Thomé Lopes

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Thomé Lopes (sometimes modernized as Tomé Lopes) was a Portuguese scrivener, writer of an eyewitness account of the second journey of Vasco da Gama to India (1502–1503).

Portuguese people people

Portuguese people are a Romance ethnic group indigenous to Portugal that share a common Portuguese culture and speak Portuguese. Their predominant religion is Christianity, mainly Roman Catholicism, though vast segments of the population, especially the younger generations, have no religious affiliation. Historically, the Portuguese people's heritage includes the pre-Celts and Celts - from whom the majority of the population descends.

A captain's clerk was a rating, now obsolete, in the Royal Navy and the United States Navy for a person employed by the captain to keep his records, correspondence, and accounts. The regulations of the Royal Navy demanded that a purser serve at least one year as a captain's clerk, so the latter was often a young man working his way to a purser's warrant. He had high status, with an office on the quarterdeck or upper deck on most ships. He was paid at the same rate as a midshipman in 1800, but by 1815 he had almost the same monthly pay as a standing warrant officer. On large ships, he had his own cabin in the gunroom, but on smaller vessels he lived with the midshipmen on the orlop deck.

The 4th Portuguese India Armada was assembled in 1502 on the order of King Manuel I of Portugal and placed under the command of D. Vasco da Gama. It was Gama's second trip to India. The fourth of some thirteen Portuguese India Armadas, it was designed as a punitive expedition, targeting Calicut, to avenge the travails of the 2nd Armada and the massacre of the Portuguese factory in 1500.


Thomé Lopes's background is obscure. All that is known is that he was a native of Porto, Portugal.

Porto Municipality in Norte, Portugal

Porto is the second-largest city in Portugal after Lisbon and one of the major urban areas of the Iberian Peninsula. The city proper has a population of 237,591 and the metropolitan area of Porto, which extends beyond the administrative limits of the city, has a population of 1.9 million (2011) in an area of 2,395 km2 (925 sq mi), making it the second-largest urban area in Portugal. It is recognized as a gamma-level global city by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) Study Group, the only Portuguese city besides Lisbon to be recognised as a global city.

Portugal Republic in Southwestern Europe

Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic, is a country located mostly on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. It is the westernmost sovereign state of mainland Europe. It is bordered to the west and south by the Atlantic Ocean and to the north and east by Spain. Its territory also includes the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, both autonomous regions with their own regional governments.

In early 1502, Thomé Lopes was hired as a escrivão (captain's clerk) aboard an unnamed ship owned and outfitted by Ruy Mendes de Brito [1] (a gentleman of the royal chamber of King Manuel I of Portugal [2] ) and captained by an Italian, Giovanni Buonagratia (João de Buonagracia) of Florence. [3] This ship was part of a Portuguese squadron of five ships, under the overall command of Estêvão da Gama (cousin of Vasco da Gama). This squadron set out from Lisbon on 1 April 1502, intending to catch up and join the 4th Portuguese India Armada of admiral Vasco da Gama, which had left a few months earlier (February 1502). According to Lopes, their squadron caught up with the main armada on 21 August 1502 at Anjediva Island, off the Malabar Coast of India. [4]

Manuel I of Portugal Portuguese monarch

Dom Manuel I, the Fortunate, King of Portugal and the Algarves, was the son of Ferdinand, Duke of Viseu, by his wife, the Infanta Beatrice of Portugal. His name is associated with a period of Portuguese history distinguished by significant achievements both in political affairs and in the arts. In spite of Portugal’s small size and population in comparison to the great European land powers of France, Italy and even Spain, the classical Portuguese Armada was the largest in the world at the time. During Manuel's reign Portugal was able to acquire an overseas empire of vast proportions, the first in world history to reach global dimensions. The landmark symbol of the period was the Portuguese discovery of Brazil and the South American subcontinent in April 1500.

Florence Comune in Tuscany, Italy

Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with 383,084 inhabitants in 2013, and over 1,520,000 in its metropolitan area.

Estêvão da Gama was a Portuguese navigator and explorer, discoverer of the Trindade and Martim Vaz islands.

Among the most memorable passages in Lopes's account, is a detailed description of the notorious massacre of the Muslim pilgrim ships (3 October 1502 a day "that I remember every day of my life" [5] ) on the orders of Vasco da Gama. Later Portuguese chroniclers have dealt uneasily with this act of cruelty, but Lopes's vivid and often heart-breaking narrative leaves little unmentioned.

Vasco da Gama Portuguese explorer

Vasco da Gama, 1st Count of Vidigueira, was a Portuguese explorer and the first European to reach India by sea. His initial voyage to India (1497–1499) was the first to link Europe and Asia by an ocean route, connecting the Atlantic and the Indian oceans and therefore, the West and the Orient.

