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[Illustration: Cardinal Ascanio Sforza. From the Medallion by Luini, in the Museum at Milan. Photo by Anderson, Rome.]
PETER MARTYR, APOSTOLIC PROTONOTARY AND ROYAL COUNSELLOR TO THE VISCOUNT ASCANIO SFORZA, CARDINAL VICE-CHANCELLOR
It was a gentle custom of the ancients to number amongst the gods those heroes by whose genius and greatness of soul unknown lands were discovered. Since we, however, only render homage to one God in Three Persons, and consequently may not adore the discoverers of new lands, it remains for us to offer them our admiration. Likewise should we admire the sovereigns under whose inspiration and auspices the intentions of the discoverers were realised; let us praise the one and the other, and exalt them according to their merits.
Attend now to what is told concerning the recently discovered islands in the Western ocean. Since you have expressed in your letters a desire for information I will, to avoid doing injustice to any one, recount the events from their beginnings.
A certain Christopher Columbus, a Genoese, proposed to the Catholic King and Queen, Ferdinand and Isabella, to discover the islands which touch the Indies, by sailing from the western extremity of this country. He asked for ships and whatever was necessary to navigation, promising not only to propagate the Christian religion, but also certainly to bring back pearls, spices and gold beyond anything ever imagined. He succeeded in persuading them and, in response to his demands, they provided him at the expense of the royal treasury with three ships; the first having a covered deck, the other two being merchantmen without decks, of the kind called by the Spaniards caravels. When everything was ready Columbus sailed from the coast of Spain, about the calends of September in the year 1492, taking with him about 220 Spaniards.