intra ipsorum inguina foramen effodiat, constituerunt:
ipsismet caracaracolibus hominibus callosis, feminas apertis cruribus
tenentibus. Quam pulchre picus adducitur! Picus feminis sexum aperit.
Hinc bellissime habuit insula, quas cupiebat feminas; hinc procreata
soboles_. "I cease to marvel," continues the author, "since it is
written in many volumes of veracious Greek history that the Myrmidons
were generated by ants. Such are some of the many legends which
pretended sages expound with calm and unmoved visage from pulpits and
tribunals to a stupid gaping crowd."]

Here is a more serious tradition concerning the origin of the sea.[22]
There formerly lived in the island a powerful chief named Jaia who
buried his only son in a gourd. Several months later, distracted by
the loss of his son, Jaia visited the gourd. He pried it open and out
of it he beheld great whales and marine monsters of gigantic size come
forth. Thus he reported to some of his neighbours that the sea was
contained in that gourd. Upon hearing this story, four brothers born
at a birth and who had lost their mother when they were born sought to
obtain possession of the gourd for the sake of the fish. But Jaia, who
often visited the mortal remains of his son, arrived when the brothers
held the gourd in their hands. Frightened at being thus taken in the
act both of sacrilege and robbery, they dropped the gourd, which
broke, and took flight. From the broken gourd the sea rushed forth;
the valley was filled, the immense plain which formed the universe was
flooded, and only the mountains raised their heads above the water,
forming the islands, several of which still exist to-day. This, Most
Illustrious Prince, is the origin of the sea, nor need you imagine
that the islander who has handed down this tradition does not enjoy
the greatest consideration. It is further related that the four
brothers, in terror of Jaia, fled in different directions and almost
died of hunger because they dared stop nowhere. Nevertheless, pressed
by famine, they knocked at the door of a baker and asked him for
_cazabi_, that is to say, for bread. The baker spit with such force
upon the first who entered, that an enormous tumour was formed, of
which he almost died. After deliberating amongst themselves, they
opened the tumour, with a sharp stone, and from it came forth a woman
who became the wife of each of the four brothers, one after another,
and bore them sons and daughters.

[Note 22: Diego Landa, in his _Cosas de Yucatan_, and Cogolludo
(_Hist. de Yucatan_), treat this subject. Peter Martyr likewise
elaborates it in his letters to Pomponius Lætus and the Cardinal de
Santa Croce. _Opus Epistolarum_, ep. 177 and 180.]

Another story, most illustrious Prince, is still more quaint. There is
a cavern called Jouanaboina, situated in the territory of a cacique
called Machinnech, which is venerated with as great respect by the
majority of the islanders as were formerly the caves of Corinth, of
Cyrrha, and Nissa amongst the Greeks.[23] The walls of this cavern
are decorated with different paintings; two sculptured zemes, called
Binthiatelles and Marohos, stand at the entrance.

[Note 23: The caverns of Hayti have been visited and described by
Decourtilz, _Voyage d'un Naturaliste_. Some of them contain carvings
representing serpents, frogs, deformed human figures in distorted
postures, etc.]

When asked why this cavern is reverenced, the natives gravely reply
that it is because the sun and moon issued forth from it to illuminate
the universe. They go on pilgrimages to that cavern just as we go
to Rome, or to the Vatican, Compostela, or the Holy Sepulchre at

Another kind of superstition is as follows. They believe the dead walk
by night and feed upon _guarina_, a fruit resembling the quince,
but unknown in Europe. These ghosts love to mix with the living and
deceive women. They take on the form of a man, and seem to wish to
enjoy a woman's favour, but when about to accomplish their purpose
they vanish into thin air. If any one thinks, upon feeling something
strange upon his bed, that there is a spectre lying beside him, he
only needs to assure himself by touching his belly, for, according to
their idea, the dead may borrow every human member except the navel.
If therefore the navel is absent, they know that it is a ghost, and
it is sufficient to touch it to make it immediately disappear. These
ghosts frequently appear by night to the living, and very often on the
public highways; but if the traveller is not frightened, the spectre
vanishes. If, on the contrary, he allows himself to be frightened, the
terror inspired by the apparition is such that many of the islanders
completely lose their heads and self-possession. When the Spaniards
asked who ever had infected them with this mass of ridiculous beliefs,
the natives replied that they received them from their ancestors, and
that they have been preserved from time immemorial in poems which only
the sons of chiefs are allowed to learn. These poems are learnt by
heart, for they have no writing; and on feast days the sons of chiefs
sing them to the people, in the form of sacred chants.[24] Their only
musical instrument is a concave sonorous piece of wood which is beaten
like a drum.

[Note 24: Commonly called in the native tongue _arreytos_. Some
specimens exist. Brasseur de Bourbourg in his _Grammaire Quiché_ gives
the _Rabinal Achi_.]

It is the augurs, called bovites, who encourage these superstitions.
These men, who are persistent liars, act as doctors for the ignorant
people, which gives them a great prestige, for it is believed that the
zemes converse with them and reveal the future to them.

If a sick man recovers the bovites persuade him that he owes his
restoration to the intervention of the zemes. When they undertake to
cure a chief, the bovites begin by fasting and taking a purge. There
is an intoxicating herb which they pound up and drink, after which
they are seized with fury like the mænads, and declare that the zemes
confide secrets to them. They visit the sick man, carrying in their
mouth a bone, a little stone, a stick, or a piece of meat. After
expelling every one save two or three persons designated by the sick
person, the bovite begins by making wild gestures and passing his
hands over the face, lips, and nose, and breathing on the forehead,
temples, and neck, and drawing in the sick man's breath. Thus he
pretends to seek the fever in the veins of the sufferer. Afterwards he
rubs the shoulders, the hips, and the legs, and opens the hands; if
the hands are clenched he pulls them wide open, exposing the palm,
shaking them vigorously, after which he affirms that he has driven off
the sickness and that the patient is out of danger. Finally he removes
the piece of meat he was carrying in his mouth like a juggler, and
begins to cry, "This is what you have eaten in excess of your wants;
now you will get well because I have relieved you of that which you
ate." If the doctor perceives that the patient gets worse, he ascribes
this to the zemes, who, he declares, are angry because they have not
had a house constructed for them, or have not been treated with proper
respect, or have not received their share of the products of the
field. Should the sick man die, his relatives indulge in magical
incantations to make him declare whether he is the victim of fate or
of the carelessness of the doctor, who failed to fast properly or gave
the wrong remedy. If the man died through the fault of the doctor, the
relatives take vengeance on the latter. Whenever the women succeed in
obtaining the piece of meat which the bovites hold in their mouths,
they wrap it with great respect in cloths and carefully preserve it,
esteeming it to be a talisman of great efficacy in time of childbirth,
and honouring it as though it were a zemes.

The islanders pay homage to numerous zemes, each person having his
own. Some are made of wood, because it is amongst the trees and in the
darkness of night they have received the message of the gods. Others,
who have heard the voice amongst the rocks, make their zemes of stone;
while others, who heard the revelation while they were cultivating
their ages--that kind of cereal I have already mentioned,--make theirs
of roots.

Perhaps they think that these last watch over their bread-making.
It was thus that the ancients believed that the dryads, hamadryads,
satyrs, pans, nereids, watched over the fountains, forests, and
seas, attributing to each force in nature a presiding divinity. The
islanders of Hispaniola even believe that the zemes respond to their
wishes when they invoke them. When the caciques wish to consult the
zemes, concerning the result of a war, about the harvest, or their
health, they enter the houses sacred to them and there absorb the
intoxicating herb called _kohobba_, which is the same as that used by
the bovites to excite their frenzy. Almost immediately they believe
they see the room turn upside down, and men walking with their heads
downwards. This kohobba powder is so strong that those who take it
lose consciousness; when the stupefying action of the powder begins
to wane, the arms and hands become loose and the head droops. After
remaining for some time in this attitude, the cacique raises his head,
as though he were awakening from sleep, and, lifting his eyes to the
heavens, begins to stammer some incoherent words. His chief attendants
gather round him (for none of the common people are admitted to these
mysteries), raising their voices in thanksgiving that he has so
quickly left the zemes and returned to them. They ask him what he has
seen, and the cacique declares that he was in conversation with
the zemes during the whole time, and as though he were still in a
prophetic delirium, he prophesies victory or defeat, if a war is to be
undertaken, or whether the crops will be abundant, or the coming of
disaster, or the enjoyment of health, in a word, whatever first occurs
to him.

Can you feel surprised after this, Most Illustrious Prince, at the
spirit of Apollo which inspired the fury of the Sibyls? You thought
that that ancient superstition had perished, but you see that such is
not the case. I have treated here in a general sense all that concerns
the zemes, but I think I should not omit certain particulars. The
cacique Guamaretus had a zemes called Corochotus, which he had
fixed in the highest part of his house. It is said that Corochotus
frequently came down, after having broken his bonds. This happened
whenever he wished to make love or eat or hide himself; and sometimes
he disappeared for several days, thus showing his anger at having been
neglected and not sufficiently honoured by the cacique Guamaretus.
One day two children, wearing crowns, were born in the house of
Guamaretus; it was thought that they were the sons of the zemes
Corochotus. Guamaretus was defeated by his enemies in a pitched
battle; his palace and town were burnt and destroyed; and Corochotus
burst his bonds and sprang out of the house, and was found a stadium

Another zemes, Epileguanita, was represented in the form of a
quadruped, carved out of wood. He often left the place where he
was venerated and fled into the forests. And each time that his
worshippers heard of his flight, they assembled and sought him
everywhere with devout prayers. When found, they brought him
reverently on their shoulders back to the sanctuary sacred to him.
When the Christians landed in Hispaniola, Epileguanita fled and
appeared no more, which was considered a sinister forecast of the
misfortunes of the country. These traditions are handed down by the
old men.

The islanders venerate another zemes, made of marble, which is of
the feminine sex, and is accompanied by two male zemes who serve as
attendants; one acting as herald to summon other zemes to the woman's
assistance when she wishes to raise storms or draw down clouds and
rains; the other is supposed to collect the water which flows down
from the high mountains into the valleys, and upon the command of the
female zemes to let it loose in the form of torrents which devastate
the country whenever the islanders have failed to pay her idol the
honours due to it. One more thing worthy of remembrance and I shall
have finished my book. The natives of Hispaniola were much impressed
by the arrival of the Spaniards. Formerly two caciques, of whom one
was the father of Guarionex, fasted for fifteen days in order to
consult the zemes about the future. This fast having disposed the
zemes in their favour, they answered that within a few years a race of
men wearing clothes would land in the island and would overthrow their
religious rites and ceremonies, massacre their children, and make them
slaves. This prophecy had been taken by the younger generation to
apply to the cannibals; and thus whenever it became known that the
cannibals had landed anywhere, the people took flight without even
attempting any resistance. But when the Spaniards landed, the
islanders then referred the prophecy to them, as being the people
whose coming was announced. And in this they were not wrong, for they
are all under the dominion of the Christians, and those who resisted
have been killed; all the zemes having been removed to Spain, to teach
us the foolishness of those images and the deceits of devils, nothing
remaining of them but a memory. I have brought some things to your
knowledge, Most Illustrious Prince, and you will learn many others
later, since you will probably leave to-morrow to accompany your
great-aunt to Naples, in obedience to the orders of your uncle, King
Frederick. You are ready to leave and I am weary. Therefore, fare
you well, and keep the remembrance of your Martyr, whom you have
constrained in the name of your uncle, Frederick, to choose these few
from amongst many great things.




I have been prompted by the letters of my friends and of high
personages to compose a complete chronicle of all that has happened
since the first discoveries and the conquest of the ocean by Columbus,
and of all that shall occur. My correspondents were lost in admiration
at the thought of these discoveries of islands, inhabited by unknown
peoples, living without clothes and satisfied with what nature gave
them, and they were consumed by desire to be kept regularly informed.
Ascanio, whose authority never allowed my pen to rest, was degraded
from the high position he occupied when his brother Ludovico[1] was
driven by the French from Milan. I had dedicated the first two books
of this decade to him, without mentioning many other treatises I had
selected from my unedited memoirs. Simultaneously with his overthrow I
ceased to write, for, buffeted by the storm, he ceased to exhort me,
while my fervour in making enquiries languished; but in the year 1500,
when the Court was in residence at Granada, Ludovico, Cardinal of
Aragon, and nephew of King Frederick, who had accompanied the Queen
of Naples, sister of King Frederick, to Grenada, sent me letters
addressed to me by the King himself, urging me to select the necessary
documents and to continue the first two books addressed to Ascanio.
The King and the Cardinal already possessed the writings I had
formerly addressed to Ascanio. You are aware that I was ill at the
time, yet, unwilling to refuse, I resolved to continue. Amongst the
great mass of material furnished me at my request by the discoverers,
I selected such deeds as were most worthy to be recorded. Since you
now desire to include my complete works amongst the numerous volumes
in your library, I have determined to add to those of my former
writings by taking up the narrative of the principal events between
the years 1500 and 1510, and, God giving me life, I shall one day
treat them more fully.

[Note 1: His downfall was greeted with rejoicing throughout Italy.
In Venice the joy-bells rang and the children danced and sang a
_canzone_ in Piazza San Marco

  _Ora il Moro fa la danza
   Viva San Marco e il re di Franzia_.

Milan fell a prey to Louis XII., and all northern Italy passed under
the French yoke. The Pope rewarded the bearer of the news with a
present of one hundred ducats, and at once seized Cardinal Ascanio's
palace with its art treasures. The Cardinal was captured near Rivolta
by the Venetians, who delivered him to the French. He was kept in the
citadel of Bourges until 1502, when he was released at the request of
the Cardinal d'Amboise to take his place in the conclave which elected
Pius III. He died in 1505; and his former enemy, Guiliano della
Rovere, reigning as Pope Julius II., erected the magnificent monument
to his memory which still stands in Santa Maria del Popolo.]

To complete the decade, I had written a book which remained
unfinished, treating of the superstitions of the islanders; this new
book, which will be called the tenth and last, I wish to dedicate to
you, without rewriting my work or sending you my draft. Therefore,
if on reading the ninth book you come across promises which are not
realised, do not be astonished; it is not necessary to be always

[Note 2: _Non semper oportet stare pollicitis_.]

Let us now come to our subject. During these ten years many
explorers,[3] have visited various coasts, following for the most part
in the track of Columbus. They have always coasted along the shore of
Paria, believing it to be part of the Indian continent. Some heading
to the west, others to the east, they have discovered new countries
rich in gold and spices, for most of them have brought back necklaces
and perfumes obtained in exchange for our merchandise, or by violence
and conquest. Despite their nakedness, it must be admitted that in
some places the natives have exterminated entire groups of Spaniards,
for they are ferocious and are armed with poisoned arrows and sharp
lances with points hardened in the fire. Even the animals, reptiles,
insects, and quadrupeds are different from ours, and exhibit
innumerable and strange species. With the exception of lions, tigers,
and crocodiles, they are not dangerous. I am now speaking of the
forests of the district of Paria and not of the islands, where, I
am told, there is not a single dangerous animal, everything in the
islands speaking of great mildness, with the exception of the Caribs
or cannibals, of whom I have already spoken and who have an appetite
for human flesh. There are likewise different species of birds, and in
many places bats[4] as large as pigeons flew about the Spaniards as
soon as twilight fell, biting them so cruelly that the men, rendered
desperate, were obliged to give way before them as though they had
been harpies. One night, while sleeping on the sand, a monster issued
from the sea and seized a Spaniard by the back and, notwithstanding
the presence of his companions, carried him off, jumping into the sea
with his victim despite the unfortunate man's shrieks.

[Note 3: Labastidas, Pinzon, Hojeda, Vespucci, Las Casas, and

[Note 4: Vampire bats, which haunt the Venezuelan coast in large

It is the royal plan to establish fortified places and to take
possession of this continent, nor are there wanting Spaniards who
would not shrink from the difficulty of conquering and subjugating
the territory. For this purpose they petitioned the King for his

The journey, however, is long and the country very extensive. It
is claimed that the newly discovered country, whether continent or
island, is three times larger than Europe, without counting the
regions to the south which were discovered by the Portuguese and which
are still larger. Certainly the Spain of to-day deserves the highest
praise for having revealed to the present generation these myriad
regions of the Antipodes, heretofore unknown, and for having thus
enlarged for writers the field of study. I am proud to have shown them
the way by collecting these facts which, as you will see, are without
pretension; not only because I am unable to adorn my subject more
ornately, but also because I have never thought to write as a
professional historian. I tell a simple story by means of letters,
written freely to give pleasure to certain persons whose invitations
it would have been difficult for me to refuse. Enough, however, of
digressions, and let us return to Hispaniola.

The bread made by the natives is found, by those who are accustomed to
our wheat bread, to be insufficiently nourishing and therefore they
lose their strength. The King consequently issued a recent decree,
ordering that wheat should be sown in different places and at
different seasons. The harvest produced nothing but straw, similar to
twigs, and with little grain; although what there is, is large and
well formed. This also applies to the pastures where the grass grows
as high as the crops; thus the cattle become extraordinarily fat, but
their flesh loses its flavour; their muscles become flabby, and they
are, so to say, watery. With pigs it is just the contrary; for they
are healthy and of an agreeable flavour. This is due doubtless to
certain of the island's fruits they greedily devour. Pork is about
the only kind of meat bought in the markets. The pigs have rapidly
increased, but they have become wild since they are no longer kept
by swineherds. There is no need to acclimatise any other species of
animal or birds in Hispaniola.

Moreover, the young of all animals flourish on the abundant pasturage
and become larger than their sires. They only eat grass, not barley
or other grain. Enough however of Hispaniola; let us now consider the
neighbouring islands.

Owing to its length, Cuba was for a long time considered to be a
continent, but it has been discovered to be an island. It is not
astonishing that the islanders assured the Spaniards who explored it
that the land had no end, for the Cubans are poor-spirited people,
satisfied with little and never leaving their territory. They took no
notice of what went on amongst their neighbours, and whether there
were any other regions under their skies than the one they inhabited,
they did not know. Cuba extends from east to west and is much longer
than Hispaniola, but from the north to the south it is, in proportion
to its length, very narrow, and is almost everywhere fertile and

There is a small island lying not far off the east coast of
Hispaniola, which the Spaniards have placed under the invocation of
San Juan.[5] This island is almost square and very rich gold mines
have been found there, but as everybody is busy working the mines of
Hispaniola, miners have not yet been sent to San Juan, although it is
planned so to do. It is gold alone of all the products of Hispaniola
to which the Spaniards give all their attention, and this is how
they proceed. Each industrious Spaniard, who enjoys some credit, has
assigned to him one or more caciques (that is to say chiefs) and
his subjects, who, at certain seasons in the year established by
agreement, is obliged to come with his people to the mine belonging to
that Spaniard, where the necessary tools for extracting the gold are
distributed to them. The cacique and his men receive a salary, and
when they return to the labour of their fields, which cannot be
neglected for fear of famine, one brings away a jacket, one a shirt,
one a cloak, and another a hat. Such articles of apparel please them
very much, and they now no longer go naked. Their labour is thus
divided between the mines and their own fields as though they were
slaves. Although they submit to this restraint with impatience, they
do put up with it. Mercenaries of this kind are called _anaborios_.
The King does not allow them to be treated as slaves, and they are
granted and withdrawn as he pleases.[6]

[Note 5: Porto Rico.]

[Note 6: The system of repartimientos. Consult the writings of Las
Casas on this subject.]

When they are summoned, as soldiers or camp-followers are drafted by
recruiting agents, the islanders fly to the woods and mountains if
they can, and rather than submit to this labour they live on whatever
wild fruit they find. They are a docile people, and have completely
forgotten their old rites, complying without reasoning, and repeating
the mysteries they are taught. The Spanish gentlemen of position
educate sons of caciques in their own houses, and these lads easily
learn the elements of instruction and good manners. When they grow
up and especially if their fathers are dead, they are sent back to
Hispaniola, where they rule their compatriots. As they are devout
Christians, they keep both Spaniards and natives up to their duties,
and cheerfully bring their subjects to the mines. There are gold mines
found in two different districts, of which the first, called San
Cristobal, is about thirty miles from the town of Dominica. The other,
called Cibaua, is about ninety miles distant. Porto Real is situated

Great revenues are drawn from these countries, for gold is found both
on the surface and in the rocks, either in the form of ingots or of
scales which are sometimes small but generally of considerable weight.
Ingots weigh 300 pounds, and sometimes even more, for one has been
found which weighed 310 pounds.[7] You have heard it said that this
one was brought, just as it was found, to the King of Spain, on board
the ship on which the governor Bobadilla embarked for Spain. The ship,
being overloaded with men and gold, was wrecked and sunk with all it
contained. More than a thousand witnesses saw and touched this ingot.
When I speak of pounds I do not mean precisely a pound, but a weight
equal to a golden ducat of four ounces, which is what the Spaniards
call a _peso_ or castellano of gold. All the gold found in the
mountains of Cibaua is transported to the blockhouse of La Concepcion,
where there are founderies for receiving and melting the metal. The
royal fifth is first separated, after which each one receives a share
according to his labour. The gold from the mines of San Cristobal goes
to the founderies of Bona Ventura; the amount of gold melted in these
founderies exceeds 300 pounds of metal. Any Spaniard who is convicted
of having fraudulently kept back a quantity of gold not declared to
the royal inspectors, suffers confiscation of all the gold in his
possession. Contentions frequently occur among them, and if the
magistrates of the island are unable to settle them, the cases are
appealed to the Royal Council, the decisions of that tribunal being
without appeal in the King's dominions of Castile.

[Note 7: Las Casas describes the finding of this nugget by an
Indian girl, who accidentally turned it up while idly prodding
the ground with a sharp instrument. He gives its weight as 3600
castellanos, equivalent to thirty-five pounds. The vessel which was
to carry it to Spain was wrecked in a violent storm, just outside the
harbour, and the famous nugget was lost. _Las Casas, his Life, his
Apostolate, and his Writings_, cap. iii.]

At the present time the members composing this tribunal are all
distinguished noblemen of illustrious blood, whom I will enumerate
in the order in which they sit in judging a case. The first place is
occupied by Antonio Rojas, Archbishop of Granada, who is your kinsman;
he is a veritable Cato, unable to condone his own offences or those of
his relatives. His life is austere and he cultivates literature. He
holds the first place in the Council, or in other words, he is the
President thereof. The other members of the Council rank by seniority,
according to the order in which they were appointed. All are doctors
or designates or holders of some decoration. The designates are those
who are called in Spanish licenciates. All are nominated by the King.
The Dean of the Assembly is Pedro Oropesa; next to him comes Ludovico
Zapato; then, in regular order, Fernando Tellez, Garcias Moxica,
Lorenzo Carvajal; Toribio Santiago sits next to the last-named, and
after him come Juan Lopez, Palacios Rivas, and Ludovico Polanco.
Francisco Vargas, who is likewise royal treasurer, sits next, and the
two last places are held by priests, Sosa and Cabrero, both doctors of
Canon law. The counsellors do not judge criminal cases, but all civil
suits are within their cognisance.

Let us now return to the new countries, from which we have wandered.
These countries are very numerous, diversified, and fertile; neither
Saturn nor Hercules nor any hero of antiquity who set out for the
discovery or conquest of unknown lands, excelled the exploits of our
contemporary Spaniards. Behold, how posterity will see the Christian
religion extended! How far it will be possible to travel amongst
mankind! Neither by word of mouth nor by my pen can I express my
sentiments concerning these wondrous events, and I, therefore, leave
my book without an ending, always counting upon making further
researches and collecting documents for a more detailed description in
my letters, when I shall be at leisure to write.

For I am not ignorant that our Admiral, Columbus,[8] with four ships
and a crew of seventy men furnished him by the sovereigns, has
explored during the year 1502 the country extending about one hundred
and thirty leagues west between Cuba and the continent; an island rich
in fruit trees, which is called Guanassa. The Admiral always followed
the coast towards the east, hoping by this manoeuvre to regain the
waters of Paria, but in this he was disappointed. It is claimed that
the western coasts have also been visited by Vincent Yañez, of whom
I have previously written, Juan Diaz Solis de Nebrissa and sundry
others, but I have no precise information on this point.[9] May God
grant me life, that you may some day learn more upon this subject. And
now you farewell.

[Note 8: This refers to the fourth voyage of Columbus; consult
_Storia del Fernando Columbo_; Navarrete, i., 314, 329, 332; ii., 277,
296; iii., 555, 558. Also the _Lettera rarissima_, written by Columbus
from Jamaica, July 7, 1503, to the Catholic sovereigns; Washington
Irving, _Columbus and his Companions_.]

[Note 9: Consult Gaffarel, _Les Contemporains de Colomb_;
Vespucci, _Quatuor Navigationes_.]

The Second Decade



Most Holy Father,[1] Since the arrival at the Spanish Court of
Galeazzo Butrigario of Bologna sent by Your Holiness, and Giovanni
Accursi of Florence, sent by that glorious Republic, I have
unceasingly frequented their company and studied to please them,
because of their virtues and their wisdom. Both take pleasure in
reading various authors and certain books which have fallen by chance
into their hands, works treating of the vast regions hitherto unknown
to the world, and of the Occidental lands lying almost at the
Antipodes which the Spaniards recently discovered. Despite its
unpolished style, the novelty of the narrative charmed them, and
they besought me, as well on their own behalf as in the name of Your
Holiness, to complete my writings by continuing the narrative of all
that has since happened, and to send a copy to Your Beatitude so that
you might understand to what degree, thanks to the encouragement of
the Spanish sovereigns, the human race has been rendered illustrious
and the Church Militant extended. For these new nations are as a
_tabula rasa_; they easily accept the beliefs of our religion and
discard their barbarous and primitive rusticity after contact with our
compatriots. I have deemed it well to yield to the insistence of
wise men who enjoyed the favour of Your Holiness; indeed, had I not
immediately obeyed an invitation in the name of Your Beatitude, I
should have committed an inexpiable crime. I shall now summarise in
a few words the discoveries by the Spaniards of unknown coasts, the
authors of the chief expeditions, the places they landed, the hopes
raised, and the promises held out by these new countries.

[Note 1: Giovanni de' Medici, elected in 1513, assumed the title
of Leo X. He was keenly interested in the exploration and discoveries
in America, and unceasingly urged his nuncios to keep him supplied
with everything written on these subjects.]

The discovery of these lands I have mentioned, by the Genoese,
Christopher Columbus, was related in my Ocean Decade, which
was printed without my permission[2] and circulated throughout
Christendom. Columbus afterwards explored immense seas and countries
to the south-west, approaching within fifteen degrees of the
equinoctial line. In those parts he saw great rivers, lofty
snow-capped mountains along the coasts, and also secure harbours.
After his death the sovereigns took steps to assume possession of
those countries and to colonise them with Christians, in order that
our religion might be propagated. The royal notaries afforded every
facility to every one who wished to engage in these honourable
enterprises among whom two were notable: Diego Nicuesa de Baëcca, an
Andalusian, and Alonzo Hojeda de Concha.

[Note 2: Peter Martyr's friend, Lucio Marineo Siculo, was
responsible for this premature Spanish edition published in 1511.
An Italian edition of the First Decade was printed by Albertino
Vercellese at Venice in 1504.]

Both these men were living in Hispaniola where, as we have already
said, the Spaniards had founded a town and colonies, when Alonzo
Hojeda first set out, about the ides of December, with about three
hundred soldiers under his command. His course was almost directly
south, until he reached one of those ports previously discovered and
which Columbus had named Carthagena, because its island breakwater,
its extent, and its coast shaped like a scythe reminded him of
Carthagena. The island lying across the mouth of the port is called by
the natives Codego, just as the Spaniards call the island in front of
Carthagena, Scombria. The neighbouring region is called Caramairi, a
country whose inhabitants, both male and female, are large and well
formed, although they are naked. The men wear their hair cut short to
the ears, while the women wear theirs long. Both sexes are extremely
skilful bowmen.

The Spaniards discovered certain trees in the province which bear
fruits that are sweet, but most dangerous, for when eaten they produce
worms. Most of all is the shade of this tree noxious, for whoever
sleeps for any length of time beneath its branches, wakens with a
swollen head, and almost blind, though this blindness abates within a
few days. The port of Carthagena lies four hundred and fifty-six miles
from the port of Hispaniola called Beata, where preparations are
generally made for voyages of discovery. Immediately on landing,
Hojeda attacked the scattered and defenceless natives. They had been
conceded to him by royal patent because they had formerly treated some
Christians most cruelly and could never be prevailed upon to receive
the Spaniards amicably in their country. Only a small quantity of
gold, and that of poor quality, was found amongst them; they use the
metal for making leaves and disks, which they hang on their breasts as
ornaments. Hojeda was not satisfied with these spoils, and taking some
prisoners with him as guides, he attacked a village in the interior
twelve miles distant from the shore, where the fugitives from the
coast-town had taken refuge. These men, though naked, were warlike;
they used wooden shields, some long and others curved, also long
wooden swords, bows and arrows, and lances whose points were either
hardened in the fire or made of bone. Assisted by their guests, they
made a desperate attack on the Spaniards, for they were excited by the
misfortunes of those who had sought refuge with them, after having
lost their wives and children, whose massacre by the Spaniards
they had witnessed. The Spaniards were defeated and both Hojeda's
lieutenant, Juan de la Cosa,[3] the first discoverer of gold in the
sands of Uraba, and seventy soldiers fell. The natives poisoned their
arrows with the juice of a death-dealing herb. The other Spaniards
headed by Hojeda turned their backs and fled to the ships, where they
remained, saddened and depressed by this calamity, until the arrival
of another leader, Diego de Nicuesa, in command of twelve ships. When
Hojeda and Cosa sailed from Hispaniola, they had left Nicuesa in the
port of Beata still busy with his preparations. His force numbered
seven hundred and eighty-five soldiers, for he was an older man
than Hojeda, and he had greater authority; hence a larger number of
volunteers, in choosing between the two leaders, preferred to join the
expedition of Nicuesa; moreover it was reported that Veragua, which
had been granted to Nicuesa by the royal patent, was richer in gold
than Uraba, which Alonzo de Hojeda had obtained.

[Note 3: Such was the sad end of the pilot of Columbus. The oldest
map of the New World, now preserved at Madrid, was the work of this
noted cartographer.]

As soon as Nicuesa landed, the two leaders after conferring together,
decided that the first victims should be avenged, so they set out that
same night to attack the murderers of Cosa and his seventy companions.
It was the last watch of the night, when they surprised the natives,
surrounding and setting fire to their village, which contained more
than one hundred houses. The usual number of inhabitants was tripled
by the refugees who had there taken shelter.

The village was destroyed, for the houses were built of wood covered
with palm-leaves. Out of the great multitude of men and women, only
six infants were spared, all the others having been murdered or burnt
with their effects. These children told the Spaniards that Cosa and
the others had been cut into bits and devoured by their murderers. It
is thought indeed that the natives of Caramairi are of the same origin
as the Caribs, or cannibals, who are eaters of human flesh. Very
little gold was found amongst the ashes. It is in reality the thirst
for gold, not less than the covetousness of new countries, which
prompted the Spaniards to court such dangers. Having thus avenged the
death of Cosa and his companions, they returned to Carthagena.

Hojeda, who was the first to arrive, was likewise the first to
leave, starting with his men in search of Uraba, which is under his
jurisdiction. On his way thither he came upon an island called
La Fuerte, which lies halfway between Uraba and the harbour of
Carthagena. There he landed and found it inhabited by ferocious
cannibals, of whom he captured two men and seven women, the others
managing to escape. He likewise gathered one hundred and ninety
drachmas of gold made into necklaces of various kinds. He finally
reached the eastern extremity of Uraba. This is called Caribana,
because it is from this country that the insular Caribs derive their
origin, and have hence kept the name.[4] Hojeda's first care was to
provide protection, and to this end he built a village defended by a
fort. Having learned from his prisoners that there was a town twelve
miles in the interior, called Tirufi, celebrated for its gold mines,
he made preparations for its capture. The inhabitants of Tirufi were
ready to defend their rights, and Hojeda was repulsed with loss and
disgrace; these natives likewise used poisoned arrows in fighting.
Driven by want, he attacked another village some days later, and was
wounded by an arrow in the hip; some of his companions affirm that he
was shot by a native whose wife he had taken prisoner. The husband
approached and negotiated amicably with Hojeda for the ransom of
his wife, promising to deliver, on a fixed day, the amount of gold
demanded of him. On the day agreed upon he returned, armed with
arrows and javelins but without the gold. He was accompanied by eight
companions, all of whom were ready to die to avenge the injury done to
the inhabitants of Carthagena and also the people of the village. This
native was killed by Hojeda's soldiers, and could no longer enjoy the
caresses of his beloved wife; but Hojeda, under the influence of the
poison, saw his strength ebbing daily away.

[Note 4: The place of origin of the Caribs is disputed, some
authorities tracing them to Guiana, others to Venezuela, others to the
Antilles, etc.]

At this juncture arrived the other commander, Nicuesa, to whom the
province of Veragua, lying west of Uraba, had been assigned as a
residence. He had sailed with his troops from the port of Carthagena
the day after Hojeda's departure, with Veragua for his destination,
and entered the gulf called by the natives Coiba, of whom the cacique
was named Caeta. The people thereabouts speak an entirely different
language from those of Carthagena and Uraba. The dialects of even
neighbouring tribes are very dissimilar.[5] For instance, in
Hispaniola, a king is called _cacique_, whereas in the province of
Coiba he is called _chebi_, and elsewhere _tiba_; a noble is called in
Hispaniola _taino_, in Coiba _saccus_, and in other parts _jura_.

[Note 5: _La Bibliothèque Américaine_ of Leclerc contains a list
of the different works on American languages. Consult also Ludwig,
_The Literature of American Aboriginal Languages_.]

Nicuesa proceeded from Coiba to Uraba, the province of his ally
Hojeda. Some days later, being on board one of the large merchant
vessels called by the Spaniards caravels, he ordered the other ships
to follow at a distance, keeping with him two vessels with double sets
of oars, of the type called brigantines. I may here say that during
the rest of my narrative it is my intention to give to these
brigantines as well as to the other types of ships the names they bear
in the vulgar tongue. I do this that I may be more clearly understood,
regardless of the teeth of critics who rend the works of authors. Each
day new wants arise, impossible to translate with the vocabulary left
us by the venerable majesty of antiquity.

After Nicuesa's departure Hojeda was joined by a ship from Hispaniola
with a crew of sixty men commanded by Bernardino de Calavera, who had
stolen it. Neither the maritime commander, or to speak more plainly
the Admiral,--nor the authorities had consented to his departure. The
provisions brought by this ship somewhat restored the strength of the

The complaints of the men against Hojeda increased from day to day;
for they accused him of having deceived them. He alleged in his
defence, that by virtue of the powers he held from the King he had
directed the bachelor Enciso, who was chief justice and whom he had
selected because of his great legal abilities, to follow him with a
shipload of stores; and that he was much astonished that the latter
had not long since arrived. He spoke the truth, for at the time of
his departure, Enciso had already more than half completed his
preparations. His companions, however, who considered they had been
duped, did not believe in the sincerity of his affirmations about
Enciso, and a number of them secretly planned to seize two brigantines
belonging to Hojeda, and to return to Hispaniola. Upon discovering
this plot, Hojeda decided to anticipate their plan and, leaving
Francisco Pizarro, a nobleman[6] who commanded the forts he had built,
he took some of his men and went on board the ship we have mentioned.
His intention was to go to Hispaniola, not only to recover from the
wound in his hip, but also to learn the causes of Enciso's delay. He
promised his companions to return in less than fifty days. Out of the
three hundred there only remained about sixty men, for the others had
either perished of hunger or had been slain by the natives. Pizarro
and his men pledged themselves to remain at their posts until his
return within fifty days bringing provisions and reinforcements. When
the established time elapsed, finding themselves reduced by famine,
they boarded the brigantines and abandoned Uraba.

[Note 6: Pizarro was far from being a nobleman, his mother being a
peasant woman and his father the captain Gonzalo Pizarro.]

During their journey to Hispaniola a tempest overtook them on the high
seas, which wrecked one of the brigantines with all its crew; and
the survivors relate that they distinctly saw, circling round the
brigantine, a gigantic fish which smashed the rudder to pieces with a
blow of its tail. Gigantic sea monsters certainly do exist in those
waters. Without a rudder and buffeted by the storm, the brigantine
sank not far from the coast of the island, named La Fuerte, which lies
half way between Uraba and Carthagena. The remaining brigantine which
outrode the storm, was repulsed from the island by the natives who
rushed from every direction armed with bows and arrows.

Pursuing his course, Pizarro encountered by chance the bachelor Enciso
between the bay of Carthagena and the country called Cuchibacoa, which
lies at the mouth of the river the Spaniards have named Boiugatti or
cathouse, because it was there they first saw a cat, and _boiu_ means
_house_ in the language of Hispaniola.

Enciso had one vessel laden with all kinds of provisions, foodstuffs,
and clothing, and he was followed by a brigantine. He it was whose
ship Hojeda had awaited with impatience. He had left Hispaniola on
the ides of September, and four days later had recognised the lofty
mountains Columbus had first discovered in this region and which they
had named La Sierra Nevada, because of their perpetual snows. On the
fifth day out he passed the Boca de la Sierpe. Men who went on board
his brigantine told him that Hojeda had returned to Hispaniola, but
thinking they lied, Enciso ordered them by virtue of his authority
as a judge, to return to the country whence they had come. They
obediently followed Enciso, but nevertheless implored him at least to
grant them the favour of allowing them to return to Hispaniola or to
conduct them himself to Nicuesa, promising in exchange for his good
services twenty-six drachmas of gold; for though they were in want of
bread, they were rich in gold. Enciso was deaf to their entreaties,
and affirmed that it was impossible for him to land anywhere but at
Uraba, the province of Hojeda, and it was thither, guided by them,
that he directed his course.

Listen, however, to what happened to this judge, and perhaps, Most
Holy Father, you will find it worth remembering. Enciso anchored off
the coast of Caramairiana in the harbour of Carthagena, celebrated for
the chastity and grace of its women, and the courage of both sexes of
the inhabitants. As he approached to renew his supply of water and to
repair the ship's boat, which had been damaged, he ordered some men to
land. They were at once surrounded by a multitude of natives, all of
whom were armed and who, for three days, watched their labours most
attentively, fairly besieging them. During this time neither the
Spaniards nor the natives engaged in hostilities, although they
remained face to face during three entire days, both on their guard
and watching one another. The Spaniards continued their work, the
soldiers protecting the carpenters.

During this period of suspense, two Spaniards went to fill a vessel
with water at the river's mouth, and, more quickly than I can write
it, a native chief and ten soldiers surrounded them, pointing their
arrows on them but not shooting, contenting themselves with glaring
at them ferociously. One of the Spaniards fled, but the other stood
trembling in his tracks, and by invectives called back his companion.
He spoke to the enemy in their own tongue, which he had learned from
one of the captives captured elsewhere, and they, surprised at hearing
their language in the mouth of a stranger, were mollified and answered
with gentle words. The soldier assured them that he and his friends
were merely strangers passing through, and he was astonished that they
drove the ships from the coast, along which they were sailing. He
accused them of inhumanity, and threatened them with dire misfortunes
did they not abandon their design; for he assured them that unless
they not only laid down their arms but received the Spaniards with
honour, other armed strangers, more numerous than the sands, would
arrive and ravage their country. Enciso was informed that two soldiers
had been seized by natives, but suspecting a trap he ordered his
soldiers to carry their shields to protect themeselves from the
poisoned arrows and, hastily forming them in order of battle, he led
them towards those who held the prisoners. A sign from the soldier,
begging him to stop, caused him to call a halt, and, at the same time,
the other soldier whom he summoned told him that everything was going
on well and that the Indians desired peace, since they had discovered
that they were not the men who had sacked the village on the opposite
coast, destroyed and burned another village in the interior, and
carried off prisoners. This alluded to Hojeda's troops. The natives
had come intending to avenge this outrage, but they had no intention
of attacking innocent men, for they declared it was infamous to attack
anyone who did not attack them. The natives laid down their bows and
arrows, and received the Spaniards amicably, giving them salted fish
and bread. They also filled their barrels with a certain brew made
from native fruits and grain, which was almost as good as wine.

After concluding a peace with the people of Caramairi who, in response
to the summons of their cacique, assembled in a great crowd, Enciso
left for Uraba, passing by the island La Fuerte. He had one hundred
and fifty new soldiers on his ship, to replace those who were dead. He
carried twelve horses and swine, both male and female, for propagating
the species in that region. He was provided with fifty cannon and a
good supply of lances, shields, swords, and other fighting material.
Nothing, however, of all he brought saw service; for as he was about
to enter the port, the captain of the ship who was acting as pilot,
drove it upon a sandy reef and the unfortunate vessel was overwhelmed
by the waves, and shattered. Its entire contents were lost. What a
pitiful sight! Of all the provisions they only saved twelve barrels
of flour, a few cheeses, and a small quantity of biscuit. All their
animals were drowned, and the men, almost naked, with some of their
weapons, were saved by the brigantine and the ship's boat. Thus from
one misfortune to another they were reduced to extreme peril of their
lives, and thought no more about gold.

Behold them, therefore, alive and safe in view of the land they had
desired with their whole hearts. It was necessary, first of all, to
find some means of subsistence, for men do not live on air, and as
they had nothing of their own, they took what belonged to others. One
happy resource lightened their misfortunes; for they found a palm
grove not far from the coast, between which and the neighbouring
swamps there wandered herds of wild swine. They lived, therefore, for
some time on the flesh of these animals, which are said to be smaller
than ours and have such a short tail it appears to have been cut off.
Their feet are also different from those of our wild boars, for the
hind feet have only one toe and no hoof. Their flesh is much more
succulent and wholesome than that of our wild boars.

The Spaniards likewise ate fruits and roots of a variety of palms,
called cabbage palms, such as are eaten in the interior of Andalusia,
and of whose leaves brooms are made in Rome. Besides this they found
other fruits in the country, though most of them, even the plums, were
not yet ripe and were somewhat hard and red in colour. I assume that
these were the variety I ate in the month of April in Alexandria,
where they grew on trees, which the Jews, who are versed in the Mosaic
law, claim to be the cedar of Lebanon. They are edible and sweet
though not without a trace of bitterness, resembling the fruit of
crab-apple trees. The natives plant this tree in their gardens in
place of peach, cherry, and other similar trees, and cultivate it with
the greatest care. In size, the character of its trunk and its leaves,
it closely resembles the jujube tree.

When the wild boar gave out, the Spaniards were obliged to take
thought for the future, so they marched their troops into the
interior. The inhabitants of Caribana country are very skilful in the
use of bows and arrows. The troop of Enciso consisted of a body of a
hundred men.[7] They encountered three naked savages who, without the
slightest fear, attacked them. The natives wounded four with poisoned
arrows and killed some others, after which, their quivers being
exhausted, they fled with the rapidity of the wind, for they are
extremely agile. In their flight they hurled insults at the Spaniards,
and they never shot an arrow that failed to hit its mark. Much
depressed and inclined to abandon the country, the Spaniards returned
to their point of departure, where they found the natives had
destroyed the blockhouse built by Hojeda, and burned the village
of thirty houses as soon as Francisco Pizarro and his companions,
deserted by Hojeda, abandoned it.

[Note 7: The text continues somewhat irrelevantly: _dico centum
pedites, etsi me non lateat constare centuriam ex centum viginti
octo militibus, ut decuriam ex quindecim. Licet tamen de gente nuda
scribenti, nudis uti verbis interdum_.]

Their exploration of the country convinced the Spaniards that the
eastern part of Uraba was richer and more fertile than the western.
They therefore divided their forces and, with the assistance of a
brigantine, transported one half of their people thither, the other
half remaining on the eastern coast. The gulf is twenty-four miles
long, growing narrower as it penetrates inland. Many rivers flow into
the Gulf of Uraba, one of which, called the Darien,[8] they say, is
more fortunate than the Nile.

[Note 8: The name _Darien_ applies to the eastern part of the
isthmus of Panama, extending from the Gulf of San Miguel to that of
Uraba. The river bearing the same name forms a large estuary in the
Gulf of San Miguel.]

