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PETER MARTYR, OF MILAN, APOSTOLIC PROTONOTARY AND ROYAL COUNSELLOR TO THE SOVEREIGN PONTIFF LEO X
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
M”. Holy Father," Since the arrival at the 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. 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' 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 Baécca, an Andalusian, and Alonzo Hojeda de Concha. 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 coasttown 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
* 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.
* 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.
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," 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. 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." 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 * The place of origin of the Caribs is disputed, some authorities tracing them to Guiana, others to Venezuela, others to the Antilles, etc.
* 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.