Ancient Israel and Ancient Greece: Religion, Politics, and Culture

By John Pairman Brown | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5

Paradise and the forest of Lebanon

Columbus and the Earthly Paradise

On October 18, 1498 (Old Style of course), Columbus wrote to Ferdinand and Isabel (la) from Hispaniola an account of his third voyage, expressing his conviction that he had found the Earthly Paradise, el parayso terrenal. We do not have his letter, but a hand copy by Bartolomé de Las Casas with the heading:

Account of the voyage which the Admiral Don Christóval Colon made
the third time that he came to the Indies, when he discovered mainland
[the South American continent], as he sent it to the Sovereigns from the
island Española.1

This is the document in which he expresses his conviction that the Western Hemisphere, unlike the Eastern, was not truly spherical:

But I say that this [hemisphere] is as it were the half of a very round pear
which has a raised stalk, as I have said [above, same page], or like a
woman’s nipple on a round ball.2

1. Select Documents Illustrating the Four Voyages of Columbus, vol. 2, ed. and trans. Cecil Jane
(Hakluyt Society second series no. 70, 1933; repr. Millwood: Kraus, 1967), 3. The Admiral
appears to have been born in Genoa as Christoforo Colombo, but all his letters are in Castilian
like this one, and his name in Spanish Christóval (as here) or Christóbal. I do not know on what
authority the date of the letter rests. These passages are discussed by Kirkpatrick Sale (The Con-
quest of Paradise: Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Legacy
[New York: Knopf; 1990],
174—77)—a work very harsh on Columbus and the whole enterprise of European colonization.

2. Jane, ibid., 31.

-147-

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