The Spaniards decided to settle upon its green banks where fruit trees
grow. The river bed is narrow and its current sluggish. The people
along the banks were much amazed to see the brigantine, so much larger
than their own barques, under full sail. Getting rid of their women
and non-fighting men, and donning their fighting equipment, about five
hundred of them advanced against the Spaniards, taking up a position
upon a lofty hillock. The Spaniards, commanded by Enciso, who was
judge in the name of Hojeda, prepared for the conflict. First
kneeling, general and soldiers together prayed God to give them the
victory. They bound themselves by a vow to make votive offerings of
gold and silver to the statue of the Blessed Virgin, known in Seville
by the name of Santa Maria della Antigua, vowing to make a pilgrimage
to her sanctuary, to name in her honour the village they might found,
and to build a church sacred to her or to transform the house of the
cacique into a church. They also took a vow not to retreat before the

At a given signal they cheerfully armed themselves; carrying their
shields on their left arms, brandishing their halberds, they charged
upon the enemy who, being naked, could not resist the attack for long,
and consequently fled, their cacique, Zemaco, at their head. Promptly
taking possession of the village, our men found an abundance of native
food and assuaged their immediate hunger. There was bread made of
roots and bread made of grain, such as we have described in our first
book; also fruits bearing no resemblance to any of ours and which they
preserve, much as we do chestnuts and similar fruits.

The men of this country go naked, the women cover the middle of their
body with cotton draperies from the navel downwards. Winter's rigours
are unknown. The mouth of the Darien is only eight degrees distant
from the equator, thus the difference in length between night and day
is hardly noticeable. Although the natives are ignorant of astronomy
they had remarked this fact. Moreover, it is of small importance
whether these measures are or are not different from those they give,
for in any case the differences are insignificant.

The next day, the Spaniards ascended the river and about a mile
distant they found very dense forests and woods, in which they
suspected the natives were either hiding or had their treasure
concealed. They searched the thickets carefully; keeping always
on their guard against a surprise they moved under cover of their
shields. Nobody was found in the thickets, but there was a quantity of
gold and effects, coverlets woven of silk and of cotton, such as the
Italians call _bombasio_ and the Spanish _algodon_; utensils, both
of wood and terra-cotta, gold and copper ornaments and necklaces,
amounting in all to about one hundred and two pounds. The natives
procure these gold necklaces, which they themselves work with great
care, in exchange for their own products, for it usually happens that
a country rich in cereals is devoid of gold. On the other hand, where
gold and other metals are common, the country is usually mountainous,
rocky, and arid; it is by exchanging products that commercial
relations are established. The Spaniards derived satisfaction and
encouragement from two sources: they had found plenty of gold, and
chance had led them into an agreeable and fertile region. They
immediately summoned their companions, who had been left on the
eastern shore of the Gulf of Uraba, to join them. Nevertheless, some
people allege that the climate is not very healthy, since the country
consists of a deep valley, surrounded by mountains and swamps.


You are aware, Most Holy Father, of where those Spaniards under the
command of Hojeda had resolved to settle, having received from the
Spanish sovereigns authorisation to colonise the vast regions of
Uraba. Leaving for a moment these colonists let us return to Nicuesa,
who was in command of the great province of Veragua.

I have already related how he had overstepped the limits of the
jurisdiction of his partner and friend Hojeda, and had sailed with one
caravel and two brigantines for Veragua. The largest of these vessels
had been left behind with orders to follow him, but this proved a most
unfortunate inspiration, for Nicuesa lost sight of his companions
in the darkness and, sailing too far, went beyond the mouths of the
Veragua for which he was looking. Lopez de Olano, a Catalonian, who
was in command of one of the largest of the vessels, learned from the
natives while he followed in the track of Nicuesa that his commander
had left the Gulf of Veragua to the east. He therefore promptly turned
about and sailed to meet the commander of another brigantine which had
likewise got out of its course during the night. This brigantine was
commanded by Pedro de Umbria. Rejoicing at thus meeting, the two
captains consulted as to what they should do, trying to imagine what
course Nicuesa could have taken. On reflection they thought that he
(Nicuesa), being chief commander of the expedition, must have had
different indications concerning the exact location of Veragua than
they, who were simple volunteers, and only sought to rejoin their
leader. They laid their course towards Veragua, and at a distance of
sixteen miles found a river, discovered by Columbus and called by him
Los Lagartos, because a number of these animals, called in Spanish
_lagartos_, in Latin _lacertos_[1] were found there. These creatures
are as dangerous to men and to other animals as are the crocodiles of
the Nile. At that place they met their companions who had anchored
their large vessels after receiving the leader's orders to proceed.
Much disturbed by the possible consequences of Nicuesa's blunder, the
ships' captains consulted together and decided to adopt the opinion of
the captains of the brigantines which had coasted along very near to
the shores of Veragua; they therefore sailed for that port. Veragua is
a local name given to a river which has rich gold deposits; and from
the river, the name extends to the entire region. The large vessels
anchored at the mouth of the river and landed all the provisions by
means of the ships' boats. Lopez de Olano was chosen governor in place
of Nicuesa who was thought to be lost.

[Note 1: Lizards, by which are doubtless meant alligators.]

Acting upon the advice of Lopez and other officers, the ships rendered
useless by age were abandoned to be destroyed by the waves; this
decision was likewise adopted to encourage serious projects of
colonisation by cutting off all hope of escape. With the more solid
timbers and with beams cut from the trees, which in that neighbourhood
sometimes attain an extraordinary height and size, the Spaniards built
a new caravel to provide for unforeseen wants.

When the captain of one of the brigantines, Pedro de Umbria, reached
Veragua, a catastrophe befell. Being a man of irritable disposition,
he resolved to separate from his companions and seek a region where he
might establish himself independently. He selected twelve sailors and
departed in the largest ship's boat belonging to one of the greater
vessels. The tide rolls in on that coast with as dreadful roarings as
those which are described as prevailing at Scylla in Sicily, dashing
themselves against the rocks projecting into the sea, from which they
are thrown back with great violence, causing an agitation which the
Spaniards call _resacca_.[2] Umbria's boat was caught in a whirlpool
like a mountain torrent which, despite his efforts, dashed him into
the sea and sunk his barque before the eyes of his companions. Only
one Spaniard, who was a skilful swimmer, succeeded in saving himself
by clutching a rock which rose slightly above the waters, and there
held out against the raging tempest. The next day when the sea had
abated and the tide had left the reef dry, he rejoined his companions,
and the eleven others perished. The other Spaniards did not venture to
take to their barques but landed direct from the brigantines.

[Note 2: Meaning the undertow of surf.]

After a stop of a few days they ascended the river, and found some
native villages, called in the language of the country _mumu_. They
set to work to construct a fort on the bank, and as the country round
about seemed sterile, they sowed, as in Europe, a valley of which the
soil seemed apt for cultivation. While these things were happening in
Veragua, one of the Spaniards, who was stationed on a high rock which
served as a lookout, casting his eyes to the west, cried "A sail! a
sail!" As the ship approached it was seen to be a barque under full
sail. The newcomers were joyfully welcomed. The boat turned out to be
a barque belonging to the caravel of Nicuesa, which could only carry
five persons; but as a matter of fact there were only three men on
board. These men had stolen the barque because Nicuesa had refused to
believe them when they assured him that he had passed beyond Veragua,
leaving that place behind him to the east. Seeing that Nicuesa and his
men were perishing of hunger, they resolved to try their fortunes in
that barque, and to attempt to discover Veragua by themselves, and
they had succeeded. They described Nicuesa as wandering aimlessly,
after having lost his caravel in a storm, and that he was practically
lost among salt marshes and desert coasts, being destitute of
everything and reduced to a most miserable plight, since for seventy
days he had eaten nothing but herbs and roots and drunk nothing but
water, of which indeed he had not always enough. This all came about
because, in seeking Veragua, he persisted in his course towards the

The country had already been reconnoitred by that great discoverer
of vast regions, Christopher Columbus, who had given it the name of
_Gracias à Dios_; in the native tongue it was called _Cerabaro_. The
river which the Spaniards call San Mateo divides it into two portions,
and it is distant about one hundred and thirty miles from western
Veragua. I do not give the native names of this river or of other
localities, because the explorers who have returned to Spain do not
themselves know them. The report of these three sailors prompted Pedro
de Olano, one of Nicuesa's two captains and his deputy judge, to send
one of the brigantines piloted by the same sailors, to find and bring
back Nicuesa. Upon his arrival, Nicuesa ordered Olano, who had been
appointed governor pending his return, to be put into irons, and
imprisoned, accusing him of treason for having usurped the authority
of governor and not having concerned himself sufficiently, while
enjoying the command, about the disappearance of his chief. He
likewise accused him of negligence in sending so late to search for

In like manner Nicuesa reproached everybody in arrogant terms, and
within a few days he commanded that they should make ready to depart.
The colonists begged him not to decide hastily, and to wait at least
until the crops that they had sown were harvested, as the harvesting
season was now at hand. Four months had now passed since they had
sown. Nicuesa refused to listen to anything, declaring they must leave
such an unfortunate country as quickly as possible. He therefore
carried off everything that had been landed at the Gulf of Veragua,
and ordered the ships to sail towards the east. After sailing sixteen
miles a young Genoese, called Gregorio, recognised the vicinity of
a certain harbour, to prove which he declared that they would find
buried in the sand an anchor which had been abandoned there, and under
a tree near to the harbour, a spring of clear water. Upon landing they
found the anchor and the spring, and gave thanks for the excellent
memory of Gregorio, who, alone amongst the numerous sailors who had
sailed these seas together with Columbus, remembered anything about
these particulars. Columbus had named this place Porto Bello.

Hunger induced them to land at several places, and everywhere their
reception by the natives was hostile. The Spaniards were now reduced
by famine to such a state of weakness that they could no longer fight
against natives, even naked ones, who offered the least resistance.
Twenty of them died from wounds of poisoned arrows. It was decided to
leave one half of the company at Porto Bello, and with the other half
Nicuesa continued his voyage eastwards. Twenty-eight miles from Porto
Bello and near a cape which Columbus had formerly called Marmor, he
decided to found a fort, but the want of food had too much reduced
the strength of his men to permit this labour. Nicuesa nevertheless
erected a small tower, sufficient to withstand the first attacks of
the natives, which he called Nombre de Dios. From the day he had left
Veragua, not only during his march across the sandy plains but also
because of the famine which prevailed while he was constructing the
tower, he lost two hundred of the men who still survived. Thus it was
that, little by little, his numerous company of seven hundred and
eighty-five men was reduced to about one hundred.

While Nicuesa, with a handful of wretched creatures, struggled in
this manner against ill fortune, rivalry for the command broke out in
Uraba. A certain Vasco Nuñez Balboa[3] who, in the opinion of most
people, was a man of action rather than of judgment, stirred up
his companions against the judge Enciso, declaring that the latter
possessed no royal patents giving him judicial powers. The fact of his
being chosen by Hojeda to act as governor was not enough. He succeeded
in impeding Enciso in his functions, and the colonists of Uraba chose
some of their own men to administer the colony; but dissension was not
long in dividing them, especially when their leader Hojeda did not
return. They thought the latter dead, of his wound, and disputed among
themselves as to whether they should not summon Nicuesa to take his
place. Some influential members of the council who had been friends of
Nicuesa and could not endure the insolence of Vasco Nuñez thought they
ought to scour the country in search of Nicuesa; for they had heard it
reported that he had abandoned Uraba on account of the barrenness of
the soil. Possibly he was wandering in unknown places like Enciso and
other victims of wrecks; therefore they should not rest until they had
discovered whether he and his associates still lived.

[Note 3: Balboa was of a noble family of Xeres de los Caballeros,
and was born in 1475. He came to Hispaniola in 1500, where he suffered
extreme poverty. He went on board Enciso's vessel as a stowaway.]

Vasco Nuñez, who feared to be deposed from his command on the arrival
of Nicuesa, treated those who still believed that the latter lived, as
foolish. Moreover, even were the fact proven, they had no need of him,
for did they not possess as good a title as Nicuesa? Opinions were
thus divided, when the captain of two large vessels, Roderigo de
Colmenares, arrived bringing a reinforcement of sixty men, a quantity
of foodstuffs, and clothing.

I must recount some particulars of the voyage of Colmenares. It was
about the ides of October in the year 1510 that Colmenares sailed from
Beata, the port of Hispaniola, where expeditions are usually fitted
out. The nones of November he reached the coast of that immense
country of Paria, between the port of Carthagena and the district of
Cuchibacoa, discovered by Columbus. He suffered equally during this
voyage from the attacks of the natives and from the fury of the sea.
Being short of water, he stopped at the mouth of the river called by
the natives Gaira, which was large enough for his ships to enter. This
river has different sources on a lofty snow-covered mountain, which
Roderigo's companions declared to be the highest they had ever seen.
This statement must be true, since the snow lay upon a mountain which
is not more than ten degrees distant from the equator. A shallop was
sent ashore at the Gaira to fill the water barrels, and while the
sailors were engaged in this task they saw a cacique accompanied by
twenty of his people approaching. Strange to behold, he was dressed in
cotton clothing, and a cloak, held in place by a band, fell from
his shoulders to the elbow. He also wore another trailing tunic of
feminine design. The cacique advanced and amicably advised our men
not to take water at that particular place, because it was of poor
quality; he showed them close at hand another river of which the
waters were more wholesome. The Spaniards repaired to the river
indicated by the cacique, but were prevented by the bad state of the
sea from finding its bottom, for the sands fairly bubbled as it were,
which indicated that the sea was full of reefs. They were obliged,
therefore, to come back to the first river, where at least they could
safely anchor. Here the cacique disclosed his treacherous intentions,
for while our men were engaged in filling their barrels, he fell
upon them, followed by seven hundred naked men, armed in the native
fashion, only he and his officers wearing clothing. He seized the
barque, which he smashed to pieces, and in a twinkling the forty-seven
Spaniards were pierced with arrow-wounds, before they could protect
themselves with their shields. There was but one man who survived, all
the rest perishing from the effects of the poison. No remedy against
this kind of poison was then known, and it was only later that the
islanders of Hispaniola revealed it; for there exists an herb in
Hispaniola of which the juice, if administered in time, counteracts
the poison of the arrows. Seven other Spaniards escaped the massacre,
and took refuge in the trunk of a gigantic tree hollowed by age, where
they concealed themselves till night. But they did not for that reason
escape, for at nightfall the ship of Colmenares sailed away, leaving
them to their fate, and it is not known what became of them.

Lest I should weary you if I related all the particulars, Most Holy
Father, I omit mention of the thousand perilous adventures through
which Colmenares finally reached the Gulf of Uraba. He anchored off
the eastern coast, which is sterile, and from that point he rejoined
his compatriots on the opposite bank several days later. The silence
everywhere amazed him; for he had expected to find his comrades in
those parts. Mystified by this state of things, he wondered whether
the Spaniards were still alive or whether they had settled elsewhere;
and he chose an excellent means for obtaining information. He loaded
all his cannon and mortars to the muzzle with bullets and powder, and
he ordered fires to be lighted on the tops of the hills. The cannon
were all fired together, and their tremendous detonation made the very
earth about the Gulf of Uraba shake. Although they were twenty-four
miles distant, which is the width of the gulf, the Spaniards heard the
noise, and seeing the flames they replied by similar fires. Guided
by these lights Colmenares ordered his ships to cross to the western
shore. The colonists of Darien were in a miserable plight, and after
the shipwreck of the judge Enciso it was only by the greatest efforts
they had managed to exist. With hands raised to heaven and eyes
overflowing with tears of mingled joy and sadness, they welcomed
Colmenares and his companions with what enthusiasm their wretched
state allowed. Food and clothing were distributed to them, since they
were almost naked. It only remains, Most Holy Father, to describe the
internal dissensions which broke out among the colonists of Uraba over
the succession to the command, after they had lost their leaders.


The chief colonists of Uraba and all the friends of order decided to
recall Nicuesa from wherever he was, and as the judge, Enciso, was
opposed to this measure, they deprived him of the brigantine he had
built at his own expense. Contrary to his will and against that of
Vasco Nuñez, the adventurer, they decided to go in search of Nicuesa
in order that he might settle the dispute about the commandership.
Colmenares, whom I have mentioned above, was commanded to search along
those coasts where it was thought Nicuesa wandered abandoned. It was
known that the latter had left Veragua, because of the sterility of
the soil. The colonists instructed Colmenares to bring Nicuesa back as
soon as he could find him and to assure him they would be grateful to
him if, on his arrival, he succeeded in calming the dissensions which
rent the colony. Colmenares accepted this mission, for he was a
personal friend of Nicuesa, and boldly announced that the provisions
he had brought were intended as much for Nicuesa as for the colonists
of Uraba. He, therefore, fitted out one of his ships and the
brigantine, which had been taken from Enciso, loading them with a
part of the provisions he had brought. He coasted carefully along the
neighbouring shores, and finally came upon Nicuesa engaged in building
his tower on Cape Marmor.

Nicuesa was the most wretched of men, reduced to a skeleton, covered
with rags. There remained barely sixty of the seven hundred and more
companions who had started with him, and the survivors were more to
be pitied than the dead. Colmenares comforted his friend Nicuesa,
embracing him with tears, cheering him with words of hope for a change
of fortune and speedy success. He reminded him that the best element
of the colonists of Uraba wished for his return, because his authority
alone could quiet the dissensions which raged. Thanking his friend, as
became the situation, Nicuesa sailed with him for Uraba.

It is a common thing to observe amongst men that arrogance accompanies
success. After having wept and sighed and poured out complaints for
his miseries, after having overwhelmed his rescuer, Colmenares, with
thanks and almost rolled at his feet, Nicuesa, when the fear of
starvation was removed, began, even before he had seen the colonists
of Uraba, to talk airily of his projects of reform and his intention
to get possession of all the gold there was. He said that no one had
the right to keep back any of the gold, without his authorisation, or
that of his associate Hojeda. These imprudent words reached the ears
of the colonists of Uraba, and roused against Nicuesa the indignation
of the partisans of Enciso, Hojeda's deputy judge, and that of Nuñez.
It therefore fell out that Nicuesa, with sixty companions, had
hardly landed, so it is reported, before the colonists forced him to
re-embark, overwhelming him with threats. The better intentioned of
the colonists were displeased at this demonstration, but fearing a
rising of the majority headed by Vasco Nuñez, they did not interfere.
Nicuesa was therefore obliged to regain the brigantine, and there
remained with him only seventeen of his sixty companions. It was the
calends of March in the year 1511 when Nicuesa set sail, intending to
return to Hispaniola and there complain of the usurpation of Vasco
Nuñez and the violent treatment offered the judge, Enciso.

He sailed in an evil hour and no news was ever again heard of that
brigantine. It is believed the vessel sank, and that all the men were
drowned. However that may be, Nicuesa plunged from one calamity into
another, and died even more miserably than he had lived.

After the shameful expulsion of Nicuesa, the colonists consumed the
provisions Colmenares had brought, and soon, driven by hunger, they
were forced to plunder the neighbourhood of the colony like wolves of
the forest. A troop of about one hundred and thirty men was formed
under the leadership of Vasco Nuñez, who organised them like a band
of brigands. Puffed up by vanity, he sent a guard in advance, and had
others to accompany and follow him. He chose Colmenares[1] as his
associate and companion. From the outset of this expedition he
determined to seize everything he could find in the territory of the
neighbouring caciques, and he began by marching along the shore of
the district of Coiba, of which we have already spoken. Summoning the
cacique of that district, Careca, of whom the Spaniards had never had
reason to complain, he haughtily and threateningly ordered him to
furnish provisions for his men. The cacique Careca answered that it
was impossible, because he had already at different times helped
the Christians and consequently his own provisions were well-nigh
exhausted. Moreover, in consequence of a long-drawn-out war with a
neighbouring cacique called Poncha, he was himself reduced to want.
The adventurer admitted none of these reasons, and the wretched Careca
saw his town sacked. He himself was put in irons and brought with his
two wives, his sons and all his familia to Darien.[2] In the house of
Careca they found three of Nicuesa's companions, who, when his ships
were at anchor, during his search for Veragua, had deserted him
because they feared to be tried for certain crimes. As soon as the
fleet sailed away, they took refuge with Careca who received them
amicably. Eighteen months had elapsed since that time, so they were
as naked as the natives, but plump as the capons women fatten in dark
places, for they had lived well at the cacique's table during that
period; nor did they concern themselves about _meum_ and _tuum_, or
as to who gave and who received, which is the cause of the crimes of
violence that shorten human life.

[Note 1: The memoir of Colmenares on this expedition is contained
in Navarrete's _Coleccion de Viajes_, tom. iii., pp. 386-393. Also
Balboa's letter to King Ferdinand in the same volume.]

[Note 2: Balboa's description of his treatment of the natives,
which he penned to the King, is just the contrary. He prides himself
on having won their friendship, and ascribes to their affection for
him his success in discovering the treasures and secrets of the

These Spaniards nevertheless preferred to return to a life of
hardship. Provisions were brought from the village of Careca to the
people left behind at Darien, for the first consideration was to stave
off the famine that was imminent. Whether before or afterwards I am
not certain, but in any event it was shortly after the expulsion of
Nicuesa that quarrels broke out between the judge, Enciso, and Vasco
Nuñez, each being supported by his own partisans. Enciso was seized,
thrown into prison, and all his goods sold at auction. It was alleged
that he had usurped judicial functions never granted him by the King
but merely by Hojeda, who was supposed to be dead, and Vasco Nuñez
declared that he would not obey a man on whom the King had not
conferred authority by a royal patent. He allowed himself, however, to
be influenced by the entreaties of the better colonists and modified
his severity, even releasing Enciso from his chains and permitting him
to go on board a ship which would carry him to Hispaniola. Before the
vessel sailed, some of the better people of the colony sought out
Enciso and implored him to come on shore again, promising to effect a
reconciliation with Vasco Nuñez and to reinstate him in his position
of judge. Enciso refused and left; nor are there wanting people who
whispered that God and His Saints had themselves shaped events to
punish Enciso for Nicuesa's expulsion, which he had counselled.

Be that as it may, these discoverers of new countries ruined and
exhausted themselves by their own folly and civil strife, failing
absolutely to rise to the greatness expected of men who accomplish
such wonderful things. Meanwhile it was decided by common agreement
among the colonists to send their representatives to the young
Admiral,[3] son and heir of Columbus, the first discoverer, who was
viceroy of Hispaniola, and to the other government officials of the
island. These envoys were to solicit reinforcements and a code of laws
for the new colonies. They were to explain the true situation, the
actual poverty of the colonists, the discoveries already made, and all
that might still be hoped for, if the officials would only send them
supplies. Vasco Nuñez chose for this office one of his adherents,
Valdivia, the same who had prosecuted the suit against Enciso.
Associated with him was a Catalonian, called Zamudio. It was agreed
that Valdivia should return with provisions from Hispaniola, when his
mission was accomplished, and that Zamudio should proceed to Spain
and see the King. Both left the same time as Enciso, but it was the
latter's intention to present a memorial to the King contradicting the
representations of Valdivia and Zamudio. Both these men came to see me
at Court, and I will elsewhere recount what they told me.

[Note 3: Diego, son of Christopher Columbus and his wife, Doña
Moñiz de Perestrello. He was married to Doña Maria de Toledo.]

During this time the wretched colonists of Darien liberated the
cacique of Coiba, Careca, and even agreed to serve as his allies
during a campaign against the cacique called Poncha, who was a
neighbour of Careca on the continent. Careca agreed to supply the
Spaniards with food, and to join them with his family and subjects.
The only arms these natives used were bows and poisoned arrows, as we
have already described was the case amongst those in the eastern part
beyond the gulf. As they have no iron, they use in hand-to-hand combat
long wooden swords, which they call _machanas_. They likewise use
pointed sticks hardened in the fire, bone-tipped javelins, and other
projectiles. The campaign with Poncha began immediately after they had
sown their fields as well as they could. Careca acted both as guide
and commander of the vanguard. When his town was attacked Poncha
fled, and the village and its surroundings were sacked. Thanks to the
cacique's provisions, nothing was to be feared from hunger, but none
of these supplies could be taken to the colonists who remained behind,
for the distance between Darien and Poncha's village was more than a
hundred miles, and everything had to be carried on men's backs to the
nearest coast where the ships, which had been brought by the Spaniards
to Careca's village, were lying. A few pounds of wrought gold, in the
form of divers necklaces, were obtained; after ruining Poncha, the
Spaniards returned to their ships, deciding to leave the caciques of
the interior in peace and to confine their attacks to those along the

Not far distant, in the same direction from Coiba, lies a country
called Comogra, whose cacique is named Comogre, and against him the
Spaniards delivered their next attack. His town stands at the foot of
the other side of the neighbouring mountain chain, in a fertile plain
some twelve leagues in extent. A relative of one of Careca's principal
officers, who had quarrelled with him, had taken refuge with Comogre.
This man was called Jura, and acted as intermediary between the
Spaniards and Comogre, whose friendship he secured for them. Jura was
very well known to the Spaniards ever since Nicuesa's expedition,
and it was he who had received those three deserters from Nicuesa's
company in his own house during their stay. When peace was concluded,
the Spaniards repaired to the palace of Comogre, which lies some
thirty leagues distant from Darien, but not in a direct line, for the
intervening mountains obliged them to make long detours. Comogre had
seven sons from different women, all handsome children or young men,
wearing no clothes. His palace was formed of beams cut from the trees,
and securely fastened together. It was further strengthened by stone
walls. The Spaniards estimated the dimensions of this palace at one
hundred and fifty paces the length and eighty paces the breadth. Its
ceilings were carved and the floors were artistically decorated. They
noticed a storehouse filled with native provisions of the country,
and a cellar stacked with earthenware barrels and wooden kegs, as in
Spain, or Italy. These receptacles contained excellent wine, not of
the kind made from grapes, for they have no vineyards, but such as
they make from three kinds of roots and the grain they use for making
bread, called, as we have said in our first book, yucca, ages, and
maize; they likewise use the fruit of the palm-trees. The Germans,
Flemings and English, as well as the Spanish mountaineers in the
Basque provinces and the Asturias, and the Austrians, Swabians, and
Swiss in the Alps make beer from barley, wheat, and fruits in the same
manner. The Spaniards report that at Comogra they drank white and red
wines of different flavours.

Attend now, Sovereign Pontiff, to another and horrifying sight. Upon
entering the cacique's inner apartments the Spaniards found a room
filled with bodies suspended in cotton ropes. They inquired the motive
of this superstitious custom, and were informed that they were the
bodies of the ancestors of Comogre, which were preserved with great
care, according to the rank they had occupied in life; respect for the
dead being part of their religion. Golden masks decorated with stones
were placed upon their faces, just as ancient families rendered homage
to the _Penates_. In my first book I explained how they dry these
bodies by stretching them on grid-irons with a slow fire beneath, in
such a way that they are reduced to skin and bone.

The eldest of the seven sons of Comogre was a young man of
extraordinary intelligence. In his opinion it was wiser to treat those
Spanish vagabonds kindly, and to avoid furnishing them any pretext
for the violent acts they had committed on neighbouring tribes. He
therefore presented four thousand drachmas of wrought gold and seventy
slaves to Vasco Nuñez and Colmenares, as they were the leaders.
These natives sell and exchange whatever articles they need amongst
themselves, and have no money. The Spaniards were engaged in the
vestibule of Comogre, weighing his gold and another almost equal
quantity they had obtained elsewhere. They wished to set aside the
fifth belonging to the royal treasury; for it has been decided that
the fifth part of all gold, silver, and precious stones shall be set
aside for the King's agents. The remainder is divided according to
agreement. Several disputes arose among the Spaniards regarding their
shares. The eldest son of Comogre, the wise youth, who was present,
struck the scales with his fist and scattered the gold in all
directions, and calling our men's attention he spoke in choice
language as follows:

"What thing then is this, Christians? Is it possible that you set
a high value upon such a small quantity of gold? You nevertheless
destroy the artistic beauty of these necklaces, melting them into
ingots. [For the Spaniards had their smelting instruments with them.]
If your thirst of gold is such that in order to satisfy it you disturb
peaceable people and bring misfortune and calamity among them, if you
exile yourselves from your country in search of gold, I will show you
a country where it abounds and where you can satisfy the thirst that
torments you. But to undertake this expedition you need more numerous
forces, for you will have to conquer powerful rulers, who will defend
their country to the death. More than all others, the King Tumanama
will oppose your advance, for his is the richest kingdom of all.
It lies six suns distant from ours [they count the days by suns];
moreover you will encounter Carib tribes in the mountains, fierce
people who live on human flesh, are subject to no law, and have no
fixed country. They conquered the mountaineers for they coveted the
gold mines, and for this reason they abandoned their own country.
They transform the gold they obtain by the labour of the wretched
mountaineers into wrought leaves and different articles such as those
you see, and by this means they obtain what they want. They have
artisans and jewellers who produce these necklaces. We place no
more value on rough gold than on a lump of clay, before it has been
transformed by the workman's hand into a vase which pleases our taste
or serves our need. These Caribs also make artistic potteries which we
obtain in exchange for the products of our harvests, as for example
our prisoners of war, whom they buy for food, or our stuffs and
different articles of furniture. We also furnish them with the
supplies they need; for they live in the mountains. Only by force of
arms could this mountain district be penetrated. Once on the other
side of those mountains," he said, indicating with his finger another
mountain range towards the south, "another sea which has never been
sailed by your little boats [meaning the caravels] is visible. The
people there go naked and live as we do, but they use both sails and
oars. On the other side of the watershed the whole south slope of the
mountain chain is very rich in gold mines."

Such was his speech, and he added that the cacique Tumanama, and all
the mountaineers living on the other slope of the mountain, used
kitchen and other common utensils made of gold; "for gold," he said,
"has no more value among them than iron among you." From what he had
heard from the Spaniards he knew the name of the metal used for swords
and other arms. Our leaders were amazed at that naked young man's
discourse which, thanks to the three deserters who had been during
eighteen months at the court of Careca, they understood. They took a
decision worthy of the moment and, abandoning their wrangling over the
gold-weighing, they began to joke and to discuss amiably the words and
information of the young cacique. They asked him amicably why he had
told them that story, and what they should do in case reinforcements
did arrive. The son of Comogre reflected for a moment, as does an
orator preparing for a serious debate, even thinking of the bodily
movements likely to convince his hearers, and then spoke again as
follows, always in his own language:

"Listen to me, Christians; we people who go naked are not tormented by
covetousness, but we are ambitious, and we fight one against the other
for power, each seeking to conquer his neighbour. This, therefore, is
the source of frequent wars and of all our misfortunes. Our ancestors
have been fighting men. Our father, Comogre, likewise fought with his
neighbouring caciques, and we have been both conquerors and conquered.
Just as you see prisoners of war amongst us, as for instance those
seventy captives I have presented to you, so likewise have our enemies
captured some of our people; for such are the fortunes of war. Here
is one of our servants who was once the slave of the cacique who
possesses such treasures of gold, and is the ruler beyond the
mountains; there this man dragged out several years of a wretched
existence. Not only he, but many other prisoners as well as freemen,
who have traversed that country and afterwards come amongst us, know
these particulars as far back as they can remember; nevertheless
to convince you of the truth of my information and to allay your
suspicions, I will myself go as your guide. You may bind me, and you
may hang me to the first tree if you find I have not told you the
exact truth. Summon, therefore, a thousand soldiers, well armed for
fighting, in order that, by their help, and assisted by the warriors
of my father Comogre armed in their style, we may shatter the power of
our enemies. In this way you will obtain the gold you want, and our
reward for guiding and helping you will be our deliverance from
hostile attacks and from the fear under which our ancestors lived; and
which destroys our enjoyment of peace."

After speaking thus the wise son of Comogre kept silence; and the love
of gain and the hope of gold fairly made our men's mouths water.


The Spaniards remained several days in that place, during which they
baptised the cacique Comogre, giving him the name of Charles, after
the Spanish prince, and likewise all his family with him. They then
rejoined their companions at Darien, promising, however, to send the
soldiers his son desired to assist him in crossing the sierra and
reaching the southern ocean. Upon their arrival at their village they
learned that Valdivia had returned six months after his departure but
with very few stores, because his ship was a small one. He did bring,
however, the promise of speedy reinforcements and provisions. The
Admiral-Viceroy and the other government officials of Hispaniola
admitted that they had thus far taken little thought for the colonists
at Darien, because they supposed the judge, Enciso, had already sailed
with a well-freighted ship. They assured the colonists that for the
future they would have care for their needs. For the time being they
had no vessel larger than the one they had lent to Valdivia and which
sufficed to relieve their present wants.

This caravel was, in fact, a caravel in name only, and because of
its form, but not in its capacity. The provisions Valdivia brought
sufficed only for the needs of the moment, and within a few days after
his arrival the miseries of famine once more began, chiefly because
a waterspout burst from the mountain top, accompanied by terrible
lightnings and thunders, and washed down such an amount of rubbish
that the harvests, planted in the month of September before the
campaign against the cacique Comogre began, were either swept away or
completely buried. They consisted of the grain for bread-making, which
is called in Hispaniola maize, and in Uraba _hobba_. This maize is
harvested twice yearly, for the cold of winter is unknown in this
country, because of its proximity to the equator. Bread made of hobba
or maize is preferable to wheaten bread for those who live in this
region, because it is more easily digested. This is in conformity
with physical laws, since, as cold diminishes, less inward heat is

Their hopes of a harvest being thus defeated, and knowing that the
neighbouring caciques had already been stripped of their provisions
and gold, the Spaniards were forced to penetrate into the interior in
search of food. At the same time they sent to inform the officials in
Hispaniola of their distress, and also of Comogre's revelations to
them about the southern ocean. It was desirable that the King of
Spain should send a thousand soldiers with whom they might cross the
mountains separating the two seas. Valdivia was sent back with these
letters, and he was charged to deliver to the King's fiscal agent in
Hispaniola the royal fifth due to the treasury, represented by three
hundred pounds of gold, at eight ounces to the pound. This pound is
called a _marc_ in Spanish, and is composed of fifty gold pieces,
called castellanos. The weight of each castellano, a Castilian coin,
is called a peso, and the entire sum, therefore, amounted to fifteen
thousand castellanos. The castellano is a coin somewhat inferior to
one thirtieth of a pound, but its value exceeds that of a golden
ducat. This coin is peculiar to Castile, and is not minted in any
other province. It may be concluded, therefore, from the sum assigned
for the royal fifth, that the Spaniards had taken from the caciques
fifteen hundred pounds of gold, at eight ounces to the pound. They
had found this metal worked into divers shapes: necklaces collars,
bracelets, small plaques to be worn on the breast, and ear or nose

On the third day of the ides of January, Anno Domini 1511, Valdivia
set sail on the little caravel with which he had just returned. In
addition to the instructions sent by Vasco Nuñez and the gold destined
for the royal fisc, which we have mentioned, his friends had confided
to him their treasure for their relatives in Spain. I shall relate
in proper time what happened to Valdivia, but for the present let us
return to the colony at Uraba.

After Valdivia's departure the colonists, driven to desperation by
hunger, resolved to explore the outline of the gulf, of which the most
remote extremity is about eighty miles distant from the entrance. This
extremity is called by the Spaniards Culata.[1]

[Note 1: The southern end of the gulf still bears the name _Culata
del golfo_.]

Vasco Nuñez embarked with about one hundred men on board a brigantine
and in some native barques dug out of tree trunks, called by the
islanders of Hispaniola canoes, and by the people of Uraba, _uru_. The
river flows into the gulf at that place from the east and is ten times
larger than the Darien. Up this river the Spaniards sailed for a
distance of thirty miles or a little more than nine leagues, and
turning to the left, which is towards the south, they came upon a
native village, whose cacique was called Dobaiba. In Hispaniola their
kings are called caciques and in Uraba, _chebi_, with the accent on
the last vowel. It was learned that Zemaco, cacique of Darien, who had
been defeated by the Spaniards in open battle, had taken refuge with
Dobaiba. The latter, counselled, as it was thought, by Zemaco, fled,
and thus evaded the Spanish attack. The place was deserted, though a
stock of bows and arrows, some pieces of furniture, nets, and several
fishing boats were found there. These districts being marshy and low
are unsuitable both for agriculture and plantations of trees, so there
are few food products, and the natives only procure these by trading
what fish they have in excess of their wants with their neighbours.
Nevertheless seven thousand castellanos of gold were picked up in the
deserted houses, besides several canoes, about a hundred bows and
parcels of arrows, all the furniture, and two native barques or uru.

In the night-time bats swarmed from the marshes formed by this
river, and these animals, which are as big as pigeons, tormented
the Spaniards with their painful bites. Those who have been bitten
confirmed this fact, and the judge Enciso who had been expelled, when
asked by me concerning the danger of such bites, told me that one
night, when he slept uncovered because of the heat, he had been bitten
by one of these animals on the heel, but that the wound had not been
more dangerous than one made by any other non-poisonous creature.
Other people claim that the bite is mortal, but may be cured by being
washed immediately with sea-water; Enciso also spoke of the efficacy
of this remedy. Cauterisation is also used, as it is employed for
wounds caused by native poisoned arrows. Enciso had had experience
in Caribana, where many of his men had been wounded. The Spaniards
returned to the Gulf of Uraba only partly satisfied, for they had
brought back no provisions. Such a terrible tempest overtook them in
that immense gulf on their return voyage, that they were obliged to
throw everything they had stolen from those wretched fishermen into
the sea. Moreover the uru, that is to say, the barques, were lost and
with them some of the men on board.

While Vasco Nuñez was exploring the southern extremity of the gulf,
Roderigo Colmenares advanced, as had been agreed, by way of the river
bed towards the mountains along the eastern coast. At a distance of
about forty miles, that is to say, twelve leagues from the river's
mouth, he came upon some villages built on the river bank; the chief,
that is to say, chebi, was named Turvi. Colmenares remained with that
cacique, while Vasco Nuñez, who had meanwhile returned to Darien,
marched to meet him. When the men of the two companies had been
somewhat recuperated by the provisions which Turvi furnished, their
leaders continued their march together. About forty miles distant they
discovered an island in the river, which was inhabited by fishermen,
and as they found wild cinnamon trees there, they named the island
Cannafistula. There were some sixty villages in groups of ten houses
each on this island, and the river on the right side was large enough
both for the native boats and for the brigantines. This river the
Spaniards named Rio Negro.

Fifteen miles from its mouth they found a village composed of five
hundred scattered houses, of which the chebi or cacique was called
Abenamacheios. All the houses were abandoned as soon as the Spaniards
approached; and while they were pursuing the natives the latter
suddenly turned, faced them, and threw themselves upon our soldiers
with the desperation of men driven from their homes. They fought with
wooden swords, sticks with hardened points and sharp javelins, but not
with arrows; for the river population of the west side of the gulf
do not use arrows in fighting. These poor creatures, being, in fact,
naked, were easily cut to pieces, and in the pursuit, the cacique
Abenamacheios and some of his principal chiefs were captured. A
foot-soldier, who had been wounded by the cacique, cut off his arm
with one blow of his sword, though this was done against the will of
the commanders. The Christians numbered altogether about one hundred
and fifty men, and the leaders left one half of them in this village,
continuing their way with the others in nine of the barques which I
have called uru.

Seventy miles distant from Rio Negro and the island of Cannafistula,
the Spaniards, passing by several streams on the right and left which
swelled the principal river, entered another under the guidance of a
native chief who took charge of the boats. The cacique of the country
along its banks was called Abibaiba.

All the region was swampy and the chief house of the cacique was
built in a tree. Novel and unaccustomed dwelling place! The country,
however, has such lofty trees that the natives may easily build houses
among their branches. We read something of this kind in different
authors who write of certain tribes who, when the waters are rising,
take refuge in these lofty trees and live upon the fish caught in
their branches. They place beams among the branches, joining them so
firmly that they resist the strongest winds. The Spaniards believe the
natives live thus in the trees because inundations are frequent, for
these trees are so tall that no human arm could reach them with a
stone. I no longer feel surprised at what Pliny and other writers
record about trees in India which, by reason of the fertility of the
soil and the abundant waters, attain such a height that no one could
shoot an arrow over them. It is, moreover, commonly believed that the
soil of this country and the supply of water are equal to that of
any other land under the sun. The above-named trees were found by
measuring to be of such a size that seven or eight men, with extended
arms, could hardly reach around them. The natives have cellars
underground where they keep stores of the wines we have before
mentioned. Although the violence of the wind cannot blow down their
houses or break the branches of the trees, they are still swayed about
from side to side, and this movement would spoil the wine. Everything
else they require, they keep with them in the trees, and whenever the
principal chiefs or caciques breakfast or dine, the servants bring up
the wine by means of ladders attached to the tree trunks, and they are
just as quick about it as our servants who, upon a level floor, serve
drinks from a sideboard near the table.

Approaching the tree of Abibaiba a discussion began between him and
the Spaniards; the latter offering him peace and begging him to come
down. The cacique refused and begged to be allowed to live in his own
fashion. Promises were succeeded by threats, and he was told that if
he did not come down with all his family they would either cut down or
set fire to the tree. A second time Abibaiba refused, so they attacked
the tree with axes; and when the cacique saw the chips flying he
changed his mind and came down, accompanied by his two sons. They
proceeded to discuss about peace and gold. Abibaiba declared that he
had no gold, and that as he had never needed it, he had taken no
pains to get it. The Spaniards insisting, the cacique said: "If
your cupidity be such, I will seek gold for you in the neighbouring
mountains and when I find it I will bring it to you; for it is found
in those mountains you behold." He fixed a day when he would return,
but neither then nor later did he reappear.

The Spaniards came back, loaded with the supplies and the wines of
the cacique, but without the gold they had counted upon. Nevertheless
Abibaiba, his subjects, and his sons gave the same information
concerning the gold mines and the Caribs who live upon human flesh,
as I have mentioned, as did those at Comogra. They ascended the river
another thirty miles and came to the huts of some cannibals but found
them empty, for the savages, alarmed by the approach of the Spaniards,
had taken refuge in the mountains, carrying everything they possessed
on their backs.


While these things were happening on the banks of this river, an
officer named Raia, whom Vasco Nuñez and Colmenares had left in
charge of the camp at Rio Negro in the territory of the cacique
Abenamacheios, driven either by hunger or fatality ventured to
explore the neighbourhood with nine of his companions. He went to the
neighbouring village belonging to the cacique Abraibes, and there Raia
and two of his companions were massacred by that chief, the others
succeeding in escaping. Some few days later Abraibes, sympathising
with his relative and neighbour Abenamacheios, who had been
driven from his house and had had his arm cut off by one of our
foot-soldiers, gave the latter refuge in his house, after which he
sought out Abibaiba, the cacique who lived in a tree. The latter,
having been driven from his abode, also avoided attack by the
Spaniards and wandered in the most inaccessible regions of the
mountains and forests.

Abraibes spoke in the following words to Abibaiba: "What is this that
is happening, O unfortunate Abibaiba? What race is this that allows
us, unfortunates that we are, no peace? And for how long shall we
endure their cruelty? Is it not better to die than to submit to
such abuse as you have endured from them? And not only you, but our
neighbours Abenamacheios, Zemaco, Careca, Poncha, and all the other
caciques our friends? They carry off our wives and sons into captivity
before our very eyes, and they seize everything we possess as though
it were their booty. Shall we endure this? Me they have not yet
attacked, but the experience of others is enough for me, and I know
that the hour of my ruin is not far distant. Let us then unite
our forces and try to struggle against those who have maltreated
Abenamacheios and driven him from his house, and when these first are
killed the others will fear to attack us, or if they do so, it will be
with diminished numbers, and in any case it will be more endurable for
us." After exchanging their views, Abibaiba and Abraibes came to an
understanding and decided upon a day for beginning their campaign. But
events were not favourable to them. It so happened by chance that,
on the night previous to the day fixed for the attack, thirty of the
soldiers who had crossed the sierra against the cannibals were sent
back to relieve the garrison left at Rio Negro, in case of attack, and
also because the Spaniards were suspicious. The caciques rushed into
the village at daybreak with five hundred of their warriors armed
in native fashion and shouting wildly. They were ignorant of the
reinforcements that had arrived during the night. The soldiers
advanced to meet them, using their shields to protect themselves; and
first shooting arrows and javelins and afterwards using their native
swords, they fell upon their enemies. These native people, finding
themselves engaged with more adversaries than they had imagined, were
easily routed; the majority were killed like sheep in a panic. The
chiefs escaped. All those who were captured were sent as slaves to
Darien, where they were put to work in the fields.

