Bartolomeu Dias

Tess Davies

Background

Bartolomeu Dias was an explorer from Portugal. He lived from 1450 C.E. - 1500 C.E. He was an experienced sailor who served as superintendent of the royal warehouses and was at the court of the king of Portugal, João II. Dias was sent by João II to find a sea route to India by sailing around the southernmost tip of Africa. The king also wanted him to search for the legendary Prestor John who supposedly lead a nation of Christians somewhere in Africa.

Gold, Glory or God?

Bartolomeu Dias was motivated by gold, because he was sent to find a new trade route to India. After the Ottoman Empire seized control of Constantinople, it became expensive to travel to Asia through the Middle East. Europe needed a new way to reach Asia, so they turned to the sea. If they could sail around Africa, people from Europe could trade with Asia without having to pay the Ottoman Empire. The king of Portugal wanted Dias to find this new trade route, a feat which would bring gold and goods to Portugal.

Results

After being caught in a storm that lasted thirteen days, Bartolomeu Dias finally landed in São Bras (now known as Mussel Bay). It wasn't until his return voyage to Portugal that he found the southernmost point of Africa, which he named Cabo das Tormentas, or Cape of Storms, due to the violent storms. It was later renamed Cabo da Boa Esperança, or Cape of Good Hope, to make it sound friendlier. He succeeded in finding a new trade route around Africa, though not without casualties. Many crew members died from inclement weather and attacks by locals.

Other Important Information

Bartolomeu Dias served as a shipbuilding consultant for fellow explorer Vasco da Gama. He sailed with Vasco da Gama to the Cape Verde Islands and completed several other trips around the tip of Africa. In May 1500, Bartolomeu Dias died in a shipwreck near the Cabo das Tormentas. He was the first European to ever round the southern tip of Africa.
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