Bartolomeu Dias

Bartolomeu Dias (/ˈdiːəs/;[2] Portuguese: [baɾtuluˈmew ˈdi.ɐʃ]; Anglicized: Bartholomew Diaz; c. 1450 – 29 May 1500[3]), a nobleman of the Portuguese royal household, was a Portuguese explorer. He sailed around the southernmost tip of Africa in 1488, the first to do so, setting up the route from Europe to Asia later on. Dias is the first European during the Age of Discovery to anchor at what is present-day South Africa.[4]

Bartolomeu Dias
Bartolomeu Dias, South Africa House (cut)
Statue of Bartolomeu Dias at the High Commission of South Africa in London.
Died29 May 1500 (aged c. 50)
OccupationNavigator and explorer
Known forFirst European to sail around the southernmost tip of Africa.

Historical setting and purposes of the Dias expedition

Bartolomeu Dias was a squire of the royal court, superintendent of the royal warehouses, and sailing-master of the man-of-war São Cristóvão (Saint Christopher). Very little is known of his early life. King John II of Portugal appointed him, on 10 October 1486, to head an expedition to sail around the southern tip of Africa in the hope of finding a trade route to India. Dias was also charged with searching for the lands ruled by Prester John, a fabled Christian priest and ruler of a territory somewhere beyond Europe.[5] He left 10 months later in August 1487. In the previous decades Portuguese mariners, most famously Prince Henry the Navigator (whose contribution was more as a patron and sponsor of voyages of discovery than as a sailor), had explored the areas of the Atlantic Ocean off Southern Europe and Western Africa as far as the Cape Verde Islands and modern day Sierra Leone, and had gained sufficient knowledge of oceanic shipping and wind patterns to enable subsequent voyages of greater distance. In the early 1480s Diogo Cão in two voyages (he died towards the end of the second) had explored the mouth of the Congo River and sailed south of the Equator to present-day Angola and Namibia.

The journey

São Cristóvão was piloted by Pêro de Alenquer. A second caravel, the São Pantaleão, was commanded by João Infante and piloted by Álvaro Martins. Dias' brother Pêro Dias was the captain of the square-rigged support ship with João de Santiago as pilot.

Diaz on his voyage to the cape
An illustration of the São Cristóvão and São Pantaleão

The expedition sailed around the west coast of Africa. And more provisions were picked up on the way at the Portuguese fortress of São Jorge de Mina on the Gold Coast. After having sailed south of modern day Angola, Dias reached the Golfo da Conceicão (Walvis Bay, in modern Namibia) by December. Continuing south, he discovered first Angra dos Ilheus, being hit, then, by a violent storm. Thirteen days later, from the open ocean, he searched the coast again to the east, discovering and using the westerlies winds - the ocean gyre, but finding just ocean. Having rounded the Cape of Good Hope at a considerable distance to the west and southwest, he turned towards the east, and taking advantage of the winds of Antarctica that blow strongly in the South Atlantic, he sailed northeast. After 30 days without seeing land, he entered what he named Aguada de São Brás (Bay of Saint Blaise)—later renamed Mossel Bay—on 4 February 1488. Dias's expedition reached its furthest point on 12 March 1488 when they anchored at Kwaaihoek, near the mouth of the Boesmans River, where a padrão—the Padrão de São Gregório—was erected before turning back.[6] Dias wanted to continue sailing to India, but he was forced to turn back when his crew refused to go further and the rest of the officers unanimously favoured returning to Portugal.[7] It was only on the return voyage that he actually discovered the Cape of Good Hope, in May 1488. Dias returned to Lisbon in December of that year, after an absence of sixteen months and seventeen days.[8]

The discovery of the passage around southern Africa was significant because, for the first time, Europeans could trade directly with India and the Far East, bypassing the overland Euro-Asian route with its expensive European, Middle Eastern and Central Asian middlemen.The official report of the expedition has been lost.