After these events, and leaving that region pacified, the Spaniards
descended the river and returned to Darien, posting a guard of thirty
men, commanded by an officer, Hurtado,[1] to hold that province.
Hurtado descended the Rio Negro to rejoin his leader, Vasco Nuñez, and
his companions. He was using one of those large native barques and had
with him twelve companions, a captive woman, and twenty-four slaves.
All at once four uru, that is to say, barques dug out of tree trunks,
attacked him on the flank, and overturned his boat. The Spaniards had
been tranquilly sailing along without dreaming of the possibility of
an attack, and their barque being suddenly overturned all those whom
the natives could catch were massacred or drowned, except two men, who
grasped some floating tree trunks and, concealing themselves in the
branches, let themselves drift, unseen by the enemy, and thus managed
to rejoin their companions.

[Note 1: _Furatado quodam decurione. Licet decurione more romano
non sint addicti præcise quindecim milites quos regat, centurionique
centum viginti octo, centuriones tamen ultro citroque centenarium
numerum, et ultro citroque denum, decurionem est consilium appellare;
nec enim hos servant ordines hispani ex amussim, cogimurque nomine
rebus et magistratibus dare_. Thus Peter Martyr for the second time
vindicates his knowledge of Roman military terms and his usage of
them. His explanation is extraneous to the narrative.]

Warned of the danger by those two men who had escaped death, the
Spaniards became suspicious of everything. They were alarmed for their
safety, and remembered that they only escaped a similar calamity at
Rio Negro because they had received the reinforcement of thirty men on
the night before the attack. They held frequent councils of war, but
in the midst of their hesitations they reached no decision. After
careful investigation they finally learned that five caciques had
fixed a day for the massacre of Christians. These five were: Abibaiba,
who lived in the swampy forest; Zemaco, who had been driven from his
home; Abraibes and Abenamacheios, the river chiefs; and Dobaiba, the
cacique of the fishermen, living at the extremity of the gulf called
Culata. This plan would have been carried out, and it was only by a
miracle, which we are bound to examine with leniency, that chance
disclosed the plot of the caciques. It is a memorable story and I will
tell it in a few words.

This Vasco Nuñez, a man of action rather than of judgment, was an
egregious ruffian, who had obtained authority in Darien by force
rather than by consent of the colonists; amongst the numerous native
women he had carried off, there was one of remarkable beauty. One of
her brothers, who was an officer much favoured by the cacique Zemaco,
often came to visit her. He likewise had been driven out of his
country, but as he loved his sister warmly, he spoke to her in
conversation in the following words:

"Listen to me, my dear sister, and keep to yourself what I shall tell
you. The insolence of these men, who expelled us from our homes, is
such that the caciques of the country are resolved no longer to submit
to their tyranny. Five caciques [whom he named one after another] have
combined and have collected a hundred uru. Five thousand warriors on
land and water are prepared. Provisions have been collected in the
province of Tichiri, for the maintenance of these warriors, and the
caciques have already divided amongst themselves the heads and the
property of the Spaniards."

In revealing these things to his sister, the brother warned her to
conceal herself on a certain day, otherwise she might be killed in the
confusion of the fight. The conquering warrior gives no quarter to
those whom he vanquishes. He concluded by telling her the day fixed
for the attack. Women generally keep the fire better than they do a
secret,[2] and so it fell out that this young woman, either because
she loved Vasco Nuñez or because in her panic she forgot her
relatives, her kinsmen, and neighbours as well as the caciques whom
she betrayed to their death, revealed the same to her lover, omitting
none of the details her brother had imprudently confided to her.
Vasco Nuñez sent this Fulvia to invite her brother to return, and he
immediately responded to his sister's invitation. He was seized and
forced to confess that the cacique Zemaco, his master, had sent those
four uru for the massacre of the Spaniards, and that the plot had been
conceived by him. Zemaco took upon himself the task of killing
Vasco Nuñez, and forty of his people whom he had sent as an act of
friendship to sow and cultivate Vasco's fields, had been ordered by
him to kill the leader with their agricultural tools. Vasco Nuñez
habitually encouraged his labourers at their work by frequently
visiting them, and the cacique's men had never ventured to execute his
orders, because Vasco never went among them except on horseback, and
armed. When visiting his labourers he rode a mare and always carried a
spear in his hand, as men do in Spain; and it was for this reason that
Zemaco, seeing his wishes frustrated, had conceived the other plot
which resulted so disastrously for himself and his people.

[Note 2: Literally, _Puella vero, quia ferrum est quod feminæ
observant, magis quam Catonianam gravitatem_.]

As soon as the conspiracy was discovered, Vasco Nuñez, assembling
seventy men, ordered them to follow him, without however telling any
one either his destination or his intentions. He first rode to the
village of Zemaco, some ten miles distant, where he learned that
Zemaco had fled to Dabaiba, the cacique of the marshes of Culata. His
principal lieutenant (called in their language _sacchos_, just as
their caciques are called chebi) was seized, together with all his
other servants, and carried into captivity. Several other natives of
both sexes were likewise captured. Simultaneously Colmenares embarked
sixty soldiers in the four uru and set out up the river to look for
Zemaco. The young woman's brother served as guide. Arriving at the
village of Tichiri, where the provisions for the army had been
collected, Vasco Nuñez took possession of the place and captured
the stores of different coloured wines, as we have already noted at
Comogra, and different kinds of native stores. The sacchos of Tichiri,
who had acted in a manner as quartermaster of the army, was captured
together with four of the principal officers, for they did not expect
the arrival of the Spaniards. The sacchos was hanged on a tree that he
had himself planted, and shot through with arrows in full view of
the natives, and the other officers were hanged by Colmenares on
scaffolds, to serve as an example to the others. This chastisement of
the conspirators so terrified the entire province that there was not
a person left to raise a finger against the torrent of Spanish wrath.
Peace was thus established, and their caciques bending their necks
beneath the yoke were not punished. The Spaniards enjoyed some days of
abundance, thanks to the well-filled storehouse they had captured at

[Note 3: This pitiful story of native treachery is frequently
repeated, and explains the enslavement, the downfall, and in parts,
the extermination of the American tribes. Everywhere they betrayed one
another to the final undoing of all.]


In the general assembly convoked shortly afterwards, the colonists
unanimously decided to send an envoy to Hispaniola to ask for
reinforcements and for the appointment of a judge. The same envoy
would go on to Spain where he would first explain to the Admiral and
his officers and afterwards to the King, all that had happened, and
would seek to persuade his Majesty to send the thousand soldiers the
son of Comogre had declared would be necessary for the expedition
across the mountains to the South Sea. Vasco Nuñez sought to be chosen
for this mission, but his companions refused him their votes, and his
adherents would not allow him to go; not only because they would have
felt themselves abandoned, but because they suspected that once out of
it, Vasco would not return to such a furnace of calamities, following
the example of Valdivia and Zamudio, whom they had sent off in
the month of January, and who, they thought, had no intention of
returning. In this latter they were wrong, as we shall show in the
proper place, for those men were dead.

After several ballotings without result, the colonists finally chose
a certain Juan Quevedo, a serious man of mature age, who was agent of
the royal treasury in Darien. They had full confidence that Quevedo
would conduct this business successfully, and they counted on his
return because he had brought his wife with him to the new world and
was leaving her in the colony as a pledge. As soon as Quevedo was
elected, several opinions concerning an associate for him were
expressed. Some people said it was risky to trust such an important
affair to one man; not that they mistrusted Quevedo, but human life is
uncertain, particularly if one considers that people accustomed to a
climate near the equator would be exposed on returning northwards to
frequent changes of climate and food. It was necessary, therefore, to
provide an associate for Quevedo, so that, if one died the other
might survive and if both escaped death, the King would place more
confidence in their dual report. Much time was spent in debating this
point, and finally they decided to choose Roderigo Colmenares, whose
name I have frequently mentioned. He was a man of large experience; in
his youth he had travelled by land and sea over all Europe, and he had
taken part in the Italian wars against the French. What decided the
colonists to choose Colmenares was the fact that, if he left, they
could count on his return, because he had purchased properties in
Darien and had spent large sums in planting. He hoped to sell his
crops as they stood, and to obtain the gold of his companions in
exchange. He therefore left the care of his estates to a citizen of
Madrid, a certain Alonzo Nuñez, who was his comrade. This man was a
judge, and had almost been chosen by the colonists as an envoy in
place of his friend Colmenares; and indeed he would have been elected
but that one of his companions explained that he had a wife at Madrid.
It was feared, therefore, that the tears of his wife might prevent
him from ever returning, so Colmenares, being free, was chosen as the
associate of Quevedo. There being no larger ship at their disposal,
both men sailed on a brigantine, the fourth day of the calends of
November in the year of grace 1512.

During their voyage they were buffeted by many tempests, and were
finally dashed upon the western coast of that large island which for a
long time was thought to be a continent, and which in my First Decade
I explained was called Cuba. They were reduced to the most extreme
want, for three months had elapsed since they left Darien. They were,
therefore, forced to land to seek some assistance from the islanders,
and by chance they approached on that side of the island where
Valdivia had also been driven ashore by tempests. Ah! unhappy
creatures! you colonists of Darien, who await the return of Valdivia
to assuage your sufferings. Hardly had he landed before he and his
companions were massacred by the Cubans, the caravel broken to pieces
and left upon the shore. Upon beholding some planks of that caravel
half buried in the sand, the envoys bewailed the death of Valdivia and
his companions. They found no bodies, for these had either been thrown
into the sea, or had served as food for the cannibals, for these
latter frequently made raids in Cuba in order to procure human flesh.
Two islanders who had been captured, related the death of Valdivia,
which had been brought about by the love of gold. These islanders
confessed that, having learned from the talk of one of Valdivia's
companions that he had gold, they had plotted to assassinate him
because they too loved gold necklaces.

Horrified by this catastrophe, and feeling themselves unable to avenge
their companions the Spaniards decided to fly from that barbarous land
and the monstrous cruelty of those savages. They therefore continued
their voyage, stunned by the massacre of their companions and
suffering severely from want. After leaving the southern coast of Cuba
behind them, a thousand untoward events still further delayed them.
They learned that Hojeda had also landed and that he had been driven
by storms upon these coasts, where he led a wretched existence. He
endured a thousand annoyances and a thousand different kinds of
sufferings. After having suffered the loss of his companions or
witnessed them gasping from hunger, he had been carried to Hispaniola
almost alone.

He arrived there hardly alive, and died from the effects of the wound
he had received from the natives of Uraba. Enciso, the judge elect,
had sailed along this same coast, but with better fortune, for he had
had favourable weather.

He himself told me these things at Court, and he added that the
natives of Cuba had received him kindly, especially the people of a
certain cacique called El Comendador [the Commander]. When this chief
was about to be baptised by some Christians who were passing through,
he asked them how the governor of the neighbouring island of
Hispaniola was called, and he was answered that he was called El
Comendador.[1] The governor of that island was at that period, an
illustrious knight of the Order of Calatrava, and the knights of that
Order take the title of Commander. The cacique promptly declared that
he wished to be called El Comendador; and he it was who had given
hospitality to Enciso, when he landed, and had supplied all his wants.

[Note 1: Don Nicholas de Ovando, Comendador de Lares, and later
Grand Master of the Order of Calatrava.]

According to Enciso, now is the time, Most Holy Father from whom we
receive our religion and our beliefs, to preach to the islanders. An
unknown sailor,[2] who was ill, had been left by some Spaniards who
were coasting the length of Cuba, with the cacique El Comendador, and
this sailor was very kindly received by the cacique and his people.
When he recovered his health, he frequently served the cacique as
lieutenant in his expeditions, for the islanders are often at war one
with another; and El Comendador was always victorious. The sailor
was an ignorant creature, but a man of good heart, who cultivated
a peculiar devotion for the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God. He even
carried about him, as constantly as his clothes, a picture of the
Blessed Virgin, very well painted on paper, and he declared to El
Comendador that it was because of it that he was always victorious.
He also persuaded the latter to abandon the zemes the people adored,
because he declared that these nocturnal goblins were the enemies of
souls, and he urged the cacique to choose for his patron the Virgin
Mother of God, if he desired all his undertakings, both in peace and
in war, to succeed. The Virgin Mother of God was never deaf to the
invocation of her holy name by a pure heart. The sailor obtained a
ready hearing from these naked islanders. Upon the request of the
cacique he gave him the image of the Virgin, and consecrated a church
and an altar to it. The zemes, whom their ancestors had worshipped
were abandoned. These zemes, Most Holy Father, are the idols made out
of cotton, of which I have spoken at length in the tenth book of my
First Decade. Following the instructions of the sailor, the cacique El
Comendador and all his people of both sexes went each day at sunset
to the chapel dedicated to the Virgin. Entering, they knelt, and
reverently bowing their heads and joining their hands they saluted the
image by repeated invocations, _Ave Maria, Ave Maria_; for there were
very few who had learnt the whole prayer.

[Note 2: Las Casas tells an identical story concerning Alonso
de Hojeda, who gave an image of the Blessed Virgin to a cacique of
Cueyba. During the campaign which ended in the conquest of Cuba, Las
Casas offered to trade a Flemish statue for the one Hojeda had left
there, but the cacique refused, and taking his image, he fled into
the woods, lest he should be forced to exchange. The two stories,
doubtless, refer to the same incident, though it seems strange that
Peter Martyr should not have identified Hojeda as the "unknown
sailor." See Las Casas, _Hist. de las Indias_, tom, iv., cap. xix.:
_B. Las Casas, his Life, his Apostolate, and his Writings_, cap iv.]

When Enciso and his companions landed there, the Indians took them by
the hands and joyfully led them to the chapel, declaring that they
were going to show them something wonderful. They pointed to the holy
image surrounded, as though with a garland, by dishes full of food and
drink. They offered these presents to the image just as they formerly
did in their own religion to the zemes. They say that by such
offerings they provide for the image in case it should be hungry, for
they believe that it might suffer from hunger.

Listen now to a most curious story concerning the assistance they
believe they have received from that image of the Blessed Virgin, and
by my faith, Most Holy Father, one would willingly believe it to be
true. According to the report of our men, the effect of the fervent
piety which animates those simple souls for the Blessed Virgin Mother
of God is such, that they almost constrain her to come down from
heaven to help them whenever they weaken in a struggle. Has not God
left pity, love, and charity amongst men, by the practice of which
they may merit His grace and that of the heavenly host? The Virgin
could never abandon those who with pure heart invoke her aid. Now El
Comendador and all his chiefs declared to Enciso and his companions,
that when the sailor had carried the holy image with him into battle
in full view of both armies, the zemes of the enemy turned their heads
and trembled in the presence of the image of the Virgin; for it is the
custom for each army to carry its own protecting zemes into battle.
Not only had they beheld the holy image but also a woman, robed in
fair white draperies, who, in the heat of the battle, sustained
them against their enemies. The latter also declared that there had
appeared opposite to them a woman with menacing face, carrying a
sceptre, who encouraged the opposing army and that this apparition
made them tremble with fear.

El Comendador declared that after the sailor had been taken away by
some Christians who had landed at that place, he had faithfully obeyed
his instructions. He further related that a heated altercation had
broken out with his neighbours, as to which of the zemes was most
powerful. The controversy led to frequent conflicts, in which the
Blessed Virgin had never failed them, but had appeared in every
battle, grasping the victory with her small hands from the most
formidable of the hostile forces. The Spaniards asked what their war
cry was, and they replied that, in obedience to the instructions of
the sailor they only shouted, in the Spanish language, "St. Mary to
the rescue!" It was the only language the sailor spoke. In the midst
of these cruel wars they made the following agreement; instead of
putting a fixed number of champions into the field, as was often done
by the armies of other nations of antiquity, or instead of settling
their disputes by arbitration, two young men of each tribe should have
their hands tied behind their backs as tightly as he who bound them
chose. They would then be led to a lofty place, and the zemes of the
tribe whose champion most quickly undid his bonds should be acclaimed
as the most powerful. The agreement was made, and the young men
of both sides were thus bound. El Comendador's people tied their
adversary, while their enemies tied one of his men. Three different
times the trial was repeated, and each time after invoking their
zemes, the young men tried to free themselves from their bonds. El
Comendador's champions repeated the invocation, "St. Mary, help me,
St. Mary, help me!" and immediately the Virgin, robed in white,
appeared. She drove away the demon, and touching the bonds of the
Christian champion with the wand she carried, not only was he at once
freed, but the bonds were added to those of his opponent, so that the
enemy found the young Christian not only free, but their own champion
with double bonds. They were not content with this first defeat,
and attributed it to some human trickery which they did not believe
demonstrated the superiority of the divinity. They therefore asked
that four men of venerable age and tried morality should be chosen
from each tribe, and should stand on either side of each young man, in
order to verify whether or not there was any trickery. O what
purity of soul and blessed simplicity, worthy of the golden age!
El Comendador and his advisers yielded to this condition with a
confidence equal to that with which the sufferer from an effusion of
blood sought the remedy for his malady; or Peter, whose place, Most
Holy Father, you occupy, marched upon the waves when he beheld our
Lord. The conditions being accepted, the young men were bound and the
eight judges took their places. The signal was given, and each one
called upon his zemes, to come to his assistance. The two champions
beheld the zemes with a long tail and an enormous mouth furnished with
teeth and horns just like the images. This devil sought to untie the
young man who was acting as his champion, but at the first invocation
of the Comendador the Virgin appeared. The judges, with wide open eyes
and attentive minds, waited to see what would happen. She touched the
devil with the wand she was carrying and put him to flight, afterwards
causing the bonds of her champion to transfer themselves to the body
of his adversary. This miracle struck terror into the Comendador's
enemies, and they recognised that the zemes of the Virgin was more
powerful than their own.

The consequence of this event was, that when the news spread that
Christians had landed in Cuba, the Comendador's neighbours, who were
his bitter enemies, and had often made war upon him, sent to Enciso
asking for priests to baptise them. Enciso immediately despatched two
priests who were with him, and in one day one hundred and thirty men
of the Comendador's enemies were baptised and became his firm friends
and allies. We have in another place noted that chickens had greatly
increased in the country, owing to the care of our compatriots. Each
native who had received baptism presented the priest with a cock or
a hen, but not with a capon, because they have not yet learned to
castrate the chickens and make capons of them. They also brought
salted fish and cakes made of fresh flour. Six of the neophytes
accompanied the priests when they returned to the coasts, carrying
these presents, which procured the Spaniards a splendid Easter. They
had left Darien only two days before the Sunday of St. Lazarus, and
Easter overtook them when they were doubling the last promontory of
Cuba. In response to the petition of the Comendador they left with him
a Spaniard, who volunteered for the purpose of teaching the cacique's
subjects and their neighbours the Angelic Salutation, their idea being
that the more words of the prayer to the Virgin they knew, the better
disposed she would be to them.

Enciso agreed, after which he resumed his course to Hispaniola, which
was not far distant. From thence he betook himself to the King, who
was then in residence at Valladolid, where I talked intimately with
him. Enciso seriously influenced the King against the adventurer Vasco
Nuñez, and secured his condemnation. I have wished, Most Holy Father,
to furnish you these particulars concerning the religion of the
natives. They reach me not only from Enciso, but from a number of
other most trustworthy personages. I have done this, that Your
Beatitude might be convinced of the docility of this race, and the
ease with which they might be instructed in the ceremonies of our
religion. Their conversion is not to be accomplished from one day to
another, and it is only little by little that they will accept the
evangelical law, of which you are the dispenser. Thus shall you see
the number of the sheep composing your flock increased each day. But
let us return to the story of the envoys from Darien.


The journey from Darien to Hispaniola may be made in eight days
or even less, if the wind is astern. Because of storms the envoys
occupied a hundred days in crossing. They stopped some days at
Hispaniola where they transacted their business with the Admiral and
the other officials, after which they embarked on the merchant vessels
which lay ready freighted and plied between Hispaniola and Spain. It
was not, however, till the calends of May of the year after their
departure from Darien, that they arrived at the capital. Quevedo and
Colmenares, the two envoys of the colonists of Darien, arrived there
on the fifteenth of May, of the year 1513. Coming as they did from
the Antipodes, from a country hitherto unknown and inhabited by naked
people, they were received with honour by Juan de Fonseca, to whom the
direction of colonial affairs had been entrusted. In recognition of
his fidelity to his sovereigns, other popes have successively bestowed
on him the bishoprics of Beca, afterwards Cordova, Palencia, and
Rosano; and Your Holiness has just now raised him to the bishopric
of Burgos. Being the first Almoner and Counsellor of the King's
household, Your Holiness has in addition appointed him commissary
general for the royal indulgences, and the crusade against the Moors.

Quevedo and Colmenares were presented by the Bishop of Burgos to the
Catholic King, and the news they brought pleased his Majesty and all
his courtiers, because of their extreme novelty. A look at these men
is enough to demonstrate the insalubrious climate and temperature of
Darien, for they are as yellow as though they suffered from liver
complaint, and are puffy, though they attribute their condition to the
privations they have endured. I heard about all they had done from the
captains Zamudio and Enciso; also through another bachelor of laws,
called Baëcia, who had scoured those countries; also from the ship's
captain Vincent Yañez [Pinzon], who was familiar with those coasts;
from Alonzo Nuñez and from a number of subalterns who had sailed along
those coasts, under the command of these captains. Not one of those
who came to Court failed to afford me the pleasure, whether verbally
or in writing, of reporting to me everything he had learned. True
it is that I have been neglectful of many of those reports, which
deserved to be kept, and have only preserved such as would, in my
opinion, please the lovers of history. Amidst such a mass of material
I am obliged necessarily to omit something in order that my narrative
may not be too diffuse.

Let us now relate the events provoked by the arrival of the envoys.
Before Quevedo and Colmenares arrived, the news had already been
spread of the dramatic end of the first leaders, Hojeda, Nicuesa, and
Juan de la Cosa, that illustrious navigator who had received a royal
commission as pilot. It was known that the few surviving colonists at
Darien were in a state of complete anarchy, taking no heed to convert
the simple tribes of that region to our religion and giving no
attention to acquiring information regarding those countries. It was
therefore decided to send out a representative who would deprive the
usurpers of the power they had seized without the King's license, and
correct the first disorders. This mission was entrusted to Pedro Arias
d'Avila, a citizen of Segovia, who was called in Spain by the nickname
of _El Galan_, because of his prowess in the jousts. No sooner was
this news published at the Court than the envoys from Darien attempted
to deprive Pedro Arias of the command. There were numerous and
pressing petitions to the King to accomplish this; but the first
Almoner, the Bishop of Burgos whose business it is to stop such
intrigues, promptly spoke to the King when informed of this one, in
the following terms:

"Pedro Arias, O Most Catholic King, is a brave man, who has often
risked his life for Your Majesty, and who we know by long experience
is well adapted to command troops. He signally distinguished himself
in the wars against the Moors, where he comported himself as became
a valiant soldier and a prudent officer. In my opinion, it would
be ungracious to withdraw his appointment in response to the
representations of envious persons. Let this good man, therefore,
depart under fortunate auspices; let this devoted pupil of Your
Majesty, who has lived from infancy in the palace, depart."

The King, acting on the advice of the Bishop of Burgos, confirmed the
appointment of Pedro Arias, and even increased the powers conferred
upon him. Twelve hundred soldiers were raised by the Bishop of Burgos,
at the royal expense, to form the troop of Pedro Arias who, with the
majority of them, left the Court at Valladolid about the calends of
October, in the year 1513, for Seville, a town celebrated for its
numerous population and its wool. It was at Seville that the royal
agents were to equip the remainder of his soldiers and deliver to him
the provisions and everything necessary for such a great enterprise.
For it is there that the King has established his office charged
exclusively with colonial affairs. All the merchants, coming and
going, appear there to render account of the cargoes they have brought
from the new countries, and of the gold they export. This office is
called India House.[1]

[Note 1: _Domum Indicæ Contractationis vocant. Casa de
Contractacion_, or Casa de Indias.]

Pedro Arias found two thousand young soldiers in excess of his
number awaiting him at Seville; he likewise found a goodly number of
avaricious old men, the majority of whom asked merely to be allowed to
follow him at their own cost, without receiving the royal pay. Rather
than overcrowd his ships and to spare his supplies, he refused to take
any of the latter. Care was taken that no foreigner should mingle with
the Spaniards, without the King's permission, and for this reason I am
extremely astonished that a certain Venetian, Aloisió Cadamosto, who
has written a history of the Portuguese, should write when mentioning
the actions of the Spaniards, "We have done; we have seen; we have
been"; when, as a matter of fact, he has neither done nor seen any
more than any other Venetian. Cadamosto borrowed and plagiarised
whatever he wrote, from the first three books of my first three
Decades, that is to say, those which I addressed to the Cardinals
Ascanio and Arcimboldo, who were living at the time when the events
I described were happening. He evidently thought that my works would
never be given to the public, and it may be that he came across
them in the possession of some Venetian ambassador; for the most
illustrious Senate of that Republic sent eminent men to the Court of
the Catholic Kings, to some of whom I willingly showed my writings. I
readily consented that copies should be taken. Be that as it may, this
excellent Aloisió Cadamosto has sought to claim for himself what was
the work of another. He has related the great deeds of the Portuguese,
but whether he witnessed them, as he pretends, or has merely profited
by the labour of another, I am unable to state. _Vivat et ipse marte

Nobody, who had not been enrolled by the royal agents, as a soldier,
in the King's pay was allowed to go on board the vessels of Pedro
Arias. In addition to these regulars there were some others, including
one Francisco Cotta, a compatriot of mine, and thanks to a royal
order I obtained for him, he was allowed to go to the New World as
a volunteer with Pedro Arias. But for this he would not have been
permitted to depart. Now let the Venetian, Cadamosto, go on and write
that he has seen everything, while I, who for twenty-six years have
lived, not without credit, at the Court of the Catholic King, have
only been able by the greatest efforts to obtain authorisation for
one foreigner to sail. Some Genoese, but very few, and that at
the instance of the Admiral, son of the first discoverer of those
countries, succeeded in obtaining a like authorisation; but to no one
else was permission granted.

Pedro Arias sailed from Seville on the Guadalquivir to the sea, in the
first days of the year 1514.[2] His departure took place under evil
auspices, for such a furious storm broke over the fleet that two
vessels were shattered to pieces, and the others were obliged to
lighten themselves by throwing overboard some of their stores. The
crews which survived returned to the coast of Spain, where the King's
agents promptly came to their assistance and they were enabled again
to set forth. The pilot of the flagship appointed by the King was
Giovanni Vespucci, a Florentine, nephew of Amerigo Vespucci, who had
inherited his uncle's great ability in the art of navigation and
taking reckonings. We recently learned from Hispaniola that the
crossing had been favourable, and a merchant ship, returning from the
neighbouring islands, had encountered the fleet.

[Note 2: The expedition sailed on April 14, 1514.]

As Galeazzo Butrigario and Giovanni Accursi who, to please Your
Holiness, constantly urge me on, are sending a courier who will
deliver my ocean Nereids, however imperfect they may be, to Your
Beatitude, I shall save time by leaving out many particulars and shall
only mention what, in my opinion, is worthy to be recorded and which I
have not reported at the time it happened.

The wife of the captain Pedro Arias, by name Elizabeth Bobadilla, is
the grandniece on the father's side of the Marchioness Bobadilla de
Moia, who opened the gates of Segovia to the friends of Isabella when
the Portuguese were invading Castile, thus enabling them to hold out
and later to take the offensive against the Portuguese; and still
later to defeat them. King Henry, brother of Queen Isabella, had in
fact taken possession of the treasures of that town. During her entire
life, whether in time of war or in time of peace, the Marchioness de
Moia displayed virile resolution, and it was due to her counsels that
many great deeds were done in Castile. The wife of Pedro Arias, being
niece of this marchioness, and inspired by courage equal to that of
her aunt, spoke to her husband on his departure for those unknown
lands, where he would encounter real perils, both on sea and on land,
in the following terms:

"My dear husband, we have been united from our youth, as I think, for
the purpose of living together and never being separated. Wherever
destiny may lead you, be it on the tempestuous ocean or be it among
the hardships that await you on land, I should be your companion.
There is nothing I would more fear, nor any kind of death that might
threaten me, which would not be more supportable than for me to live
without you and separated by such an immense distance. I would rather
die and even be eaten by fish in the sea or devoured on land by
cannibals, than to consume myself in perpetual mourning and in
unceasing sorrow, awaiting--not my husband--but his letters. My
determination is not sudden nor unconsidered; nor is it a woman's
caprice that moves me to a well-weighed and merited decision. You must
choose between two alternatives. Either you will kill me or you will
grant my request. The children God has given us (there were eight of
them, four boys and four girls) will not stop me for one moment. We
will leave them their heritage and their marriage portions, sufficient
to enable them to live in conformity with their rank, and besides
these, I have no other preoccupation."

Upon hearing his wife speak such words from her virile heart, the
husband knew that nothing could shake her resolution, and therefore,
dared not refuse her request. She followed him as Ipsicratea, with
flowing hair, followed Mithridates, for she loved her living husband
as did the Carian Artemisia of Halicarnassia her dead Mausolus. We
have learned that this Elizabeth Bobadilla brought up, as the proverb
says, on soft feathers, has braved the dangers of the ocean with as
much courage as her husband or the sailors who pass their lives at

The following are some other particulars I have noted. In my First
Decade I spoke, and not without some praise, of Vincent Yañez Pinzon,
who had accompanied the Genoese, Christopher Columbus, the future
Admiral, on his first voyage. Later, he undertook, by himself and at
his own cost, another voyage, with but one ship for which he received
the royal license. During the year preceding the departure of Hojeda
and Nicuesa, Vincent Yañez undertook a third exploration, sailing from
Hispaniola. His course was from east to west, following the southern
shore of Cuba, which, owing to its length, many people at that time
thought a continent; and he sailed round it. Many other persons have
since reported that they have done the same.

Having demonstrated by this expedition that Cuba was indeed an island,
Vincent Yañez sailed farther, and discovered other lands west of Cuba,
but such as the Admiral had first touched. He kept to the left and,
following the continental coasts towards the east, he crossed the
gulfs of Veragua, Uraba, and Cachibacoa, touching finally with his
ship at the region which, in our First Decade, we have explained was
called Paria and Boca de la Sierpe. He sailed into an immense gulf
noted by Columbus as remarkable for its fresh waters, the abundance of
fish, and the many islands it contained. It is situated about thirty
miles east of Curiana. Midway in this course Cumana and Manacapana
are passed; and it is at these places, not at Curiana, where the most
pearls are found.

The kings of that country, who are called _chiaconus_ just as they are
called caciques in Hispaniola, sent messengers when they learned of
the Spaniards' arrival, to ascertain who the unknown men might be,
what they brought with them, and what they wanted. They launched
upon the sea their barques dug out of tree trunks which are the same
mentioned in our First Decade, and are called canoes in Hispaniola;
but here the natives called them _chicos_. What most astonished them
was to see the swelling sails of the ship, for they did not understand
the use of sails; and if they did they would only require small ones,
because of the narrowness of their barques. They approached the ship
in great numbers and even ventured to shoot some arrows at the men who
defended the ship's sides as though they were walls, hoping either to
wound or frighten them.

The Spaniards fired their cannon, and the natives, alarmed by the
detonation and by the slaughter that resulted from the well-aimed
shot, took to flight in various directions. Pursuing them with a
ship's boat, the Spaniards killed some and took many prisoners. The
noise of the cannon and the report of what had happened so alarmed the
caciques, who feared their villages would be robbed and their people
massacred if the Spaniards landed to take vengeance, that they sent
messengers to Vincent Yañez. As far as could be understood from their
signs and gestures they sought peace; but our compatriots report
that they did not understand a word of their language. The better to
demonstrate their desire for peace, the natives made them beautiful
presents, consisting of a quantity of gold, equal in weight to three
thousand of the kind of coins we have said are called castellanos, and
in vulgar language pesos; also a wooden tub full of precious incense,
weighing about twenty-six hundred pounds, at eight ounces to the
pound. This showed the country was rich in incense, for the natives of
Paria have no intercourse with those of Saba; and in fact they know
nothing of any place outside their own country. In addition to the
gold and the incense, they presented peacocks such as are not found
elsewhere, for they differ largely from ours in the variety of their
colours. The hens were alive, for they kept them to propagate the
species, but the cocks, which they brought in great numbers, were
dressed to be immediately eaten. They likewise offered cotton stuffs,
similar to tapestries, for household decoration, very tastefully made
in various colours. These stuffs were fringed with golden bells such
as are called in Italy _sonaglios_ and in Spain _cascabeles_. Of
talking parrots, they gave as many of different colours as were
wanted; these parrots are as common in Paria as pigeons or sparrows
are amongst us.

All the natives wear cotton clothing, the men being covered to the
knees, and the women to the calves of their legs. In time of war the
men wear a carefully quilted coat of cotton, doubled in the Turkish
style. I have used the word cotton for what I have otherwise called in
the vulgar Italian _bombasio_. I have also used other analogous terms
which certain Latinists, dwelling along the Adriatic or Ligurian
coasts, may attribute to my negligence or ignorance, when my writings
reach them,[3] as we have seen in the case of my First Decade which
was printed without my authorisation. I would have them know that I
am a Lombard, not a Latin; that I was born at Milan,[4] a long way
distant from Latium, and have lived my life still farther away, for I
reside in Spain. Let those purists of Venice or Genoa who accuse me of
improprieties of composition because I have written as one speaks
in Spain of brigantines and caravels, of admiral and adelantado,
understand, once for all, that I am not ignorant that he who holds
these offices is called by the Hellenists _Archithalassus_ and by the
Latinists sometimes _Navarchus_ and sometimes _Pontarchus_. Despite
all such similar comments, and provided I may nourish the hope of not
displeasing Your Holiness, I shall confine myself to narrating these
great events with simplicity. Leaving these things aside, let us now
return to the caciques of Paria.

[Note 3: Peter Martyr was not ignorant of the jibes his Latin
evoked amongst the purists in Rome. The cultivated tympanum of
Cardinal Bembo and other Ciceronians at the Pontifical Court received
painful shocks from certain corrupt expressions in his decades. His
repeated explanations of his deflections from classical nomenclature
are, however, reasonable.]

[Note 4: Meaning, of course, in the duchy, not the city. The
passage reads: _Neutro cruciare statuo ad summum; voloque sciant, me
insubrem esse non Latium; et longe a Latio natum, quia Mediolani; et
longissime vitam egisse, quia in Hispania_.]

Vincent Yañez discovered that the chieftains were elected for only one
year. Their followers obeyed them in making war or in signing peace.
Their villages are built around this immense gulf. Five of these
caciques offered gifts to the Spaniards, and I have wished to record
their names in memory of their hospitality: Chiaconus Chianaocho,
Chiaconus Fintiguanos, Chiaconus Chamailaba, Chiaconus Polomus,
Chiaconus Pot.

This gulf is called Bahia de la Natividad, because Columbus discovered
it on the Feast of Christmas; but he only sailed by, without
penetrating into the interior. The Spaniards simply call it Bahia.
Having established friendship with these chieftains, Vincent Yañez
continued his voyage[5] and found to the east countries which had been
abandoned because of frequent inundations, and a vast extent of marsh
lands. He persisted in his undertaking until he reached the extreme
point of the continent[6]; if indeed we may call points, those corners
or promontories which terminate a coast. This one seems to reach out
towards the Atlas, and therefore opposite that part of Africa called
by the Portuguese the Cape of Good Hope, a promontory in the ocean
formed by the prolongation of the Atlas Mountains. The Cape of Good
Hope, however, is situated within thirty-four degrees of the antarctic
pole, whereas this point in the New World lies within the seventh
degree. I think it must be part of that continent which cosmographers
have named the Great Atlantis, but without giving further details as
to its situation or character.

[Note 5: Comparing this account of Pinzon's voyage with that
of Vespucci, it is seen that Peter Martyr describes the itinerary
reversed, making Pinzon finish where Vespucci makes him begin.]

[Note 6: Cape Sant Augustin.]

And since we have now reached the shores of the first land encountered
beyond the Pillars of Hercules, perhaps it may not be out of place to
say something of the motives which might have provoked war between the
Catholic King, Ferdinand of Spain, and Emanuel of Portugal, had they
not been father-in-law and son-in-law. Note that I say _Portugal_ and
not _Lusitania_, contrary to the opinion of many persons who certainly
are not ignorant, but are not less certainly, sadly mistaken. For if
it be Lusitania which eminent geographers locate between the Douro and
the Guadiana, in what part of Lusitania does Portugal lie?


During the reign of King John of Portugal, uncle and predecessor of
King Emanuel, now happily reigning, a serious divergence existed
between the Portuguese and the Spaniards concerning their discoveries.
The King of Portugal claimed that he alone possessed navigation rights
on the ocean, because the Portuguese had been the first since ancient
times to put out on the great sea. The Castilians asserted that
everything existing on the earth since God created the world is the
common property of mankind, and that it is, therefore, permissible to
take possession of any country not already inhabited by Christians.
The discussion on this point was very involved, and it was finally
decided to leave it to the arbitration of the Sovereign Pontiff.
Castile was at that time governed by the great Queen Isabella, with
whom was associated her husband, for Castile was her marriage portion.
The Queen being cousin to King John of Portugal, an agreement
between them was speedily reached. By mutual consent of both parties
concerned, and by virtue of a bull, the Sovereign Pontiff, Alexander
VI., under whose pontificate this discussion took place, traced from
north to south a line lying one hundred leagues outside the parallel
of the Cape Verde Islands.[1] The extreme point of the continent lies
on this side of that line and is called Cape San Augustin, and by
the terms of the Bull the Castilians are forbidden to land on that
extremity of the continent.

[Note 1: The famous bull marking the respective spheres of
discovery and colonisation for Spain and Portugal was given on May
4, 1493. Its terms were revised by the two states whose claims were
finally embodied in the conventions of Tordesillas, June 7, 1494, and
Setubal, September 4, 1494.]

After collecting the gold given him by the natives of the fertile
province of Chamba, Vincent Yañez returned from Cape San Augustin and
directed his course towards a lofty mountain chain which he saw on the
southern horizon. He had taken some prisoners in the Gulf of Paria,
which, beyond contest, lies in the Spanish dominions. He conducted
them to Hispaniola, where he delivered them to the young Admiral to be
instructed in our language, and afterwards to serve as interpreters in
the exploration of unknown countries. Pinzon betook himself to court
and petitioned the King for authorisation to assume the title of
Governor of the island of San Juan, which is only twenty-five leagues
distant from Hispaniola. He based his claim upon the fact that he had
been the first to discover the existence of gold in that island, which
we have said in our First Decade was called by the Indians Borrichena.

The governor of Borrichena, a Portuguese named Christopher, son of
Count Camigua, was massacred by the cannibals of the neighbouring
islands, together with all the Christians except the bishop and his
servants; the latter only succeeded in escaping, at the cost of
abandoning the sacred vessels. In response to the King's solicitation,
your Apostolic Holiness had just divided this country into five new
bishoprics. The Franciscan friar, Garcias de Padilla, was made Bishop
of Santo Domingo, the capital of Hispaniola; the doctor Pedro Suarez
Deza was appointed to Concepcion, and for the island of San Juan, the
licenciate Alonzo Mauso was named; both these latter being observants
of the congregation of St. Peter. The fourth bishop was the friar
Bernardo de Mesa, a noble Toledan, and an orator of the Dominican
Order, who was appointed for Cuba. The fifth received the holy oils
from Your Holiness for the colony of Darien; he is a Franciscan, a
brilliant orator, and is called Juan Cabedo.

An expedition will, for the following reason, shortly set out to
punish the Caribs. After the first massacre, they returned several
months later from the neighbouring island of Santa Cruz, murdered
and ate a cacique who was our ally, with all his family, afterwards
completely destroying his town. They alleged that this cacique had
violated the laws of hospitality in his relations with several Caribs,
who were boat-builders. These men had been left at San Juan to build
more canoes, since that island grows lofty trees, better adapted for
canoe building than are those of the island of Santa Cruz. The Caribs
being still on the island, the Spaniards who arrived from Hispaniola
encountered them by accident. When the interpreters had made known
this recent crime, the Spaniards wished to exact satisfaction, but the
cannibals, drawing their bows and aiming their sharpened arrows at
them, gave it to be understood with menacing glances that they had
better keep quiet unless they wished to provoke a disaster. Fearing
the poisoned arrows and being likewise unprepared for fighting, our
men made amicable signs. When they asked the Caribs why they had
destroyed the village and murdered the cacique and his family, the
latter replied that they had done so to avenge the murder of several
workmen. They had collected the bones of the victims with the
intention of carrying them to the widows and children of the workmen,
so that the latter might understand that the murder of their husbands
and fathers had not been left unavenged. They exhibited a pile of
bones to the Spaniards who, shocked by this crime but forced to
conceal their real sentiments, remained silent, not daring to reprove
the Caribs, Similar stories which I suppress rather than offend
the ears of Your Holiness by such abominable narratives, are daily

But we have strayed, O Most Holy Father, rather far from the regions
of Veragua and Uraba, which are the chief themes of our discourse.
Shall we not first treat of the immensity and the depth of the rivers
of Uraba, and of the products of the countries washed by their waters?
Shall I say nothing about the extent of the continent from east to
west, or of its breadth from north to south, nor of anything that
is reported concerning those regions as yet unknown? Let us return,
therefore, Most Holy Father, to Uraba, and begin by stating the new
names which have been given to those provinces, since they have come
under the authority of Christians.


The Spaniards decided to name Veragua, _Castilla del Oro_, and Uraba,
_Nueva Andalusia_. As Hispaniola had been chosen to be the capital of
all the colonies of the islands, so likewise were the vast regions of
Paria divided into two parts, Uraba and Veragua, where two colonies
were established to serve as refuges and places of rest and
reprovisionment for all those who traversed those countries.

Everything the Spaniards sowed or planted in Uraba grew marvellously
well. Is this not worthy, Most Holy Father, of the highest admiration?
Every kind of seed, graftings, sugar-canes, and slips of trees and
plants, without speaking of the chickens and quadrupeds I have
mentioned, were brought from Europe. O admirable fertility! The
cucumbers and other similar vegetables sown were ready for picking in
less than twenty days. Cabbages, beets, lettuces, salads, and other
garden stuff were ripe within ten days; pumpkins and melons were
picked twenty-eight days after the seeds were sown. The slips and
sprouts, and such of our trees as we plant out in nurseries or
trenches, as well as the graftings of trees similar to those in Spain,
bore fruit as quickly as in Hispaniola.

The inhabitants of Darien have different kinds of fruit trees, whose
varied taste and good quality answer to their needs. I would like to
describe the more remarkable ones.

The _guaiana_ produces a lemon-like fruit similar to those commonly
called limes. Their flavour is sharp, but they are pleasant to the
taste. Nut-bearing pines are common, as are likewise various sorts of
palms bearing dates larger than ours but too sour to be eaten. The
cabbage palm grows everywhere, spontaneously, and is used both for
food and making brooms. There is a tree called _guaranana_, larger
than orange trees, and bearing a fruit about the size of a lemon; and
there is another closely resembling the chestnut. The fruit of
the latter is larger than a fig, and is pleasant to the taste and
wholesome. The _mamei_ bears a fruit about the size of an orange which
is as succulent as the best melon. The _guaranala_ bears a smaller
fruit than the foregoing, but of an aromatic scent and exquisite
taste. The _hovos_ bears a fruit resembling in its form and flavour
our plum, though it is somewhat larger, and appears really to be the
mirobolan, which grows so abundantly in Hispaniola that the pigs are
fed on its fruit. When it is ripe it is in vain the swineherd seeks to
keep his pigs, for they evade him and rush to the forest where these
trees grow; and it is for this reason that wild swine are so numerous
in Hispaniola. It is also claimed that the pork of Hispaniola has a
superior taste and is more wholesome than ours; and, indeed, nobody is
ignorant of the fact that diversity of foodstuffs produces firmer and
more savoury meat.