Another famous episode reported by Lopes is the execution by impaling of three Muslims in Cochin, on the orders of the Trimumpara Raja, the Hindu prince of Cochin, for the sacrilege of selling a cow for beef to the crew of a Portuguese ship in harbor. It is notable that it was admiral Vasco da Gama himself (not usually known for his cultural sensitivity) who arrested the three men and handed them over to the Cochinese authorities for justice, and forbade any further purchases of cows by Portuguese sailors. [6]

Kingdom of Cochin former country

Kingdom of Cochin was a late medieval kingdom and later princely state on the Malabar Coast, South India. Once controlling much of the territory between Ponnani and Thottappally, the Cochin kingdom shrank to its minimal extent as a result of invasions by the Zamorin of Calicut. When Portuguese armadas arrived in India, Cochin was in vassalage to Zamorin and was looking for an opportunity to break away. King Unni Goda Varma Tirumulpadu warmly welcomed Pedro Álvares Cabral on 24 December 1500 and negotiated a treaty of alliance between Portugal and the Cochin kingdom, directed against the Zamorin of Calicut. Cochin became a long-time Portuguese protectorate (1503–1663) providing assistance against native overlords. After the Portuguese, the Dutch East India Company (1663–1795) followed by the English East India Company, protected the Cochin state. Even today, the full official designation of the Raja of Cochin is “Perumpadappu Gangadhara Veera Kerala Thrikkovil Adhikarikal”.

Lopes and the armada left India in February 1503, beginning its return journey back to Portugal. Lopes reports how his ship was nearly sunk in a collision with another off Mozambique Island. [7] Somewhere around the Cape of Good Hope in July, Lopes reports an encounter with two of the ships of the outgoing 5th Armada of Afonso de Albuquerque. [8]

Cape of Good Hope Headland of Cape Peninsula, South Africa

The Cape of Good Hope is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula in South Africa.

The Fifth India Armada was assembled in 1503 on the order of King Manuel I of Portugal and placed under the command of Afonso de Albuquerque. It was Albuquerque's first trip to India. It was not a particularly successful armada - navigational mistakes scattered the fleet on the outward journey. Ships spent much time looking for each other and several ended up travelling alone.

Afonso de Albuquerque Portuguese general and nobleman

Afonso de Albuquerque, Duke of Goa, was a Portuguese general, a "great conqueror", a statesman, and an empire builder.

On 30 July 1503 Thomé Lopes's ship, accompanied by two others, came across and landed on the South Atlantic island of Saint Helena. Lopes refers to it as an unknown island, [9] and gives its position relative to Ascension Island (which he refers to by that name [10] ). It is commonly accepted that Ascension island was first discovered in May 1501 on the outward journey of João da Nova, and some writers [11] have questioned how Lopes could have known about that island as he left Lisbon before Nova's fleet returned. A clue is given in Lopes's own account, where he describes how, in August 1502, they picked up letters in Malindi left by the returning João da Nova. [12] These letters might have described Nova's discovery of Ascension island on the outward journey (although not, of course, Nova's own discovery of Saint Helena on his return in May 1502). The only quibble remains with Lopes's use of the name "Ascension" island, as it is commonly thought Nova originally named it Conceição (Conception island), and it was only renamed "Ascension" later (May 1503) by Afonso de Albuquerque. One possible explanation is that Lopes's account might not have been written immediately in 1502, but a little later after his arrival in Portugal, after the name of Ascension island had already been settled upon. [13] But the most probable explanation is simply that the name (and maybe even the locational information) was reported to Thomé Lopes precisely by the two 5th Armada ships that, as already mentioned, Lopes just encountered near the Cape of Good Hope (the two would have been coming precisely from Albuquerque's (re-)discovery of Ascension island).

The original Portuguese version of Thomé Lopes's account has been lost, but an Italian translation was published in 1550 in Venice, in a collection of travelogues collected by Giovanni Battista Ramusio. A translation back to Portuguese was commissioned and published in 1812.

Thomé Lopes's account is one of several eyewitness account of the 4th Portuguese India Armada of 1502-03. It is widely regarded as reliable, and frequently resorted to by historians to correct the accounts by later 16th-century chroniclers (João de Barros, Gaspar Correia, etc.)

See also


  1. Lopes (Port: p.161)
  2. Lopes (Port: p.173)
  3. Lopes (Ital.: p.147, Port: p.174)
  4. Lopes (Port: p.171)
  5. "che in tutti i di di mia vita mi ricordero" (Lopes, Ital: p.147) "de que me lembrarei toda a minha vida" (Lopes, Port: p.177)
  6. Lopes (Port: p.195-96.)
  7. Lopes (Port:p.211-12)
  8. Lopes (Ital: p.156); Lopes (Port: p.214)
  9. In 1550 Italian, "Et adi 30 detto vedemmo una isola non discoperta anchora" (Ital: p.156) in 1812 Portuguese, "Aos trinta houvemos vista de huma ilha ainda não descoberta" (Port: p.214)
  10. In 1550 Italian, "guarda si con l'isole della ascensione maestro & scilocco, & sono 200 leghe di traversa dall'una, all altra." (Ital: p.156); in 1812 Portuguese, "com a Ilha da Ascenção tambem de Noroeste a Sueste, e distão duzentas legoas" (Port: p.215)
  11. e.g. Livermore (2004: p.628)
  12. in 1550 Italian "pui ci dettono altre lettere che Giovan da nuova li mandava da Quilloa, ilquale se retornava in Portogallo" (Ital: p.146); in 1812 Portuguese "Deo-nos, alem disso, outras cartas que João da Nova tinha deixado escritas em Quiloa, quando voltou para Portugal" (Port: p.168)
  13. However, if written after his return using prior information, this raises the query (e.g. Livermore, 2004: p.628) as to why Lopes did not also refer to Saint Helena by name? One possible explanation is simply that Lopes didn't know it - that Nova's discovery of Saint Helena was largely kept secret by the Casa da India. But this is speculation.

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