Bartolomeu Dias originally named the Cape of Good Hope the Cape of Storms (Cabo das Tormentas). It was later renamed (by King John II of Portugal) the Cape of Good Hope (Cabo da Boa Esperança) because it represented the opening of a route to the east.

Follow-up voyages

After these early attempts, the Portuguese took a decade-long break from Indian Ocean exploration. During that hiatus, it is likely that they received valuable information from a secret agent, Pêro da Covilhã, who had been sent overland to India and returned with reports useful to their navigators.[9]

Using his experience with explorative travel, Dias helped in the construction of the São Gabriel and its sister ship the São Rafael that were used in 1498 by Vasco da Gama to sail past the Cape of Good Hope and continue to India. Dias only participated in the first leg of Da Gama's voyage, until the Cape Verde Islands. Two years later he was one of the captains of the second Indian expedition, headed by Pedro Álvares Cabral. This flotilla first reached the coast of Brazil, landing there in 1500, and then continued eastwards to India. Dias perished near the Cape of Good Hope that he presciently had named Cape of Storms. Four ships encountered a huge storm off the cape and were lost, including Dias', on 29 May 1500. A shipwreck found in 2008 by the Namdeb Diamond Corporation off Namibia was at first thought to be Dias' ship;[10] however, recovered coins come from a later time.[11]

Personal life

Bartolomeu Dias was married and had two children:

  • Simão Dias de Novais, who died unmarried and without issue.
  • António Dias de Novais, a Knight of the Order of Christ, married to (apparently his relative, since the surname Novais was transmitted through her brother's offspring) Joana Fernandes, daughter of Fernão Pires and wife Guiomar Montês (and sister of Brites Fernandes and Fernão Pires, married to Inês Nogueira, daughter of Jorge Nogueira and wife, and had issue). Dias' grandson Paulo Dias de Novais was a Portuguese coloniser of Africa in the 16th century. Dias' granddaughter, Guiomar de Novais married twice, as his second wife to Dom Rodrigo de Castro, son of Dom Nuno de Castro and wife Joana da Silveira, by whom she had Dona Paula de Novais and Dona Violante de Castro, both died unmarried and without issue, and to Pedro Correia da Silva, natural son of Cristóvão Correia da Silva, without issue.

See also


  1. ^ "Bartolomeu Dias Biography". A&E Television Networks. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  2. ^ "Dias". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  3. ^ The Anonymous Narrative, p 61.
  4. ^ "Oldest European Monument in South Africa". South African History Online (SAHO). Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  5. ^ "Bartolomeu Dias". infoplease. Sandbox Networks, Inc. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  6. ^ Alchin KL, from Elizabethan Era. "Bartholomeu Dias". Retrieved 28 March 2014.
  7. ^ Spoken, Howard (2006). The World's History (Third ed.). New Jersey, U.S.: Prentice Hall. p. 444.
  8. ^  Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Bartolomeu Dias" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.
  9. ^ David Fromkin (2000), The Way of the World, Vintage Books (New York, U.S.), p. 117.
  10. ^ "Namibia finds treasure shipwreck". BBC News. 1 May 2008. Archived from the original on 6 May 2008. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
  11. ^ "Destroços descobertos no Atlântico Sul deem ser de Barco português". Público (in Portuguese). 4 May 2008. Archived from the original on 28 February 2009. Retrieved 4 May 2008.

Further reading

  • Ernst Georg Ravenstein, William Brooks Greenlee, Pero Vaz de Caminha (2010), Bartolomeu Dias.

External links

Media related to Bartolomeu Dias at Wikimedia Commons


Bartolomeu is a given name of Portuguese, Galician or Romanian origin. It is a cognate of Bartholomew. The name may refer to:

Bartolomeu Anania – a Romanian Orthodox monk who was the Metropolitan of Cluj (1993-2011)

Bartolomeu Cid dos Santos

Bartolomeu de Gusmão

Bartolomeu Dias

Bartolomeu Perestrello – 1st Capitão Donatário, Lord and Governor of the Island of Porto Santo (c. 1395–1457)

Bartolomeu Português – a Portuguese buccaneer

Bartolomeu Velho – a sixteenth-century Portuguese mapmaker and cosmographer

Edgar Bartolomeu – a former Angolan professional soccer player

São Bartolomeu (disambiguation)

São Bartolomeu de Messines – a Portuguese Parish in the Municipality (Concelho ) of Silves

São Bartolomeu de Regatos – a parish in the district of Angra do Heroísmo in the Azores

Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex

The Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex (also spelled "Bartholomeu") is the second biggest provincial museum affiliated to the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport in South Africa. It is located at Mossel Bay.

