Columbus thought he would find “Blemmyes” and “monstrous races”

blemmyes sciapods

A very interesting facet to the Christopher Columbus story that I never heard before.  Life was more exciting when there were more unknowns!  Scientific understanding is overrated.

From The Conversation:

In 1492, when Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic Ocean in search of a fast route to East Asia and the southwest Pacific, he landed in a place that was unknown to him. There he found treasures – extraordinary trees, birds and gold.

But there was one thing that Columbus expected to find that he didn’t.

Upon his return, in his official report, Columbus noted that he had “discovered a great many islands inhabited by people without number.” He praised the natural wonders of the islands.

But, he added, “I have not found any monstrous men in these islands, as many had thought.”

Why, one might ask, had he expected to find monsters?

My research and that of other historians reveal that Columbus’ views were far from abnormal. For centuries, European intellectuals had imagined a world beyond their borders populated by “monstrous races.”

Sketches from the time period

Royal E VI fol v sans teste
Alexander encounters the headless people – c. 1445.
Biancomap headless inset
Headless placed in India. —Andrea Bianco map (1436)
BnF fr fol Ethiopie
Wondrous people of Ethiopia, 1377 manuscript of Secrets de l’histoire naturelle
Headless engraving
Headless from 1599 engraving in Sir Walter Raleigh’s The Discovery of Guiana

Was Columbus disappointed that he didn’t find Blemmyes?

I imagine, Yes.  I know I would have been.

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