The most invincible King Ferdinand relates that he has eaten another
fruit brought from those countries. It is like a pine-nut in form and
colour, covered with scales, and firmer than a melon. Its flavour
excels all other fruits.[1] This fruit, which the King prefers to all
others, does not grow upon a tree but upon a plant, similar to an
artichoke or an acanthus. I myself have not tasted it, for it was the
only one which had arrived unspoiled, the others having rotted during
the long voyage. Spaniards who have eaten them fresh plucked where
they grow, speak with the highest appreciation of their delicate
flavour. There are certain roots which the natives call potatoes and
which grow spontaneously.[2] The first time I saw them, I took them
for Milanese turnips or huge mushrooms. No matter how they are cooked,
whether roasted or boiled, they are equal to any delicacy and indeed
to any food. Their skin is tougher than mushrooms or turnips, and is
earth-coloured, while the inside is quite white. The natives sow and
cultivate them in gardens as they do the yucca, which I have mentioned
in my First Decade; and they also eat them raw. When raw they taste
like green chestnuts, but are a little sweeter.

[Note 1: The pineapple.]

[Note 2: This is the first mention in literature of the potato.]

Having discoursed of trees, vegetables, and fruits, let us now come to
living creatures. Besides the lions and tigers[3] and other animals
which we already know, or which have been described by illustrious
writers, the native forests of these countries harbour many monsters.
One animal in particular has Nature created in prodigious form. It is
as large as a bull, and has a trunk like an elephant; and yet it is
not an elephant. Its hide is like a bull's, and yet it is not a bull.
Its hoofs resemble those of a horse, but it is not a horse. It has
ears like an elephant's, though smaller and drooping, yet they are
larger than those of any other animal.[4] There is also an animal
which lives in the trees, feeds upon fruits, and carries its young in
a pouch in the belly; no writer as far as I know has seen it, but I
have already sufficiently described it in the Decade which has already
reached Your Holiness before your elevation, as it was then stolen
from me to be printed.

[Note 3: It is hardly necessary to say that there were no lions or
tigers in America. Jaguars, panthers, leopards, and ocelots were the
most formidable beasts of prey found in the virgin forests of the New

[Note 4: This puzzling animal was the tapir.]

It now remains for me to speak of the rivers of Uraba. The Darien,
which is almost too narrow for the native canoes, flows into the Gulf
of Uraba, and on its banks stands a village built by the Spaniards.
Vasco Nuñez explored the extremity of the gulf and discovered a river
one league broad and of the extraordinary depth of two hundred cubits,
which flows into the gulf by several mouths, just as the Danube flows
into the Black Sea, or the Nile waters the land of Egypt. It is
called, because of its size, Rio Grande. An immense number of huge
crocodiles live in the waters of this stream, which, as we know,
is the case with the Nile; particularly I, who have ascended and
descended that river on my embassy to the Sultan.[5]

[Note 5: See _De Legatione Babylonica_.]

I hardly know, after reading the writings of many men remarkable for
their knowledge and veracity, what to think of the Nile. It is claimed
that there are really two Niles, which take their rise either in the
Mountains of the Sun or of the Moon, or in the rugged Sierras of
Ethiopia. The waters of these streams, whatever be their source,
modify the nature of the land they traverse. One of the two flows to
the north and empties into the Egyptian Sea: the other empties into
the southern ocean. What conclusion shall we draw? We are not puzzled
by the Nile of Egypt, and the southern Nile has been discovered by the
Portuguese, who, in the course of their amazing expeditions, ventured
beyond the equinoctial line into the country of the negroes, and as
far as Melinde. They affirm that it rises in the Mountains of the
Moon, and that it is another Nile, since crocodiles are seen there,
and crocodiles only live in streams belonging to the basin of the
Nile. The Portuguese have named that river Senegal. It traverses the
country of the negroes, and the country on its northern banks is
admirable, while that on its southern banks is sandy and arid. From
time to time crocodiles are seen.

What shall we now say about this third, or in fact, this fourth Nile?
These animals, covered with scales as hard as the tortoise-shell the
Spaniards under Columbus found in that river, and which, as we have
said, caused them to name that stream Los Lagartos, are certainly
crocodiles. Shall we declare that these Niles rise in the Mountains of
the Moon? Certainly not, Most Holy Father. Other waters than those
of the Nile may produce crocodiles, and our recent explorers have
supplied proof of this fact, for the rivers do not flow from the
Mountains of the Moon, nor can they have the same source as the
Egyptian Nile, or the Nile of Negricia or of Melinde; for they flow
down from the mountains we have mentioned, rising between the north
and south sea, and which separate the two oceans by a very small

The swamps of Darien and the lands which are covered with water after
the inundations, are full of pheasants, peacocks of sober colours,
and many other birds different from ours. They are good to eat, and
delight the ear of the listener with various songs; but the Spaniards
are indifferent bird-hunters, and are neglectful in catching them.
Innumerable varieties of parrots, all belonging to the same species,
chatter in this forest; some of them are as large as capons, while
others are no bigger than a sparrow. I have already enlarged
sufficiently on the subject of parrots in my First Decade. When
Columbus first explored these immense countries he brought back a
large number of every kind, and everybody was able to inspect them.
Others are still daily brought here.

There is still, Most Holy Father, a subject which is quite worthy to
figure in history, but I would prefer to see it handled by a Cicero
or a Livy than by myself. It affords me such astonishment that I feel
more embarrassed in my description than a young chicken wrapped in
tow. We have said that, according to the Indians, the land separating
the north from the south sea can be traversed in six days. I am not a
little puzzled both by the number and size of the rivers described,
and by the small breadth of that stretch of land; nor do I understand
how such large rivers can possibly flow down from these mountains,
only three days' march from the sea, and empty into the north ocean.
I cannot understand it, for I presume that equally large rivers empty
into the south sea. Doubtless the rivers of Uraba are not so important
when compared with others, but the Spaniards declare that during the
lifetime of Columbus they discovered and have since sailed upon a
river the breadth of whose mouth, where it empties into the sea, is
not less than one hundred miles. This river is on the borders of
Paria, and descends with such force from the high mountains that it
overwhelms the sea even at high tide or when it is swept by violent
winds, driving back the waves before the fury and weight of its
current. The waters of the sea for a large area round about are no
longer salt but fresh, and pleasant to the taste. The Indians call
this river Maragnon.[6] Other tribes give it the names Mariatambal,
Camamoros, or Paricora. In addition to the rivers I have before
mentioned, the Darien, Rio Grande, Dobaiba, San Matteo, Veragua,
Boiogatti, Lagartos, and Gaira, there are also others which water the
country. I wonder, Most Holy Father, what must be the size of these
mountain caverns so near the seacoast, and, according to the Indians,
so narrow, and what sources they have to enable them to send forth
such torrents of water? Several explanations suggest themselves to my

[Note 6: Just which river is meant is not clear. The description
would seem to fit the Orinoco, but Maragnon is the native name for the
Amazon. This last name is given exclusively to the upper part of the
river in the Peruvian territory.]

The first is the size of the mountains. It is claimed that they are
very great and this was the opinion of Columbus, who discovered them.
He had also another theory, asserting that the terrestrial paradise
was situated on the top of the mountains visible from Paria and Boca
de la Sierpe. He ended by convincing himself that this was a fact.
If these mountains are so immense, they must contain extensive and
gigantic reservoirs.

If such be the case, how are these reservoirs supplied with water? Is
it true, as many people think, that all fresh waters flow from the
sea into the land, where they are forced by the terrible power of the
waves into subterranean passages of the earth, just as we see it pour
forth from those same channels to flow again into the ocean?

This may well be the explanation of the phenomenon, since, if the
reports of the natives be true, nowhere else will two seas, separated
by such a small extent of land, ever be found. On the one side a vast
ocean extends towards the setting sun; on the other lies an ocean
towards the rising sun; and the latter is just as large as the former,
for it is believed that it mingles with the Indian Ocean. If this
theory be true, the continent, bounded by such an extent of water,
must necessarily absorb immense quantities, and after taking it up,
must send it forth into the sea in the form of rivers. If we deny that
the continent absorbs the excess of water from the ocean, and admit
that all springs derive their supply from the rainfall which filters
drop by drop into mountain reservoirs, we do so, bowing rather to the
superior authority of those who hold this opinion, than because our
reason grasps this theory.

I share the view that the clouds are converted into water, which is
absorbed into the mountain caverns, for I have seen with my own eyes
in Spain, rain falling drop by drop incessantly into caverns from
whence brooks flowed down the mountainside, watering the olive
orchards, vineyards and gardens of all kinds. The most illustrious
Cardinal Ludovico of Aragon, who is so devotedly attached to you, and
two Italian bishops, one of Boviano, Silvio Pandono, and the other,
an Archbishop whose own name and that of his diocese I am unable to
recollect, will bear me witness. We were together at Granada when it
was captured from the Moors, and to divert ourselves we used to go to
some wooded hills, whence a murmuring rivulet flowed across the plain.
While our most illustrious Ludovico went bird-hunting with his bow
along its banks, the two bishops and I formed a plan to ascend the
hill to discover the source of the brook, for we were not very far
from the top of the mountain. Taking up our soutanes, therefore, and
following the river-bed, we found a cavern incessantly supplied by
dropping water. From this cavern, the water formed by these drops
trickled into an artificial reservoir in the rocks at the bottom where
the rivulet formed. Another such cave filled by the dew is in the
celebrated town of Valladolid, where we at present reside. It stands
in a vineyard not farther than a stadium from the walls of the town
and belongs to a lawyer, Villena, citizen of Valladolid, and very
learned in the science of law. Perhaps moisture changed into rain is
collected in little caves in the rocks and sometimes forms springs,
due to the infiltration of water in the hills; but I wonder how Nature
can produce such quantities of water from these meagre infiltrations!
In my opinion, two causes may be conceded: the first is the frequent
rains; the second, the length in this region of the winter and autumn
seasons. The countries in question are so near to the equinoctial line
that during the entire year there is no perceptible difference in
length between the days and nights; during the spring and autumn,
rains are more frequent than in a severe winter or torrid summer.
Another reason is: if the earth really is porous, and these pores emit
vapours which form clouds charged with water, it will necessarily
follow that this continent must have a greater rainfall than any other
country in the world, because it is narrow and shut in on each side by
two immense neighbouring oceans. However it may be, Most Holy Father,
I am quite obliged to believe the reports of the numerous persons who
have visited the country, and I must record these particulars even
though they appear for the most part contrary to truth. For this
reason I have desired to expose my arguments, fearing that learned
men, rejoicing to find occasion for attacking the writings of another,
may judge me so wanting in judgment as to believe all the tales people
tell me.

I have described the great estuary formed by the junction of this
immense volume of fresh water with the sea, and I believe this to be
the result of the union of a number of rivers coming together in the
form of a lake, rather than a river, as is claimed. I also think the
fresh water rushes down from very high mountains, and pours into the
salt waters beneath, with such violence that the sea-water cannot
penetrate unto the bay. Doubtless there will be found people who will
express astonishment at my imagination, and throw ridicule on me,
saying, "Why does he repeat this, as though it were a miracle? Has not
Italy the Po, which illustrious writers have named the king of rivers?
Are not other regions watered by great rivers, such as the Don, the
Ganges, the Danube, whose waters drive back those of the sea with such
force that fresh, potable water is still found forty miles from their
mouths?" I would answer their objections as follows: in the Alpine
chain rising behind the Po and separating Italy from France, Germany,
and Austria, water never fails. The long valley of the Po also
receives the waters of the Ticino and many other streams flowing
towards the Adriatic; and the same may be said of the other rivers
mentioned. But these rivers of the new continent, as the caciques
informed the Spaniards, flow through greater and shorter channels into
the ocean. Some people believe that the continent is very narrow in
this part, and that it spreads; out considerably in other places.
Another argument, which I hold to be a poor one, I must nevertheless
mention. This continent is narrow, but its length extends for an
immense distance from the east to the west. Just as is recounted of
the river Alpheus of Elide, which disappears in channels under the sea
to reappear in Sicily at the fountain of Arethusa, so there may exist
in the mountains of this continent a vast network of subterranean
passages in such wise that the waters produced by the rains we have
mentioned may be collected. Those who explain phenomena by common
sense, and those who enjoy criticism may choose the theory which best
pleases them. For the moment there is nothing more I can add on this
subject. When we shall learn more, we shall faithfully relate it. We
have already dwelt sufficiently upon the width of this continent, and
it is now time to consider its form and length.


This continent extends into the sea exactly like Italy, but is
dissimilar in that it is not the shape of a human leg. Moreover, why
shall we compare a pigmy with a giant? That part of the continent
beginning at this eastern point lying towards Atlas, which the
Spaniards have explored, is at least eight times larger than Italy;
and its western coast has not yet been discovered. Your Holiness may
wish to know upon what my estimate of _eight times_ is based. From the
outset when I resolved to obey your commands and to write a report
of these events, in Latin (though myself no Latin) I have adopted
precautions to avoid stating anything which was not fully

I addressed myself to the Bishop of Burgos whom I have already
mentioned, and to whom all navigators report. Seated in his room, we
examined numerous reports of those expeditions, and we have likewise
studied the terrestrial globe on which the discoveries are indicated,
and also many parchments, called by the explorers navigators' charts.
One of these maps had been drawn by the Portuguese, and it is claimed
that Amerigo Vespucci of Florence assisted in its composition. He is
very skilled in this art, and has himself gone many degrees beyond the
equinoctial line, sailing in the Service and at the expense of the
Portuguese. According to this chart, we found the continent was larger
than the caciques of Uraba told our compatriots, when guiding them
over the mountains. Columbus, during his lifetime, began another map
while exploring these regions, and his brother, Bartholomew Columbus,
Adelantado of Hispaniola, who has also sailed along these coasts,
supported this opinion by his own judgment. From thenceforth,
every Spaniard who thought he understood the science of computing
measurements, has drawn his own map; the most valuable of these maps
are those made by the famous Juan de la Cosa, companion of Hojeda, who
was murdered, together with the ship's captain, Andre Moranes, by the
natives of Caramaira, near the port of Carthagena, as we have already
recounted. Both these men not only possessed great experience of these
regions, where they were as well acquainted with every bit of the
coast as with the rooms of their own houses, but they were likewise
reputed to be experts in naval cosmography. When all these maps were
spread out before us, and upon each a scale was marked in the Spanish
fashion, not in miles but in leagues, we set to work to measure the
coasts with a compass, in the following order:

From the cape or point[1] we have mentioned as being on this side of
the Portuguese line drawn one hundred leagues west of the Cape Verde
Islands, in the countries thus far visited on both sides of that line,
we measured three hundred leagues to the mouth of the Maragnon River.
From the mouth of this river to Boca de la Sierpe the distance on some
maps is a little less than seven hundred leagues, for all these charts
do not agree, since the Spaniards sometimes reckoned by marine leagues
of four thousand paces, and sometimes by land leagues of three
thousand paces. From Boca de la Sierpe to Cape Cuchibacoa, near which
the coast line bends to the left, we measured about three thousand
leagues. From the promontory of Cuchibacoa to the region of Caramaira,
where the port of Carthagena is, the distance is about one hundred and
seventy leagues. From Caramaira to the island of La Fuerte it is fifty
leagues, after which, to the entrance of the Gulf of Uraba where the
village of Santa Maria Antigua actually stands, it is only thirty-five
leagues. Between Darien in Uraba, and Veragua where Nicuesa would have
settled, but that the gods decided otherwise, we measured the distance
to be one hundred and thirty leagues. From Veragua to the river named
by Columbus, San Matteo, on whose banks Nicuesa wasted so much time
and suffered such hardships after losing his caravel, the map showed
only one hundred and forty leagues, but many of the men who have
returned from there say the distance is really considerably greater.
Many rivers are indicated just there: for example, the Aburema, before
which lies the island called the Scudo di Cateba--whose cacique was
nicknamed Burnt Face: the Zobrabaö--the Urida, and the Doraba with
rich gold deposits. Many remarkable ports are also marked on that
coast; among them Cesabaron and Hiebra, as they are called by the
natives. Adding these figures together, Most Holy Father, you will
reach a total of fifteen hundred and twenty-five leagues or five
thousand seven hundred miles from the cape to the Gulf of San Matteo,
which is also called the Gulf of Perdidos.

[Note 1: The most eastern cape on the Brazil coast is Cape San

But this is not all. A certain Asturian of Oviedo, Juan de Solis,[2]
but who declares that he was born at Nebrissa, the country of
illustrious savants, asserts that he sailed westward from San Matteo a
distance of many leagues. As the coast, bends towards the north, it
is consequently difficult to give exact figures, but three hundred
leagues may be approximately estimated. From the foregoing you may
perceive, Most Holy Father, the length of the continent over which
your authority is destined to extend. Some day we shall doubtless
clearly understand its width.

[Note 2: This pilot and cosmographer has already been mentioned.
In 1515 he was commissioned to explore the coast south of Brazil,
but, as has been related, he was unfortunately killed during that
expedition. To just what voyage Peter Martyr here refers is not quite

Let us now discourse a little concerning the variety of polar degrees.
Although this continent extends from east to west, it is nevertheless
so crooked, with its point bending so much to the south, that it
loses sight of the polar star, and extends seven degrees beyond the
equinoctial line. This extremity of the continent is, as we have
already said, within the limits of Portuguese jurisdiction. In
returning from that extremity towards Paria, the north star again
becomes visible; the farther the country extends towards the west,
the nearer does it approach the pole. The Spaniards made different
calculations up to the time when they were established at Darien,
where they founded their principal colony; for they abandoned Veragua,
where the north star stood eight degrees above the horizon. Beyond
Veragua the coast bends in a northerly direction, to a point opposite
the Pillars of Hercules; that is, if we accept for our measures
certain lands discovered by the Spaniards more than three hundred and
twenty-five leagues from the northern coast of Hispaniola. Amongst
these countries is an island called by us Boinca, and by others
Aganeo; it is celebrated for a spring whose waters restore youth
to old men.[3] Let not Your Holiness believe this to be a hasty or
foolish opinion, for the story has been most seriously told to all the
court, and made such an impression that the entire populace, and even
people superior by birth and influence, accepted it as a proven fact.
If you ask me my opinion on this matter, I will answer that I do not
believe any such power exists in creative nature, for I think that God
reserves to himself this prerogative, as well as that of reading
the hearts of men, or of granting wealth to those who have nothing;
unless, that is to say, we are prepared to believe the Colchian fable
concerning the renewal of Æson and the researches of the sibyl of

[Note 3: The reference is to the fabulous waters of eternal
youth in quest of which Juan Ponce de Leon set forth. The country is

We have now discoursed sufficiently of the length and the breadth of
this continent, of its rugged mountains and watercourses, as well of
its different regions.

It seems to me I should not omit mention of the misfortunes that have
overtaken some of our compatriots. When I was a child, my whole
being quivered and I was stirred with pity in thinking of Virgil's
Alchimenides who, abandoned by Ulysses in the land of the Cyclops,
sustained life during the period between the departure of Ulysses
and the arrival of Æneas, upon berries and seeds. The Spaniards of
Nicuesa's colony of Veragua would certainly have esteemed berries and
seeds delicious eating. Is it necessary to quote as an extraordinary
fact that an ass's head was bought for a high price? Why do many such
things, similar to those endured during a siege, matter? When Nicuesa
decided to abandon this sterile and desolate country of Veragua, he
landed at Porto Bello and on the coast which has since been named Cape
Marmor, hoping to there find a more fertile soil. But such a terrible
famine overtook his companions that they did not shrink from eating
the carcasses of mangy dogs they had brought with them for hunting and
as watch-dogs. These dogs were of great use to them in fighting with
the Indians. They even ate the dead bodies of massacred Indians, for
in that country there are no fruit-trees nor birds as in Darien, which
explains why it is destitute of inhabitants. Some of them combined to
buy an emaciated, starving dog, paying its owner a number of golden
pesos or castellanos. They skinned the dog and ate him, throwing his
mangy hide and head into the neighbouring bushes. On the following day
a Spanish foot-soldier finding the skin, which was already swarming
with worms and half putrid, carried it away with him. He cleaned off
the worms and, after cooking the skin in, a pot, he ate it. A number
of his companions came with their bowls to share the soup made from
that skin, each offering a castellano of gold for a spoonful of soup.
A Castilian who caught two toads cooked them, and a man who was ill
bought them for food, paying two shirts of linen and spun gold which
were worth quite six castellanos. One day the dead body of an Indian
who had been killed by the Spaniards was found on the plain, and
although it was already putrefying, they secretly cut it into bits
which they afterwards boiled or roasted, assuaging their hunger with
that meat as though it were peacock. During several days a Spaniard,
who had left camp at night and lost his way amongst the swamps, ate
such vegetation as is found in marshes. He finally succeeded in
rejoining his companions, crawling along the ground and half dead.
Such are the sufferings which these wretched colonists of Veragua

At the beginning there were over seven hundred, and when they joined
the colonists at Darien hardly more than forty remained. Few had
perished in fighting with the Indians; it was hunger that had
exhausted and killed them. With their blood they paved the way for
those who follow, and settle in those new countries. Compared with
these people, the Spaniards under Nicuesa's leadership would seem to
be bidden to nuptial festivities, for they set out by roads, which are
both new and secure, towards unexplored countries where they will find
inhabitants and harvests awaiting them. We are still ignorant where
the captain Pedro Arias, commanding the royal fleet,[4] has landed; if
I learn that it will afford Your Holiness pleasure, I shall faithfully
report the continuation of events.

[Note 4: This Decade was written towards the end of the year 1514,
but although Pedro Arias had landed on June 29th, no news of his
movements had yet reached Spain. The slowness and uncertainty of
communication must be constantly borne in mind by readers.]

From the Court of the Catholic King, the eve of the nones of December,
1514, Anno Domini.

The Third Decade



I had closed the doors of the New World, Most Holy Father, for it
seemed to me I had wandered enough in those regions, when I received
fresh letters which constrained me to reopen those doors and resume my
pen. I have already related that after expelling the Captain Nicuesa
and the judge Enciso from the colony of Darien, Vasco Nuñez, with the
connivance of his companions, usurped the government. We have received
letters[1] both from him and from several of his companions,
written in military style, and informing us that he had crossed the
mountain-chain dividing our ocean from the hitherto unknown south sea.
No letter from Capri concerning Sejanus was ever written in
prouder language. I shall only report the events related in that
correspondence which are worthy of mention.

[Note 1: Two of Balboa's letters are published by Navarrete (tom,
iii.,) and may also be read in a French translation made by Gaffarel
and published in his work, _Vasco Nuñez de Balboa_.]

Not only is Vasco Nuñez reconciled to the Catholic King, who was
formerly vexed with him, but he now enjoys the highest favour. For the
King has loaded him and the majority of his men with privileges and
honours, and has rewarded their daring exploits.[2] May Your Holiness
lend an attentive ear to us and listen with serene brow and joyful
heart to our narration, for it is not a few hundreds or legions that
the Spanish nation has conquered and brought into subjection to your
sacred throne but, thanks to their various achievements and the
thousand dangers to which they expose themselves, myriads who have
been subdued.

[Note 2: Balboa had been named Adelantado of the South Sea, and of
the Panama and Coiba regions. Pedro Arias was also enjoined to counsel
with him concerning all measures of importance.]

Vasco Nuñez ill endured inaction, for his is an ardent nature,
impatient of repose, and perhaps he feared that another might rob him
of the honour of the discovery, for it is believed that he had learned
of the appointment given to Pedro Arias.[3] It may well be that to
these two motives was added fear, knowing the King was vexed with his
conduct in the past. At all events he formed the plan to undertake,
with a handful of men, the conquest of the country for whose
subjection the son of the cacique of Comogra declared not less than
a thousand soldiers to be necessary. He summoned around him some
veterans of Darien and the majority of those who had come from
Hispaniola in the hope of finding gold, thus forming a small troop
of a hundred and ninety men, with whom he set out on the calends of
September of the past year, 1513.

[Note 3: This was the case; his friend Zamudio had notified Balboa
of the appointment of Pedro Arias.]

Desiring to accomplish as much of the journey as possible by sea,
he embarked on a brigantine and ten native barques dug out of tree
trunks, and first landed in the country of his ally Careca, cacique
of Coiba. Leaving his ships, he implored the divine blessing upon his
undertaking and marched directly towards the mountains. He traversed
the country subject to the cacique Poncha, who fled, as he had done
on other occasions. Acting on the advice of the guides furnished by
Careca, Vasco sent messengers to Poncha, promising his friendship and
protection against his enemies, and other advantages. The cacique,
won by these promises and amiabilities and by those of the people of
Careca, joined the Spaniards, and with great alacrity concluded an
alliance with them. Vasco entreated him to have no further fears.
They shook hands and embraced and exchanged numerous presents, Poncha
giving about one hundred and ten pesos of gold valued at a castellano
each; this was not a large amount, but he had been robbed the
preceding year, as we have above related.

Not to be outdone, Vasco made him a present of some glass beads,
strung in the form of necklaces and bracelets; also some mirrors,
copper bells, and similar European trifles. The natives cherish these
things highly, for whatever comes from abroad is everywhere most
prized. Vasco pleased them still further by presenting them with some
iron hatchets for cutting down trees. There is no instrument the
natives appreciate so much, for they have no iron, nor any other
metals than gold; and they have great difficulty in cutting wood for
the construction of their houses or their canoes without iron. They do
all their carpenter work with tools of sharp stone, which they find in
the rivers.

Thenceforth Poncha became his ally, and Vasco Nuñez, having no further
fear of danger from behind, led his men towards the mountain. Poncha
had supplied him with guides and bearers who went on ahead and opened
the trail. They passed through inaccessible defiles inhabited by
ferocious beasts, and they climbed steep mountains.

Communication amongst the natives is infrequent, for naked men who
have no money have very few wants. Whatever trading they do is with
their neighbours, and they exchange gold for ornaments or useful
articles. It follows, therefore, as practically no communication
exists, there are no roads. Their scouts are familiar with hidden
trails, which they use to make ambuscades or night forays or to
massacre and enslave their neighbours. Thanks to Poncha's men and the
labours of the bearers, Vasco scaled rugged mountains, crossed several
large rivers, either by means of improvised bridges or by throwing
beams from one bank to another, and always succeeded in keeping his
men in health. Rather than become wearisome and incur the reproach of
prolixity, I make no mention of some of the trials and fatigues they
endured, but I judge that I should not omit to report what took place
between them and the caciques whom they encountered on their march.

Before reaching the summit of the mountain-chain, the Spaniards
traversed the province of Quarequa, of which the ruler, who bears the
same name, came to meet them; as is customary in that country, he was
armed with bows and arrows, and heavy, two-handed swords of wood.
They also carry sticks with burnt points, which they throw with great
skill. Quarequa's reception was haughty and hostile, his disposition
being to oppose the advance of such a numerous army. He asked where
the Spaniards were going and what they wanted, and in reply to the
interpreter's answer, he responded: "Let them retrace their steps,
if they do not wish to be killed to the last man." He stepped out in
front of his men, dressed, as were all his chiefs, while the rest of
his people were naked. He attacked the Spaniards who did not yield;
nor was the battle prolonged, for their musket-fire convinced the
natives that they commanded the thunder and lightning. Unable to face
the arrows of our archers, they turned and fled, and the Spaniards cut
off the arm of one, the leg or hip of another, and from some their
heads at one stroke, like butchers cutting up beef and mutton for
market. Six hundred, including the cacique, were thus slain like brute

Vasco discovered that the village of Quarequa was stained by the
foulest vice. The king's brother and a number of other courtiers were
dressed as women, and according to the accounts of the neighbours
shared the same passion. Vasco ordered forty of them to be torn to
pieces by dogs. The Spaniards commonly used their dogs in fighting
against these naked people, and the dogs threw themselves upon them as
though they were wild boars or timid deer. The Spaniards found these
animals as ready to share their dangers as did the people of Colophon
or Castabara, who trained cohorts of dogs for war; for the dogs were
always in the lead and never shirked a fight.

When the natives learned how severely Vasco had treated those
shameless men, they pressed about him as though he were Hercules, and
spitting upon those whom they suspected to be guilty of this vice,
they begged him to exterminate them, for the contagion was confined to
the courtiers and had not yet spread to the people. Raising their eyes
and their hands to heaven, they gave it to be understood that God held
this sin in horror, punishing it by sending lightning and thunder, and
frequent inundations which destroyed the crops. It was like wise the
cause of famine and sickness.

The natives worship no other god than the sun, who is the master and
alone worthy of honour. Nevertheless, they accepted instruction and
they will rapidly adopt our religion when zealous teachers come to
instruct them. Their language contains nothing rough or difficult to
understand, and all the words of their vocabulary may be translated
and written in Latin letters, as we have already said was the case in
Hispaniola. They are a warlike race, and have always been troublesome
neighbours. The country is neither rich in gold mines, nor does it
possess a fertile soil, being mountainous and arid. Because of its
precipitous mountains the temperature is cold, and the chiefs wear
clothes, but the bulk of the people are content to live in a state of
nature. The Spaniards found negro slaves in this province.[4] They
only live in a region one day's march from Quarequa, and they are
fierce and cruel. It is thought that negro pirates of Ethiopia
established themselves after the wreck of their ships in these
mountains. The natives of Quarequa carry on incessant war with these
negroes. Massacre or slavery is the alternate fortune of the two

[Note 4: This mysterious fact has been asserted by too many
authors to be refused credence. The author's explanation of the
existence of these Africans in America is possibly the correct one.]

Leaving some of his companions who had fallen ill from the incessant
fatigue and hardships to which they were not inured, at Quarequa,
Vasco, led by native guides, marched towards the summit of the

[Note 5: On September 26, 1513; the men who accompanied him
numbered sixty-six.]

From the village of Poncha to the spot where the southern ocean
is visible is a six days' ordinary march, but he only covered the
distance in twenty-five days, after many adventures and great
privations. On the seventh day of the calends of October, a Quarequa
guide showed him a peak from the summit of which the southern ocean is
visible. Vasco looked longingly at it. He commanded a halt, and went
alone to scale the peak, being the first to reach its top. Kneeling
upon the ground, he raised his hands to heaven and saluted the south
sea; according to his account, he gave thanks to God and to all the
saints for having reserved this glory for him, an ordinary man, devoid
alike of experience and authority. Concluding his prayers in military
fashion, he waved his hand to some of his companions, and showed them
the object of their desires. Kneeling again, he prayed the Heavenly
Mediator, and especially the Virgin Mother of God, to favour his
expedition and to allow him to explore the region that stretched below
him. All his companions, shouting for joy, did likewise. Prouder than
Hannibal showing Italy and the Alps to his soldiers, Vasco Nuñez
promised great riches to his men. "Behold the much-desired ocean!
Behold! all ye men, who have shared such efforts, behold the country
of which the son of Comogre and other natives told us such wonders!"
As a symbol of possession he built a heap of stones in the form of an
altar, and that posterity might not accuse them of falsehood, they
inscribed the name of the King of Castile here and there on the tree
trunks on both slopes of that summit, erecting several heaps of

[Note 6: In conformity with Spanish usage, a notary, Andrés
Valderrabano, drew up a statement witnessing the discovery, which was
signed, first by Balboa, next by the priest, Andres de Vera, and by
all the others, finishing with the notary himself.]

Finally the Spaniards arrived at the residence of a cacique called
Chiapes. This chief, fully armed and accompanied by a multitude of his
people, advanced menacingly, determined not only to block their way
but to prevent them crossing his frontier. Although the Christians
were few they closed up their ranks and marched towards the enemy,
discharging their guns and unleashing a pack of hounds against
Chiapes. The sound of the cannon reverberated amongst the mountains,
and the smoke from the powder seemed to dart forth flames; and when
the Indians smelt the sulphur which the wind blew towards them,
they fled in a panic, throwing themselves on the ground in terror,
convinced that lightning had struck them. While lying on the ground or
wildly scattering, the Spaniards approached them with closed ranks and
in good order. In the pursuit they killed some and took the greater
number prisoners. It was their original intention to treat those
Indians kindly and to explore their country in an amicable manner.
Vasco took possession of the house of Chiapes, and seized most of
those who had been captured while attempting to escape. He sent
several of them to invite their cacique to return; they were told to
promise him peace, friendship, and kind treatment, but if he did not
come, it would mean his ruin and the destruction of his people and

In order to convince Chiapes of his sincerity, Vasco Nuñez sent with
his messengers some of the natives of Quarequa, who were serving him
as guides. These latter spoke to him in their own name and that of
their cacique, and Chiapes, allowing himself to be persuaded by their
arguments and the entreaties of his own subjects, confided in the
promise made to him. Leaving his hiding-place, he returned to the
Spaniards, where a friendly agreement was made, hand-clasps and mutual
vows exchanged, the alliance being confirmed by reciprocal presents.
Vasco received four hundred pesos of wrought gold from Chiapes. We
have remarked that a peso was equal to rather more than thirty ducats.
The cacique received a number of articles of European manufacture, and
the greatest mutual satisfaction prevailed. A halt of several days was
decided upon, to await the arrival of the Spaniards who had been left

Dismissing the people of Quarequa with some gifts, the Spaniards,
under the guidance of the people of Chiapes and accompanied by the
cacique himself, made the descent from the mountain-ridge to the
shores of the much-desired ocean in four days. Great was their joy;
and in the presence of the natives they took possession, in the name
of the King of Castile, of all that sea and the countries bordering on

Vasco left some of his men with Chiapes, that he might be freer to
explore the country. He borrowed from the cacique nine of those
barques dug out of single tree trunks, which the natives call
_culches_; and accompanied by eighty of his own men and guided by
Chiapes, he sailed on a large river which led him to the territory of
another cacique called Coquera. This chief, like the others, wished at
first to resist and drive out the Spaniards. His attempt was vain,
and he was conquered and put to flight. Acting upon the counsel of
Chiapes, Coquera returned, for the envoys sent by the latter spoke to
him thus: "These strangers are invincible. If you treat them kindly,
they are amiable, but if you resist them, they turn hard and cruel.
If you become their friend, they promise assistance, protection, and
peace, as you may see from our own case and that of the neighbouring
caciques; but if you refuse their friendship, then prepare for ruin
and death."

Convinced by these representations, Coquera gave the Spaniards six
hundred and fifty pesos of wrought gold, receiving the usual presents
in exchange. It was the same treatment that had been extended to

After concluding peace with Coquera, Vasco returned to the country of
Chiapes. He reviewed his soldiers, took some rest, and then resolved
to visit a large gulf in the neighbourhood. According to the report
of the natives, the length of this gulf, from the place where it
penetrates into the country to its most distant shores, is sixty
miles. It is dotted with islands and reefs, and Vasco named it San
Miguel. Taking the nine barques he had borrowed from Chiapes, in which
he had already crossed the river, he embarked with eighty of his
companions, all at that time in good health. Chiapes did his best to
discourage this enterprise, counselling Vasco on no account to risk
himself in the gulf at that period of the year, as during three months
it is so tempestuous that navigation becomes impossible. He himself
had seen many culches swept away by the raging waves. Vasco Nuñez,
unwilling to incur delay, affirmed that God and all the heavenly host
favoured his enterprise, and that he was labouring for God, and to
propagate the Christian religion, and to discover treasures to
serve as the sinews of war against the enemies of the Faith. After
pronouncing a brilliant discourse, he persuaded his companions to
embark in the canoes of Chiapes. The latter, wishing to remove the
last doubt from the mind of Vasco Nuñez, declared he was ready to
accompany him anywhere, and that he would act as his guide, for he
would not permit the Spaniards to leave his territory under other
escort than his own.

Hardly had the Spaniards reached the open sea in their canoes than
they were overtaken by such a violent tempest that they knew not
whither to steer, nor where to find refuge. Trembling and frightened,
they looked at one another, while Chiapes and the Indians were even
more alarmed, for they knew the dangers of such navigation and had
often witnessed wrecks. They survived the peril and, after fastening
their canoes to rocks along the shore, they took refuge on a
neighbouring island. But during the night, the tide rose and covered
nearly the whole of it. At high tide the south sea rises to such an
extent that many immense rocks which rise above low water are then
covered by the waves. In the north sea, however, according to the
unanimous testimony of those who inhabit its banks, the tide recedes
hardly a cubit from the shore. The inhabitants of Hispaniola and the
neighbouring islands confirm this fact.

When the coast was left dry, the Spaniards returned to their culches,
but were dumfounded to find all of them damaged and filled with sand.
Though dug out of tree trunks some were broken and split open, the
cables that had held them having been snapped. To repair them they
used moss, bark, some very tough marine plants and grasses. Looking
like shipwrecked men and almost dead with hunger (for the storm had
swept away almost all their stores), they set out to return. The
natives say that at all times of the year the incoming and the
outgoing tides fill the islands of the gulf with a frightful roaring
sound; but that this principally happens during the three months
indicated by Chiapes, and which correspond to October, November, and
December. It was just within the month of October and, according to
the cacique, it was under that and the two following moons that the
tempest prevailed.

After devoting some days to rest, Vasco Nuñez crossed the territory
of another unimportant cacique and entered the country of a second,
called Tumaco, whose authority extended along the gulf coast. Tumaco,
following the example of his colleagues, took up arms; but his
resistance was equally vain. Conquered and put to flight, all of his
subjects who resisted were massacred. The others were spared, for the
Spaniards preferred to have peaceful and amicable relations with those

Tumaco was wanted, and the envoys of Chiapes urged him to come back
without fear, but neither promises nor threats moved him. Having
inspired him with fears for his own life, extermination for his
family, and ruin for his town, if he held out, the cacique decided to
send his son to the Spaniards. After presenting this young man with
a robe and other similar gifts, Vasco sent him back, begging him to
inform his father of the resources and bravery of the strangers.

Tumaco was touched by the kindness shown to his son, and three days
later he appeared; he brought no present at first, but in obedience to
his orders, his attendants gave six hundred and fourteen pesos of gold
and two hundred and forty selected pearls and a quantity of smaller
ones. These pearls excited the unending admiration of the Spaniards,
though they are not of the finest quality, because the natives cook
the shells before extracting them, in order to do so more easily, and
that the flesh of the oyster may be more palatable. This viand is very
much esteemed and is reserved for the caciques, who prize it more
than they do the pearls themselves; at least this is the report of a
certain Biscayan, Arbolazzo, one of Vasco Nuñez's companions, who was
afterwards sent to our sovereign with pearl oysters. One must believe

[Note 7: Arbolazzo's mission was successful in completely
appeasing King Ferdinand's vexation and obtaining from him Balboa's
nomination as Adelantado, and other privileges and favours for the
participators in the discoveries.]

Observing that the Spaniards attached great value to pearls, Tumaco
ordered some of his men to prepare to dive for some. They obeyed, and
four days later came back bringing four pounds of pearls. This caused
the liveliest satisfaction, and everybody embraced with effusion.
Balboa was delighted with the presents he had received, and Tumaco was
satisfied to have cemented the alliance. The mouths of the Spaniards
fairly watered with satisfaction as they talked about this great

The cacique Chiapes, who had accompanied them and was present during
these events, was also well satisfied, chiefly because it was under
his leadership the Spaniards had undertaken such a profitable
enterprise, and also because he had been enabled to show his more
powerful neighbour, who perhaps was not agreeable to him, what valiant
friends he possessed. He thought the Spanish alliance would be very
useful to him, for all these naked savages cherish an inveterate
hatred of each other and are consumed with ambition.

Vasco Nuñez flattered himself that he had learned many secrets
concerning the wealth of the country from Tumaco, but declared that he
would, for the moment, keep them exclusively to himself, for they were
the cacique's gift to him. According to the report of the Spaniards,
Tumaco and Chiapes said there was an island much larger than the
others in the gulf, governed by a single cacique. Whenever the sea was
calm, this cacique attacked their territories with an imposing fleet
of canoes, and carried off everything he found. This island is about
twenty miles distant from the shore, and from the hilltops of the
continent its coasts were visible. It is said that shells as big as
fans are found on its shores, from which pearls, sometimes the size of
a bean or an olive, are taken. Cleopatra would have been proud to own
such. Although this island is near to the shore, it extends beyond the
mouth of the gulf, out into the open sea. Vasco was glad to hear these
particulars, and perceived the profit he might derive. In order to
attach the two caciques more closely to his interest and to convert
them into allies, he denounced the chieftain of the island, with
direful threats. He pledged himself to land there and to conquer,
exterminate, and massacre the cacique. To give effect to his words,
he ordered the canoes to be prepared, but both Chiapes and Tumaco
amicably urged him to postpone this enterprise until the return of
fair weather, as no canoe could ride the sea at that season of the

This was in November when storms and hurricanes prevail. The coasts
of the island are inhospitable, and among the channels separating
different islands is heard the horrible roaring of the waves battling
with one another. The rivers overflow their beds, and, rushing down
the mountain slopes, tear up the rocks and huge trees, and pour into
the sea with unparallelled uproar. Raging winds from the south and
southwest prevailing at that season, accompanied by perpetual thunder
and lightning, sweep over and destroy the houses. Whenever the weather
was clear, the nights were cold, but during the day the heat was
insufferable. Nor is this astonishing, for this region is near the
equator, and the pole star is no longer visible. In that country the
icy temperature during the night is due to the moon and other planets,
while the sun and its satellites cause the heat during the day.
Such were not the opinions of the ancients, who imagined that
the equinoctial circle was devoid of inhabitants because of the
perpendicular rays of the sun. Some few authors, whose theories the
Portuguese have shown by experience to be correct, dissented from this
view. Each year the Portuguese arrive at the antartic antipodes, and
carry on commerce with those people. I say the antipodes; yet I am not
ignorant that there are learned men, most illustrious for their genius
and their science, amongst whom there are some saints who deny the
existence of the antipodes. No one man can know everything. The
Portuguese have gone beyond the fifty-fifth degree of the other Pole,
where, in sailing about the point, they could see throughout the
heavenly vault certain nebulae, similar to the Milky Way, in which
rays of light shone. They say there is no notable fixed star near that
Pole, similar to the one in our hemisphere, vulgarly believed to be
the Pole, and which is called in Italy _tramontane_, in Spain the
North Star. From the world's axis in the centre of the sign of the
Scales, the sun, when it sets for us rises for them, and when it is
springtime there, it is autumn with us, and summer there when we have
winter. But enough of this digression, and let us resume our subject.


Influenced by the advice of the caciques Chiapes and Tumaco, Vasco
Nuñez decided to postpone his visit to the island until spring or
summer, at which time Chiapes offered to accompany him. Meanwhile he
understood the caciques had nets near the coasts where they fished for
pearl oysters. The caciques have skilful divers trained from infancy
to this profession, and who dive for these oysters as though in
fish-ponds, but they only do so when the sea is calm and the water
low, which renders diving easier. The larger the shells the more
deeply are they embedded. The oysters of ordinary size, like daughters
of the others, lie nearer the surface, while the little ones, like
grandchildren, are still nearer. It is necessary to dive three and
sometimes even four times a man's height to find the more deeply
embedded shells; but to get the daughters and grandchildren it is
not required to go deeper than the waist and sometimes even less. It
sometimes happens, after heavy storms when the sea calms down, that
a multitude of these shells, torn by the waves from their beds, are
deposited on the shore, but this sort only contains very small pearls.
The meat of these bivalves, like that of our oysters, is good to eat,
and it is even claimed their flavour is more delicate. I suspect that
hunger, which is the best sauce for every dish, has induced this
opinion among our compatriots.

Are pearls, as Aristotle states, the heart of the shells, or are they
rather, as Pliny says, the product of the intestines and really the
excrement of these animals? Do oysters pass their whole life attached
to the same rock, or do they move through the sea in numbers, under
the leadership of older ones? Does one shell produce one or many
pearls? Is there but one growth, or is such growth ever repeated? Must
one have a rake to detach them, or are they gathered without trouble?
Are pearls in a soft or hard state when they enter the shell? These
are problems which we have not yet solved, but I hope that I may some
day enlighten my doubts on this subject, for our compatriots possess
means for studying these questions. As soon as I am informed of the
landing of the captain, Pedro Arias, I shall write and ask him to make
a serious inquiry concerning these points, and to send me the precise
results he obtains. I know he will do this, for he is my friend. Is it
not really absurd to keep silence about a subject interesting to men
and women both in ancient times and in our own, and which inflames
everybody with such immoderate desires? Spain may henceforth satisfy
the desires of a Cleopatra or an Æsop for pearls. No one will
henceforth rage against or envy the riches of Stoïdes[1] or Ceylon, of
the Indian Ocean or the Red Sea. But let us come back to our subject.

[Note 1: Pliny mentions this island, off the coast of Macedonia,
as having pearl fisheries.]