Bushman's River Mouth

Bushman's River Mouth (Afrikaans Boesmansriviermond) is a town in Ndlambe Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.

The village is 25 km from Port Alfred, on the west bank of the Bushman's River, just across the river from Kenton-on-Sea.A well-known holiday resort, it is the site of many shipwrecks, the best-known of them being the Volo, a Norwegian barque wrecked near the river mouth in 1896.It was established in 1897 by farmers from nearby towns (Paterson, Cookhouse, Somerset East and Cradock) when they were granted permission to camp along the banks of the Bushmans River during the Christmas holiday season. Land leases during the early 1900s led to private land ownership, and modern development, though electricity and running water only became available in the 1980s,The Dias Cross Memorial at nearby Kwaaihoek is a provincial heritage site erected to mark the location of the padrão, or stone pillar, planted by Portuguese sailors led by Bartolomeu Dias.


The caravel (Portuguese: caravela, IPA: [kɐɾɐˈvɛlɐ]) was a small, highly maneuverable sailing ship developed in the 15th century by the Portuguese to explore along the West African coast and into the Atlantic Ocean. The lateen sails gave it speed and the capacity for sailing windward (beating). Caravels were used by the Portuguese and Castilians (Spain) for the oceanic exploration voyages during the 15th and 16th centuries in the Age of Discovery.

Prince Henry, Vasco da Gama, Christopher Columbus, and Bartolomeu Dias all used caravels.

The volunteers on the caravel "Matthew of Bristol", which is a replica of John Cabot's ship of 1497 which discovered North America, have done some research on this subject and traced the origin of the name 'caravel' to the Portuguese word for a 'beetle' which is 'escaravalho'. The smooth appearance of the ship's hull which is the result of the carvel construction is similar to the shell of a beetle.

David Dias

David Bartolomeu Dias (born 21 April 1969 in Luanda) is a former Angolan basketball power forward. He competed at the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics with the Angola national basketball team.

Diogo Dias

Diogo Dias, also known as Diogo Gomes, was a 15th-century Portuguese explorer. He was the brother of Bartolomeu Dias and discovered some of the Cape Verde islands together with António Noli.

HNLMS Van Galen (F834)

HNLMS Van Galen (F834) (Dutch: Hr.Ms. Van Galen) is a ship of the Karel Doorman class of multi-purpose frigates of the Royal Netherlands Navy. Built by the shipyard Koninklijke Schelde Groep in Vlissingen. The ship is named after captain and convoy commander Johan van Galen and served from 1994 to 2008 with the Dutch navy. The radio call sign of the frigate was "PAMG".

HNLMS Van Nes (F833)

HNLMS Van Nes (Dutch: Hr.Ms. Van Nes) is a ship of the Karel Doorman class of multi-purpose frigates of the Royal Netherlands Navy where it used the radio call sign was "PAMI". Built by the shipyard Koninklijke Schelde Groep in Vlissingen. The ship is named after the Dutch Admiral Aert Jansse van Nes. She was sold to the Portuguese Navy where the ship was renamed Bartolomeu Dias.

João Infante

João Infante (fl. 15th century) was a Portuguese explorer of the African coast. He accompanied Bartolomeu Dias in his journey around the Cape of Good Hope in 1487/1488 by leading a second caravel, the São Pantaleão (named after Saint Pantaleon).

