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Bemin, to desire that preachers might be sent to instruct him and his subjects in the true religion. He related that, in the inland country, three hundred and fifty leagues eastward from Bemin, was a mighty monarch, called Ogane, who had jurisdiction, both spiritual and temporal, over other kings; that the king of Bemin and his neighbours, at their accession, sent ambassadors to him with rich presents, and received from him the investiture of their dominions, and the marks of sovereignty, which were a kind of sceptre, a helmet, and a latten cross, without which they could not be considered as lawful kings; that this great prince was never seen but on the day of audience, and then held out one of his feet to the ambassador, who kissed it with great reverence, and who, at his departure, had a cross of latten hung on his neck, which ennobled him thenceforward, and exempted him from all servile offices.
Bemoin had, likewise, told the king, that to the east of the kingdom of Tombut, there was, among other princes, one that was neither Mahometan nor idolater, but who seemed to profess a religion nearly resembling the Christian. These informations, compared with each other, and with the current accounts of Prester John, induced the king to an opinion, which, though formed somewhat at hazard, is still believed to be right, that by passing up the river Senegal his dominions would be found. It was, therefore, ordered that, when the fortress was finished, an attempt should be made to pass upward to the source of the river. The design failed then, and has never yet suceeeded.
Other ways, likewise, were tried of penetrating to the kingdom of Prester John; for the king resolved to leave neither sea nor land unsearched, till he should be found. The two messengers who were sent first on this design, went to Jerusalem, and then returned, being persuaded that, for want of understanding the language of the country, it would be vain or impossible to travel farther. Two more were then despatched, one of whom was Pedro de Covillan, the other, Alphonso de Pavia; they passed from
Naples to Alexandria, and then travelled to Cairo, from whence they went to Aden, a town of Arabia, on the Red sea, near its mouth. From Aden, Pavia set sail for Ethiopia, and Covillan for the Indies. Covillan visited Canavar, Calicut, and Goa in the Indies, and Sosula in the eastern Africa, thence he returned to Aden, and then to Cairo, where he had agreed to meet Pavia. At Cairo he was informed that Pavia was dead, but he met with two Portuguese Jews, one of whom had given the king an account of the situation and trade of Ormus: they brought orders to Covillan, that he should send one of them home with the journal of his travels, and go to Ormus with the other.
Covillan obeyed the orders, sending an exact account of his adventures to Lisbon, and proceeding with the other messenger to Ormus; where, having made sufficient inquiry, he sent his companion homewards, with the caravans that were going to Aleppo, and embarking once more on the Red sea, arrived in time at Abyssinia, and found the prince whom he had sought so long, and with such danger.
Two ships were sent out upon the same search, of which Bartholomew Diaz had the chief command; they were attended by a smaller vessel laden with provisions, that they might not return, upon pretence of want either felt or feared.
Navigation was now brought nearer to perfection. The Portuguese claim the honour of many inventions by which the sailor is assisted, and which enable him to leave sight of land, and commit himself to the boundless ocean. Diaz had orders to proceed beyond the river Zaire, where Diego Can had stopped, to build monuments of his discoveries, and to leave upon the coasts negro men and women well instructed, who might inquire after Prester John, and fill the natives with reverence for the Portuguese.
Diaz, with much opposition from his crew, whose mutinies he repressed, partly by softness, and partly by steadi
ness, sailed on till he reached the utmost point of Africa, which from the bad weather that he met there, he called cabo Tormentoso, or the cape of Storms. He would have gone forward, but his crew forced him to return. In his way back he met the victualler, from which he had been parted nine months before; of the nine men, which were in it at the separation, six had been killed by the negroes, and of the three remaining, one died for joy at the sight of his friends. Diaz returned to Lisbon in December, 1487, and gave an account of his voyage to the king, who ordered the cape of Storms to be called thenceforward cabo de Buena Esperanza, or the cape of Good Hope.
Some time before the expedition of Diaz, the river Zaire and the kingdom of Congo had been discovered by Diego Can, who found a nation of negroes who spoke a language which those that were in his ships could not understand. He landed, and the natives, whom he expected to fly, like the other inhabitants of the coast, met them with confidence, and treated them with kindness; but Diego, finding that they could not understand each other, seized some of their chiefs, and carried them to Portugal, leaving some of his own people in their room to learn the language of Congo.
The negroes were soon pacified, and the Portuguese left to their mercy were well treated; and, as they by degrees grew able to make themselves understood, recommended themselves, their nation, and their religion. The king of Portugal sent Diego back in a very short time with the negroes whom he had forced away; and when they were set safe on shore, the king of Congo conceived so much esteem for Diego, that he sent one of those, who had returned, back again in the ship to Lisbon, with two young men despatched as ambassadors, to desire instructers to be sent for the conversion of his kingdom.
The ambassadors were honourably received, and baptized with great pomp, and a fleet was immediately fitted out for Congo, under the command of Gonsalvo Sorza,
who dying in his passage, was succeeded in authority by his nephew Roderigo.
When they came to land, the king's uncle, who commanded the province, immediately requested to be solemnly initiated into the Christian religion, which was granted to him and his young son, on Easter day, 1491. The father was named Manuel, and the son Antonio. Soon afterwards the king, queen, and eldest prince, received at the font the names of John, Eleanor, and Alphonso; and a war breaking out, the whole army was admitted to the rites of Christianity, and then sent against the enemy. They returned victorious, but soon forgot their faith, and formed a conspiracy to restore paganism; a powerful opposition was raised by infidels and apostates, headed by one of the king's younger sons; and the missionaries had been destroyed, had not Alphonso pleaded for them and for Christianity.
The enemies of religion now became the enemies of Alphonso, whom they accused to his father of disloyalty. His mother, queen Eleanor, gained time by one artifice after another, till the king was calmed; he then heard the cause again, declared his son innocent, and punished his accusers with death.
The king died soon after, and the throne was disputed by Alphonso, supported by the Christians, and Aquitimo his brother, followed by the infidels. A battle was fought, Aquitimo was taken and put to death, and Christianity was for a time established in Congo; but the nation has relapsed into its former follies.
Such was the state of the Portuguese navigation, when, in 1492, Columbus made the daring and prosperous voyage, which gave a new world to European curiosity and European cruelty. He had offered his proposal, and declared his expectations to king John of Portugal, who had slighted him as a fanciful and rash projector, that promised what he had not reasonable hopes to perform. Columbus had solicited other princes, and had been repulsed with the same indignity; at last, Isabella of Arragon furnished
him with ships, and having found America, he entered the mouth of the Tagus in his return, and showed the natives of the new country. When he was admitted to the king's presence, he acted and talked with so much haughtiness, and reflected on the neglect which he had undergone with so much acrimony, that the courtiers, who saw their prince insulted, offered to destroy him; but the king, who knew that he deserved the reproaches that had been used, and who now sincerely regretted his incredulity, would suffer no violence to be offered him, but dismissed him with presents and with honours.
The Portuguese and Spaniards became now jealous of each other's claim to countries which neither had yet seen; and the pope, to whom they appealed, divided the new world between them by a line drawn from north to south, a hundred leagues westward from cape Verd and the Azores, giving all that lies west from that line to the Spaniards, and all that lies east to the Portuguese. This was no satisfactory division, for the east and west must meet at last, but that time was then at a great distance.
According to this grant, the Portuguese continued their discoveries eastward, and became masters of much of the coast both of Africa and the Indies; but they seized much more than they could occupy, and while they were under the dominion of Spain, lost the greater part of their Indian territories.