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GAMA, GASPARD DA:

German-Jewish mariner of the fifteenth century. According to his own story, Gaspard da Gama was born in Posen, and while still young had to leave the country (1456) on account of oppression. He followed his family to Jerusalem, and from there to Alexandria. He traveled thence to India by way of the Red Sea, was taken captive, and sold into slavery.

When Vasco da Gama had left the coast of Malabar and was returning to Europe (1498) he stopped at the little island of Anchediva, sixty miles from Goa. During his stay there his feet was approached by a small boat containing among the native crew a tall European with a flowing white beard. This European was Gaspard da Gama, who bad persuaded his master Sabayo, the viceroy of Goa, to treat the strangers kindly, and who was now bent on inducing them to land. Gaspard was evidently highly esteemed by Sabayo, for the latter had made him admiral ("capitao mór"). Approaching the Portuguese ships, he hailed the crew in Castilian, who were rejoiced to hear a familiar speech so far from home. Being promised by the Portuguese complete safety, he allowed himself to be taken aboard Vasco da Gama's ship, was received with respect, and entertained the crew with narrations of his experiences. Vasco da Gama suspected treachery, however, and had Gaspard bound, flogged, and tortured, prolonging the torture until the victim consented to become baptized, and to pilot the Portuguese ships in the Indian waters. Gaspard told Vasco da Gama that the viceroy of Goa was a generous man, who had treated him with great kindness and whom he was loath to desert, but since he found himself compelled to do so in order to save his life, he was willing to serve the Portuguese faithfully. The name Gaspard da Gama was given to him in baptism after Vasco da Gama, who had acted as his godfather. After a prolonged voyage in the Indian waters Gaspardaccompanied Vasco da Gama to Portugal. In Lisbon Gaspard soon became a favorite with King Emanuel, who made him many valuable gifts and granted him a charter of privileges, and had him called "Gaspard of the Indies."

Gaspard also accompanied Cabral (1502) on his voyage to the East, and proved of great value to him by his knowledge of this region. At the king's desire Cabral was to consult with Gaspard on all important matters.

Having visited Melinde, Calicut, and Cochin, Cabral started on his return voyage, and at Cape Verde met the fleet of Amerigo Vespucci, which was then starting for the exploration of the eastern coast of South America. Vespucci hastened to avail himself of Gaspard's wide knowledge, and speaks of him in terms of praise as "a trustworthy man who speaks many languages and knows the names of many cities and provinces . . ."

Later, Gaspard accompanied Vasco da Gama to India (1502) and found his wife in Cochin, who could not be persuaded to abandon Judaism. On his return to Lisbon in 1503 the title "cavalleiro de sua casa" was conferred by the king on Gaspard for his valuable service to the country.

Bibliography:
  • Damiäo de Goes, Chron. de D. Manuel;
  • Kayserling, Christoph Columbus und der Anteil der Juden an den Spanischen und Portugiesischen Entdeckungen, p. 100, Berlin, 1894;
  • Correa, The Three Voyages of Vasco da Gama. transl. by Stanley, Hakluytan Society edition, pp. 244-252, 301-309, London, 1869;
  • Lelervel, Polska Dzieje, i. 581;
  • idem, Géographie du Moyen Age; Barros, Asia, dec. i., book 5.
E. C. J. G. L.
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