Vasco determined to have that part of the sea where Chiapes obtained
his pearls explored by swimmers. Although the weather was bad and a
storm threatened, the cacique, to please him, ordered thirty of his
divers to repair to the oyster beds. Vasco set six of his companions
to watch the divers, but without leaving the shore or exposing
themselves to risk from the storm. The men set out together for
the shore, which was not more than ten miles from the residence of
Chiapes. Although the divers did not venture to the bottom of the
ocean, because of the danger from the storm, nevertheless they
succeeded in gathering, in a few days, six loads of pearls,[2]
including the shells gathered near the surface or strewn by the
violence of the storm on the sands. They fed greedily on the flesh of
these animals. The pearls found were not larger than a lentil or a
little pea, but they had a beautiful orient, for they had been
taken out while the animal was still alive. Not to be accused of
exaggeration concerning the size of these shells, the Spaniards sent
the King some remarkable specimens, from which the meat had been
removed, at the same time as the pearls. It does not seem possible
that shells of such size should be found anywhere. These shells and
the gold which has been found pretty much everywhere are proof that
Nature conceals vast treasures in this country, though thus far the
exploration covered, so to speak, the little finger of a pigmy, since
all that is known is the neighbourhood of Uraba. What it will be when
the whole hand of the giant is known and the Spaniards shall have
penetrated into all the profound and mysterious parts of the
continent, no man can say.

[Note 2: _Sex attulerunt sarcinas brevi dierum numero_. The word
_sarcinas_ as an expression of measure is vague.]

Happy and satisfied with these discoveries, Vasco decided to return by
another route to his companions at Darien, who were gold-mining about
ten miles from their village. He dismissed Chiapes, charging him to
come no farther and to take good care of himself. They embraced one
another, and it was with difficulty that the cacique restrained his
tears while they shook hands at parting. Vasco left his sick there
and, guided by the sailors of Chiapes, he set out with his able-bodied
men. The little company crossed a great river which was not fordable,
and entered the territory of a chief called Taocha who was very
pleased upon learning of their arrival, for he already knew the
customs of the Spaniards. He came out to meet them, receiving them
with honour, and making salutations as a proof of his affection. He
presented Vasco with twenty pounds (at eight ounces to the pound) of
artistically worked gold, and two hundred selected pearls; the latter
were not, however, very brilliant. They shook hands and Taocha,
accepting the gifts offered him, begged that the people of Chiapes
should be dismissed, as he himself wished to have the pleasure of
escorting his guests.

When the Spaniards left his village he not only furnished them guides,
but also slaves who were prisoners of war and who took the place of
beasts of burden in carrying on their shoulders provisions for the
march. They had to pass through lonely forests and over steep and
rocky mountains, where ferocious lions and tigers abounded. Taocha
placed his favourite son in command of the slaves, whom he loaded with
salt fish and bread made of yucca and maize; he commanded his son
never to leave the Spaniards and not to come back without permission
from Vasco. Led by this young man, they entered the territory of a
chief called Pacra, who was an atrocious tyrant. Whether frightened
because conscious of his crimes, or whether he felt himself powerless,
Pacra fled.

During this month of November the Spaniards suffered greatly from the
heat and from the torments of thirst, for very little water is found
in that mountainous region. They would all have perished, had not two
of them who went to search for water, carrying the pumpkins Taocha's
people brought with them, found a little spring which the natives had
pointed out, hidden in a remote corner of the forest. None of the
latter had ventured to stray from the main body, for they were afraid
of being attacked by wild beasts. They recounted that on these heights
and in the neighbourhood of this spring, ferocious beasts had carried
off people in the night, and even from their cabins. They were,
therefore, careful to put bolts and all kinds of bars on their doors.
It may perhaps not be out of place, before going farther, to relate a
particular instance. It is said that last year a tiger ravaged Darien,
doing as much damage as did formerly the raging boar of Calydon or
the fierce Nemæan lion. During six entire months, not a night passed
without a victim, whether a mare, a colt, a dog, or a pig being taken,
even in the street of the town. The flocks and the animals might
be sacrificed but it was not safe for people to quit their houses,
especially when it sought food for its whelps; for when they were
hungry the monster attacked people it found rather than animals.
Anxiety led to the invention of a means of avenging so much bloodshed.
The path it took when leaving its lair at night in search of prey, was
carefully studied. The natives cut the road, digging a ditch which
they covered over with boughs and earth. The tiger, which was a male,
was incautious, and, falling into the ditch, remained there, stuck
on the sharp points fixed in the bottom. Its roarings filled the
neighbourhood and the mountains echoed with piercing howls. They
killed the monster stuck on the points, by throwing great stones from
the banks of the ditch. With one blow of its paw it broke the javelins
thrown at it into a thousand fragments, and even when dead and no
longer breathing, it filled all who beheld him with terror. What would
have happened had it been free and unhurt! A civilian called Juan de
Ledesma, a friend of Vasco, and his companion in danger, says that he
ate the flesh of that tiger; he told me that it was not inferior to
beef. When one asks these people who have never seen tigers why they
affirm that this beast was a tiger, they reply that it was because it
was spotted, ferocious, sly, and offered other characteristics which
others have attributed to tigers. Nevertheless the majority of
Spaniards affirm that they have seen spotted leopards and panthers.

After the male tiger was killed, they followed its track through the
mountains, and discovered the cave where it lived with its family. The
female was absent; but two little ones, still unweaned, were lying
there, and these the Spaniards carried away; but changing their minds
afterwards and wishing to carry them to Spain when they were a little
larger, they put carefully riveted chains round their necks and took
them back to the cave, in order that their mother might nurse them.
Some days later they went back and found the chains still there, but
the cave was empty. It is thought the mother, in a fury, tore the
little ones to pieces, and took them away, in order that nobody should
have them; for they could not possibly have got loose from their
chains alive. The dead tiger's skin was stuffed with dried herbs and
straw, and sent to Hispaniola to be presented to the Admiral and other
officials, from whom the colonists of those two new countries obtain
laws and assistance.

This story was told me by those who had suffered from the ravages of
that tiger,[3] and had touched its skin; let us accept what they give

[Note 3: As has been observed, there were no tigers in America.
The animal described may have been a jaguar.]

Let us now return to Pacra, from whom we have somewhat wandered. After
having entered the boios (that is to say, the house) abandoned by the
cacique, Vasco sought to induce him to return by means of envoys who
made known the conditions already proposed to other caciques; but for
a long time Pacra refused. Vasco then tried threats, and the cacique
finally decided to come in, accompanied by three others. Vasco writes
that he was deformed, and so dirty and hideous that nothing more
abominable could be imagined. Nature confined herself to giving him a
human form, but he is a brute beast, savage and monstrous. His morals
were on a par with his bearing and physiognomy. He had carried off
the daughters of four neighbouring caciques to satisfy his brutal
passions. The neighbouring chiefs, regarding Vasco as a supreme judge
or a Hercules, a redresser of injuries, complained of the debaucheries
and the crimes of Pacra, begging that he should be punished by death.
Vasco had this filthy beast and the other three caciques, who obeyed
him and shared his passions, torn to pieces by dogs of war, and the
fragments of their bodies were afterwards burnt. Astonishing things
are said about these dogs the Spaniards take into battle. These
animals throw themselves with fury on the armed natives pointed out to
them, as if they were timid deer or fierce boars; and it often happens
that there is no need of swords or javelins to rout the enemy. A
command is given to these dogs who form the vanguard, and the
natives at the mere sight of these formidable Molossians[4] and the
unaccustomed sound of their baying, break their ranks and flee as
though horrified and stupefied by some unheard-of prodigy. This does
not occur in fighting against the natives of Caramaira or the Caribs,
who are braver and understand more about war. They shoot their
poisoned arrows with the rapidity of lightning, and kill the dogs in
great numbers; but the natives of these mountains do not use arrows
in warfare; they only use machanes,[5] that is to say, large wooden
swords, and lances with burnt points.

[Note 4: _Torvo molossorum adspectu_. Referring to the dogs of
Epirus, called by the Romans, Molossi.]

[Note 5: The _maquahuitle of the Mexicans; a flat wooden club, in
which blades of _iztli_, or flint, were set on the opposite edges; it
was their most formidable weapon in hand-to-hand encounters.]

While Pacra was still alive they asked him where his people obtained
gold, but neither by persuasion nor threats nor tortures could they
drag this secret from him. When asked how he had procured what he had
possessed,--for he had offered a present of thirty pounds of gold out
of his treasury--he answered that those of his subjects who, either
in the time of his parents or in his own, had mined that gold in the
mountain were dead, and that since his youth he had not troubled
to look for gold. Nothing more could be obtained from him on this

The rigorous treatment of Pacra secured Vasco the friendship of the
neighbouring caciques, and when he sent for the sick, whom he had left
behind to join him, a cacique, called Bononiama, whose country the
route directly traversed, received them kindly and gave them twenty
pounds of wrought gold and an abundance of provisions. Nor would he
leave them until he had accompanied them from his residence to that of
Pacra, as though they had been confided to his fidelity. He spoke thus
to Vasco: "Here are your companions in arms, Most Illustrious Warrior;
just as they came to me, so do I bring them to you. It would have
pleased me had they been in better health, but you and your companions
are the servants of him who strikes the guilty with thunder and
lightning, and who of his bounty, thanks to the kindly climate, gives
us yucca and maize." While speaking these words he raised his eyes to
Heaven and gave it to be understood that he referred to the sun. "In
destroying our proud and violent enemies you have given peace to us
and to all our people. You overcome monsters. We believe that you and
your equally brave companions have been sent from Heaven, and under
the protection of your machanes we may henceforth live without fear.
Our gratitude to him who brings us these blessings and happiness
shall be eternal." Such, or something like this, was the speech of
Bononiama, as translated by the interpreters. Vasco thanked him for
having escorted our men and received them kindly, and sent him away
loaded with precious gifts.

Vasco writes that the cacique Bononiama has disclosed to him many
secrets concerning the wealth of the region, which he reserves for
later, as he does not wish to speak of them in his letter. What he
means by such exaggeration and reticence I do not understand. He seems
to promise a great deal, and I think his promises warrant hope of
great riches; moreover, the Spaniards have never entered a native
house without finding either cuirasses and breast ornaments of gold,
or necklaces and bracelets of the same metal. If anyone wishing to
collect iron should march with a troop of determined men through Italy
or Spain, what iron articles would they find in the houses? In one a
cooking stove, in another a boiler, elsewhere a tripod standing
before the fire, and spits for cooking. He would everywhere find iron
utensils, and could procure a large quantity of the metal. From which
he would conclude that iron abounded in the country. Now the natives
of the New World set no more value on gold than we do on iron ore. All
these particulars, Most Holy Father, have been furnished me either by
the letters of Vasco Nuñez and his companions in arms, or by verbal
report. Their search for gold mines has produced no serious result,
for out of ninety men he took with him to Darien, he has never had
more than seventy or at most eighty under his immediate orders; the
others having been left behind in the dwellings of the caciques.

Those who succumbed most easily to sickness were the men just arrived
from Hispaniola; they could not put up with such hardships, nor
content their stomachs, accustomed to better food, with the native
bread, wild herbs without salt, and river water that was not always
even wholesome. The veterans of Darien were more inured to all these
ills, and better able to resist extreme hunger. Thus Vasco gaily
boasts that he has kept a longer and more rigorous Lent than Your
Holiness, following the decrees of your predecessors, for it has
lasted uninterruptedly for four years; during which time he and his
men have lived upon the products of the earth, the fruits of trees,
and even of them there was not always enough. Rarely did they eat fish
and still more rarely meat, and their wretchedness reached such a
point that they were obliged to eat sick dogs, nauseous toads, and
other similar food, esteeming themselves fortunate when they found
even such. I have already described all these miseries. I call
"veterans of Darien" the first comers who established themselves in
this country under the leadership of Nicuesa and Hojeda, of whom there
remains but a small number. But let this now suffice, and let us bring
back Vasco and the veterans from their expedition across the great


During the thirty days he stopped in Pacra's village, Vasco strove to
conciliate the natives and to provide for the wants of his companions.
From there, guided by subjects of Taocha, he marched along the banks
of the Comogra River, which gives its name both to the country and to
the cacique. The mountains thereabouts are so steep and rocky, that
nothing suitable for human food grows, save a few wild plants and
roots and fruits of trees, fit to nourish animals. Two friendly and
allied caciques inhabit this unfortunate region. Vasco hastened to
leave behind a country so little favoured by man and by Nature, and,
pressed by hunger, he first dismissed the people of Taocha, and
took as guides the two impoverished caciques, one of whom was named
Cotochus and the other Ciuriza. He marched three days among wild
forests, over unsealed mountains and through swamps, where muddy
pitfalls gave way beneath the feet and swallowed the incautious
traveller. He passed by places which beneficent Nature might
have created for man's wants, but there were no roads made; for
communication amongst natives is rare, their only object being
to murder or to enslave one another in their warlike incursions.
Otherwise each tribe keeps within its own boundaries. Upon arriving at
the territory of a chief called Buchebuea, they found the place empty
and silent, as the chief and all his people had fled into the woods.
Vasco sent messengers to call him back, notifying them not to use
threats, but, on the contrary, to promise protection. Buchebuea
replied that he had not fled because he feared harsh treatment, but
rather because he was ashamed and sorry he could not receive our
compatriots with the honour they deserved, and was unable even to
furnish them provisions. As a token of submission and friendship he
willingly sent several golden vases, and asked pardon. It was thought
this unfortunate cacique wished it to be understood that he had
been robbed and cruelly treated by some neighbouring enemy, so the
Spaniards left his territory, with mouths gaping from hunger, and
thinner than when they entered it.

During the march, some naked people appeared on the flank of the
column. They made signs from a hilltop and Vasco ordered a halt to
wait for them. Interpreters who accompanied the Spaniards asked them
what they wanted, to which they replied "Our cacique, Chiorisos,
salutes you. He knows you are brave men who redress wrongs and punish
the wicked, and though he only knows you by reputation he respects and
honours you. Nothing would have pleased him better than to have you as
his guests at his residence. He would have been proud to receive such
guests, but since he has not yet had this good fortune and you have
passed him by, he sends you as a pledge of affection these small
pieces of gold." With courteous smiles they presented to Vasco thirty
_patenas_ of pure gold, saying they would give him still more if he
would come to visit them. The Spaniards give the name _patena_ to
those balls of metal worn on the neck, and also to the sacred utensil
with which the chalice is covered when carried to the altar. Whether
in this instance plates for the table or balls are meant, I am
absolutely ignorant; I suppose, however, that they are plates, since
they weighed fourteen pounds, at eight ounces to the pound.

These natives then explained that there was in the neighbourhood a
very rich cacique, who was their enemy, and who yearly attacked them.
If the Spaniards would make war upon him, his downfall would enrich
them and would deliver friendly natives from incessant anxiety.
Nothing would be easier, they said through their interpreters, than
for you to help us, and we will act as your guides. Vasco encouraged
their hopes and sent them away satisfied. In exchange for their
presents he gave them some iron hatchets, which they prize more
than heaps of gold. For as they have no money--that source of all
evils--they do not need gold. The owner of one single hatchet feels
himself richer than Crassus.[1] These natives believe that hatchets
may serve a thousand purposes of daily life, while gold is only sought
to satisfy vain desires, without which one would be better off.
Neither do they know our refinements of taste, which demand that
sideboards shall be loaded with a variety of gold and silver vases.
These natives have neither tables, tablecloths, or napkins; the
caciques may sometimes decorate their tables with little golden vases,
but their subjects use the right hand to eat a piece of maize bread
and the left to eat a piece of grilled fish or fruit, and thus satisfy
their hunger. Very rarely they eat sugar-cane. If they have to wipe
their hands after eating a certain dish, they use, instead of napkins,
the soles of their feet, or their hips, or sometimes their testicles.
The same fashion prevails in Hispaniola. It is true that they often
dive into the rivers, and thus wash the whole of their bodies.

[Note 1: Possibly a mis-copy of Croesus.]

Loaded with gold, but suffering intensely and so hungry they were
scarcely able to travel, the Spaniards continued their march and
reached the territory of a chief called Pochorroso, where during
thirty days they stuffed themselves with maize bread, which is similar
to Milanese bread. Pochorroso had fled, but, attracted by coaxing and
presents, he returned, and gifts were exchanged. Vasco gave Pochorroso
the usual acceptable articles, and the cacique gave Vasco fifteen
pounds of melted gold and some slaves. When they were about to depart,
it transpired that it would be necessary to cross the territory of
a chief called Tumanama, the same formerly described by the son of
Comogre as the most powerful and formidable of those chiefs. Most of
Comogre's servants had been this man's slaves captured in war. As is
the case everywhere, these people gauged the power of Tumanama by
their own standard, ignorant of the fact that these caciques, if
brought face to face with our soldiers commanded by a brave and
fortunate leader, were no more to be feared than gnats attacking
an elephant. When the Spaniards came to know Tumanama they quickly
discovered that he did not rule on both sides of the mountain, nor was
he as rich in gold as the young Comogre pretended. Nevertheless they
took the trouble to conquer him. Pochorroso, being the enemy of
Tumanama, readily offered Vasco his advice.

Leaving his sick in charge of the cacique, and summoning sixty
companions, all strong and brave men, Vasco explained his purpose to
them, saying: "The cacique Tumanama has often boasted that he was
the enemy of Vasco and his companions. We are obliged to cross his
country, and it is my opinion we should attack him while he is not on
his guard." Vasco's companions approved this plan, urging him to put
it into execution and offering to follow him. They decided to make
two marches without stopping, so as to prevent Tumanama from calling
together his warriors; and this plan was carried out as soon as

It was the first watch of the night when the Spaniards and the
warriors of Pochorroso invaded Tumanama's town, taking him completely
by surprise, for he expected nothing. There were with him two men, his
favourites, and eighty women, who had been carried off from different
caciques by violence and outrage. His subjects and allied caciques
were scattered in villages of the neighbourhood, for they dwell in
houses widely separated from one another, instead of near together.
This custom is due to the frequent whirlwinds to which they are
exposed by reason of sudden changes of temperature and the influence
of the stars which conflict when the days and nights are equal in
duration. We have already said that these people live near the
equator. Their houses are built of wood, roofed and surrounded with
straw, or stalks of maize or the tough grass indigenous to the
country. There was another house in Tumanama's village, and both were
two hundred and twenty paces long and fifty broad. These houses were
constructed to shelter the soldiers when Tumanama made war.

The cacique was taken prisoner and with him his entire Sardanapalian
court. As soon as he was found, the men of Pochorroso and the
neighbouring caciques overwhelmed him with insults, for Tumanama was
no less detested by the neighbouring caciques than that Pacra whom we
have mentioned in describing the expedition to the south sea. Vasco
concealed his real intentions towards the prisoner, but though he
adopted a menacing attitude, he really intended him no harm. "You
shall pay the penalty of your crimes, tyrant," said he; "you have
often boasted before your people that if the Christians came here you
would seize them by the hair and drown them in the neighbouring river.
But it is you, miserable creature, that shall be thrown into the river
and drowned." At the same time he ordered the prisoner to be seized,
but he had given his men to understand that he pardoned the cacique.

Tumanama threw himself at the feet of Vasco and begged pardon. He
swore that he had said nothing of the kind, and that if anybody had,
it must have been his caciques when they were drunk; for none of these
chiefs understand moderation, and he accused them of using insolent

Their wines are not made from grapes, as I have already told Your
Holiness, when I began to cultivate this little field, but they are
intoxicating. Tumanama complained, weeping, that his neighbours had
invented these falsehoods to destroy him, for they were jealous of him
because he was more powerful than they. He promised in return for
his pardon a large quantity of gold, and clasping his hands upon his
breast, he said that he always both loved and feared the Spaniards,
because he had learned their machanes--that is to say, their
swords--were sharper than his and cut deeper wherever they struck.
Looking Vasco straight in the eyes, he said: "Who then, other than a
fool, would venture to raise his hand against the sword of a man like
you, who can split a man open from head to navel at one stroke, and
does not hesitate to do it? Let not yourself be persuaded, O bravest
of living men, that such speech against you has ever proceeded from my
mouth." These and many other words did he speak, feeling already the
rope of death around his neck. Vasco, affecting to be touched by these
prayers and tears, answered with calmness that he pardoned him and
gave him his liberty. Thirty pounds (at eight ounces to the pound) of
pure gold in the form of women's necklaces were at once brought from
the two houses, and three days later the caciques subject to Tumanama
sent sixty pounds more of gold, which was the amount of the fine
imposed for their temerity. When asked whence he procured this gold,
Tumanama replied that it came from very distant mines. He gave it
to be understood that it had been presented to his ancestors on the
Comogra River which flows into the south sea; but the people of
Pochorroso and his enemies said that he lied, and that his own
territory produced plenty of gold. Tumanama persisted, however, that
he knew of no gold mines in his domain. He added that it was true
enough that here and there some small grains of gold had been found,
but nobody had even troubled to pick them up, since to do so would
require tedious labour.

During this discussion Vasco was joined on the eighth day of the
calends of January and the last day of the year 1513, by the men he
had left behind with Pochorroso. The slaves whom the southern caciques
had lent them, carried their gold-mining tools.

The day of the Nativity of Our Lord was given to rest, but the
following day, the Feast of the Protomartyr St. Stephen, Vasco led
some miners to a hill near Tumanama's residence because he thought
from the colour of the earth that it contained gold. A hole a palm and
a half in size was made, and from the earth sifted a few grains of
gold, not larger than a lentil, were obtained.

Vasco had this fact recorded by a notary and witnesses, in order to
establish the authenticity of this discovery, as he called it, of a
_toman_ of gold. In the language of bankers, a _toman_ contains twelve
grains. Vasco consequently deduced, as the neighbouring caciques
alleged, that the country was rich, but he could never prevail upon
Tumanama to admit it. Some said that Tumanama was indifferent to such
unimportant fragments of gold, others claimed that he persisted in
denying the wealth of his country for fear the Spaniards, to satisfy
their desire for gold, might take possession of the whole of it. The
cacique saw only too well into the future; for the Spaniards have
decided, if the King consents, to establish new towns in his country
and that of Pochorroso; these towns will serve as refuges and
storehouses for travellers going to the South Sea, and moreover both
countries are favourable for growing all kinds of fruits and crops.

Vasco decided to leave this country, and to blaze for himself, a new
trail through a land of which the earth tints and the shells seemed
to him to indicate the presence of gold. He ordered a little digging
below the surface of the earth to be done, and found a peso, weighing
a little more than a grain. I have already said in my First Decade,
addressed to Your Holiness, that a peso was worth a castellano of
gold. Enchanted with this result, he overwhelmed Tumanama with
nattering promises to prevent the cacique from interfering with any of
the Spaniards' allies in that neighbourhood. He also besought him to
collect a quantity of gold. It is alleged that he had carried off all
the cacique's women, and had practically stripped him to check his
insolence. Tumanama also confided his son to Vasco in order that the
boy might learn our language in living with the Spaniards, and become
acquainted with our habits and be converted to our religion. It may
be that the boy's education may some day be of use to his father, and
secure him our favour.

The immense fatigues, the long watches, and the privations Vasco had
endured ended by provoking a violent fever, so that on leaving this
country he had to be carried on the shoulders of slaves. All the
others who were seriously ill, were likewise carried in hammocks,
that is to say, in cotton nets. Others, who still had some strength,
despite their weak legs, were supported under the armpits and carried
by the natives. They finally arrived in the country of our friend
Comogre, of whom I have lengthily spoken above. The old man was dead
and had been succeeded by that son whose wisdom we have praised. This
young man had been baptised, and was called Carlos. The palace of this
Comogre stands at the foot of a cultivated hill, rising in a fertile
plain that tends for a breadth of twelve leagues towards the south.
This plain is called by the natives _savana_. Beyond the limits of the
plain rise the very lofty mountains that serve as a divide between the
two oceans. Upon their slopes rises the Comogre River which, after
watering this plain, runs through a mountainous country, gathering to
itself tributaries from all the valleys and finally emptying into the
South Sea. It is distant about seventy leagues to the west of Darien.

Uttering cries of joy, Carlos hastened to meet the Spaniards,
refreshing them with food and agreeable drinks, and lavishing generous
hospitality upon them. Presents were exchanged, the cacique giving
Vasco twenty pounds of worked gold, at eight ounces to the pound,
and Vasco satisfying him with equally acceptable presents, such as
hatchets, and some carpenters' tools. He likewise gave Carlos a robe
and one of his own shirts, because of the extremity to which he was
reduced. These gifts elevated Carlos to the rank of a hero among
his neighbours. Vasco finally left Comogra and all its people after
admonishing them that, if they wished to live in peace, they must
never rebel against the rule of the Spanish King. He also urged them
to use their best endeavours to collect gold for the _Tiba_, that is
to say, the King. He added that in this way they would secure for
themselves and their descendants protection against the attacks of
their enemies, and would receive an abundance of our merchandise.

When everything had been satisfactorily arranged, Vasco continued his
march towards the country of Poncha, where he met four young men sent
from Darien to inform him that well-laden ships had just arrived from
Hispaniola; he had promised that, in returning from the South Sea, he
would march by some way through that country. Taking with him twenty
of his strongest companions he started by forced marches for Darien,
leaving behind the others who were to join him. Vasco has written that
he reached Darien the fourteenth day of the calends of February in the
year 1514, but his letter[2] is dated Darien, the fourth day of the
nones of March, as he was unable to send it sooner no ship being ready
to sail. He says that he has sent two ships to pick up the people he
left behind, and he boasts of having won a number of battles without
receiving a wound or losing one of his men in action.

[Note 2: Unfortunately neither this letter or any copy of it is
known to exist.]

There is hardly a page of this long letter which is not inscribed with
some act of thanksgiving for the great dangers and many hardships he
escaped. He never undertook anything or started on his march without
first invoking the heavenly powers, and principally the Virgin Mother
of God. Our Vasco Balboa is seen to have changed from a ferocious
Goliath into an Elias. He was an Antæus; he has been transformed into
Hercules the conqueror of monsters. From being foolhardy, he has
become obedient and entirely worthy of royal honours and favour. Such
are the events made known to us by letters from him and the colonists
of Darien, and by verbal reports of people who have returned from
those regions.

Perhaps you may desire, Most Holy Father, to know what my sentiments
are respecting these events. My opinion is a simple one. It is evident
from the military style in which Vasco and his men report their deeds
that their statements must be true. Spain need no longer plough up the
ground to the depth of the infernal regions or open great roads or
pierce mountains at the cost of labour and the risk of a thousand
dangers, in order to draw wealth from the earth. She will find riches
on the surface, in shallow diggings; she will find them in the
sun-dried banks of rivers; it will suffice to merely sift the earth.
Pearls will be gathered with little effort. Cosmographers unanimously
recognise that venerable antiquity received no such benefit from
nature, because never before did man, starting from the known world,
penetrate to those unknown regions. It is true the natives are
contented with a little or nothing, and are not hospitable; moreover,
we have more than sufficiently demonstrated that they receive
ungraciously strangers who come amongst them, and only consent to
negotiate with them, after they have been conquered. Most ferocious
are those new anthropophagi, who live on human flesh, Caribs or
cannibals as they are called. These cunning man-hunters think of
nothing else than this occupation, and all the time not given to
cultivating the fields they employ in wars and man-hunts. Licking
their lips in anticipation of their desired prey, these men lie in
wait for our compatriots, as the latter would for wild boar or deer
they sought to trap. If they feel themselves unequal to a battle, they
retreat and disappear with the speed of the wind. If an encounter
takes place on the water, men and women swim with as great a facility
as though they lived in that element and found their sustenance under
the waves.

It is not therefore astonishing that these immense tracts of country
should be abandoned and unknown, but the Christian religion, of which
you are the head, will embrace its vast extent. As I have said in
the beginning, Your Holiness will call to yourself these myriads of
people, as the hen gathers her chickens under her wings. Let us now
return to Veragua, the place discovered by Columbus, explored under
the auspices of Diego Nicuesa, and now abandoned; and may all the
other barbarous and savage provinces of this vast continent be brought
little by little into the pale of Christian civilisation and the
knowledge of the true religion.


I had resolved, Most Holy Father, to stop here but I am consumed, as
it were, with an internal fire which constrains me to continue my
report. As I have already said, Veragua was discovered by Columbus.
I should feel that I had robbed him or committed an inexpiable crime
against him were I to pass over the ills he endured, the vexations and
dangers to which he was exposed during these voyages. It was in the
year of salvation 1502 on the sixth day of the ides of May that
Columbus sailed from Cadiz with a squadron of four vessels of from
fifty to sixty tons burthen, manned by one hundred and seventy men.[1]
Five days of favourable weather brought him to the Canaries; seventeen
days' sailing brought him to the island of Domingo, the home of the
Caribs, and from thence he reached Hispaniola in five days more, so
that the entire crossing from Spain to Hispaniola occupied twenty-six
days, thanks to favourable winds and currents, which set from the east
towards the west. According to the mariners' report the distance is
twelve hundred leagues.

[Note 1: This was the fourth voyage of Columbus.]

He stopped in Hispaniola for some time, either of his own accord or
with the Viceroy's[2] assent. Pushing straight to the west, he left
the islands of Cuba and Jamaica towards his right on the north, and
discovered to the south of Jamaica an island called by its inhabitants
Guanassa.[3] This island is incredibly fertile and luxuriant. While
coasting along its shores, the Admiral met two of those barques dug
out of tree trunks of which I have spoken. They were drawn by naked
slaves with ropes round their necks. The chieftain of the island, who,
together with his wife and children, were all naked, travelled in
these barques. When the Spaniards went on shore the slaves, in
obedience to their master's orders, made them understand by haughty
gestures that they would have to obey the chief, and when they
refused, menaces and threats were employed. Their simplicity is such
that they felt neither fear nor admiration on beholding our ships and
the number and strength of our men. They seemed to think the Spaniards
would feel the same respect towards their chief as they did. Our
people perceived that they had to do with merchants returning from
another country, for they hold markets. The merchandise consisted of
bells, razors, knives, and hatchets made of a yellow and translucent
stone; they are fastened in handles of hard and polished wood. There
were also household utensils for the kitchen, and pottery of artistic
shapes, some made of wood and some made of that same clear stone; and
chiefly draperies and different articles of spun cotton in brilliant
colours. The Spaniards captured the chief, his family and everything
he possessed; but the Admiral soon afterwards ordered him to be set at
liberty and the greater part of their property restored, hoping thus
to win their friendship.

[Note 2: This direct violation of his orders was due to his wish
to trade one of his vessels, which was a slow sailer, for a quicker

[Note 3: Guanaya or Bouacia, lying off the coast of Honduras.]

Having procured some information concerning the country towards the
west, Columbus proceeded in that direction and, a little more than ten
miles farther, he discovered a vast country which the natives call
Quiriquetana, but which he called Ciamba. There he caused the Holy
Sacrifice to be celebrated upon the shore. The natives were numerous
and wore no clothing. Gentle and simple, they approached our people
fearlessly and admiringly, bringing them their own bread and fresh
water. After presenting their gifts they turned upon their heels
bowing their heads respectfully. In exchange for their presents, the
Admiral gave them some European gifts, such as strings of beads,
mirrors, needles, pins, and other objects unknown to them.

This vast region is divided into two parts, one called Taïa and the
other called Maïa.[4] The whole country is fertile, well shaded, and
enjoys delightful temperature. In fertility of soil it yields to
none, and the climate is temperate. It possesses both mountains and
extensive plains, and everywhere grass and trees grow. Spring and
autumn seem perpetual, for the trees keep their leaves during the
whole year, and bear fruit. Groves of oak and pine are numerous, and
there are seven varieties of palms of which some bear dates, while
others are without fruit. Vines loaded with ripe grapes grow
spontaneously amid the trees, but they are wild vines and there is
such an abundance of useful and appetising fruits that nobody bothers
to cultivate vineyards. The natives manufacture their _machanes_, that
is to say swords, and the darts they throw, out of a certain kind
of palm-wood. Much cotton is found in this country as well as
mirobolanes, of various kinds, such as doctors call _emblicos_[5] and
_chebules_; maize, yucca, ages, and potatoes, all grow in this country
as they do everywhere on the continent. The animals are lions, tigers,
stags, deer, and other similar beasts. The natives fatten those birds
we have mentioned, as resembling peahens in colour, size, and taste.

[Note 4: This is the first mention of the word _Maya_. The traders
whom Columbus met were doubtless Mayas, coming from some of the
great fairs or markets. For the second time, he brushed past the
civilisation of Yucatan and Mexico, leaving to later comers the glory
of their discovery.]

[Note 5: _Myrobolanos etiam diversarum specierum, emblicos puta et
chebulos medicorum appellatione_.]

The natives of both sexes are said to be tall and well proportioned.
They wear waist-cloths and bandolets of spun cotton in divers colours,
and they ornament themselves by staining their bodies with black and
red colours, extracted from the juice of certain fruits cultivated for
that purpose in their gardens, just as did the Agathyrsi. Some of them
stain the entire body, others only a part. Ordinarily they draw upon
their skin designs of flowers, roses, and intertwined nets, according
to each one's fancy. Their language bears no resemblance to that of
the neighbouring islanders. Torrential streams run in a westerly
direction. Columbus resolved to explore this country towards the
west, for he remembered Paria, Boca de la Sierpe, and other countries
already discovered to the east, believing they must be joined to the
land where he was; and in this he was not deceived.

On the thirteenth day of the calends of September the Admiral left
Quiriquetana. After sailing thirty leagues, he came to a river, in the
estuary of which he took fresh water. The coast was clear of rocks and
reefs, and everywhere there was good anchorage. He writes, however,
that the ocean current was so strong against him that in forty days'
sailing it was with the greatest difficulty he covered seventy
leagues, and then only by tacking. From time to time, when he sought
towards nightfall to forestall the danger of being wrecked in the
darkness on that unknown coast, and tried to draw near to land, he was
beaten back. He reports that within a distance of eight leagues he
discovered three rivers of clear water, upon whose banks grew canes as
thick round as a man's leg. The waters of these streams are full of
fish and immense turtles, and everywhere were to be seen multitudes of
crocodiles, drinking in the sun with huge yawning mouths. There were
plenty of other animals of which the Admiral does not give the names.
The aspect of this country presents great variety, being in some
places rocky and broken up into sharp promontories and jagged rocks,
while in others the fertility of the soil is unexcelled by that of
any known land. From one shore to another the names of the chiefs and
principal inhabitants differ; in one place they are called caciques,
as we have already said; in another _quebi_, farther on _tiba_. The
principal natives are sometimes called _sacchus_ and sometimes _jura_.
A man who has distinguished himself in conflict with an enemy and
whose face is scarred, is regarded as a hero and is called _cupra_,
The people are called _chyvis_, and a man is _home_. When they wish to
say, "That's for you, my man," the phrase is, "_Hoppa home_."

Another great river navigable for large ships was discovered, in the
mouth of which lie four small islands, thickly grown with flowers and
trees. Columbus called them Quatro Tempore. Thirteen leagues farther
on, always sailing eastwards against adverse currents, he discovered
twelve small islands; and as these produced a kind of fruit resembling
our limes, he called them Limonares. Twelve leagues farther, always
in the same direction, he discovered a large harbour extending three
leagues into the interior of the country, and into which flows an
important river. It was at this spot that Nicuesa was afterwards lost
when searching for Veragua, as we have already related; and for this
reason later explorers have named it Rio de los Perdidos. Continuing
his course against the ocean current, the Admiral discovered a number
of mountains, valleys, rivers, and harbours; the atmosphere was laden
with balmy odours.

Columbus writes that not one of his men fell ill till he reached a
place the natives call Quicuri,[6] which is a point or cape where the
port of Cariai lies. The Admiral called it Mirobolan because trees of
that name grew there spontaneously. At the port of Cariai about two
hundred natives appeared, each armed with three or four spears; but
mild-mannered and hospitable. As they did not know to what strange
race the Spaniards belonged, they prepared to receive them and asked
for a parley. Amicable signs were exchanged and they swam out to our
people, proposing to trade and enter into commercial relations. In
order to gain their confidence, the Admiral ordered some European
articles to be distributed gratuitously amongst them. These they
refused to accept, by signs, for nothing they said was intelligible.
They suspected the Spaniards of setting a trap for them in offering
these presents, and refused to accept their gifts. They left
everything that was given them on the shore.[7] Such are the courtesy
and generosity of these people of Cariai, that they would rather give
than receive.

[Note 6: Quiribiri. Columbus arrived there on September 25th.]

[Note 7: Suspicion and mistrust were mutual, for Columbus thought
the natives were practising magic when they cast perfumes before them,
as they cautiously advanced towards him; he afterwards described them
as powerful magicians.]

They sent two young girls, virgins of remarkable beauty, to our men,
and gave it to be understood that they might take them away. These
young girls, like all the other women, wore waist-cloths made of
bandelets of cotton, which is the costume of the women of Cariai. The
men on the contrary go naked. The women cut their hair, or let it grow
behind and shave the forehead; then they gather it up in bands of
white stuff and twist it round the head, just as do our girls. The
Admiral had them clothed and gave them presents, and a bonnet of red
wool stuff for their father; after which he sent them away. Later all
these things were found upon the shore, because he had refused their
presents. Two men, however, left voluntarily with Columbus, in order
to learn our language and to teach it to their own people.

The tides are not very perceptible on that coast. This was discovered
by observing the trees growing not far from the shore and on the river
banks. Everybody who has visited these regions agrees on this point.
The ebb and flow are scarcely perceptible, and only affect a part of
the shores of the continent, and likewise of all the islands. Columbus
relates that trees grow in the sea within sight of land, drooping
their branches towards the water once they have grown above the
surface. Sprouts, like graftings of vines, take root and planted in
the earth they, in their turn, become trees of the same evergreen
species. Pliny has spoken of such trees in the second book of his
natural history, but those he mentions grew in an arid soil and not in
the sea.

The same animals we have above described exist in Cariai. There is,
however, one of a totally different kind, which resembles a large
monkey, but is provided with a much larger and stronger tail. Hanging
by this tail, it swings to and fro three or four times, and then jumps
from tree to tree as though it were flying.[8] One of our archers shot
one with his arrow, and the wounded monkey dropped onto the ground
and fiercely attacked the man who had wounded it. The latter defended
himself with his sword and cut off the monkey's arm, and despite its
desperate efforts, captured it. When brought in contact with men, on
board the ship, it gradually became tame. While it was kept chained,
other hunters brought from the swamps a wild boar which they had
pursued through the forests, desiring to eat some fresh meat. The men
showed this enraged wild boar to the monkey, and both animals bristled
with fury. The monkey, beside itself with rage, sprang upon the boar,
winding its tail about him, and with the one arm its conqueror had
left him, seized the boar by the throat and strangled it. Such are the
ferocious animals and others similar, which inhabit this country.
The natives of Cariai preserve the bodies of their chiefs and their
relatives, drying them upon hurdles and then packing them in leaves;
but the common people bury their dead in the forest.

[Note 8: Possibly the _simia seniculus_.]

Leaving Cariai and sailing a distance of twenty leagues the Spaniards
discovered a gulf of such size that they thought that it must have a
circumference of twelve leagues. Four small fertile islands, separated
from one another by narrow straits, lie across the opening of this
gulf, making it a safe harbour.

We have elsewhere called the port, situated at the extreme point, by
its native name of Cerabaroa; but it is only the right coast upon
entering the gulf bears that name, the left coast being called
Aburema. Numerous and fertile islands dot the gulf, and the bottom
affords excellent anchorage. The clearness of the water makes it
easily discernible, and fish are very abundant. The country round
about is equal in fertility to the very best. The Spaniards captured
two natives who wore gold necklaces, which they called guanines. These
collars are delicately wrought in the form of eagles, lions, or other
similar animals, but it was observed that the metal was not very pure.
The two natives, brought from Cariai, explained that both the regions
of Cerabaroa and Aburema were rich in gold, and that all the gold
their countrymen required for ornaments was obtained from thence by
trading. They added that, in six villages of Cerabaroa, situated a
short distance in the interior of the country, gold was found; for
from the earliest times they had traded with those tribes. The names
of those five villages are Chirara, Puren, Chitaza, Jurech, and

All the men of the province of Cerabaroa go entirely naked, but they
paint their bodies in different ways, and they love to wear garlands
of flowers on their heads, and bands made from the claws of lions and
tigers. The women wear narrow waist-cloths of cotton.

Leaving this harbour and following along the same coast, a distance
of eighteen leagues, the Spaniards came upon a band of three hundred
naked men, upon the bank of the river they had just discovered. These
men uttered threatening shouts and, filling their mouths with water
and the herbs of the coast, spat at them. Throwing their javelins,
brandishing their lances and machanes, which we have already said were
wooden swords, they strove to repel our men from the coast. They were
painted in different fashions; some of them painted the whole body
except the face, others only a part. They gave it to be understood
that they wished neither peace nor trading relations with the
Spaniards. The Admiral ordered several cannon-shots to be fired, but
so as to kill nobody, for he always showed himself disposed to use
peaceable measures with these new people. Frightened by the noise, the
natives fell on the ground imploring peace, and in this wise trading
relations were established. In exchange for their gold and guanines
they received glass beads and other similar trifles. These natives
have drums and sea-shell trumpets, which they use to excite their
courage when going into battle.

The following rivers are found along this part of the coast: the
Acateba, the Quareba, the Zobroba, the Aiaguitin, the Wrida, the
Duribba, and the Veragua. Gold is found everywhere. Instead of cloaks,
the natives wear large leaves on their heads as a protection against
the heat or the rain.

The Admiral afterwards coasted along the shores of Ebetere and
Embigar. Two rivers, Zahoran and Cubigar, remarkable for their volume
and the quantity of fish they contain, water these coasts.

Beyond a distance of fifty leagues, gold is no longer found. Only
three leagues away stands a rock which, as we have already stated in
our description of Nicuesa's unfortunate voyage, the Spaniards called
Penon and which the natives call Vibba.

In the same neighbourhood and about two leagues distant is the bay
Columbus discovered and named Porto Bello. The country, which has
gold and is called by the natives Xaguaguara is very populous but the
inhabitants are naked. The cacique of Xaguaguara paints himself
black, and his subjects are painted red. The cacique and seven of his
principal followers wore leaves of gold in their noses, hanging down
to their lips, and in their opinion no more beautiful ornament exists.
The men cover their sexual organs with a sea-shell, and the women wear
a band of cotton stuff.

There is a fruit growing in their gardens which resembles a
pine-nut;[9]we have elsewhere said that it grows upon a plant,
resembling an artichoke, and that the fruit, which is not unworthy
of a king's table, is perishable; I have spoken elsewhere at length
concerning these. The natives call the plant bearing this fruit
_hibuero_. From time to time crocodiles are found which, when they
dive or scramble away, leave behind them an odour more delicate than
musk or castor. The natives who live along the banks of the Nile
relate the same fact concerning the female of the crocodile, whose
belly exhales the perfumes of Araby.

[Note 9: The pineapple.]

From this point the Admiral put his fleet about, and returned over
his course, for he could no longer battle against the contrary
currents.[10] Moreover, his ships were rotting from day to day, their
hulks being eaten into by the sharp points of worms engendered by the
sun from the waters of these regions situated near the equator. The
Venetians call these worms _bissa_, and quantities of them come into
life in both the ports of Alexandria, in Egypt. These worms, which are
a cubit long and sometimes more, and never thicker than your little
finger, undermine the solidity of ships which lie too long at anchor.
The Spanish sailors call this pest _broma_. It was therefore because
he feared the _bromas_ and was wearied out with struggling against the
currents that the Admiral allowed his ships to be carried by the ocean
towards the west. Two leagues distant from Veragua he sailed up the
river Hiebra, since it was navigable for the largest vessels. Though
it is less important, yet the Veragua gives its name to the country,
since the ruler of that region, which is watered by both rivers, has
his residence on the bank of the Veragua.

[Note 10: Columbus describes the storms which prevailed during
that entire month of December as the most formidable he had ever
experienced; on the thirteenth his vessels had the narrowest possible
escape from a waterspout.]

Let us now relate the good and ill fortune they there encountered.
Columbus established himself on the banks of the Hiebra, sending his
brother Bartholomew Columbus, Adelantado of Hispaniola, in command of
sixty-eight men in ships' boats to Veragua. The cacique of the country
came down the river with a fleet of canoes to meet the Adelantado.
This man was naked and unarmed, and was accompanied by a numerous
following. Hardly had a few words been exchanged when the followers of
the cacique, fearing that he might weary himself or forget his
royal dignity by standing while he talked, carried a stone from the
neighbouring bank, and after washing and polishing it with care,
respectfully tendered it to their chief to serve as a chair. When
seated, the cacique seemed to convey by signs to the Spaniards that he
permitted them to sail on the rivers of his territory.

