The Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama (1460-1524), was the first European to sail from Portugal to India. The “da Gama epoch” refers to the era of European commercial and imperial expansion in Asia. The primary motivation for the 1498 voyage, however, was messianic, to ‘vanquish and subdue all Saracens (Muslims) and pagans and other enemies of Christ, to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery, and to convert to Christianity,’ as declared in various Papal Bulls, together called “the Doctrine of Discovery.” The Church divided the world into Spanish and Portuguese zones, both to be part of the Papal Empire. Over time, the apocalyptic mission led to the Age of Discovery, followed by the Age of Colonialism/ Imperialism. Descriptions of the voyage, however, need to be tempered in light of several “myths” often associated with those accounts. Thus, the paper pursues two objectives: (1) discuss the messianic “Christianizing” motivation for the voyage, and (2) discuss the “myths” associated with the journey.
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