1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gomez, Diogo

GOMEZ, DIOGO (Diego) (fl. 1440-1482), Portuguese seaman, explorer and writer. We first trace him as a cavalleiro of the royal household; in 1440 he was appointed receiver of the royal customs—in 1466 judge—at Cintra (juiz das causes e feitorias contadas de Cintra); on the 5th of March' 1482 he was confirmed in the last-named office. He wrote, especially for the benefit of Martin Behaim, a Latin chronicle of great value, dealing with the life and discoveries of Prince Henry the Navigator, and divided into three parts: (1) De prima inventione Guineae; (2) De insulis prima inventis in mare (sic) Occidentis; (3) De inventione insularum de Açores. This chronicle contains the only contemporary account of the rediscovery of the Azores by the Portuguese in Prince Henry's service, and is also noteworthy for its clear ascription to the prince of deliberate scientific and commercial purpose in exploration. For, on the one hand, the infante sent out his caravels to search for new lands (ad quaerezzdas terras) from his wish to know the more distant parts of the western ocean, and in the hope of finding islands or terra firma beyond the limits laid down by Ptolemy (ultra descriptionem Tolomei); on the other hand, his information as to the native trade from Tunis to Timbuktu and the Gambia helped to inspire his persistent exploration of the West African coast "to seek those lands by way of the sea." Chart and quadrant were used on the prince's vessels, as by Gomez himself on reaching the Cape Verde Islands; Henry, at the time of Diogo's first voyage, was in correspondence with an Oran merchant who kept him informed upon events even in the Gambia hinterland; and, before the discovery of the Senegal and Cape Verde in 1445, Gomez' royal patron had already gained reliable information of some route to Timbuktu. In the first part of his chronicle Gomez tells how, no long time after the disastrous expedition of the Danish nobleman "Vallarte" (Adalbert) in 1448, he was sent out in command of three vessels along the West African coast, accompanied by one Jacob, an Indian interpreter, to be employed in the event of reaching India. After passing the Rio Grande, beyond Cape Verde, strong currents checked his course; his officers and men feared that they were approaching the extremity of the ocean, and he put back to the Gambia. He ascended this river a considerable distance, to the negro town of "Cantor," whither natives came from "Kukia" and Timbuktu for trade; he gives elaborate descriptions of the negro world he had now penetrated, refers to the Sierra Leone ("Serra Lyoa") Mountains, sketches the course of this range, and says much of Kukia (in the upper Niger basin?), the centre of the West African gold trade, and the resort of merchants and caravans from Tunis, Fez, Cairo and "all the land of the Saracens." Mahommedanism was already dominant at the Cambria estuary, but Gomez seems to have won over at least one important chief, with his court, to Christianity and Portuguese allegiance. Another African voyage, apparently made in 1462, two years after Henry the Navigator's death (though assigned by some to 1460), resulted in a fresh discovery of the Cape Verde Islands, already found by Cadamosto (q.v.). To the island of Santiago Gomez, like his Venetian forerunner, claims to have given its present name. His narrative is a leading authority on the last illness and death of Prince Henry, as well as on the life, achievements and purposes of the latter; here alone is recorded what appears to have been the earliest of the navigator's exploring ventures, that which under João de Trasto reached Grand Canary in 1415.

Of Gomez' chronicle there is only one MS., viz. Cod. Hisp. 27, in the Hof- und Staats-Bibliothek, Munich; the original Latin text was printed by Schmeller "Über Valentim Fernandez Alemão" in the Abhandlungen der philosoph.-philolog, Kl. der bayerisch. Akademie der Wissenschaften, vol. iv., part iii. (Munich, 1847); see also Sophus Ruge, "Die Entdeckung der Azoren," pp. 149-180 (esp. 178-179) in the 27th Jahresbericht des Vereins für Erdkunde (Dresden, 1901); Jules Mees, Histoire de la découverte des îles Açores, pp. 44–45, 125–127 (Ghent, 1901); R. H. Major, Life of Prince Henry the Navigator, pp. xviii., xix., 64–65, 287–299, 303–305 (London, 1868); C. R. Beazley, Prince Henry the Navigator, 289–298, 304–305; and Introduction to Azurara's Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, ii., iv., xiv., xxv.–xxvii., xcii.–xcvi. (London, 1899). (C. R. B.)