As we have seen, Spain by no means deserves the entire credit of bringing the western continent to men's knowledge. Columbus himself was an Italian. So was Marco Polo, his inspirer, and also Toscanelli, his instructor, by whose chart he sailed his ever-memorable voyage. To Portugal as well Columbus was much indebted, despite his rebuff there.
Portugal then led the world in the art of navigation and in enthusiasm for discovery. Nor, probably, would Columbus have asked her aid in vain, had she not previously committed herself to the enterprise of reaching India eastward, a purpose brilliantly fulfilled when, in 1498, Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope and sailed to Calicut, on the coast of Malabar. Already before this Spain and Portugal were rivals in the search for new lands, and Pope Alexander VI. had had to be appealed to, to fix their fields. By his bull of May 3, 4, 1493, he ordained as the separating line the meridian passing through a point one hundred leagues west of the Azores, where Columbus had observed the needle of his compass to point without deflection toward the north star. Portugal objecting to this boundary as excluding her from the longitude of the newly found Indies, by the treaty of Tordesillas, June 7, 1494, the two powers, with the Pope's assent, moved the line two hundred and seventy leagues still farther west. At this time neither party dreamed of the complications destined subsequently to arise in reference to the position of this meridian on the other side of the globe.
The meridian of the Tordesillas convention had been supposed still to give Spain all the American discoveries likely to be made, it being ascertained only later that by it Portugal had obtained a considerable part of the South American mainland Brazil, we know, was, till in 1822 it became independent, a Portuguese dependency. Spain, however, retained both groups of the Antilles with the entire main about the Gulf of Mexico, and became the earliest great principality in the western world.
See also: 1500-1507