Friday, 18 January 2013

Men of Yore: Duke of Viseu (Henry the Navigator)

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form.  Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards.  We, as men, are the frontiersmen/the vanguard, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity. 

It is also partly intended to show images, be they paintings, statues or photographs of the countenaces of men of yore.  Because, quite frankly, many men wear the countenances of women these days: smiling, smirking, cooing, rolling their eyes, looking smug etc.  It's a sign of the times, and by showing some images of men from the past, I hope to show some modern men why looking surly, frowning and giving hard-ball stares at people is something to do, something to practice.

Henry the Navigator

Infante Henry, Duke of Viseu (Portuguese pronunciation: [ẽˈʁik(ɨ)]; 4 March 1394 – 13 November 1460), better known as Henry the Navigator, was an important figure in the early days of the Portuguese Empire and the Age of Discoveries in total. He was responsible for the early development of European exploration and maritime trade with other continents.

Henry was the third child of King John I of Portugal, founder of the Aviz dynasty, and of Philippa of Lancaster, John of Gaunt's daughter. Henry encouraged his father to conquer Ceuta (1415), the Muslim port on the North African coast across the Straits of Gibraltar from the Iberian peninsula. He learnt of the opportunities from the Saharan trade routes that terminated there, and became fascinated with Africa in general; he was most intrigued by the Christian legend of Prester John and the expansion of Portuguese trade. Henry is regarded as the patron of Portuguese exploration.

In "Crónica da Guiné" Henry is described as having no luxuries, not avaricious, speaking with soft words and calm gestures, a man of many virtues who never allowed any poor person to leave his presence empty-handed.
Henry was 21 when he, his father and brothers captured the Moorish port of Ceuta in northern Morocco, that had long been a base for Barbary pirates who raided the Portuguese coast, depopulating villages by capturing their inhabitants to be sold in the African slave market.
Under his direction, a new and much lighter ship was developed, the caravel, which could sail further and faster.
Until Henry's time, Cape Bojador remained the most southerly point known to Europeans on the unpromising desert coast of Africa[.]
João Gonçalves Zarco, Bartolomeu Perestrelo and Tristão Vaz Teixeira rediscovered the Madeira Islands in 1420, and at Henry's instigation Portuguese settlers colonized the islands.

In 1427, one of Henry's navigators, probably Gonçalo Velho, discovered the Azores. Portugal soon colonized these islands in 1430.

Gil Eanes, the commander of one of Henry's expeditions, became the first European known to pass Cape Bojador in 1434. This was a breakthrough as it was considered close to the end of the world, with difficult currents that did not encourage commercial enterprise.

Henry also continued his involvement in events closer to home. In 1431 he donated houses for the Estudo Geral to reunite all the sciences — grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, music and astronomy — into what would later become the University of Lisbon. For other subjects like medicine or philosophy, he ordered that each room should be decorated according to each subject that was being taught.
Twenty-eight years later, Bartolomeu Dias proved that Africa could be circumnavigated when he reached the southern tip of the continent, now known as the "Cape of Good Hope." In 1498, Vasco da Gama was the first sailor to travel from Portugal to India.

So Henry was a man of Royalty who had no desire for luxury, destroyed pirates that preyed on innocent people turned them into slaves, and was personally responsible for making great technological advancements in shipping and science.  Everything that is good is good in itself and begets goodness; while some other monarchs of the time may have been interested in acquiring land for their own prestige, which does little to beget goodness to the future, Henry enjoyed learning about and exploring the world (the physical/geographical and the mental/scientific), which begot much goodness to the future, thus his will was good.

Check out some of the other entries from the 'Men of Yore' series:
Meriwether Lewis
Arthur Schopenhauer
Theodore Roosevelt
Rudolph Diesel
John Snow
Ludwig van Beethoven
Henry Ford
George Custer


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