The sixth of the ides of February the Adelantado marched along the
banks of the river Veragua, leaving his boats behind. He came to
the Duraba, a stream richer in gold than the Hiebra or the Veragua;
moreover, in all these regions gold is found amongst the roots of the
trees, along the banks and amongst the rocks and stones left by the
torrents. Wherever they dug a palm deep, gold was found mingled with
the earth turned out. This decided the attempt to found a colony, but
the natives opposed this project, for they foresaw their own prompt
destruction. They armed themselves, and, uttering horrible cries,
they attacked our men who were engaged in building cabins. This first
attack was, with difficulty, repelled. The natives threw darts from a
distance and then, gradually drawing nearer, they used their wooden
swords and machanes, in a furious assault. So greatly enraged were
they that, astonishing as it may seem, they were not frightened either
by bows, arquebuses, or the noise of the cannon fired from the ships.
Once they drew off, but soon returned to the charge in greater numbers
and more furiously than before. They preferred to die rather than see
their land occupied by the Spaniards whom they were perfectly willing
to receive as guests, but whom they rejected as inhabitants. The more
the Spaniards defended themselves, the more did the multitude of their
assailants increase, directing their attack sometimes on the front,
sometimes on the flank, without cessation both day and night.
Fortunately the fleet at anchorage assured the Spaniards a secure
retreat and, deciding to abandon the attempt to colonise there, they
returned on board.

Their return to Jamaica, which is the island lying south and near to
Cuba and Hispaniola was accomplished with great difficulty, for their
ships had been so eaten by bromas,--to use a Spanish word--that they
were like sieves and almost went to pieces during the voyage. The men
saved themselves by working incessantly, bailing out the water that
rushed in through great fissures in the ship's side and finally,
exhausted by fatigue, they succeeded in reaching Jamaica. Their ships
sank; and leaving them there stranded, they passed six months in
the power of the barbarians, a more wretched existence than that of
Alcimenides as described by Virgil. They were forced to live on what
the earth produced or what it pleased the natives to give them. The
mortal enmities existing amongst the savage caciques were of some
service to the Spaniards; for to secure their alliance the caciques
distributed bread to the starving whenever they were about to
undertake a campaign. O how sad and wretched it is, Most Holy Father,
to eat the bread of charity! Your Holiness may well understand,
especially when man is deprived of wine, meat, different kinds of
cheeses, and of everything to which from their infancy the stomachs of
Europeans are accustomed.

Under the stress of necessity the Admiral resolved to tempt fortune.
Desiring to know what destiny God reserved for him, he took counsel
with his intendant, Diego Mendez,[11] and two islanders of Jamaica who
were familiar with those waters. Mendez started in a canoe, although
the sea was already ruffled. From reef to reef and from rock to rock,
his narrow skiff tossed by the waves, Diego nevertheless succeeded in
reaching the extreme point of Hispaniola which is some forty leagues
distant from Jamaica. The two natives returned joyously, anticipating
the reward promised them by Columbus. Mendez made his way on foot to
Santo Domingo, the capital of the island, where he rented two boats
and set out to rejoin his commander. All the Spaniards returned
together to Hispaniola, but in a state of extreme weakness and
exhaustion from their privations. I do not know what has since
happened to them.[12] Let us now resume our narrative.

[Note 11: The events of this fourth voyage are related in
the interesting _Relacion hecha par Diego Mendez de algunos
aconticimientos del ultimo viaje del Almirante Don Christobal Colon_.
King Ferdinand afterwards granted Mendez a canoe in his armorial
bearings, in memory of the services he had rendered.]

[Note 12: Columbus reached Santo Domingo on August 18th, and there
rested until September 12th, when he embarked for Spain landing at San
Lucar on November 7.]

According to his letters and the reports of his companions, all the
regions explored by Columbus are well wooded at all seasons of the
year, shaded by leafy green trees. Moreover, what is more important,
they are healthy. Not a man of his crew was ever ill or exposed to the
rigours of cold nor the heats of summer throughout the whole extent of
fifty leagues between the great harbour of Cerabaro and the Hiebra and
Veragua rivers.

All the inhabitants of Cerabaro and the neighbourhood of Hiebra and
Veragua only seek gold at certain fixed periods. They are just as
competent as our miners who work the silver and iron mines. From long
experience, from the aspect of the torrent whose waters they divert,
from the colour of the earth and various other signs, they know where
the richest gold deposits are; they believe in a tradition of their
ancestors which teaches that there is a divinity in gold, and they
take care only to look for this metal after purifying themselves. They
abstain from carnal and other pleasures, also eating and drinking in
great moderation, during the time they seek gold. They think that men
live and die just like animals, and have, therefore, no religion.
Nevertheless they venerate the sun, and salute the sunrise with

Let us now speak of the mountains and the general aspect of the

Lofty mountains[13] which end in a ridge extending from east to west
are seen in the distance towards the south from all along the coast.
We believe this range separates the two seas of which we have already
spoken at length, and that it forms a barrier dividing their waters
just as Italy separates the Tyrrhenian from the Adriatic Sea. From
wherever they sail, between Cape San Augustins, belonging to the
Portuguese and facing the Atlas, as far as Uraba and the port of
Cerabaro and the other western lands recently discovered, the
navigators behold during their entire voyage, whether near at hand or
in the distance mountain ranges; sometimes their slopes are gentle,
sometimes lofty, rough, and rocky, or perhaps clothed with woods and
shrubbery. This is likewise the case in the Taurus, and on the slopes
of our Apennines, as well as on other similar ranges. As is the case
elsewhere, beautiful valleys separate the mountain peaks. The peaks of
the range marking the frontier of Veragua are believed to rise above
the clouds, for they are very rarely visible because of the almost
continuous density of mists and clouds.

[Note 13: The Cordilleras on the Isthmus of Panama.]

The Admiral, who first explored this region, believes these peaks
rise to a height of forty miles, and he says that at the base of the
mountains there is a road leading to the South Sea. He compares its
position with that of Venice in relation to Genoa, or Janua, as the
inhabitants who boast that Janus was their founder, call their city.
The Admiral believes that this continent extends to the west and that
the greater part of its lands lies in that direction. In like manner
we observe that the leg forming Italy branches out beyond the Alps
into the countries of the Gauls, the Germans, the Pannonians, and
ultimately those of the Sarmats and the Scythians extending to the
Riphe Mountains and the glacial sea, not to mention Thrace, all
Greece, and the countries ending towards the south at Cape Malea and
the Hellespont, and north at the Euxine and the Palus Maeotidus. The
Admiral believes that on the left and west, this continent joins on
to the India of the Ganges, and that towards the right it extends
northwards to the glacial sea and the north pole, lying beyond the
lands of the Hyperboreans; the two seas, that is to say the southern
and the northern ocean, would thus join one another at the angles of
this continent. I do not believe all its coasts are washed by the
ocean, as is our Europe which the Hellespont, the Tanais, the glacial
ocean, the Spanish sea and the Atlantic completely surround. In my
opinion the strong ocean currents running towards the west prevent
these two seas from being connected, and I suppose, as I have said
above, that it does join on to northern lands.

We have spoken enough about longitude, Most Holy Father; let us see
what are the theories concerning latitude.

We have already stated that the distance separating the South Sea from
the Atlantic Ocean is a very small one; for this fact was demonstrated
during the expedition of Vasco Nuñez and his companions. Just as our
Alps in Europe, narrow in some places and broaden out over a greater
extent in others, so by an analogous arrangement of nature this new
continent lengthens in some places, extending to a great distance, and
in others it narrows by gulfs which, from the opposite seas, encroach
on the land between them. For example: at both Uraba and Veragua the
distance between the two oceans is trifling, while in the region of
the Maragnon River, on the contrary, it is vastly extended. That
is, if the Maragnon is indeed a river and not a sea. I incline
nevertheless to the first hypothesis, because its waters are fresh.
The immense torrents necessary to feed such a stream could certainly
not exist in a small space. The same applies in the case of the river
Dobaiba,[14] which flows into the sea at the gulf of Uraba, by an
estuary three miles wide and forty-five ells deep; it must be supposed
that there is a large country amongst the mountains of Dobaiba from
which this river flows. It is claimed that it is formed by four
streams descending from these mountains, and the Spaniards have named
it San Juan. Where it falls into the gulf, it has seven mouths, like
the Nile. In this same Uraba region the continent diminishes in size
in an astonishing manner, and it is said that in places its width is
not more than fifteen leagues. The country is impassable because of
its swamps and quagmires which the Spaniards call _tremelaes_
or _trampales_, or by other names _cenegales_, _sumineros_, and

[Note 14: The Dobaiba may be either the Magdalena or the Atrato.]

[Note 15: All words meaning practically the same thing, viz., bog,
quagmire, swamp, quicksand, etc., some of them evidently obsolete, as
they are not found in modern Spanish dictionaries.]

Before going farther it may not be useless to explain the derivation
of the name of these mountains. According to native tradition there
formerly lived a woman of great intelligence and extraordinary
prudence, called Dobaiba. Even during her lifetime she was highly
respected, and after her death the natives of the country venerated
her; and it is her name the country bears. She it is who sends thunder
and lightning, who destroys the crops when she is vexed, for they
childishly believe, that Dobaiba becomes angry when they fail to offer
sacrifices in her honour. There are deceivers who, under the pretence
of religion, inculate this belief among the natives, hoping thereby to
increase the number of gifts offered by the latter to the goddess, and
thus augment their own profits. This is enough on this subject.

It is related that in the swamps of this narrow part of the continent
numerous crocodiles, dragons, bats, and gnats exist, all of the most
formidable description. In seeking to reach the southern sea, it is
necessary to go through the mountains, and to avoid the neighbourhood
of these swamps. Some people claim that a single valley separates in
two ranges the mountains facing the southern sea, and that in this
valley rises the river which the Spaniards have named Rio de los
Perdidos, in memory of the catastrophe of Nicuesa and his companions.
It is not far distant from Cerabaro; but as its waters are fresh, I
believe the people who sustain this theory are telling fables.

Let us close this chapter with one last topic. To the right and left
of Darien flow about a score of gold-producing rivers. We here repeat
what has been told to us, and about which everybody agrees. When asked
why they did not bring more considerable quantities of gold from that
country, the Spaniards answer that miners are required, and that the
explorers of the new countries are not men inured to fatigue. This
explains why much less gold is obtained than the wealth of the soil
affords. It would even seem that precious stones are found there.
Without repeating what I have said concerning Cariai and the
neighbourhood of Santa Marta, here is another proof. A certain Andreas
Morales, a pilot of these seas, who was a friend and companion of Juan
de la Cosa during his lifetime, possessed a diamond which a young
native of Paria in Cumana had discovered. It was of the greatest
rarity and is described as being as long as two middle finger joints.
It was as thick as the first thumb joint, was pointed at both ends,
and had eight well-cut facets. When struck upon an anvil, it wore the
files and hammers, itself remaining intact. This young man of Cumana
wore it hanging round his neck, and he sold it to Andreas Morales for
five green glass beads because their colour pleased him. The Spaniards
also found topazes on the beach, but as they only think of gold, they
turn their backs on these precious stones; for only gold attracts
them, only gold do they seek. Thus the majority of Spaniards despise
people who wear rings and precious stones, regarding it as almost a
contemptible thing to decorate one's self with precious stones. Our
people above all hold this opinion. Sometimes the nobles, for a
wedding ceremony or a royal festival, like to display jewels in their
golden necklaces, or to embroider their costumes with pearls mixed
with diamonds; but on all other occasions they abstain, for it is
considered effeminate to decorate one's self in this wise, just as it
would be to be perfumed with the odours of Araby. Any one they meet
smelling of musk or castor, they suspect of being given to guilty

Fruit plucked from a tree argues that the tree bears fruit; a fish
taken from a river warrants the affirmation that fish live in the
river. In like manner a bit of gold or a single precious stone
justifies the belief that the earth where they are found, produces
gold and precious stones.

This must certainly be admitted. We have already related what the
companions of Pedro Arias and some officials discovered at the port of
Santa Marta in the Cariai region when they penetrated there with the
whole fleet. Every day the harvest increases, and overtops that of the
last. The exploits of Saturn and Hercules and other heroes, glorified
by antiquity, are reduced to nothing. If the incessant efforts of the
Spaniards result in new discoveries, we shall give our attention to
them. May Your Holiness fare well, and let me know your opinion upon
these aggrandisements of your Apostolic Chair, and thus encourage me
in my future labours.


Every creature in this sublunary world, Most Holy Father, that gives
birth to something, either immediately afterwards closes the womb or
rests for a period. The new continent, however, is not governed by
this rule, for each day it creates without ceasing and brings forth
new products, which continue to furnish men gifted with power and
an enthusiasm for novelties, sufficient material to satisfy their
curiosity. Your Holiness may ask, "Why this preamble?" The reason is
that I had scarcely finished composing and dictating the story of the
adventures of Vasco Nuñez and his companions during their exploration
of the South Sea, and had hardly despatched that narration to Your
Holiness by Giovanni Ruffo di Forli, Archbishop of Cosenza and
Galeazzo Butrigario, Apostolic nuncios and stimulators of my somnolent
spirits, than new letters[1] arrived from Pedro Arias whose departure
last year as commander of a fleet bound for the new continent we have
already announced. The General duly arrived with his soldiers and his
ships. These letters are signed by Juan Cabedo whom Your Holiness,
upon the solicitation of the Catholic King, appointed Bishop of the
province of Darien, and his signature is accompanied by those of the
principal officials sent to administer the government, viz.: Alonzo
de Ponte, Diego Marques, and Juan de Tavira. May Your Holiness,
therefore, deign to accept the narrative of this voyage.

[Note 1: If still in existence these letters have yet to be

On the eve of the ides of April, 1514, Pedro Arias gave the signal to
start and sailed from the port of San Lucar de Barrameda, a fortified
place at the mouth of the Boetis, called by the Spaniards the
Guadalquivir. From the mouth of the Boetis, to the seven Canary
Islands the distance is about four hundred miles. Some people think
these islands correspond to the Fortunate Isles, but others hold a
contrary opinion. These islands are named as follows: Lancelota and
Fortaventura are the first sighted, after which the Grand Canary,
followed by Teneriffe: Gomera lies a short distance to the north
of Teneriffe and the islands of Palma and Ferro seem to form a
rear-guard. After a voyage of eight days, Pedro Arias landed at
Gomera. His fleet consisted of seventeen vessels, carrying fifteen
hundred men, to which number he had been restricted; for he left
behind him more than two thousand discontented and disconsolate men,
who begged to be allowed to embark at their own expense; such was
their avidity for gold and such their desire to behold the new

Pedro Arias stopped sixteen days at Gomera, to take on a supply of
wood and water, and to repair his ships damaged by a storm, especially
the flag-ship, which had lost her rudder. The archipelago of the
Canaries is indeed a most convenient port for navigators. The
expedition left the Canaries the nones of May, and saw no land until
the third day of the nones of June, when the ships approached the
island of the man-eating cannibals which has been named Domingo. On
this island, which is about eight hundred leagues from Gomera, Pedro
Arias remained four days and replenished his supply of water and wood.
Not a man or a trace of a human being was discovered. Along the coast
were many crabs and huge lizards. The course afterwards passed by the
islands of Madanino and Guadeloupe and Maria Galante, of which I have
spoken at length in my First Decade. Pedro Arias also sailed over vast
stretches of water full of grass[2]; neither the Admiral, Columbus,
who first discovered these lands and crossed this sea of grass, nor
the Spaniards accompanying Pedro Arias are able to explain the cause
of this growth. Some people think the sea is muddy thereabouts and
the grasses, growing on the bottom, reach to the surface; similar
phenomena being observed in lakes and large rivers of running waters.
Others do not think that the grasses grow in that sea, but are torn up
by storms from the numerous reefs and afterwards float about; but it
is impossible to prove anything because it is not known yet whether
they fasten themselves to the prows of the ships they follow or
whether they float after being pulled up. I am inclined to believe
they grow in those waters, otherwise the ships would collect them
in their course,--just as brooms gather up all the rubbish in the
house,--which would thus delay their progress.

[Note 2: The _Mare Sargassum_ of the ancients: also called _Fucus
Natans_, and by the Spaniards _Mar de Sargasso_. A curious marine
meadow nearly seven times larger than France, in extent, lying between
19° and 34° north latitude. There is a lesser _Fucus_ bank between the
Bahamas and the Bermudas. Consult Aristotle, _Meteor_, ii., I, 14;
_De mirabilibus auscutationibus_, p. 100; Theophrastus, _Historia
Plantarum_, iv., 7; Arienus, _Ora Maritima_, v., 408; Humboldt,
_Cosmos_, tom. ii.; Gaffarel, _La Mer des Sargasses_; Leps, _Bulletin
de la Soc. Geog_., Sept., 1865.]

The fourth day of the ides of March snow-covered mountains were
observed. The sea runs strongly to the west and its current is as
rapid as a mountain torrent. Nevertheless the Spaniards did not lay
their course directly towards the west, but deviated slightly to the
south. I hope to be able to demonstrate this by one of the tables of
the new cosmography which it is my intention to write, if God gives me
life. The Gaira River, celebrated for the massacre of the Spaniards
during the voyage of Roderigo Colmenares, which I have elsewhere
related, rises in these mountains. Many other rivers water this coast.
The province of Caramaira has two celebrated harbours, the first being
Carthagena and the second Santa Marta, these being their Spanish
names. A small province of the latter is called by the natives
Saturma. The harbour of Santa Marta is very near the snow-covered
mountains; in fact it lies at their foot. The port of Carthagena is
fifty leagues from there, to the west. Wonderful things are written
about the port of Santa Marta, and all who come back tell such. Among
the latter is Vespucci,[3] nephew of Amerigo Vespucci of Florence who,
at his death, bequeathed his knowledge of navigation and cosmography
to his nephew. This young man has, in fact, been sent by the King
as pilot to the flagship and commissioned to take the astronomical
observations. The steering has been entrusted to the principal pilot,
Juan Serrano, a Castilian, who had often sailed in those parts. I have
often invited this young Vespucci to my table, not only because he
possesses real talent, but also because he has taken notes of all he
observed during his voyage.[4]

[Note 3: He was appointed cartographer of the _Casa de
Contractacion_ at Seville, in 1512. Henry Harrisse makes frequent
mention of the Vespucci in his work on the Cabots.]

[Note 4: One of many instances of Peter Martyr's hospitality to
men of parts and activity, from whose conversation and narrations he
set himself to glean the material for his writings. His information
was first-hand, and was frequently poured out to him over his
hospitable board, under which the home-coming adventurers were glad to
stretch their legs, while their genial host stimulated their memories
and loosed their tongues with the generous wines of his adopted

According to the letters of Pedro Arias, and to the narrations of
Vespucci, what happened is as follows: It is believed that the natives
belong to the same race as the Caribs or Cannibals, for they are just
as overbearing and cruel. They seek to repulse from their shores all
Spaniards who approach for they consider them as enemies and are
determined to prevent their landing, despite their attempts. These
naked barbarians are so determined and courageous, that they ventured
to attack the entire squadron and tried to drive it from their coasts.
They threw themselves into the sea, like madmen, showing not the
slightest fear of the number and size of our vessels. They attacked
the Spaniards with all sorts of darts; protected by the sides of the
ships and by their shields, the latter resisted, though two of them
were mortally wounded. It was then decided to fire cannon, and
frightened by the noise and the effect of the projectiles, the natives
fled, believing the Spaniards commanded the thunder; for they are
frequently exposed to storms owing to the character of their country
and the neighbourhood of lofty mountains. Although the enemy were
conquered and dispersed, the Spaniards hesitated whether to go on
shore or to remain on board their ships. A consultation was held in
which different opinions were expressed. Fear counselled them to stop
where they were, but human respect urged them to land. They feared the
poisoned arrows which the natives shot with such sure aim, but on the
other hand it seemed shameful, unworthy, and infamous to sail by with
such a large fleet and so many soldiers without landing. Human respect
carried the day, and after landing by means of light barques, they
pursued the scattered natives.

According to the report of Pedro Arias and the narrative of Vespucci,
the harbour is three leagues in circumference. It is a safe one, and
its waters are so clear that at a depth of twenty cubits, the stones
on its bottom may be counted. Streams empty into the harbour but they
are not navigable for large ships, only for native canoes. There is an
extraordinary abundance of both fresh- and salt-water fish, of great
variety and good flavour. Many native fishing boats were found in
this harbour, and also a quantity of nets ingeniously made from stout
grasses worn by friction and interwoven with spun cotton cords. The
natives of Caramaira, Cariai, and Saturma are all skilful fishermen,
and it is by selling their fish to the inland tribes that they procure
the products they need and desire.

When the barbarians withdrew from the coast, the Spaniards entered
their boios, that is to say their houses. The natives frequently
attacked our men with fury, seeking to kill them all with flights
of poisoned arrows. When they realised that their houses were to be
invaded and robbed, and particularly when they witnessed their women
and the majority of their children carried into captivity, their fury
increased. The furniture found in these houses was discovered to be
made of large reeds gathered along the shore, or of various grasses
resembling cords. Woven mats of various colours, and cotton hangings,
upon which lions, eagles, tigers, and other figures were executed with
great care and taste, were found. The doors of the houses and of the
rooms inside were hung with snail-shells strung upon fine cord, which
the wind easily shook, producing a noise of rattling shells which
delighted them.

From various sources astonishing tales of the natives have been told
me. Amongst others, Gonzales Fernando Oviedo,[5] who is a royal
official with the title of inspector, boasts that he has travelled
extensively in the interior of the country. He found a piece of
sapphire larger than a goose's egg, and upon the hills he explored
with about twenty men, he claims that he has seen a large quantity of
emerald matrix, chalcedon, jasper, and great lumps of mountain amber.

[Note 5: _Sommario dell'Indie Occidenti_, cap. lxxxii., in

Attached to the tapestries woven with gold which the Caribs left
behind them in their houses when they fled, were precious stones:
Oviedo and his companions affirm that they saw them. The country also
has forests of scarlet wood and rich gold deposits. Everywhere along
the coast and on the banks of the rivers exist marcasites[6] which
indicate the presence of gold. Oviedo further states that in a region
called Zenu, lying ninety miles east of Darien, a kind of business is
carried on for which there are found in the native houses huge jars
and baskets, cleverly made of reeds adapted to that purpose. These
receptacles are filled with dried and salted grasshoppers, crabs,
crayfish, and locusts, which destroy the harvests. When asked the
purpose of these provisions, the natives replied they were destined
to be sold to the people inland, and in exchange for these precious
insects and dried fish they procure the foreign products they require.
The natives live in scattered fashion, their houses not being built
together. This land, inhabited by the people of Caramaira, is an
Elysian country, well cultivated, fertile, exposed neither to the
rigours of winter nor the great heats of summer. Day and night are of
about equal length.

[Note 6: A variety of iron pyrites.]

After driving off the barbarians, the Spaniards entered a valley two
leagues in breadth and three long, which extended to the grassy and
wooded slopes of the mountains. Two other valleys, each watered by a
river, also open to the right and left at the foot of these mountains.
One is the Gaira, and the other has not yet received a name. There
are, in these valleys, cultivated gardens, and fields watered by
ingeniously planned ditches. Our Milanese and Tuscans cultivate and
water their fields in precisely the same manner.

The ordinary food of these natives is the same as the others--agoes,
yucca, maize, potatoes, fruits, and fish. They rarely eat human flesh,
for they do not often capture strangers. Sometimes they arm themselves
and go hunting in neighbouring regions, but they do not eat one
another. There is, however, one fact sad to hear. These filthy eaters
of men are reported to have killed myriads of their kind to satisfy
their passion. Our compatriots have discovered a thousand islands as
fair as Paradise, a thousand Elysian regions, which these brigands
have depopulated. Charming and blessed as they are, they are
nevertheless deserted. From this sole instance Your Holiness may judge
of the perversity of this brutal race. We have already said that
the island of San Juan lies near to Hispaniola and is called by the
natives Burichena. Now it is related that within our own time more
than five thousand islanders have been carried off from Burichena for
food, and were eaten by the inhabitants of these neighbouring islands
which are now called Santa Cruz, Hayhay, Guadaloupe, and Queraqueira.
But enough has been said about the appetites of these filthy

Let us now speak a little of the roots destined to become the food
of Christians and take the place of wheaten bread, radishes, and our
other vegetables. We have already said several times that the yucca
was a root from which the natives make a bread they like both in
the islands and on the continent; but we have not yet spoken of its
culture, its growth, or of its several varieties. When planting yucca,
they dig a hole knee-deep in the ground, and pile the earth in heaps
nine feet square, in each one of which they plant a dozen yucca roots
about six feet long, in such wise that all the ends come together
in the centre of the mound. From their joining and even from their
extremities, young roots fine as a hair sprout and, increasing little
by little, attain, when they are full grown, the thickness and length
of a man's arm, and often of his leg. The mounds of earth are thus
converted little by little into a network of roots. According to
their description, the yucca requires at least half a year to reach
maturity, and the natives also say that if it is left longer in
the ground, for instance for two years, it improves and produces a
superior quality of bread. When cut, the women break and mash it on
stones prepared for the purpose, just as amongst us cheese is pressed;
or they pack it into a bag made of grass or reeds from the riverside,
afterwards placing a heavy stone on the bag and hanging it up for a
whole day to let the juice run off. This juice, as we have already
said in speaking of the islanders, is dangerous; but if cooked, it
becomes wholesome, as is the case with the whey of our milk. Let us
observe, however, that this juice is not fatal to the natives of the

There are several varieties of yucca, one of which being dearer and
more agreeable, is reserved for making the bread of the caciques.
Other varieties are set aside for the nobles, and certain others for
the common people. When the juice has all run off, the pulp is spread
out and cooked on slabs of earthenware made for the purpose, just
as our people do cheese. This sort of bread is the most used and is
called _cazabi_. It is said there are also several kinds of agoes
and potatoes, and the natives use these more as vegetables than for
breadmaking, just as we do radishes, turnips, mushrooms, and other
similar foods. Most of all do the natives like potatoes, which indeed
are preferable to mushrooms, because of their flavour and softness,
particularly when of a superior quality. We have now spoken enough
of roots, so let us come to another kind of bread. The natives have
another kind of grain similar to millet, save that the kernels are
larger. When there is a shortage of yucca, they grind it into flour by
mashing it between stones; the bread made from this is coarser. This
grain is sown three times a year, since the fertility of the soil
corresponds to the evenness of the seasons. I have already spoken of
this in preceding places. When the Spaniards first arrived, all these
roots and grains and maize, as well as various other kinds of fruit
trees were cultivated.

In Caramaira and Saturma there are such broad, straight roads that one
might think they had been drawn with a lead pencil. Among this people
are found cups with handles, jugs, jars, long platters, and plates
of earthenware, as well as amphoras of different colours for keeping
water fresh.

When ordered to tender obedience to the King of Castile and to embrace
our religion, or get out, the Indians replied with flights of poisoned
arrows. The Spaniards captured some of them, whom they immediately set
at liberty after giving them some clothing. Some others they took on
board the ships and displayed our grandeur before them, so that they
might tell their compatriots; after which they released them, hoping
thus to win their friendship. Gold has been proven to exist in all the
rivers. Here and there in the native houses fresh meat of deer and
wild boar was found; a food which they eat with great pleasure. These
natives also keep numbers of birds which they rear either for food or
for their pleasure. The climate is healthy; I may cite as a proof the
fact that the Spaniards slept at night on the river banks and in the
open air, without anybody suffering from headache or pains.

The Spaniards likewise found huge balls of spun cotton and bunches of
divers coloured feathers from which headdresses, similar to those of
our cuirassiers, or mantles of state are made. These are elegancies
among the natives. There was also a large number of bows and arrows.

Sometimes the bodies of their ancestors are burned and the bones
buried, and sometimes they are preserved entire in their _boios_, that
is to say houses, and treated with great respect; or again, they may
be ornamented with gold and precious stones. It was noted that the
breast ornaments, which they call _guanines_ were made of copper
rather than gold, and it was surmised that they dealt with tricky
strangers who sold them these guanines, palming off upon them vile
metal for gold. Neither did the Spaniards discover the trick till they
melted these supposed valuables.

Some architects who had wandered a short distance from the coast came
upon some fragments of white marble, and they think that strangers
must at some time have landed there and quarried this marble from the
mountains, leaving these fragments scattered about the plain. It was
at this place that the Spaniards learned that the river Maragnon
flows from the snow-covered mountains, its volume being increased by
numerous streams flowing into it. Its great size is due to the fact
that its course is long, and that it only reaches the sea after having
traversed well-watered regions.

The signal for departure was finally given. Nine hundred men who had
been landed, assembled shouting joyfully, marching in order, loaded
with plunder, and quite showy with crowns, mantles, feathers, and
native military ornaments. The anchor was hoisted on the sixteenth day
of the calends of July. The ships, damaged in frequent gales, had been
repaired, the flag-ship having especially suffered the loss of her
rudder, as we have already mentioned. The fleet put out to sea in the
direction of Carthagena, and in obedience to the King's instructions
ravaged some islands inhabited by ferocious cannibals which lay in the
course. The strong currents deceived Juan Serrano, chief pilot of the
flag-ship, and his colleagues, though they boasted that they were
well acquainted with the nature of these currents. In one night, and
contrary to the general expectation, they made forty leagues.


The time has come, Most Holy Father, to philosophise a little, leaving
cosmography to seek the causes of Nature's secrets. The ocean currents
in those regions run towards the west, as torrents rushing down a
mountain side. Upon this point the testimony is unanimous. Thus I find
myself uncertain when asked where these waters go which flow in a
circular and continuous movement from east to west, never to return
to their starting-place; and how it happens that the west is not
consequently overwhelmed by these waters, nor the east emptied. If it
be true that these waters are drawn towards the centre of the earth,
as is the case with all heavy objects, and that this centre, as some
people affirm, is at the equinoctial line, what can be the central
reservoir capable of holding such a mass of waters? And what will be
the circumference filled with water, which will yet be discovered? The
explorers of these coasts offer no convincing explanation. There are
other authors who think that a large strait exists at the extremity
of the gulf formed by this vast continent and which, we have already
said, is eight times larger than the ocean. This strait may lie to the
west of Cuba, and would conduct these raging waters to the west, from
whence they would again return to our east. Some learned men think the
gulf formed by this vast continent is an enclosed sea, whose coasts
bend in a northerly direction behind Cuba, in such wise that the
continent would extend unbrokenly to the northern lands beneath the
polar circle bathed by the glacial sea. The waters, driven back by
the extent of land, are drawn into a circle, as may be seen in rivers
whose opposite banks provoke whirlpools; but this theory does not
accord with the facts. The explorers of the northern passages, who
always sailed westwards, affirm that the waters are always drawn
in that direction, not however with violence, but by a long and
uninterrupted movement.

Amongst the explorers of the glacial region a certain Sebastiano
Cabotto, of Venetian origin, but brought by his parents in his infancy
to England, is cited. It commonly happens that Venetians visit every
part of the universe, for purposes of commerce. Cabotto equipped two
vessels in England, at his own cost, and first sailed with three
hundred men towards the north, to such a distance that he found
numerous masses of floating ice in the middle of the month of July.
Daylight lasted nearly twenty-four hours, and as the ice had melted,
the land was free. According to his story he was obliged to tack and
take the direction of west-by-south. The coast bent to about the
degree of the strait of Gibraltar. Cabotto did not sail westward until
he had arrived abreast of Cuba, which lay on his left. In following
this coast-line which he called Bacallaos,[1] he says that he
recognised the same maritime currents flowing to the west that the
Castilians noted when they sailed in southern regions belonging to
them. It is not merely probable, therefore, but becomes even necessary
to conclude that between these two hitherto unknown continents there
extend large openings through which the water flows from east to west.
I think these waters flow all round the world in a circle, obediently
to the Divine Law, and that they are not spewed forth and afterwards
absorbed by some panting Demogorgon. This theory would, up to a
certain point, furnish an explanation of the ebb and flow.

[Note 1: The word _Bacallaos_ is thought to be of Basque origin.
This designation for codfish is extremely ancient, and the land thus
named appears on the earliest maps of America.]

Cabotto calls these lands Terra de Bacallaos, because the neighbouring
waters swarm with fish similar to tunnies, which the natives call by
this name. These fish are so numerous that sometimes they interfere
with the progress of ships. The natives of these regions wear furs,
and appear to be intelligent. Cabotto reports that there are many
bears in the country, which live on fish. These animals plunge into
the midst of thick schools of fish, and seizing one fast in their
claws they drag it ashore to be devoured. They are not dangerous to
men. He claims to have seen the natives in many places in possession
of copper. Cabotto frequents my house, and I have him sometimes at my
table.[2] He was called from England by our Catholic King after the
death of Henry, King of that country, and he lives at court with us.
He is waiting, from day to day, to be furnished with ships with which
he will be able to discover this mystery of nature. I think he will
leave on this expedition towards the month of March of next year,
1516. If God gives me life, Your Holiness shall hear from me what
happens to him. There are not wanting people in Spain who affirm that
Cabotto is not the first discoverer of Terra de Bacallaos; they only
concede him the merit of having pushed out a little farther to the
west.[3] But this is enough about the strait and Cabotto.

[Note 2: Again we see Peter Martyr's system of collecting
information illustrated. Cabot's discoveries on this voyage are
indicated on Juan de la Cosa's map, of 1500. Henry VII. gave little
support, and Cabot, therefore, withdrew from England. In 1516 he was
given an appointment by King Ferdinand, with 50,000 maravedis yearly
and an estate in Andalusia.]

[Note 3: The Bacallaos coast was discovered by the Scandinavians
in the tenth century, and was known to the Venetians in the
fourteenth. Basque, Breton, and Norman fishermen visited it in the
following century.]

Let us now return to the Spaniards. Pedro Arias and his men passed
the length of the harbour of Carthagena and the islands inhabited by
Caribs, named San Bernardo's Islands. They left the entire country of
Caramaira behind them, without approaching it. They were driven by a
tempest upon an island which we have already mentioned as Fuerte, and
which is about fifty leagues distant from the entrance of the gulf
of Uraba. In this island they found, standing in the houses of the
islanders, a number of baskets made out of marine plants and filled
with salt. This island is indeed celebrated for its salines and the
natives procure whatever they need by the sale of salt.

An enormous pelican, larger than a vulture and remarkable for the
dimensions of its throat, fell upon the flagship. It is the same bird,
which, according to the testimony of several writers, formerly lived
domesticated in the marshes of Ravenna. I do not know if this is still
the case. This pelican let itself be easily caught, after which they
took it from one vessel to another: it soon died. A flock of twenty
such birds were seen on the coast in the distance.

The flag-ship was larger than the other vessels, but as she had been
damaged and was no longer serviceable, she was left behind; she will
rejoin the fleet when the sea is calmer. The eleventh day of the
calends of July the fleet reached Darien, the flag-ship arriving four
days later, but without cargo. The colonists of Darien under the
leadership of Vasco Nuñez Balboa, of whom we have elsewhere written at
length, came down to meet the new arrivals singing the psalm _Te Deum
Laudamus_. Each of them offered voluntary hospitality in his house,
built after the plan of native cabins.

This country may very properly be called a province, because it
has been conquered and all of its chiefs dethroned. The Spaniards
refreshed themselves with native fruits and bread made either of
roots or of maize. The fleet brought other provisions, for example
salt-meats, salt-fish, and barrels of wheat flour.

Behold the royal fleet at anchor in these strange countries and behold
the Spaniards established, not only in the Tropic of Cancer,
but almost on the equator,--contrary to the opinion of many
scientists,--ready to settle and to found colonies.

The day after landing, four hundred and fifty colonists of Darien were
invited to a meeting. Both in public and in private, by groups or
singly, they were questioned concerning the report of Vasco, Admiral
of the South Sea, or, as this officer is termed in Spanish, the
Adelantado. The truth of all he had reported to the King concerning
this South Sea was admitted. According to the opinion of Vasco
himself, the first thing to be done was to build forts in the
territories of Comogre, Pochorrosa, and Tumanama, which would later
form centres of colonisation. A _hidalgo_ of Cordova, Captain Juan
Ayora, was chosen to carry out this plan, for which purpose he was
given four hundred men, four caravels, and a small boat. Ayora first
landed in the port of Comogra, described in letters that have been
received, as distant about twenty-five leagues from Darien. From that
point he despatched one hundred and fifty of his men by a more direct
road than the one indicated, in the direction of the South Sea. It was
said that the distance between the port of Comogra and the gulf of St.
Miguel was only twenty-six leagues. The other company of two hundred
and fifty men would remain at Comogra to render assistance to those
coming and going. The hundred and fifty men chosen to march to the
South Sea took with them interpreters, some of whom were Spaniards who
had learned the language spoken in the region of the South Sea, from
slaves captured by Vasco when he explored the country; while others
were slaves who already understood the Spanish tongue. The harbour of
Pochorrosa is seven leagues distant from that of Comogra. Ayora, the
lieutenant of Pedro Arias, was to leave fifty men and the small boat,
which would serve as a courier, at Pochorroso, so that these boats
might serve to carry news to the lieutenant and to the colonists of
Darien, just as relays are arranged on land. It was also intended to
form a station in the territory of Tumanama, of which the capital is
twenty leagues distant from that of Pochorrosa.

Out of the hundred and fifty men assigned to Ayora, fifty were chosen
among the older colonists of Darien, they being persons of large
experience who would take charge of the newcomers and serve them as

When these measures were adopted, it was determined to report to the
King, and at the same time to announce to him as a positive fact that
there existed in the neighbourhood a cacique called Dobaiba, whose
territory had rich gold deposits, which had till then been respected
because he was very powerful. His country extended along the great
river which we have elsewhere mentioned. According to common report,
all the countries under his authority were rich in gold. Fifty leagues
divided Darien from the residence of Dobaiba. The natives affirmed
that gold would be found immediately the frontier was crossed. We have
elsewhere related that only three leagues from Darien the Spaniards
already possessed quite important gold mines, which are being worked.
Moreover, in many places gold is found by breaking the soil, but it
is believed to be more abundant in the territories of Dobaiba. In
the First Decade I addressed to Your Holiness, I had mentioned this
Dobaiba, but the Spaniards were mistaken concerning him, for they
thought they had met fishermen of Dobaiba and believed that Dobaiba
was the swampy region where they had encountered these men. Pedro
Arias, therefore, decided to lead a selected troop into that country.
These men were to be chosen out of the entire company and should be in
the flower of their age, abundantly furnished with darts and arms of
every sort. They were to march against the cacique, and if he refused
their alliance, they were to attack and overthrow him. Moreover, the
Spaniards never weary of repeating, as a proof of the wealth they
dream of, that by just scratching the earth almost anywhere, grains of
gold are found. I only repeat here what they have written.

The colonists likewise counselled the King to establish a colony at
the port of Santa Marta in the district called by the natives Saturma.
This would serve as a place of refuge for people arriving from the
island of Domingo. From Domingo to this port of Saturma the journey
could be made in about four or five days, and from Santa Marta to
Darien in three days. This holds good for the voyage thither, but
the return is much more difficult because of the current we have
mentioned, and which is so strong that the return voyage seems like
climbing steep mountains. Ships returning from Cuba or Hispaniola to
Spain do not encounter the full force of this current; although they
have to struggle against a turbulent ocean, still the breadth of the
open sea is such that the waters have free course. Along the coasts
of Paria, on the contrary, the waters are cramped by the continental
littoral and the shores of the numerous islands. The same happens in
the strait of Sicily where a current exists which Your Holiness well
knows, formed by the rocks of Charybdis and Scylla, at a place, where
the Ionian, Libyan, and Tyrrhenian seas come together within a narrow

In writing of the island of Guanassa and the provinces called Iaia,
Maia, and Cerabarono, Columbus, who first noted the fact, said that
while following these coasts and endeavouring to keep to the east,
his ships encountered such resistance that at times he could not take
soundings, the adverse current dragging the lead before it touched
bottom. Even with the wind on his stern, he could sometimes make no
more than one mile in a day. This it is that obliges sailors returning
to Spain to first make for the upper part of Hispaniola or Cuba, and
then strike out northwards on the high sea in order to profit by the
north winds, for they would make no headway sailing in a direct line.
But we have several times spoken sufficiently about ocean currents. It
is now the moment to report what is written concerning Darien and the
colony founded on its banks which the colonists have named Santa Maria

The site is badly chosen, unhealthy, and more pestiferous than
Sardinia. All the colonists look pale, like men sick of the jaundice.
It is not exclusively the climate of the country which is responsible,
for in many other places situated in the same latitude the climate is
wholesome and agreeable; clear springs of water break from the earth
and swift rivers flow between banks that are not swampy. The natives,
however, make a point of living amongst the hills, instead of in the
valleys. The colony founded on the shores of Darien is situated in a
deep valley, completely surrounded by lofty hills, in such wise that
the direct rays of the sun beat upon it at midday, while as the sun
goes down its rays are reflected from the mountains, in front, behind,
and all around, rendering the place insupportable. The rays of the sun
are most fierce when they are reflected, rather than direct, nor are
they themselves pernicious, as may be observed among the snows on high
mountains. Your Holiness is not ignorant of this. For this reason
the rays of the sun shining upon the mountains reach down, gradually
falling to their base, just as a large round stone thrown from their
summit would do. The valleys consequently receive, not only the direct
rays, but also those reflected from the hills and mountains. If,
therefore, the site of Darien is unhealthy, it is not the fault of
the country but of the site itself chosen by the colony. The
unwholesomeness of the place is further increased by the malodorous
swamp surrounding it. To say the frank truth, the town is nothing
but a swamp. When the slaves sprinkle the floor of the houses, toads
spring into existence from the drops of water that fall from their
hands, just as in other places I have seen drops of water changed into
fleas. Wherever a hole one palm deep is dug, water bursts forth; but
it is filthy and contaminated because of the river which flows
through a deep valley over a stagnant bed to the sea. The Spaniards,
therefore, considered changing the site. Necessity had first of all
obliged them to stop there, for the first arrivals were so reduced by
famine that they did not even think of moving it. Nevertheless they
are tormented in this unfortunate place by the rays of the sun; the
waters are impure and are pestiferous, the vapours malarious, and
consequently everybody is ill. There is not even the advantage of a
good harbour to offset these inconveniences, for the distance from the
village to the entrance of the gulf is three leagues, and the road
leading thither is difficult and even painful when it is a question of
bringing provisions from the sea.

But let us pass to other details. Hardly had the Spaniards landed when
divers adventures overtook them. An excellent doctor of Seville, whom
the authority of the bishop[4] and likewise his desire to obtain gold
prevented from peacefully ending his days in his native country, was
surprised by a thunderbolt when sleeping quietly with his wife. The
house with all its furniture was burnt and the bewildered doctor and
his wife barely escaped, almost naked and half roasted. Once when
a dog eight months old was wandering on the shore, a big crocodile
snapped him up, like a hawk seizing a chicken as its prey; he
swallowed this miserable dog under the very eyes of all the Spaniards,
while the unfortunate animal yelped to his master for help. During the
night the men were tortured by bats, which bit them; and if one of
these animals bit a man while he was asleep, he lost his blood, and
was in danger of losing his life. It is even claimed that some people
did die on account of these wounds. If these bats find a cock or a hen
at night in the open air, they strike them on their combs and kill
them. The country is infested by crocodiles, lions, and tigers, but
measures have already been taken to kill a large number of them. It is
reported that the skins of lions and tigers killed by the natives are
found in their cabins. Horses, pigs, and oxen grow rapidly, and become
larger than their sires. This development is due to the fertility of
the soil. The reports concerning the size of trees, different products
of the earth, vegetables, and plants we have acclimatised, the deer,
savage quadrupeds, and the different varieties of fish and birds, are
in accordance with my previous descriptions.

[Note 4: Referring doubtless to Juan de Fonseca bishop of Burgos.]

