Bartolomeu Dias (Anglicized: Bartholomew Diaz) (c. 1450 - May 29, 1500) was a Portuguese explorer who sailed around the Cape of Good Hope, the southern tip of Africa, in 1488, the first European known to do so since ancient times.
In 1481 Dias had accompanied Diogo de Azambuja on an expedition to the Gold Coast. Dias was a cavalier of the royal court, superintendent of the royal warehouses and sailing-master of the man-of-war "San Christovao". King John II of Portugal appointed him on October 10, 1486 as the head of an expedition which was to endeavor to sail around the southern end of Africa in hopes of finding a trade route leading to Asia. The Chief purpose of the expedition was to find the country of the legendary Christian African king known as Prester John, concerning whom recent reports had arrived through Joćo Alfonso de Aveiro and with whom the Portuguese wished to enter into friendly relations.
After ten months of preparation, Dias left Lisbon in August 1487 with a fleet consisting of three ships, two armed caravels of fifty tons each and one supply-ship. Among his companions were Pźro de Alenquer , who wrote a description of Vasco da Gama's first voyage, Joćo Infante , Alvaro Martins , and Joćo Grego . The supply-ship was commanded by Bartolomeu's brother, Pźro Dias . There were also two Negroes and four Negresses on board who were to be set ashore at suitable spots to explain to the natives the purpose of the expedition.
Dias sailed first towards the mouth of the Congo River, discovered the year before by Diogo Cćo and Martin Behaim, then, following the African coast, he entered Walvis Bay. From 29° south latitude (Port Nolloth ) he lost sight of the coast and was driven by a violent storm, which lasted thirteen days, far beyond the cape to the south. When calm weather returned he sailed again in an easterly direction and, when no land appeared, turned northward, landing in the "Bahia dos Vaqueiros" (Mossel Bay) on February 3 1488. Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope with two caravels, then Cape Agulhas, which is the southernmost point of Africa in 1488.
In February 1488 he rounded the southern coast of Africa as far the Great Fish River . After it was clear that India could be reached by this route, he turned back. It was only on his return voyage that he discovered the Cape of Good Hope in May 1488. Dias returned to Lisbon in December 1488 after an absence of sixteen months and seventeen days. He explored a total of about 2,030 km of unknown African coast.
He originally named the Cape of Good Hope the "Cape of Storms" (Cabo das Tormentas). It was later renamed by John II as the Cape of Good Hope (Cabo da Boa Esperanēa) because of the opening of a route to the east. The discovery of the passage around Africa was significant because for the first time Europeans could trade directly with India and Asia bypassing Middle East overland routes and middle men. This would eventually lead to a rise of Atlantic trading countries and a general decline of Middle East and Mediterranean countries for centuries afterwards.
In 1497 Dias accompanied, but in a subordinate position, Vasco da Gama's expedition to India. He followed Gama with one ship to Cape Verde. He also accompanied Pedro Įlvares Cabral on the voyage that resulted in the discovery of Brazil in 1500. He died off the Cape of Good Hope in a storm; his vessel was one of those wrecked not far from the Cape of Good Hope.
An official report of the expedition to the Cape of Good Hope has not yet been found. Dias' grandson Paulo Dias de Novais was a Portuguese colonizer of Africa in the 16th century.
Last updated: 08-13-2005 06:17:02