Timeline Description: Vasco da Gama was a Portuguese explorer and navigator who traveled to the East during Europe’s period of intense exploration between 1420 and 1580 CE. Portugal emerged as an early leader in European exploration, searching for trade routes to Asian markets and opportunities for religious conquest. Da Gama capitalized on Portugal’s invention of the caravel, a highly maneuverable sailing ship, and became the first person to sail directly from Europe to India. His discoveries opened the east to European commerce.
|1460||Vasco da Gama is born in Sines, Portugal.(c. 1460 or 1469)
Vasco da Gama is born to a noble family in Sines, Portugal. He is the third son of Estêvão da Gama, who commanded the fortress at Sines. Little is known about Vasco da Gama’s early years, but he joins the navy, where he learns to navigate. He develops a reputation as a strong sailor.
|1480||Vasco da Gama joins the Order of Santiago.
When da Gama joins the Order of Santiago, his family’s prospects improve, especially since the master of the Order later becomes King John II of Portugal.
|1492||Vasco da Gama builds his reputation as a sailor.
The French government disrupts Portuguese shipping, and King John II sends Vasco da Gama to retaliate. Da Gama travels first to Lisbon and then to the Algarve region of Portugal, where he seizes French ships. His reputation as a fierce sailor and warrior increases.
|1497||The king commissions da Gama to sail to India.
King Manuel of Portugal commissions da Gama to lead an expedition to find a sea route to India. The king hopes to find lucrative markets and to exploit existing Asian commercial networks.
|July 8, 1497||Da Gama sets sail for India.
Da Gama commands four vessels as they set sail for India, including his flagship, SãoGabriel. Hoping to capitalize on the prevailing winds, he sets a course south along the coast of Africa, then swings out into the Atlantic, only to return to the southeastern coast of Africa. This establishes sailing routes that are still used today. Da Gama then rounds the Cape of Good Hope and heads toward the uncharted Indian Ocean.
|March 1498||Da Gama lands on the east coast of Africa.
Da Gama and his crew land in Mozambique, an Islamic city-state on the east coast of Africa. Da Gama attempts an audience with the sultan, but he offers only limited gifts and the local population forces him to leave.
|April 1498||Da Gama acquires a Muslim pilot.
At the port of Malindi, Da Gama takes on a Muslim pilot, who instructs him on navigating the difficult winds and currents of the Indian Ocean.
|May 20, 1498||Da Gama becomes the first European to complete a sea voyage to India.
Da Gama lands in Calicut, India, and the local Hindu ruler welcomes da Gama and his crew. The Portuguese mistakenly believe the residents are Christians, as they have never heard of Hinduism. The crew remains for three months, but the local Muslims traders refuse to allow them to barter freely.
|August 1498||Da Gama departs India.
Da Gama and his crew set sail for Europe, bearing spices and the news of their discovery. Along the way they are caught in a monsoon and several crewmembers die of scurvy. Da Gama is forced to reduce his fleet by burning one of his ships.
|July 10, 1499||Da Gama is hailed as a hero for his discovery.
Accompanied by only 54 of his original 170 crew members, da Gama arrives back in Portugal. The Portuguese government treats da Gama as a hero and immediately sends another group of ships back to India to establish a Portuguese trading post. On the way to India, this new expedition kills a number of Muslim sailors, and the Arabs eventually retaliate by killing all members of the trading post.
|1502||Da Gama affirms Portugal’s foothold in Asian trading markets.
Da Gama sets sail for India again, this time in charge of 20 ships. His goal is to avenge the deaths of members of the trading post. He sweeps up the eastern coast of Africa, attacking Arab Muslim ships along the way and wrecking the port city of Calicut in India. He forces the ruler of Calicut to make peace. Da Gama moves on to Cochin, where he establishes a strong alliance with the local ruler and reasserts the Portuguese presence in the region.
|October 11, 1503||Da Gama retires from exploration.
Da Gama and his crew arrive back in Portugal after their conquest in India. Compared to his first arrival, da Gama is received with minimal fanfare, and historians speculate that he may have felt rejected by the lack of recognition. He settles into quiet family life with his wife and six sons.
|1519||Da Gama serves as an adviser to the king on India.
In return for advising King Manuel on Indian matters, da Gama is named count of Vidiguiera.
|1524||Da Gama returns to India.
King John II names da Gama the Portuguese viceroy in India and asks him to return east to deal with mounting corruption among Portuguese officials. Da Gama sets sail once again.
|December 24, 1524||Da Gama dies.
Da Gama dies in Cochin, India after contracting malaria. His body is eventually returned to Portugal for burial in 1539.