The cacique Careta, ruler of Coiba, was the Spaniards' guest for three
days. He admired the musical instruments, the trappings of the horses,
and all the things he had never known. He was dismissed with handsome
presents. Careta informed the Spaniards that there grew in his
province a tree, of which the wood was suitable for the construction
of ships, since it was never attacked by marine worms. It is known
that the ships suffered greatly from these pests in the ports of the
New World. This particular wood is so bitter that the worms do not
even attempt to gnaw into it. There is another tree peculiar to this
country whose leaves produce swellings if they touch the naked skin,
and unless sea-water or the saliva of a man who is fasting be not at
once applied, these blisters produce painful death. This tree also
grows in Hispaniola. It is claimed that to smell its wood is fatal,
and it cannot be transported anywhere without risk of death. When
the islanders of Hispaniola sought in vain to shake off the yoke of
servitude, either by open resistance or secret plots, they tried
to smother the Spaniards in their sleep by the smoke of this wood.
Astonished at seeing the wood scattered about them, the Spaniards
forced the wretched natives to confess their plot and punished the
authors of it. The natives likewise are acquainted with a plant whose
smell fortifies them, and serves as remedy against the odour of
this tree, making it possible for them to handle the wood. These
particulars are futile; and this enough on this subject.

The Spaniards hoped to find still greater riches in the islands of the
South Sea. When the courier who brought this news started, Pedro Arias
was preparing an expedition[5] to an island lying in the midst of the
gulf the Spaniards have named San Miguel, and which Vasco did not
touch, owing to a rough sea. I have already spoken at length of it in
describing the expedition of Vasco to the South Sea. We daily expect
to hear of fresh exploits excelling the former ones, for a number of
other provinces have been conquered, and we sincerely hope that they
will not prove useless nor devoid of claims to our admiration.

[Note 5: This expedition under the command of Gaspar Morales was

Juan Diaz Solis de Nebrissa, whom we have already mentioned, has been
sent to double Cape San Augustin, which belongs to the Portuguese, and
lies seven degrees below the equinoctial line. He should go towards
the south, below Paria, Cumana, Coquibacoa, and the harbours of
Carthagena, and Santa Marta, in order that our knowledge of the
continent may be more precise and extensive. Another commander, Juan
Pons, has been sent with three ships to ravage the islands of the
Caribs and reduce to slavery these filthy islanders, who feed on
men. The other islands in the neighbourhood, which are inhabited by
mild-mannered people, will thus be delivered from this pest and may be
explored, and the character of their products discovered.

Other explorers have been sent out in different directions: Gaspar de
Badajoz, towards the west; Francisco Bezarra and Vallejo, the first by
the extremity of the gulf and the other along the western shore of
its entrance, will seek to lay bare the secrets of that country where
formerly Hojeda sought, under such unhappy circumstances, to settle.
They will build there a fort and a town. Gaspar de Badajoz, with
eighty well-armed men, was the first to leave Darien; Ludovico Mercado
followed him with fifty others; Bezarra had eighty men under his
orders, and Vallejo seventy. Whether they will succeed or will fall
into dangerous places, only the providence of the Great Architect
knows. We men are forced to await the occurrence of events before we
can know them. Let us go on to another subject.


Pedro Arias, the governor of what is supposed to be a continent, had
hardly left Spain and landed at Darien, with the larger number of his
men, than I received news of the arrival at Court of Andreas Morales.
This man, who is a ship's pilot, familiar with these coasts, came on
business. Morales had carefully and attentively explored the land
supposed to be a continent, as well as the neighbouring islands and
the interior of Hispaniola. He was commissioned by the brother of
Nicholas Ovando, Grand Commander of the Order of Alcantara and
governor of the island, to explore Hispaniola. He was chosen because
of his superior knowledge and also because he was better equipped than
others to fulfil that mission. He has moreover compiled itineraries
and maps, in which everybody who understands the question has
confidence. Morales came to see me, as all those who come back from
the ocean habitually do. Let us now examine the heretofore unknown
particulars I have learned from him and from several others. A
detailed description of Hispaniola may serve as an introduction to
this narrative, for is not Hispaniola the capital and the market where
the most precious gifts of the ocean accumulate?

Round about the island lie a thousand and more Nereid nymphs, fair,
graceful, and elegant, serving as its ornaments like to another
Tethys, their queen and their mother. By Nereids I mean to say the
islands scattered round about Hispaniola, concerning which we shall
give some brief information. Afterwards will come the island of pearls
which our compatriots call Rico, and which lies in the gulf of San
Miguel in the South Sea. It has already been explored and marvellous
things found; and yet more wonderful are promised for the future, for
its brilliant pearls are worthy to figure in the necklaces, bracelets,
and crown of a Cleopatra. It will not be out of place at the close
of this narrative to say something of the shells which produce these
pearls. Let us now come to this elysian Hispaniola, and begin by
explaining its name; after which we will describe its conformation,
its harbours, climate, and conclude by the divisions of its territory.

We have spoken in our First Decade of the island of Mataninó, a word
pronounced with the accent on the last syllable. Not to return too
often to the same subject, Your Holiness will note the accent marking
all these native words is placed where it should fall. It is claimed
that the first inhabitants of Hispaniola were islanders of Mataninó,
who had been driven from that country by hostile factions and had
arrived there in their canoes dug out of a single tree-trunk, by which
I mean to say their barques. Thus did Dardanus arrive from Corythus
and Teucer from Crete, in Asia, in the region later called the
Trojade. Thus did the Tyrians and the Sidonians, under the leadership
of the fabulous Dido, reach the coasts of Africa. The people of
Mataninó, expelled from their homes, established themselves in that
part of the island of Hispaniola called Cahonao, upon the banks of a
river called Bahaboni. In like manner we read in Roman history that
the Trojan Æneas, after he arrived in Italy, established himself on
the banks of the Latin Tiber. There lies across the mouth of the river
Bahaboni an island where, according to tradition, these immigrants
built their first house, calling it Camoteia. This place was
consecrated and henceforth regarded with great veneration. Until the
arrival of the Spaniards the natives rendered it the homage of their
continual gifts; the same as we do Jerusalem, the cradle of our
religion; or the Turks, Mecca, or the ancient inhabitants of the
Fortunate Isles venerated the summit of a high rock on the Grand
Canary. Many of these latter, singing joyous canticles, threw
themselves down from the summit of this rock, for their false priests
had persuaded them that the souls of those who threw themselves from
the rock for the love of Tirana, were blessed, and destined to an
eternity of delight. The conquerors of the Fortunate Isles have found
that practice still in use in our own time, for the remembrance of
these sacrifices is preserved in the common language, and the rock
itself keeps its name. I have, moreover, recently learned that
there still exists in those islands since their colonisation by the
Frenchman Bethencourt under the authorisation of the King of Castile,
a group of Bethencourt's people, who still use the French language and
customs. Nevertheless, his heirs, as I have above stated, sold the
island to the Castilians, but the colonists who came with Bethencourt
built houses in the archipelago and prosperously maintained their
families. They still live there mixed with Spaniards and consider
themselves fortunate to be no longer exposed to the rigours of the
French climate.

Let us now return to the people at Mataninó. Hispaniola was first
called by its early inhabitants Quizqueia, and afterwards Haiti.
These names were not chosen at random, but were derived from natural
features, for Quizqueia in their language means "something large" or
larger than anything, and is a synonym for universality, the whole;
something in the sense that [Greek: pan] was used among the Greeks.
The islanders really believed that the island, being so great,
comprised the entire universe, and that the sun warmed no other land
than theirs and the neighbouring islands. Thus they decided to call it
Quizqueia. The name Haiti[1] in their language means _altitude_, and
because it describes a part, was given to the entire island. The
country rises in many places into lofty mountain-ranges, is covered
with dense forests, or broken into profound valleys which, because of
the height of the mountains, are gloomy; everywhere else it is very

[Note 1: Meaning in the Caribs' language _mountainous_. Columbus,
as we have mentioned, named the island Hispaniola, and it is so called
in early American history; but since 1803, the native name of Haiti or
Hayti has been applied both to the entire island, and to one of the
two states into which it is divided, the other state being called
Santo Domingo.]

Permit at this point, Most Holy Father, a digression. Your Beatitude
will no doubt ask with astonishment how it comes that such uncivilised
men, destitute of any knowledge of letters, have preserved for such
a long time the tradition of their origin. This has been possible
because from the earliest times, and chiefly in the houses of the
caciques; the bovites, that is to say the wise men, have trained the
sons of the caciques, teaching them their past history by heart. In
imparting their teaching they carefully distinguish two classes of
studies; the first is of a general interest, having to do with the
succession of events; the second is of a particular interest, treating
of the notable deeds accomplished in time of peace or time of war
by their fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, and all their
ancestors. Each one of these exploits is commemorated in poems written
in their language. These poems are called _arreytos_. As with us the
guitar player, so with them the drummers accompany these arreytos and
lead singing choirs. Their drums are called _maguay_. Some of the
arreytos are love songs, others are elegies, and others are war songs;
and each is sung to an appropriate air. They also love to dance, but
they are more agile than we are; first, because nothing pleases
them better than dancing and, secondly, because they are naked, and
untrammelled by clothing. Some of the arreytos composed by their
ancestors predicted our arrival, and these poems resembling elegies
lament their ruin. "Magnacochios [clothed men] shall disembark in the
island armed with swords and with one stroke cut a man in two, and our
descendants shall bend beneath their yoke."

I really am not very much astonished that their ancestors predicted
the slavery of their descendants, if everything told concerning their
familiar relations with devils is true. I discussed this subject at
length in the ninth book of my First Decade, when treating of the
zemes, that is to say the idols they worship. Since their zemes have
been taken away the natives admit they no longer see spectres; and our
compatriots believe this is due to the sign of the cross, with which
they are all armed when washed in the waters of baptism.

All the islanders attach great importance to know the frontiers and
limits of the different tribes. It is generally the _mitaines_, that
is to say nobles, as they are called, who attend to this duty, and
they are very skilful in measuring their properties and estates. The
people have no other occupation than sowing and harvesting. They are
skillful fishermen, and every day during the whole year they dive into
the streams, passing as much time in the water as on land. They are
not neglectful, however, of hunting, they have, as we have already
said, utias, which resemble small rabbits, and iguana serpents, which
I described in my First Decade. These latter resemble crocodiles
and are eight feet long, living on land and having a good flavour.
Innumerable birds are found in all the islands: pigeons, ducks, geese,
and herons. The parrots are as plentiful here as sparrows amongst us.
Each cacique assigns different occupations to his different subjects,
some being sent hunting, others to fish, others to cultivate the
fields. But let us return to the names.

We have already said that Quizqueia and Haiti are the ancient names of
the island. Some natives also call the island Cipangu, from the name
of a mountain range rich in gold. In like manner our poets have called
Italy _Latium_, after one of its provinces, and our ancestors also
called Italy _Ausonia_ and _Hesperia_, just as these islanders have
given the names Quizqueia, Haiti, and Cipangu to their country. In the
beginning the Spaniards called the island Isabella after the Queen
Isabella, taking this name from the first colony they founded there.
I have already spoken sufficiently of this in my First Decade. They
afterwards called it Hispaniola, a diminutive of Hispania. This is
enough concerning names; let us now pass to the conformation of the

The first explorers of the island have described it to me as
resembling in form a chestnut leaf, split by a gulf on the western
side opposite the island of Cuba; but the captain, Andreas Morales,
now gives me another and somewhat different description. He represents
the island as being cut into, at the eastern and western extremities,
by large gulfs,[2] having far extending points of land. He indicates
large and secure harbours in the gulf facing eastwards. I will see
to it that some day a copy of this map of Hispaniola be sent to Your
Holiness, for Morales has drawn it in the same form as those of Spain
and Italy, which Your Holiness has often examined, showing their
mountains, valleys, rivers, towns, and colonies. Let us boldly compare
Hispaniola to Italy, formerly the mistress of the universe. In point
of size Hispaniola is a trifle smaller than Italy. According to the
statements of recent explorers, it extends five hundred and forty
miles from east to west. As we have already noticed in our First
Decade, the Admiral had exaggerated its length. In certain places the
width of Hispaniola extends to three hundred miles. It is narrower at
the point where the land is prolonged in promontories, but it is much
more favoured than Italy for, throughout the greatest part of its
extent, it enjoys such an agreeable climate that neither the rigours
of cold nor excessive heats are known.[3] The two solstices are about
equal to the equinoxes. There is only one hour of difference between
day and night, according as one lives on the southern or the northern
coast of the island.

[Note 2: On the east is the gulf or bay of Samana, on the west
that of Gonaires.]

[Note 3: The superficial area of Haiti is 77,255 square
kilometres. The climatic conditions no longer correspond to Peter
Martyr's descriptions, as there are four seasons, recognised, two
rainy and two dry. In the upland, the temperature is invigorating and

In several parts of the island, however, cold does prevail; Your
Holiness will understand that this is due to the position of the
mountain ranges, as I shall later demonstrate. The cold, however, is
never sufficiently severe to inconvenience the islanders with snow.
Perpetual spring and perpetual autumn prevail in this fortunate
island. During the entire year the trees are covered with leaves,
and the prairies with grass. Everything in Hispaniola grows in an
extraordinary fashion. I have already related elsewhere that the
vegetables, such as cabbages, lettuces, salads, radishes, and other
similar plants, ripen within sixteen days, while pumpkins, melons,
cucumbers, etc., require but thirty days. We have also stated that
animals brought from Spain, such as oxen, attain a greater size. When
describing the growth of these animals, it is claimed that the oxen
resemble elephants and the pigs, mules; but this is an exaggeration.
Pork has an agreeable taste and is wholesome, because the pigs feed
upon mirobolanes and other island fruits, which grow wild in the
forests, just as in Europe they eat beech nuts, ilex berries, and
acorns. Grape-vines also grow in an extraordinary fashion, despite
the absence of all attention. If any one chooses to sow wheat in a
mountain region exposed to the cold, it flourishes wonderfully,
but less so in the plain, because the soil is too fertile. To one
unheard-of-thing people have certified upon oath; that the ears are as
thick round as a man's arm and one palm in length, and that some of
them contain as many as a thousand grains of wheat. The best bread
found in the island is that made from the yucca, and is called cazabi.
It is most digestible, and the yucca is cultivated and harvested in
the greatest abundance and with great facility. Whatever free time
afterwards remains, is employed in seeking gold.

The quadrupeds are so numerous that already the exportation to Spain
of horses and other animals and of hides has begun; thus the daughter
gives assistance in many things to the mother. I have already
elsewhere given particulars concerning red wood, mastic, perfumes,
green colouring material, cotton, amber, and many other products of
this island. What greater happiness could one wish in this world than
to live in a country where such wonders are to be seen and enjoyed?
Is there a more agreeable existence than that one leads in a country
where one is not forced to shut himself in narrow rooms to escape cold
that chills or heat that suffocates? A land where it is not necessary
to load the body with heavy clothing in winter, or to toast one's legs
at a continual fire, a practice which ages people in the twinkling
of the eye, exhausts their force, and provokes a thousand different
maladies. The air of Hispaniola is stated to be salubrious, and the
rivers which flow over beds of gold, wholesome. There are indeed no
rivers nor mountains nor very few valleys where gold is not found.
Let us close now with a brief description of the interior of this
fortunate island.

Hispaniola possesses four rivers, each flowing from mountain sources
and dividing the island into four almost equal parts. One of these
streams, the Iunna, flows east. Another, the Attibunicus, west; the
third, the Naiba, south, and the fourth, the Iaccha, north. We have
already related that Morales proposes a new division, by which the
island would be divided into five districts. We shall give to each of
these little states its ancient name and shall enumerate whatever is
worthy of note in each of them.

The most eastern district of the island belongs to the province of
Caizcimu, and is thus called because _cimu_ means in their language
the _front_ or beginning of anything. Next come the provinces of
Huhabo and Cahibo; the fourth is Bainoa, and the extreme western part
belongs to the province of Guaccaiarima; but that of Bainoa is larger
than the three preceding ones. Caizcimu extends from the point of the
island as far as the river Hozama, which flows by Santo Domingo, the
capital. Its northern border is marked by precipitous mountains,[4]
which on account of their steepness especially bear the name of Haiti.
The province of Huhabo lies between the mountains of Haiti and the
Iacaga River. The third province Cahibo, includes all the country
lying between the Cubaho and the Dahazio rivers as far as the mouth of
Iaccha, one of the rivers dividing the islands into four equal parts.
This province extends to the Cibao Mountains, where much gold is
found. In these mountains rises the River Demahus. The province also
extends to the sources of the Naiba River, the third of the four
streams and the one which flows south, towards the other bank of the
Santo Domingo River.

[Note 4: Now called Sierra de Monte Cristo, of which the loftiest
peak, Toma Diego Campo, is 1220 metres high.]

Bainoa begins at the frontier of Cahibo, and extends as far as the
island of Cahini, almost touching the north coast of Hispaniola at the
place where the colony was once founded. The remainder of the island
along the west coast forms the province of Guaccaiarima, thus called
because it is the extremity of the island. The word _Iarima_ means a
flea. Guaccaiarima means, therefore, the flea of the island; _Gua_
being the article in their language. There are very few of their
names, particularly those of kings which do not begin with this
article _gua_., such as Guarionex and Guaccanarillus; and the same
applies to many names of places.

The districts or cantons of Caizcimu are Higuey, Guanama, Reyre,
Xagua, Aramana, Arabo, Hazoa, Macorix, Caicoa, Guiagua, Baguanimabo,
and the rugged mountains of Haiti. Let us remark in this connection
that there are no aspirates pronounced in Hispaniola, as amongst the
Latin peoples. In the first place, in all their words the aspirate
produces the effect of a consonant, and is more prolonged than the
consonant _f_, amongst us. Nor is it pronounced by pressing the under
lip against the upper teeth. On the contrary the mouth is opened wide,
_ha, he, hi, ho, hu_. I know that the Jews and the Arabs pronounce
their aspirates in the same way, and the Spaniards do likewise with
words they have taken from the Arabs who were for a long time their
masters. These words are sufficiently numerous; _almohada_ = a
pillow; _almohaza_ = a horse-comb, and other similar words, which are
pronounced by holding the breath. I insist upon this point because
it often happens among the Latins that an aspirate changes the
significance of a word; thus _hora_ means a division of the day, _ora_
which is the plural of _os_, the mouth, and _ora_ meaning region, as
in the phrase _Trojae qui primus ab oris_. The sense changes according
to the accent: _occ[=i]do_ and _occ[)i]do_. It is consequently
necessary to heed the accents and not neglect the aspirate in speaking
the language of these simple people. I have spoken above about the
accent and the article _gua_.

[Note: [=i] is a long 'i', and [)i] is a short 'i'.]

The cantons of the province of Hubabo are Xamana, Canabaco, Cubao, and
others whose names I do not know. The cantons of Magua and Cacacubana
belong to the province of Cahibo. The natives in this province
speak an entirely different language from that spoken by the other
islanders; they are called Macoryzes. In the canton of Cubana another
language resembling none of the others is spoken; it is likewise used
in the canton of Baiohaigua. The other cantons of Cahibo are Dahaboon,
Cybaho, Manabaho, Cotoy, the last being situated in the centre of the
island and traversed by the Nizaus River, and finally the mountains
Mahaitin, Hazua, and Neibaymao.

Bainoa, the fourth province has the following dependent cantons:
Maguana, Iagohaiucho, Bauruco, Dabaigua, and Attibuni which takes this
name from the river; Caunoa, Buiaz, Dahibonici, Maiaguarite, Atiec,
Maccazina, Guahabba, Anninici, Marien, Guarricco, Amaquei, Xaragua,
Yaguana, Azzuei, Iacchi, Honorucco, Diaguo, Camaie, Neibaimao. In the
last province, Guaccaiarima, lie the cantons of Navicarao, Guabaqua,
Taquenazabo, Nimaca, Little Bainoa, Cahaymi, Ianaizi, Manabaxao,
Zavana, Habacoa, and Ayqueroa.

Let us now give some particulars concerning the cantons themselves:
the first gulf[5] found in the province of Caizcimu cuts into a rock
where it has worn an immense cave situated at the foot of a lofty
mountain about two stadia from the sea. Its vast arched entrance
resembles the gates of a great temple. In obedience to an order from
the government, Morales tried to enter this cavern with the ships.
Several streams come together there through unknown channels, as in
a drain. It used to be a mystery what became of a number of rivers
ninety miles long, which suddenly disappeared under the earth never to
be seen again. It is thought they are in some fashion swallowed up in
the depths of the rocky mountain, continuing their underground course
till they reach this cavern. Having succeeded in entering the cave,
Morales was very nearly drowned. He reports that inside there are
whirlpools and currents in incessant conflict, upon which his barque
was tossed to and fro like a ball, amidst the horrible roar of the
whirlpools and currents around him. He regretted having come, but
could find no way to get out. He and his companions drifted about in
the obscurity, not only because of the darkness prevailing in the
cavern, which extends into the depths of the mountains, but also
because of the perpetual mist rising from the constantly agitated
waters, and resolving itself into damp vapours. Morales compared the
noise of these waters to that of the falls of the Nile where it pours
forth from the mountains of Ethiopia. Both he and his companions
were so deafened they could not hear one another speak. He finally
succeeded in finding the exit, and emerged from the cavern, trembling,
feeling that he had left the infernal regions and returned to the
upper world.[6]

[Note 5: The gulf of Samana; its extent is 1300 square

[Note 6: _Evasit tandem pavidus de antro, veluti de Tartaro,
putans rediisse ad superos_.]

About sixty miles from Santo Domingo the capital, the horizon is shut
in by lofty mountains, upon whose summit lies an inaccessible lake, to
which no road leads. None of the colonists have visited it because of
the steepness of the mountain. In obedience to the governor's orders
Morales, taking a neighbouring cacique for his guide, ascended the
mountain and found the lake. He reports that it was very cold there
and, as a proof of the low temperature, he brought back some ferns and
brambles, plants which do not grow in warm countries. The mountains
are called Ymizui Hybahaino. The waters of the lake, which is three
miles in circumference, are full of various kinds of fish. It is fed
by several streams, and has no outlet, for it is surrounded on all
sides by lofty peaks.

Let us now say a few words about another, Caspian or Hyrcanian sea (by
which I mean a sea surrounded by land), and other fresh-water lakes.


The province of Bainoa, which is three times the size of the three
provinces of Caizcimu, Huhabo, and Caihabon, embraces the valley of
Caionani, in the midst of which there is a salt lake[1] of bitter,
distasteful water, similar to what we read of the Caspian Sea. I will
therefore call it Caspian, although it is not in Hyrcania. There are
depths in this lake from which the salty waters pour forth and are
absorbed in the mountains. These caverns are supposed to be so vast
and so deep that even the largest sea-fish pass through them into the

[Note 1: The lagune of Enriquillo on the plains of Neyba.]

Amongst these fish is the shark, which cuts a man in two with one bite
and swallows him. These sharks come up from the sea by the Hozama
River which flows past the capital of the island. They devour numbers
of natives, since nothing will prevent the latter from bathing and
washing themselves in the river. Many streams flow into the lake; the
Guaninicabon, which flows from the north, is salt; the Haccoce flows
from the south, the Guannabi from the east, and the Occoa from the
west. These are the most important of the rivers and are always full.
Besides them, a score of smaller ones also fall into this Caspian Sea.
Not more than a stadium distant and on its northern shore are about
two hundred springs, arranged in the form of a circle, from which
fresh, potable water gushes forth, forming an impassable stream, which
mingles with the others in the lake.

The cacique of that country finding his wife at prayer one day in
a chapel built by the Christians in his territory, wished to have
intercourse with her; but the wife, alleging the holiness of the spot
refused, speaking as follows, _Tei toca, tei toca_, which means "Be
quiet"; _Techeta cynato guamechyna_ which signifies "God would be
displeased." The cacique was very much vexed by this _Techeta cynato
guamechyna_, and with a menacing gesture of his arm said, _Guayva_,
which means "Get out," _Cynato machabucha guamechyna_, meaning, "What
matters to me the anger of your God?" With which he overpowered his
wife, but was struck dumb on the spot and half lost the use of his
arm. Impressed by this miracle and overcome with repentance, he lived
the rest of his life as a religious, and would not allow the chapel to
be swept or decorated by other hands than his own. This miracle made a
great impression upon many of the natives and upon all the Christians,
and the chapel was frequented and respected by them. As for the
cacique, he submissively endured without complaint the punishment for
his insult. But let us return to the Caspian Sea.

This salt lake is swept by hurricanes and storms, so that the
fishermen's boats are often in danger and frequently sink with all
on board. Nor has any drowned body ever been found floating upon the
waters or thrown upon the shore, as happens with those engulfed by
the sea. These storms provide generous banquets for the sharks. The
natives call this Caspian Sea, Haguygabon. In the midst of it lies
a sterile island called Guarizacca, which serves as a refuge for
fishermen. The lake is thirty miles long and twelve or, perhaps, even
fifteen broad.

Another lake lies in the same plain and quite near to the former, of
which the waters are bitter-sweet,[2] that is to say they are not
pleasant to drink, but may be drunk in case of absolute necessity. It
is twenty-five miles long by nine or ten broad, and is fed by a number
of rivers. It has no outlet, and the water from the sea also reaches
it, though in a small quantity; this accounts for its brackish waters.
The third fresh-water lake, called Painagua, exists in the same
province. It lies not very far to the west of the Caspian Sea. North
of this same Caspian lies a fourth lake, of small importance, since it
measures but four miles in length and a little more than one in width;
it is called Guacca, and its waters are potable. South of the Caspian
a fifth lake, called Babbareo is found; it is almost circular and
about three miles in length. Its waters are fresh like those of the
other two. As it has no outlet and its waters are not sucked down
into caverns, it overflows its banks when swollen by torrents. Lake
Babbareo lies in the Zamana district of the province of Bainoa. There
is still another lake called Guanyban, near by and south-west of the
Caspian; it is ten miles long and nearly round. Throughout the island
are numerous other small lakes, which we do not mention for fear
of being tiresome by too much insistence on the same subject.
Nevertheless there is one more particular concerning the lakes and
this is the last: All of them are full of fish, and support many
birds. They are situated in an immense valley which extends from east
to west for a distance of one hundred and twenty miles and a breadth,
at the narrowest point of eighteen and at the broadest, of twenty-five
miles. As one looks west the mountain chain of Duiguni borders this
valley on the left, and on the right rises the range of Caigun, which
gives its name to the valley at its base. Upon the northern slope
begins another valley larger than the former, for it extends a
distance of two hundred miles and a breadth of thirty miles at the
broadest, and twenty miles at the narrowest part. This valley is
called Maguana and sometimes Iguaniu or Hathathiei. Since we have
mentioned this part of the valley called Atici, we must make a
digression to introduce a miraculous sea fish.

[Note 2: _Lago de Fondo ... aquarum salsodulcium_...]

A certain cacique of the region, Caramatexius by name, was very fond
of fishing. Upon one occasion a young fish of the gigantic species
called by the natives _manati_ was caught in his nets. I think this
species of monster in unknown in our seas. It is shaped like a turtle
and has four feet, but is covered with scales instead of shell.
Its skin is so tough that it fears nothing from arrows, for it is
protected by a thousand points. This amphibious creature has a smooth
back, a head resembling that of a bull, and is tame rather than
fierce. Like the elephant or the dolphin, it likes the companionship
of men and is very intelligent. The cacique fed this young fish for
several days with yucca bread, millet, and the roots the natives eat.
While it was still young, he put it in a lake near to his house, as in
a fish-pond. This lake, which had been called Guaurabo. was henceforth
called Manati. For twenty-five years this fish lived at liberty in the
waters of the lake, and grew to an extraordinary size. All that has
been told about the lake of Baiæ or the dolphins of Arion is not to be
compared with the stories of this fish. They gave it the name of Matu,
meaning generous or noble, and whenever one of the king's attendants,
specially known by him, called from the bank Matu, Matu, the fish,
remembering favours received, raised its head and came towards the
shore to eat from the man's hand. Anyone who wished to cross the lake
merely made a sign and the fish advanced to receive him on its back.
One day it carried ten men altogether on its back, transporting
them safely, while they sang and played musical instruments. If it
perceived a Christian when it raised its head it dived under water and
refused to obey. This was because it had once been beaten by a
peevish young Christian, who threw a sharp dart at this amiable and
domesticated fish. The dart did it no harm because of the thickness
of its skin, which is all rough and covered with points, but the fish
never forgot the attack, and from that day forth every time it heard
its name called, it first looked carefully about to see if it beheld
anybody dressed like the Christians. It loved to play upon the bank
with the servants of the cacique, and especially with the young son
who was in the habit of feeding it. It was more amusing than a monkey.
This manati was for long a joy to the whole island, and many natives
and Christians daily visited this animal.

It is said that the flesh of manatis is of good flavour, and they are
found in great numbers in the waters of the island. The manati Matu
finally disappeared. It was carried out to sea by the Attibunico, one
of the four rivers which divide the island into equal parts, during an
inundation accompanied by horrible typhoons which the islanders call
hurricanes. The Attibunico overflowed its banks and inundated the
entire valley, mingling its waters with those of all the lakes. The
good, clever, sociable Matu, following the tide of the torrent,
rejoined its former mother and the waters of its birth; it has never
since been seen. But enough of this digression.

Let us now describe this valley. The valley of Atici is bordered by
the Cibao and Cayguana Mountains, which enclose it in a southerly
direction to the sea. Beyond the mountains of Cibao towards the north
there opens another valley called the Guarionexius, because it has
always belonged, from father to son and by hereditary right, to the
caciques called Guarionexius. I have already spoken at length about
this cacique in my first writings on Hispaniola and in my First
Decade. This valley is one hundred and ninety miles long from east to
west, and between thirty and fifty miles broad at its widest part. It
begins at the district of Canabocoa, crosses the provinces of Huhabo
and Cahibo, and ends in the province of Bainoa and in the district of
Mariena. Along its borders extend the mountains of Cibao, Cahanao,
Cazacubana. There is not a province or a district in it which is not
noteworthy for the majesty of its mountains, the fertility of its
valleys, the forests upon its hills, or the number of rivers watering
it. Upon the slopes of all the mountains and hills, and in the river
beds, gold in abundance is found; and in the latter, fish of delicious
flavour; only one is to be excepted, which from its source in the
mountains to the sea is perpetually salt. This river is called Bahaun,
and flows through Maguana, a district of the province of Bainoa. It
is thought that this river passes through chalk and saline strata, of
which there are many in the island, and of which I shall later speak
more fully.

We have noted that Hispaniola may be divided into four or five parts,
by rivers or by provinces. Still another division may be made; the
entire island might be divided by the four mountain chains which cut
it in two from east to west. Everywhere there is wealth, and gold is
everywhere found. From the caverns and gorges of these mountains pour
forth all the streams which traverse the island. There are frightful
caves, dark valleys, and arid rocks, but no dangerous animal has ever
been found; neither lion, nor bear, nor fierce tiger, nor crafty fox,
nor savage wolf. Everything thereabouts speaks of happiness and will
do so still more, Most Holy Father, when all these thousands of people
shall be gathered among the sheep of your flock, and those devil
images, the zemes, shall have been banished.

You must not be vexed, Most Holy Father, if from time to time in the
course of my narrative I repeat certain particulars, or allow myself
some digressions. I feel myself carried away by a sort of joyous
mental excitement, a kind of Delphic or Sibylline breath, when I read
of these things; and I am, as it were, forced to repeat the same fact,
especially when I realise to what an extent the propagation of our
religion is involved. Yet amidst all these marvels and fertility,
there is one point which causes me small satisfaction; these simple,
naked natives were little accustomed to labour, and the immense
fatigues they now suffer, labouring in the mines, is killing them in
great numbers and reducing the others to such a state of despair that
many kill themselves, or refuse to procreate their kind. It is alleged
that the pregnant women take drugs to produce abortion, knowing that
the children they bear will become the slaves of the Christians.
Although a royal decree has declared all the islanders to be free,
they are forced to work more than is fit for free men. The number of
these unfortunate people diminishes in an extraordinary fashion. Many
people claim that they formerly numbered more than twelve millions;
how many there are to-day I will not venture to say, so much am I
horrified.[3] Let us finish with this sad subject and return to the
charms of this admirable Hispaniola.

[Note 3: The _Brevissima Relacion de la Destruycion de las
Indias_, of Fray B. de las Casas, contains the most crushing
indictment of Spanish colonial government ever penned. When every
allowance has been made for the apostolic, or even the fanatical
zeal, with which Las Casas defended his protégés and denounced their
tormentors, the case against the Spanish colonists remains one of the
blackest known to history. Just what the native population of Haiti
and Cuba originally numbered is hardly ascertainable; twelve millions
is doubtless an excessive estimate; but within twenty-five years
of the discovery of America, the islanders were reduced to 14,000.
Between 1507 and 1513 their numbers fell from 14,000 to 4000, and
by 1750 not one remained. Consult Fabié, _Vida y Escritos de Fray
Bartolomé de Las Casas_ (Madrid, 1879); MacNutt, _Bartholomew de las
Casas, his Life, his Apostolate, and his Writings_, New York, 1910.]

In the mountains of Cibao, which are situated in about the centre of
the island, and in the province of Cahibo where we have said the most
gold was found, there lies a district called Cotohi. It is amongst the
clouds, completely enclosed by mountain chains, and its inhabitants
are numerous. It consists of a large plateau twenty-five miles in
length and fifteen in breadth; and this plateau lies so high above the
other mountains that the peaks surrounding it appear to give birth to
the lesser mountains. Four seasons may be counted on this plateau:
spring, summer, autumn, and winter; and the plants there wither, the
trees lose their leaves and the fields dry up. This does not happen
in the rest of the island, which only knows spring-time and autumn.
Ferns, grass, and berry bushes grow there, furnishing undeniable proof
of the cold temperature. Nevertheless the country is agreeable and the
cold is not severe, for the natives do not suffer from it, nor are
there snow storms., As a proof of the fertility of the soil it is
alleged that the stalks of the ferns are thicker than javelins. The
neighbouring mountainsides contain rich gold deposits but these
mines will not be exploited because of the cold, which would make it
necessary to give clothing even to those miners who are accustomed to
that labour.

The natives are satisfied with very little; they are delicate and
could not endure winter, for they live in the open air. Two rivers
traverse this region, flowing from the high mountains which border it.
The first, called Comoiaixa, flows towards the west and loses its name
where it empties into the Naiba. The second, called the Tirechetus,
flows east and empties into the Iunna.

When I passed the island of Crete on my journey to the Sultan,[4] the
Venetians told me that there was a similar region on the summit of
Mount Ida; this region, more than the rest of the island, produces
a better wheat crop. Protected by the impassable roads which led to
these heights, the Cretans revolted, and for a long time maintained an
armed independence against the Senate of Venice. Finally, when weary
of fighting, they decided to submit, and the Senate decreed their
country should remain a desert. All avenues leading to it were guarded
so that no one could go there without its consent.

[Note 4: _De Legatione Babylonica_.]

It was in that same year, 1502, that the Venetians again permitted
this district to be cultivated, but by labourers incapable of using

There is a district in Hispaniola called Cotoy, lying between the
provinces of Huhabo and Cahibo. It is a sterile country having
mountains, valleys, and plains, and is sparsely inhabited. Gold is
found there in quantities, but instead of being in the form of ingots
or grains, it is in solid masses of pure metal, deposited in beds of
soft stone in the crevices of the rocks. The veins are discovered by
breaking the rocks, and one such may be compared to a living tree, as
from its root or starting-point it sends forth branches through the
soft pores and open passages, right up to the summit of the mountains,
never stopping till it reaches the surface of the earth. Bathed in the
splendour of the atmosphere it brings forth its fruit, consisting of
grains and nuggets. These grains and nuggets are afterwards washed
away by the heavy rains and swept down the mountain, like all heavy
bodies, to be disseminated throughout the entire island. It is thought
the metal is not produced at the place where it is found, especially
if that be in the open or in the river beds. The root of the golden
tree seems always to reach down towards the centre of the earth,
growing always larger; for the deeper one digs in the bowels of the
mountain the larger are the grains of gold unearthed. The branches
of the golden tree are in some places as slender as a thread, while
others are as thick as a finger, according to the dimensions of the
crevices. It sometimes happens that pockets full of gold are found;
these being the crevices through which the branches of the golden tree
pass. When these pockets are filled with the output from the trunk,
the branch pushes on in search of another outlet towards the earth's
surface. It is often stopped by the solid rock, but in other fissures
it seems, in a manner, to be fed from the vitality of the roots.

You will ask me, Most Holy Father, what quantity of gold is produced
in this island. Each year Hispaniola alone sends between four and five
hundred thousand gold ducats to Spain. This is known from the fact
that the royal fifth produces eighty, ninety, or a hundred thousand
castellanos of gold, and sometimes even more. I shall explain later on
what may be expected from Cuba and the island of San Juan, which are
equally rich in gold. But we have spoken enough about gold; let us now
pass on to salt, with which whatever we buy with gold is seasoned.

In a district of the province of Bainoa in the mountains of Daiagon,
lying twelve miles from the salt lake of the Caspian, are mines of
rock salt, whiter and more brilliant than crystal, and similar to the
salts which so enrich the province of Laletania, otherwise called
Catalonia, belonging to the Duke of Cardona, who is the chief noble of
that region. People, in a position to compare the two, consider the
salts of Bainoa the richer. It seems that it is necessary to use iron
tools for mining the salt in Catalonia. It also crumbles very easily
as I know by experience, nor is it harder than spongy stone. The
salt of Bainoa is as hard as marble. In the province of Caizcimu and
throughout the territories of Iguanama, Caiacoa, and Quatiaqua springs
of exceptional character are found. At the surface their waters are
fresh, a little deeper down they are salty and at the bottom they
are heavily charged with salt. It is thought that the salt sea-water
partially feeds them, and that the fresh waters on the surface flow
from the mountains through subterranean passages. The salt-waters,
therefore, remain at the bottom while the others rise to the surface,
and the former are not sufficiently strong to entirely corrupt the
latter. The waters of the middle strata are formed by a mixture of the
two others, and share the characteristics of both.

By placing one's ear to the ground near the opening of one of these
springs it is easily perceived that the earth is hollow underneath,
for one may hear the steps of a horseman a distance of three miles and
a man on foot a distance of one mile. It is said there is a district
of _savana_ in the most westerly province of Guaccaiarima, inhabited
by people who only live in caverns and eat nothing but the products
of the forest. They have never been civilised nor had any intercourse
with any other races of men. They live, so it is said, as people did
in the golden age, without fixed homes or crops or culture; neither do
they have a definite language. They are seen from time to time, but it
has never been possible to capture one, for if, whenever they come,
they see anybody other than natives approaching them, they escape with
the celerity of a deer. They are said to be quicker than French dogs.

Give ear, Most Holy Father, to a very amusing exploit of one of these
savages. The Spaniards own cultivated fields along the edge of the
woods and thick forests, which some of them went to visit, as though
on a pleasure trip, in the month of September, 1514. All at once one
of these dumb men suddenly emerged from the woods and smilingly picked
up from the very midst of the Christians a young boy, son of the owner
of the field, whose wife was a native. The savage fled, making signs
that the people should follow him, so several Spaniards and a number
of naked natives ran after the robber, without, however, being able to
catch him. As soon as the facetious savage perceived the Spaniards
had given up the pursuit, he left the child at a crossroads where the
swineherds pass driving herds to pasture. One of these swineherds
recognised the child and taking it in his arms brought it back to the
father, who had been in despair, thinking this savage belonged to the
Carib race, and mourning the child as dead.

Pitch, of a quality much harder and more bitter than that obtained
from trees, is found on the reefs of Hispaniola. It consequently
serves better to protect ships against the gnawings of the worms
called bromas, of which I have elsewhere spoken at length. There are
likewise two pitch-producing trees; one is the pine, and the other
is called _copeo_. I shall say nothing about pines, for they grow
everywhere; but let us speak a little about the copeo tree, and give
a few details about the pitch and the fruit it produces. The pitch is
obtained in the same manner as from pine-trees, though it is described
as being gathered drop by drop from the burning wood. As for the
fruit, it is as small as a plum and quite good to eat; but it is the
foliage of the trees which possesses a very special quality. It is
believed that this tree is the one whose leaves were used by the
Chaldeans, the first inventors of writing, to convey their ideas to
the absent before paper was invented. The leaf is as large as a palm
and almost round. Using a needle or pin, or a sharp iron or wooden
point, characters are traced upon it as easily as upon paper.

It is laughable to consider what the Spaniards have told the natives
concerning these leaves. These good people believe the leaves speak in
obedience to the command of the Spaniards. An islander had been sent
by a Spaniard of Santo Domingo, the capital of Hispaniola, to one
of his friends living in the interior of the colony. The messenger
likewise carried some roasted utias which, as we have said, are
rabbits. On the way, whether from hunger or greediness, he ate three;
these animals not being larger than rats. The friend wrote upon one
of these leaves what he had received. "Well, my man," the master then
said, "you are a fine lad in whom to put confidence! So you have been
so greedy as to eat the utias I gave you?" Trembling and amazed the
native confessed his fault, but asked his master how he had discovered
it. The Spaniard replied: "The leaf which you yourself have brought
me has told me everything. Moreover, you reached my friend's house at
such an hour and you left it at such another." In this way our people
amuse themselves by mystifying these poor islanders, who think they
are gods, with power to make the very leaves reveal what they believe
to be secret. Thus the news spread through the island that the leaves
speak in response to a sign from the Spaniards; and this obliges the
islanders to be very careful of whatever is confided to them. Both
sides of these leaves may be used for writing, just as is the case
with our paper. Such a leaf is thicker than a piece of paper folded in
two, and is extraordinarily tough; so much so that when it is freshly
plucked, the letters stand out white upon a green ground, but when it
dries it becomes white and hard like a piece of wood, and then these
characters change to yellow; but they remain indelible until it is
burnt, never disappearing, even when the leaf is wet.

There is another tree called the _hagua_, whose fruit when green
exudes a juice which dyes so fast everything it touches a greenish
black, that no washing can destroy this colour within twenty days.
When the fruit ripens the juice no longer has this quality; it becomes
edible and has a pleasant taste. There is an herb also, whose smoke
produces death, like the wood which we have mentioned. Some caciques
had decided to kill the Spaniards; but not daring to attack them
openly, they planned to place numerous bunches of this herb in their
houses and set fire to them, so that the Spaniards, who came to
extinguish the flames, would breathe in the smoke with the germs of a
fatal malady. This plot, however, was circumvented and the instigators
of the crime were punished.

Since Your Holiness has deigned to write that you are interested in
everything related concerning the new continent, let us now insert,
irrespective of method, a number of facts. We have sufficiently
explained how maize, agoes, yucca, potatoes, and other edible roots
are sown, cultivated, and used. But we have not yet related how the
Indians learned the properties of these plants; and it is that which
we shall now explain.


It is said that the early inhabitants of the islands subsisted for a
long time upon roots and palms and magueys. The maguey[1] is a plant
belonging to the class vulgarly called evergreen.

[Note 1: ..._magueiorum quæ est herba, sedo sive aizoo, quam
vulgus sempervivam appellat, similis_. (Jovis-barba, joubarbe, etc.)]

The roots of _guiega_ are round like those of our mushrooms, and
somewhat larger. The islanders also eat _guaieros_, which resemble our
parsnips; _cibaios_, which are like nuts; _cibaioés_ and _macoanes_,
both similar to the onion, and many other roots. It is related that
some years later, a bovite, _i.e._, a learned old man, having remarked
a shrub similar to fennel growing upon a bank, transplanted it and
developed therefrom a garden plant. The earliest islanders, who ate
raw yucca, died early; but as the taste is exquisite, they resolved to
try using it in different ways; boiled or roasted this plant is
less dangerous. It finally came to be understood that the juice was
poisonous; extracting this juice, they made from the cooked flour
cazabi, a bread better suited to human stomachs than wheat bread,
because it is more easily digested. The same was the case with other
food stuffs and maize, which they chose amongst the natural products.
Thus it was that Ceres discovered barley and other cereals amongst
the seeds, mixed with slime, brought down by the high Nile from the
mountains of Ethiopia and deposited on the plain when the waters
receded, and propagated their culture.

For having thus indicated the seeds to be cultivated, the ancients
rendered her divine honours. There are numerous varieties of agoes,
distinguishable by their leaves and flowers. One of these species is
called guanagax; both inside and out, it is of a whitish colour. The
guaragua is violet inside and white outside; another species of agoes
is zazaveios, red outside and white inside. Quinetes are white inside
and red outside. The turma is purplish, the hobos yellowish and the
atibunieix has a violet skin and a white pulp. The aniguamar is
likewise violet outside and white inside and the guaccaracca is just
the reverse; white outside and violet inside. There are many other
varieties, upon which we have not yet received any report.

I am aware that in enumerating these species I shall provoke envious
people, who will laugh when my writings reach them, at my sending such
minute particulars to Your Holiness, who is charged with such weighty
interests and on whose shoulders rests the burden of the whole
Christian world. I would like to know from these envious, whether
Pliny and the other sages famous for their science sought, in
communicating similar details to the powerful men of their day, to be
useful only to the princes with whom they corresponded. They mingled
together obscure reports and positive knowledge, great things and
small, generalities and details; to the end that posterity might,
equally with the princes, learn everything together, and also in the
hope that those who crave details and are interested in novelties,
might be able to distinguish between different countries and regions,
the earth's products, national customs, and the nature of things. Let
therefore the envious laugh at the pains I have taken; for my part, I
shall laugh, not at their ignorance, envy, and laziness, but at their
deplorable cleverness, pitying their passions and recommending them to
the serpents from which envy draws its venom. If I may believe what
has been reported to me from Your Holiness by Galeazzo Butrigario and
Giovanni Ruffo, Archbishop of Cosenza, who are the nunzios of your
apostolic chair, I am certain that these details will please you. They
are the latest trappings with which I have dressed, without seeking
to decorate them, admirable things; indications merely and not
descriptions; but you will not reject them. It will repay me to have
burned the midnight oil in your interest, that the recollection of
these discoveries may not be lost. Each takes the money that suits
his purse. When a sheep or a pig is cut up, nothing of it remains by
evening; for one man has taken the shoulder, another the rump, another
the neck, and there are even some who like the tripes and the feet.
But enough of this digression on the subject of envious men and their
fury; let us rather describe how the caciques congratulate their
fellows when a son is born; and how they shape the beginning of their
existence to its end, and why every one of them is pleased to bear
several names.

When a child is born, all the caciques and neighbours assemble and
enter the mother's chamber. The first to arrive salutes the child and
gives it a name, and those who follow do likewise; "Hail, brilliant
lamp," says one; "Hail, thou shining one," says another; or perhaps
"Conqueror of enemies," "Valiant hero," "More resplendent than gold,"
and so on. In this wise the Romans bore the titles of their parents
and ancestors: Adiabenicus, Particus, Armenicus, Dacicus, Germanicus.
The islanders do the same, in adopting the names given them by the
caciques. Take, for instance, Beuchios Anacauchoa, the ruler of
Xaragua, of whom and his sister, the prudent Anacaona, I have already
spoken at length in my First Decade. Beuchios Anacauchoa was also
called _Tareigua Hobin_, which means "prince resplendent as copper."
So likewise _Starei_, which means "shining"; _Huibo_, meaning
"haughtiness"; _Duyheiniquem_, meaning a "rich river." Whenever
Beuchios Anacauchoa publishes an order, or makes his wishes known by
heralds' proclamation, he takes great care to have all these names and
forty more recited. If, through carelessness or neglect, a single one
were omitted, the cacique would feel himself grievously outraged; and
his colleagues share this view.

Let us now examine their peculiar practices when drawing up their last
wills. The caciques choose as heir to their properties, the eldest son
of their sister, if such a one exists; and if the eldest sister has no
son, the child of the second or third sister is chosen. The reason is,
that this child is bound to be of their blood. They do not consider
the children of their wives as legitimate. When there are no children
of their sisters, they choose amongst those of their brothers, and
failing these, they fall back upon their own. If they themselves have
no children, they will their estates to whomsoever in the island is
considered most powerful, that their subjects may be protected by him
against their hereditary enemies. They have as many wives as they
choose, and after the cacique dies the most beloved of his wives is
buried with him. Anacaona, sister of Beuchios Anacauchoa, King of
Xaragua, who was reputed to be talented in the composition of areytos,
that is to say poems, caused to be buried alive with her brother the
most beautiful of his wives or concubines, Guanahattabenecheuà; and
she would have buried others but for the intercession of a certain
sandal-shod Franciscan friar, who happened to be present. Throughout
the whole island there was not to be found another woman so beautiful
as Guanahattabenecheuà. They buried with her her favourite necklaces
and ornaments, and in each tomb a bottle of water and a morsel of
cazabi bread were deposited.

There is very little rain either in Xaragua, the kingdom of Beuchios
Anacauchoa, or in the Hazua district of the country called Caihibi;
also in the valley of the salt- and fresh-water lakes and in Yacciu, a
district or canton of the province of Bainoa. In all these countries
are ancient ditches, by means of which the islanders irrigate their
fields as intelligently as did the inhabitants of New Carthage, called
Spartana, or those of the kingdom of Murcia, where it rarely rains.
The Maguana divides the provinces of Bainoa from that of Caihibi,
while the Savana divides it from Guaccaiarima. In the deeper valleys
there is a heavier rainfall than the natives require, and the
neighbourhood of Santo Domingo is likewise better watered than is
necessary, but everywhere else the rainfall is moderate. The same
variations of temperature prevail in Hispaniola as in other countries.

I have enumerated in my First Decade the colonies established in
Hispaniola by the Spaniards, and since that time they have founded the
small towns of Porto de la Plata, Porto Real, Lares, Villanova,
Assua, and Salvatiera. Let us now describe these of the innumerable
neighbouring islands which are known and which we have already
compared to the Nereids, daughters of Tethys, and their mother's
ornament. I shall begin with the nearest one, which is remarkable
because of another fountain of Arethusa, but which serves no purpose.
Six miles distant from the coast of the mother island lies an isle
which the Spaniards, ignoring its former name, call Dos Arboles [Two
Trees], because only two trees grow there. It is near them that a
spring, whose waters flow by secret channels under the sea from
Hispaniola, gushes forth, just as Alpheus left Eridus to reappear in
Sicily at the fountain of Arethusa. This fact is established by the
finding of leaves of the _hobis_, mirobolane, and many other trees
growing in Hispaniola, which are carried thither by the stream of this
fountain, for no such trees are found on the smaller island. This
fountain takes its rise in the Yiamiroa River, which flows from the
Guaccaiarima district near the Savana country. The isle is not more
than one mile in circumference, and is used as a fish market.

Towards the east, our Tethys is protected in a manner by the island of
San Juan,[2] which I have elsewhere described. San Juan has rich gold
deposits, and its soil is almost as fertile as that of its mother,
Hispaniola. Colonists have already been taken there, and are engaged
in gold-seeking. On the north-west Tethys is shielded by the great
island of Cuba, which for a long time was regarded as a continent
because of its length. It is much longer than Hispaniola, and is
divided in the middle from east to west by the Tropic of Cancer.
Hispaniola and the other islands lying to the south of Cuba occupy
almost the whole intervening space between the Tropic of Cancer and
the equator. This is the zone which many of the ancients believed to
be depopulated because of the fierce heat of the sun: in which opinion
they were mistaken. It is claimed that mines, richer than those of
Hispaniola, have been found in Cuba and at the present writing it is
asserted that gold to the value of one hundred and eighty thousand
castellanos has been obtained there and converted into ingots;
certainly a positive proof of opulence.

[Note 2: Porto Rico.]

Jamaica lies still farther to the south and is a prosperous, fertile
island, of exceptional fecundity, in which, however, there does not
exist a single mountain. It is adapted to every kind of cultivation.
Its inhabitants are formidable because of their warlike temperament.
It is impossible to establish authority within the brief period since
its occupation. Columbus, the first discoverer, formerly compared
Jamaica to Sicily in point of size, but as a matter of fact it is
somewhat smaller, though not much. This is the opinion of those who
have carefully explored it. All these people agree as to its inviting
character. It is believed that neither gold nor precious stones will
be found there; but in the beginning the same opinion was held of

The island of Guadaloupe, formerly called by the natives Caraqueira,
lies south of Hispaniola, four degrees nearer to the equator. It is
thirty-five miles in circumference and its coast line is broken by two
gulfs, which almost divide it into two different islands, as is the
case with Great Britain and Caledonia, now called Scotland. It has
numerous ports. A kind of gum called by the apothecaries _animen
album_, whose fumes cure headaches, is gathered there. The fruit of
this tree is one palm long and looks like a carrot. When opened it is
found to contain a sweetish flour, and the islanders preserve these
fruits just as our peasants lay by a store of chestnuts and other
similar things for the winter. The tree itself might be a fig-tree.
The edible pineapple and other foods which I have carefully studied
above also grow in Guadaloupe, and it is even supposed that it was the
inhabitants of this island who originally carried the seeds of all
these delicious fruits to the other islands.

In conducting their man-hunts, the Caribs have scoured all the
neighbouring countries; and whatever they found that was likely to be
useful to them, they brought back for cultivation. These islanders
are inhospitable and suspicious, and their conquest can only be
accomplished by using force. Both sexes use poisoned arrows and are
very good shots; so that, whenever the men leave the island on an
expedition, the women defend themselves with masculine courage against
any assailants. It is no doubt this fact that has given rise to the
exploded belief that there are islands in this ocean peopled entirely
by women. The Admiral Columbus induced me to believe this tale and I
repeated it in my First Decade.

In the island of Guadaloupe there are mountains and fertile plains;
it is watered by beautiful streams. Honey is found in the trees and
crevices of the rocks, and, as is the case at Palma, one of the
Fortunate Isles, honey is gathered amongst briar and bramble bushes.

The island recently named La Deseada lies eighteen miles distant from
the former island, and is twenty miles in circumference.

There is another charming island lying ten miles to the south of
Guadaloupe, which is called Galante; its surface is level and it is
thirty miles in circumference. Its name was suggested by its beauty,
for, in the Spanish, dandies are called _galanes_.[3]

[Note 3: The island was, in reality, named after one of the ships
of Columbus.]

Nine miles to the east of Guadaloupe lie six other islands called
Todos Santos and Barbadas. These are only barren reefs, but mariners
are obliged to know them. Thirty-five miles north of Guadaloupe looms
the island called Montserrat, which is forty miles in circumference,
and is dominated by a very lofty mountain. An island called Antigua,
thirty miles distant from Guadaloupe, has a circumference of about
forty miles.

The Admiral Diego Columbus, son of the discoverer, told me that when
obliged to go to court he left his wife in Hispaniola, and that she
had written him that an island with rich gold deposits had been
discovered in the midst of the archipelago of the Caribs, but that it
had not yet been visited. Off the left coast of Hispaniola there lies
to the south and near to the port of Beata an island called Alta Vela.
Most astonishing things are told concerning sea monsters found there,
especially about the turtles, which are, so it is said, larger than a
large breast shield. When the breeding time arrives they come out of
the sea, and dig a deep hole in the sand, in which they deposit three
or four hundred eggs. When all their eggs are laid, they cover up the
hole with a quantity of earth sufficient to hide them, and go back to
their feeding grounds in the sea, without paying further heed to their
progeny. When the day, fixed by nature, for the birth of these
animals arrives, a swarm of turtles comes into the world, without the
assistance of their progenitors, and only aided by the sun's rays. It
looks like an ant-hill. The eggs are almost as large as those of a
goose, and the flavour of turtle meat is compared to veal.

There is a large number of other islands, but they are as yet unknown,
and moreover it is not required to sift al1 this meal so carefully
through the sieve. It is sufficient to know that we have in our
control immense countries where, in the course of centuries, our
compatriots, our language, our morals, and our religion will flourish.
It was not from one day to another that the Teucrians peopled Asia,
the Tyrians Libya, or the Greeks and Phoenicians Spain.

I do not mention the islands which protect the north of Hispaniola;
they have extensive fisheries and might be cultivated, but the
Spaniards avoid them because they are poor. And now adieu, ancient

  Jam valeant annosa Tethys, nymphæque madentes,
  Ipsius comites; veniat coronata superbe
  Australis pelagi cultrix, re ac nomine dives.[4]

[Note 4: The following English translation for these lines has
been suggested:

  Farewell, old Tethys, ocean goddess old;
  Farewell thy company, the Nereid band;
  And come thou, rich in name and pearls and gold
  Crowned royally, Queen of the Southern strand.]

In the volume of letters I sent Your Holiness last year, by one of my
servants, and which Your Holiness has read in its entirety before the
Cardinals of the Apostolic See and your beloved sister, I related that
on the same day the Church celebrates the feast of St. Michael the
Archangel, Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, the leader of the men who had
crossed the lofty mountain chain, had been told that an island
remarkable for the size of its pearls lay within sight of the coast
and that its king was rich and powerful and often made war against the
caciques whose states lay on the coast, especially Chiapes and Tumaco.
We have written that the Spaniards did not attack the island because
of the great storms which render that South Sea dangerous, during
three months of the year. This island has now been conquered and we
have tamed its proud cacique. May Your Holiness deign to accept him
and all his rich principalities, since he has now received the waters
of baptism. It will not be out of place to remember under whose orders
and by whom this conquest was effected. May Your Holiness attend with
serene brow and benignant ear to the account of this enterprise.


As soon as he landed, the governor, Pedro Arias, confided to a certain
Gaspar Morales an expedition to Isla Rica.[1] Morales first passed by
the country of Chiapes, called Chiapeios, and of Tumaco, those two
caciques along the South Sea who were friends of Vasco. He and his men
were received magnificently as friends, and a fleet was equipped for
attacking the island. This island is called Rica and not Margarita,
although many pearls are found there; for the name Margarita was first
bestowed upon another island near Paria and the region called Boca de
la Sierpe, where many pearls had likewise been found. Morales landed
upon the island with only sixty men, the dimensions of his boats,
called culches, not permitting him to take a larger number. The proud
and formidable king of the island, whose name I have not learned,
advanced to meet them, escorted by a large number of warriors, and
proffering menaces. Guazzaciara is their war-cry; when they utter this
cry, they let fly their javelins; they do not use bows. Guazzaciara
means a battle; so they engaged in four guazzaciaras, in which the
Spaniards, aided by their allies of Chiapes and Tumaco, who were that
chieftain's enemies, were victorious. Their attack was in the nature
of a surprise. The cacique wished to assemble a larger army, but
was dissuaded by his neighbours along the coast from continuing the
struggle. Some by their example, and others by threatening him with
the ruin of a flourishing country, demonstrated that the friendship of
the Spaniards would bring glory and profit to himself and his friends.
They reminded him of the misfortunes which had the preceding year
befallen Poncha, Pochorroso, Quarequa, Chiapes, Tumaco, and others who
attempted to resist. The cacique gave up fighting and came to meet
the Spaniards, whom he conducted to his palace, which was a veritable
royal residence marvellously decorated. Upon their arrival at his
house he presented them with a very well-wrought basket filled with
pearls of ten pounds weight, at eight ounces to the pound.

[Note 1: The description at this point is inaccurate and
misleading. The pearl islands number in all one hundred and
eighty-three, forming an archipelago. There are thirty-nine islands
of considerable size, of which the principal ones are San José, San
Miguel, and Isla del Rey; the others are small, some being no more
than reefs, or isolated rocks rising above the surface of the sea.]

The cacique was overjoyed when they presented him with their usual
trifles, such as glass beads, mirrors, copper bells, and perhaps some
iron hatchets, for the natives prize these things more than heaps of
gold. In fact, they even make fun of the Spaniards for exchanging such
important and useful articles for such a little gold. Hatchets can
be put to a thousand uses among them, while gold is merely a not
indispensable luxury. Pleased and enchanted by his bargains, the
cacique, took the captain and his officers by the hand and led them
to the top of one of the towers of his house from whence the view
embraced an immense horizon towards the sea. Looking about him, he
said: "Behold the infinite ocean which has no end towards the rising
sun." He pointed to the east, and afterwards turning to the south and
the west he gave them to understand that the continent, on which the
vast mountain ranges were perceptible in the distance, was very large.
Glancing about nearer to them, he said: "These islands lying to the
left and right along the two coasts of our residence belong to us.
They are all rich; they are all happy, if you call lands happy which
abound in gold and pearls. In this particular place there is not much
gold, but the shores of all these islands are strewn with pearls,
and I will give you as many as you want if you will be my friends. I
prefer your manufactures to my pearls, and I wish to possess them.
Therefore do not imagine that I desire to break off relations with

Such were the words, amongst many others similar, they exchanged. When
the Spaniards planned to leave, the cacique promised to send each year
as a present to the great king of Castile a hundred pounds of pearls,
at eight ounces to the pound. He made this promise voluntarily,
attaching little importance to it, and in no way considering himself
their tributary.

There are so many rabbits and deer in that island that, without
leaving their houses, the Spaniards could kill as many as they chose
with their arrows. Their life there was luxurious, and nothing was
wanting. The royal residence lies only six degrees from the equator.
Yucca, maize bread, and wine made from grains and fruits, are the same
as at Comogra or amongst the other continental and insular tribes.

The cacique, Most Holy Father, was baptised with all his people who
are become as sheep under their shepherd to increase your flock.
Pedro Arias, the governor, wished to bestow his name upon them. The
friendship established increased, and the cacique, to assist the
Spaniards to regain the continent more easily, lent them his
fishermen's culches, that is to say barques dug out of treetrunks in
the native fashion. He also accompanied them to the shore.

After setting aside the fifth for the royal officials, the Spaniards
divided amongst themselves the pearls they had secured. They say they
are extremely valuable. Here is a proof of the great value of the
pearls from that island. Many of them are white and have a beautiful
orient, and are as large or even larger than a nut. What has quickened
my recollection is the remembrance of a pearl which the Sovereign
Pontiff, Paul, predecessor of Your Holiness, bought from a Venetian
merchant through the intermediary of my relative Bartolomeo the
Milanese, for forty-four thousand ducats. Now amongst the pearls
brought from the island there is one equal in size to an ordinary
nut. It was sold at auction and bought at Darien for twelve thousand
castellanos of gold, ending in the hands of the governor, Pedro Arias.
This precious pearl now belongs to his wife, of whom we have already
spoken at the time of his departure. We may assume, therefore, that
this pearl was the most precious of all, since it was valued so highly
amongst that mass of pearls which were bought, not singly, but by the
ounce. It is probable that the Venetian merchant had not paid such a
price in the East for the pearl of Pope Paul; but he lived at a time
when such objects were greedily sought and a lover of pearls was
waiting to swallow it.

Let us now say something of the shells in which pearls grow. Your
Beatitude is not ignorant of the fact that Aristotle, and Pliny who
followed the former in his theories, were not of the same opinion
concerning the growth of pearls. They held but one point in common,
and upon all others they differed. Neither would admit that pearl
oysters moved after they were once formed. They declare that there
exist at the bottom of the sea, meadows, as it were, upon which an
aromatic plant resembling thyme grows; they affirm they had seen these
fields. In such places these animals resembling oysters are born and
grow, engendering about them numerous progeny. They are not satisfied
to have one, three, four, or even more pearls, for as many as a
hundred and twenty pearls have been found in one shell on the
fisheries of that island; and the captain, Caspar Morales, and his
companions carefully counted them. While the Spaniards were there,
the cacique had his divers bring up pearls. The matrix of these pearl
oysters may be compared to the organ in which hens form their numerous
eggs. The pearls are produced in the following manner: as soon as they
are ripe and leave the womb of their mother, they are found detached
from the lips of the matrix. They follow one by one each in turn
detaching itself, after a brief interval. In the beginning the pearls
are enclosed, as it were, in the belly of the oyster, where they grow
just as a child while in the womb of its mother lives on the substance
of her body. Later on they leave the maternal asylum, where they were
hidden. The pearl oysters found--as I myself have seen from time to
time--upon the beach and imbedded in the sand on different Atlantic
coasts, have been cast up from the depths of the sea by storms, and do
not come there of themselves. Why brilliant morning dew gives a white
tint to pearls; why bad weather causes them to turn yellow; why they
like a clear sky, and remain immovable when it thunders, are questions
which cannot be examined with precision by those ignorant natives. It
is not a subject that can be treated by limited minds. It is further
said that the largest pearl oysters remain at the bottom, the commoner
ones in the half-depths, and the little ones near the surface; but
the reasons given to sustain this theory are poor ones. The immovable
mollusc does not reason about the choice of its home. Everything
depends on the determination, the ability, and the breath of the
divers. The large pearl oysters do not move about; they are created
and find their sustenance in the deepest places, for the number of
divers who venture to penetrate to the bottom of the sea to collect
them is few. They are afraid of polyps, which are greedy for oyster
meat and are always grouped about the places where they are. They are
likewise afraid of other sea-monsters, and most of all they fear to
suffocate if they stay too long under water. The pearl oysters in the
profoundest depths of the sea consequently have time to grow, and
the larger and older the shell becomes, the larger the pearls they
harbour, though in number they are few. Those born at the bottom of
the sea are believed to become food for the fish; when first gathered
they are soft, and the shape of the ear is different from the larger
ones. It is alleged that no pearl adheres to the shell as it grows
old, but there grows in the shell itself a sort of round and brilliant
lump which acquires lustre by filing. This, however, is not valuable,
and takes its nature rather from the shell than from the pearl. The
Spaniards call the tympanum _pati_.[2] Sometimes pearl oysters have
been found growing in small colonies upon rocks, but they are not
prized. It is credible that the oysters of India, Arabia, the Red Sea,
and Ceylon exist in the manner described by celebrated authors, nor
should the explanations given by such eminent writers be entirely
rejected; I speak of those who have been for a long time in
contradiction with one another.

[Note 2: _Pati appellat Hispanus tympanum_; a sentence for which
the translator has found no satisfactory meaning.]

We have already spoken enough about these sea-animals and their eggs,
which luxury-loving people stupidly prefer to the eggs of chickens or
ducks. Let us add some further details outside our subject.

We have above described the entrance to the Gulf of Uraba, and said
the different countries washed by its waters were strangely different
from one another. I have nothing new to relate of the western shore,
where the Spaniards established their colony on the banks of the
Darien River.

What I have recently learnt about the eastern shore is as follows:
the entire country lying to the east between the promontory and shore
which extend into the sea and receive the force of the waves, as far
as Boca de la Sierpe and Paria, is called by the general name of
Caribana. Caribs are found everywhere, and are called from the name of
their country,[3] but it is well to indicate from whence the Caribs
take their origin, and how, after leaving their country, they have
spread everywhere like a deadly contagion. Nine miles from the first
coast encountered coming from seawards where, as we have said, Hojeda
settled, stands in the province of Caribana a village called Futeraca;
three miles farther on is the village of Uraba, which gives its name
to the gulf and was formerly the capital of the kingdom. Six miles
farther on is the village of Feti, and at the ninth and twelfth miles
respectively stand the villages of Zeremoe and Sorachi, all thickly
populated. All the natives in these parts indulged in man-hunts, and
when there are no enemies to fight they practise their cruelties
on one another. From this place the infection has spread to the
unfortunate inhabitants of the islands and continent.

[Note 3: There are more theories than one concerning the origin of
the Caribs and their name. Among other writers who have treated this
subject may be cited Reville, in an article published in the _Nouvelle
Revue_, 1884, and Rochefort in his _Histoire naturelle et morale des
isles Antilles_.]

There is another fact I think I should not omit. A learned lawyer
called Corales, who is a judge at Darien, reported that he encountered
a fugitive from the interior provinces of the west, who sought refuge
with the cacique. This man, seeing the judge reading, started with
surprise, and asked through interpreters who knew the cacique's
language, "You also have books? You also understand the signs by which
you communicate with the absent?" He asked at the same time to look
at the open book, hoping to see the same characters used among his
people; but he saw the letters were not the same. He said that in his
country the towns were walled and the citizens wore clothing and were
governed by laws. I have not learned the nature of their religion, but
it is known from examining this fugitive, and from his speech, that
they are circumcised.[4] What, Most Holy Father, do you think of this?
What augury do you, to whose domination time will submit all peoples,
draw for the future?

[Note 4: ..._recutiti tamen dispræputiatique, ab exemplo et
sermone fugitivi confererunt_. The man may have been a Peruvian or
of the civilised plateau people of Cundinamarca. Wiener, in his
interesting work, _Perou et Bolivie_, studies the Peruvian system of

Let us add to these immense considerations some matters of less
importance. I think that I should not omit mentioning the voyage of
Juan Solis,[5] who sailed from the ocean port of Lepe, near Cadiz,
with three ships, the fourth day of the ides of September, 1515, to
explore the southern coasts of what was supposed to be a continent.
Nor do I wish to omit mention of Juan Ponce,[6] commissioned to
conquer the Caribs, anthropophagi who feed on human flesh; or of
Juan Ayora de Badajoz, or Francisco Bezerra, and of Valleco, already
mentioned by me. Solis was not successful in his mission. He set out
to double the cape or promontory of San Augustin and to follow the
coast of the supposed continent as far as the equator. We have already
indicated that this cape lies in the seventh degree of the antarctic
pole. Solis continued six hundred leagues farther on, and observed
that the cape San Augustin extended so far beyond the equator to the
south that it reached beyond the thirtieth degree of the Southern
Hemisphere. He therefore sailed for a long distance beyond the Boca de
la Sierpe and Spanish Paria, which face the north and the pole star.
In these parts are found some of those abominable anthropophagi,
Caribs, whom I have mentioned before. With fox-like astuteness these
Caribs feigned amicable signs, but meanwhile prepared their stomachs
for a succulent repast; and from their first glimpse of the strangers
their mouths watered like tavern trenchermen. The unfortunate Solis
landed with as many of his companions as he could crowd into the
largest of the barques, and was treacherously set upon by a multitude
of natives who killed him and his men with clubs in the presence of
the remainder of his crew.[7] Not a soul escaped; and after having
killed and cut them in pieces on the shore, the natives prepared to
eat them in full view of the Spaniards, who from their ships witnessed
this horrible sight. Frightened by these atrocities, the men did not
venture to land and execute vengeance for the murder of their leader
and companions. They loaded their ships with red wood, which the
Italians call verzino and the Spaniards brazil-wood, and which is
suitable for dyeing wool; after which they returned home. I have
learned these particulars by correspondence, and I here repeat them. I
shall further relate what the other explorers accomplished.

[Note 5: Juan Diaz de Solis, a native of Sebixa, sailed with
Vincente Yañez Pinzon in 1508, when the mouths of the Amazon were
discovered. In 1512, the King appointed him and Giovanni Vespucci his

[Note 6: Governor in 1508 of Porto Rico and later, in 1512, the
discoverer of Florida, of which country he was appointed Adelantado by
King Ferdinand. He died in Cuba in 1521, from the effects of a wound
received during his expedition to Florida in that year.]

[Note 7: The scene of this massacre was between Maldonado and

Juan Ponce likewise endured a severe check from the cannibals on the
island of Guadaloupe, which is the most important of all the Carib
islands. When these people beheld the Spanish ships, they concealed
themselves in a place from which they could spy upon all the movements
of the people who might land. Ponce had sent some women ashore to wash
some shirts and linen, and also some foot-soldiers to obtain fresh
water, for he had not seen land after leaving the island of Ferro in
the Canaries until he reached Guadaloupe, a distance of four thousand
two hundred miles. There is no island in the ocean throughout the
entire distance. The cannibals suddenly attacked and captured the
women, dispersing the men, a small number of whom managed to escape.
Ponce did not venture to attack the Caribs, fearing the poisoned
arrows which these barbarous man-eaters use with fatal effect.

This excellent Ponce who, as long as he was in a place of safety, had
boasted that he would exterminate the Caribs, was constrained to leave
his washerwomen and retreat before the islanders. What he has since
done, and what discoveries he may have made, I have not yet learned.
Thus Solis lost his life, and Ponce his honour, in carrying out their

Another who failed miserably in his undertaking the same year is Juan
Ayora de Cordova, a nobleman sent out as judge, as we have elsewhere
said, and who was keener about accumulating a fortune than he was
about administering his office, and deserving praise. Under some
pretext or other he robbed several caciques and extorted gold from
them, in defiance of all justice. It is related that he treated them
so cruelly that, from being friends, they became implacable enemies,
and driven to extremities they massacred the Spaniards, sometimes
openly and sometimes by setting traps for them. In places where
formerly trade relations were normal and the caciques friendly, it
became necessary to fight. When, so it is said, he had amassed a large
amount of gold by such means, Ayora fled on board a ship he suddenly
procured, and it is not known at this present writing where he landed.
There are not wanting people who believe that the governor himself,
Pedro Arias, closed his eyes to this secret flight; for Juan Ayora
is a brother of Gonzales Ayora, the royal historiographer, who is a
learned man, an excellent captain, and so intimate with the governor
that he and Pedro Arias may be cited amongst the rare pairs of friends
known to us. I am in very close relations with both of them, and may
they both pardon me; but amidst all the troubles in the colonies,
nothing has displeased me so much as the cupidity of this Juan Ayora,
which troubled the public peace of the colonies and alienated the

Let us now come to the tragic adventures of Gonzales de Badajoz
and his companions. In the beginning fortune smiled upon them, but
sufficiently sad changes very quickly followed. Gonzales left Darien
with forty soldiers in the month of March of the preceding year, 1515,
and marched straight to the west, stopping nowhere until he reached
the region the Spaniards have named Gracias á Dios, as we have above
stated. This place is about a hundred and eighty miles, or sixty
leagues from Darien. They passed several days there doing nothing,
because the commander was unable either by invitations, bribes, or
threats to induce the cacique to approach him, although he desired
very much to accomplish this. While camping here he was joined by
fifteen adventurers from Darien, under the leadership of Luis Mercado
who had left that colony in May, wishing to join Gonzales in exploring
the interior. As soon as the two groups met, they decided to cross the
southern mountain chain and take possession of the South Sea already
discovered. The most extraordinary thing of all is, that on a
continent of such length and breadth, the distance to the South Sea
was not more than fifty-one miles, or seventeen leagues. In Spain
people never count by miles; the land league equals three miles, and
the marine league four miles. When they reached the summit of the
mountain chain, which is the watershed, they found there a cacique
called Javana. Both the country and its ruler bear the name of Coiba,
as we have already stated is the case, at Careta. As the country of
Javana is the richest of all in gold, it is called Coiba Rica. And in
fact, wherever one digs, whether on dry land or in the river-beds,
the sand is found to contain gold. The cacique Javana fled when the
Spaniards approached, nor was it possible to overtake him. They then
set to work to ravage the neighbourhood of his town, but found
very little gold, for the cacique had taken with him in his flight
everything he possessed. They found, however, some slaves who were
branded in a painful fashion. The natives cut lines in the faces of
the slaves, using a sharp point either of gold or of a thorn; they
then fill the wounds with a kind of powder dampened with black or
red juice, which forms an indelible dye and never disappears. The
Spaniards took these slaves with them. It seems that this juice is
corrosive and produces such terrible pain that the slaves are unable
to eat on account of their sufferings. Both the kings who originally
captured these slaves in war, and also the Spaniards, put them to work
hunting gold or tilling the fields.

Leaving the town of Javana, the Spaniards followed the watershed for
ten miles, and entered the territory of another chief, whom they
called the "Old Man," because they were heedless of his name and took
notice only of his age. Everywhere in the country of this cacique,
both in the riverbeds and in the soil, gold was found. Streams were
abundant and the county was everywhere rich and fertile. Leaving that
place, the Spaniards marched for five days through a desert country
which they thought had been devastated by war, for though the greater
part of it was fertile, it was neither inhabited nor cultivated.
On the fifth day they perceived in the distance two heavily laden
natives, approaching them. Marching upon them, they captured the men,
and found that they were carrying sacks of maize on their shoulders.
From the answers of these men they gathered that there were two
caciques in these regions, one on the coast, called Periqueta, another
in the interior, called Totonogo; the latter being blind. These two
men were fishermen who had been sent by their cacique Totonogo, to
Periqueta, with a burden of fish, which they had traded for bread.[8]
Trade is thereabouts carried on by exchange in kind, and not by means
of gold, which claims so many victims. Led by these two natives, the
Spaniards reached the country of Totonogo, the cacique whose country
extends along the west side of the gulf of San Miguel on the south
sea. This chieftain gave them six thousand castellanos of gold, partly
in ingots and partly worked; amongst the former was one which weighed
two castellanos, proving that gold exists in abundance in this region.

[Note 8: There has evidently at some time been an error of
transcription: the cacique Totonogo, who is first mentioned as ruling
along the sea-coast, is now described as sending fish to his neighbour

Following along the western coast, the Spaniards visited the cacique
Taracuru, from whom they obtained eight thousand pesos; a peso, as we
have already said, corresponding to an unminted castellano. They next
marched into the country of his brother Pananome, who fled and was
seen no more. His subjects declared the country to be rich in gold.
The Spaniards destroyed his residence. Six leagues farther on they
came to the country of another cacique called Tabor, and then to that
of another called Cheru. The latter received the Spaniards amicably,
and offered them four thousand pesos. He possesses valuable salt
deposits, and the country is rich in gold. Twelve miles farther they
came to another cacique called Anata, from whom they obtained twelve
thousand pesos, which the cacique had captured from neighbouring
chieftains whom he had conquered. This gold was even scorched, because
it had been carried out of the burning houses of his enemies. These
caciques rob and massacre one another, and destroy their villages,
during their atrocious wars. They give no quarter, and the victors
make a clean sweep of everything.[9]

[Note 9: This was everywhere the case on the mainland; while it
does not excuse the cruelties inflicted by the Spaniards upon the
native populations in their rapacious struggle for wealth, it may
temper the undiscriminating sympathy of the emotional to reflect that
oppression, torture, extortion, and slavery, not to mention human
sacrifices and cannibalism were practised among them with a hideous
ingenuity upon which no refinement introduced by the Spaniards could

In this wise the excellent Gonzales de Badajoz and his companions
wandered, without any fixed plan, until they came to the territory
of Anata; and during their journey they had collected piles of gold,
girdles, women's breast ornaments, earrings, headdresses, necklaces,
and bracelets, to the value of eighty thousand castellanos more. This
they had acquired, either by trading their merchandise or by pillage
and violence; for the majority of the caciques had opposed their
passage and had sought to resist them. They had in addition forty
slaves, whom they used as beasts of burden to carry their provisions
and baggage, and also to care for the sick.

The Spaniards traversed the country of a cacique, Scoria, and arrived
at the residence of another called Pariza. They did not expect to be
attacked, but the cacique closed about them with a great number of
armed men, surprising them at a moment when they were off their guard
and scattered. They had no time to seize their weapons; seventy of
them were wounded or killed, and the rest fled, abandoning their gold
and all their slaves. Very few of them ever came back to Darien.

The opinion of all the sages upon the vicissitudes of fortune and the
inconstancy of human affairs would prove unfounded if this expedition
had terminated profitably and happily; but the ordering of events is
inevitable, and those who tear up the roots, sometimes find sweet
liquorice and sometimes bitter cockle. Woe, however, to Pariza! for he
shall not long rest quietly. This great crime will soon be avenged.
The governor was preparing to lead a campaign against him in person at
the head of three hundred and fifty men when he fell ill. The learned
jurisconsult, Caspar Espinosa, royal judge at Darien, took his place
and acted as his lieutenant; at the same time the Spaniards sent to
the island called Rica to collect the tribute of pearls imposed upon
its cacique. We shall in due course learn what happened.

Other leaders marched against the dwellers on the other side of the
gulf; one of whom, Francisco Bezerra, crossed the head of the gulf and
the mouth of the Dabaiba River. His band consisted of two officers and
a hundred and fifty well-armed soldiers. His plan was to attack the
Caribs in the country of Caribana itself. He first marched against the
village of Turufy, of which I have spoken when describing the arrival
of Hojeda. He was provided with engines of war, three cannon firing
lead bullets larger than an egg, forty archers, and twenty-five
musketeers. It was planned to fire upon the Caribs from a distance
because they fight with poisoned arrows. It is not yet known where
Bezerra landed nor what he did; but it was feared at Darien when the
vessels were leaving for Spain, that his expedition had turned out

Another captain, called Vallejo, carried on operations along the lower
part of the gulf, crossing over by another route than that taken by
Bezerra; thus one of them menaced Caribana from the front and the
other from behind. Vallejo has come back, but out of seventy men he
took with him, forty-eight wounded were left in the power of the
Caribs. This is the story told by those who reached Darien, and I
repeat it.

On the eve of the ides of October of this year, 1516, Roderigo
Colmenares, whom I have above mentioned, and a certain Francisco de la
Puente belonging to the troop commanded by Gonzales de Badajoz came to
see me. The latter was amongst those who escaped the massacre executed
by the cacique Pariza. Colmenares himself left Darien for Spain after
the vanquished arrived. Both of them report, one from hearsay and the
other from observation, that a number of islands lie in the South Sea
to the west of the gulf of San Miguel and the Isla Rica and that on
these islands trees, bearing the same fruits as in the country of
Calicut, grow and are cultivated. It is from the countries of Calicut,
Cochin, and Camemor that the Portuguese procure spices. Thus it is
thought that not far from the colony of San Miguel begins the country
where spices grow. Many of those who have explored these regions only
await the authorisation to sail from that coast of the South Sea;
and they offer to build ships at their own cost, if they only be
commissioned to seek for the spice lands. These men think that ships
should be built in the gulf of San Miguel itself, and that the idea of
following the coast in the direction of Cape San Augustin should be
abandoned, as that route would be too long, too difficult, and too
dangerous. Moreover it would take them beyond the fortieth degree of
the southern hemisphere.

This same Francisco, who shared the labours and the perils of Gonzales
says, that in exploring those countries he saw veritable herds of deer
and wild boar, of which he captured many in the native fashion by
digging ditches across the trails followed by these animals and
covering them over with branches; this is the native method of
trapping these wild quadrupeds. In catching birds they use doves just
as we do. They tie a tame dove in the trees, and the birds of each
species which flock about it are then shot with arrows. Another way is
by spreading a net in an open space, sprinkling food round about it,
and placing the tame dove in the middle. The same system is used with
parrots and other birds. The parrots are so stupid that, while one
chatters on a tree in whose branches the bird-catcher is concealed,
the others flock thither, and allow themselves to be easily caught.
They are not frightened when they see the bird-catcher, but sit
looking until the noose is thrown round their necks. Even when they
see one of their companions captured and thrown into the hunter's bag,
they do not fly away.

There is another system of bird-hunting which is quite original and
diverting to relate. We have already stated that there exist in the
islands, and especially at Hispaniola, stagnant lakes and ponds upon
whose waters flutters a whole world of aquatic birds, because those
waters are covered with grasses, and little fish and a thousand
varieties of frogs, worms, and insects live in that liquid mud. The
work of corruption and generation ordained by the secret decree
of providence is promoted in these depths by the heat of the sun.
Different species of birds swarm in these waters: ducks, geese, swans,
divers, gulls, sea-mews, and countless similar.

We have elsewhere related that the natives cultivate a tree in their
gardens, whose fruit resembles a large gourd. The natives throw a
large quantity of these gourds into the ponds, after having carefully
stopped up the holes by which water is introduced into them, to
prevent their sinking. These gourds, floating about on the water,
inspire the birds with confidence; the hunter then covers his head
with a sort of cask made of a gourd, one in which there are little
holes for his eyes, like in a mask. He wades into the water up to his
chin, for from their infancy they are all accustomed to swim, and do
not fear to remain a long time in the water. As the birds find the
gourd which conceals the hunter similar to all the others floating
about, the man is able to approach the flock. Imitating with his head
the movements of the floating gourd, he follows the little waves
produced by the wind, and gradually approaches the birds. Stretching
out his right hand he seizes a bird by the foot, and without being
seen, quickly jerks it under the water and thrusts it into a bag he
carries. The other birds imagining their companion has dived in search
of food, as they all do, fearlessly continue their movements, and in
their turns become victims of the hunter.

I interrupted my narrative with this description of bird-hunting and
other sport, in order that these harmless tales might divert you from
the horror you must have felt in reading the story of so many crimes.
I should still like to speak to you concerning a new theory of the
current which drives the waters of the gulf of Paria towards the west;
and also of the system of gold-mining in Darien. These are particulars
which have just recently been furnished me. After this dual report,
which will be in no sense tragic, I shall take leave of Your Holiness.

The Captain Andreas Morales and Oviedo, whom I have above mentioned,
came to visit me at Madrid, or to be more accurate, at Mantua
Carpetana; and in my presence they had a discussion on the subject of
this current. They agree that the Spanish possessions extend without
interruption towards the northern lands behind Cuba and the other
islands, and to the north-west of Hispaniola and Cuba; but they do not
hold the same opinion concerning the current. Andreas claims that the
force of these waters is broken by the great body of land believed to
be a continent, and which, as we have said, bends towards the north,
in such wise that, breaking against these obstacles, the waters turn
in a circle and are driven towards the northern coasts of Cuba and the
other lands lying outside the Tropic of Cancer. Thus, these waters,
which flow from narrow straits are absorbed, as it were, in the
immensity of the ocean, and their force is diminished as they spread
through immense spaces where they ultimately disappear. I might
compare this current to the eddies of water in a mill-race. Water
flowing, no matter how rapidly, through a narrow canal, and afterwards
falling into a lake, at once spreads out; the volume is broken, and
although an instant before it flowed riotously, and seemed capable of
sweeping away every obstacle, it is calmed. Even the direction of the
current is no longer perceptible. I once questioned Admiral Diego
Columbus, son and heir of the discoverer, who had crossed these seas,
coming and going, four times. When asked his opinion, he answered: "It
is difficult to return as one went; but upon sailing northwards on
the open ocean to return to Spain, the movement in the waters driving
towards the east is very perceptible. I think this is probably due to
the ordinary influence of ebb and flow, and should not be attributed
to those eddyings of the waters. The continent is open, and there must
exist between the two bodies a strait through which these turbulent
waters escape to the west. In obedience to a decree of Heaven, they
circulate throughout the entire universe."

Oviedo agrees with Andreas in thinking that the continent is closed,
but he does not believe that this western mass of the continent breaks
the current, driving it into the vast ocean. He likewise affirms that
he has carefully noted that the current running westwards, takes its
rise in the open sea; when following along the coast in small ships,
it is the current running eastwards that is struck, so that one may
be transported in two opposite directions at the same spot. This is
a phenomenon which may frequently be observed in rivers, where the
conformation of the banks gives rise to whirlpools. If straws or bits
of wood are thrown into the river at such a place, those which fall
into the middle are carried away by the current; on the contrary,
those which drop into some bend along the shore or by a slanting bank,
go up the current until they again drift into the middle of the river.

Such are their opinions, and I repeat them, although they are in
contradiction. We shall form no well-grounded opinion until the true
cause of this phenomenon has been verified. Meanwhile it is only
possible to set forth these different theories, until the day fixed
and the astronomical moment for the discovery of this secret of Nature
shall arrive. But enough concerning these pelagic currents.

Some few more words about gold mines at Darien, and we shall have
accomplished our task.

We have said that nine miles from Darien begin the hills and plains
containing gold deposits, either in the earth or in the bed or the
banks of the rivers. Any one who has been bitten by the gold fever
usually sets out as follows: the directors assign him a parcel of
ground twelve paces square, which he may choose as he pleases, on
condition that it is not land that has already been occupied or
abandoned by his companions. When he has made his choice, he settles
on that spot with his slaves, as though within a temple, whose limits
the Augurs have traced with their sacred staves. The Christians use
native labour both in the mines and in agriculture. This plot of land
may be held as long as the occupant wishes; and in case no gold, or
very little, should be found there, a request for a fresh square of
like dimensions is presented, and the parcel of abandoned land reverts
to the common demesne. This is the order followed by the colonists of
Darien who are engaged in gold-seeking. I think it is the same for the
others, but I have not questioned all of them. Sometimes such a parcel
of twelve paces square has netted its possessor the sum of eighty
castellanos. Such is the life people lead to satisfy the sacred hunger
for gold;[10] but the richer one becomes by such work, the more does
one desire to possess. The more wood is thrown on the fire, the more
it crackles and spreads. The sufferer from dropsy, who thinks to
appease his thirst by drinking, only excites it the more. I have
suppressed many details to which I may later return if I learn that
they afford pleasure to Your Holiness, charged with the weight of
religious questions and sitting at the summit of the honours to which
men may aspire. It is in no sense for my personal pleasure that I have
collected these facts, for only the desire to please Your Beatitude
has induced me to undertake this labour.

[Note 10: _Sic vivitur in sacra fame auri explenda_.]

May Providence, which watches over this world, grant to Your Holiness
many happy years.


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to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.