Some places in South Africa are or were named after him:

The Rio do Infante, now the Great Fish River, Eastern Cape

Cape Infanta, Western Cape

Infanta, Western Cape: a small settlement

Karel Doorman-class frigate

The Karel Doorman class is a class of eight multi-purpose frigates of the Royal Netherlands Navy. Introducing CODOG propulsion into the Dutch Navy for economical cruising. The class is also known as the "Multi-purpose" or M class. The design was originally intended to play a role similar to the then current Holland class for patrol duties in the North Sea and Caribbean, with high automation and a crew of 80-100.The ships are named after famous Dutch naval officers, the lead ship being named after Karel Doorman.


Kwaaihoek is a rocky headland on the coast of Algoa Bay, near Bushman's River Mouth in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. It is here that the Portuguese navigator Bartolomeu Dias erected the Padrão de São Gregório, his first padrão, or stone cross on 12 March 1488. First visited by Robert Jacob Gordon on 13 February 1786, remnants of the cross were rediscovered in 1938 by Prof. E. Axelson and transferred to the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

34 kilometres (21 mi) away, shortly after midnight on 17 July 1755, the East Indiaman Doddington struck the south-eastern corner of the low-lying Bird Island (or Chaos Island as it was then known). She went down within 20 minutes, with only 23 of the 270 passengers and crew surviving. They were marooned on the island for seven months, before they managed to make their way to India on a sloop they built on the island.

NRP Bartolomeu Dias

NRP Bartolomeu Dias has been the name of more than one Portuguese Navy ship, and may refer to:

NRP Bartolomeu Dias (1934), an Afonso de Albuquerque-class sloop launched in 1934 and hulked in 1965

NRP Bartolomeu Dias (F333), formerly the Karel Doorman-class frigate HNLMS Van Nes acquired in 2009

NRP Bartolomeu Dias (1934)

NRP Bartolomeu Dias was a sloop of the Portuguese Navy. The ship was the second of the Afonso de Albuquerque-class sloop, which also included the lead ship of the class, the NRP Afonso de Albuquerque. These ships were classified, by the Portuguese Navy, as avisos coloniais de 1ª classe (colonial aviso 1st class) and were designed for colonial service in the Overseas territories of Portugal.

Following the failed 1936 Naval Revolt, an investigation was opened into discipline aboard the ship.


A padrão (Portuguese pronunciation: [pɐˈðɾɐ̃w̃], standard; plural: padrões) was a large stone cross inscribed with the coat of arms of Portugal that was placed as part of a land claim by numerous Portuguese explorers during the Portuguese Age of Discovery.

These items were particularly well known for being destroyed by natives who were upset with the religion of Christianity, the economy of slavery, or a combination of these two.

Paulo Dias de Novais

Paulo Dias de Novais (c. 1510 – 1589), a fidalgo of the Royal Household, was a Portuguese colonizer of Africa in the 16th century and the first Captain-Governor of Portuguese Angola. He was the grandson of the explorer Bartolomeu Dias.

Novais arrived in what is now Angola on 11 February 1575. Attracted by the prospect of the famous silver mines of Cambambe, he founded the settlement of São Paulo de Luanda, near the island of Luanda.

Postage stamps and postal history of the Cape of Good Hope

This is a survey of the postage stamps and postal history of Cape of Good Hope.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, led by the explorer Bartolomeu Dias. Table Bay, for over one hundred years known as Saldanha (named after one of Albuquerque's sea captains), became a convenient harbor on the long, hard and dangerous sea voyage to the East. Here letters were left and exchanged with ships sailing back to Europe. Frequently, packets of letters were left under postal stones inscribed in French, Dutch and Danish, which became the first, unmanned, post offices of the Cape. The earliest of these, dated 1619, was inscribed in English. A supply camp was established by the Dutch East India Company in 1652 in the area which later became Cape Town. It was first occupied by British Forces in 1795. Since 1814 it was a British Colony until it was incorporated into the Union of South Africa, as the Cape Province, on 31 May 1910.

Pêro de Alenquer

Pêro de Alenquer was a 15th-century Portuguese explorer of the African coast.

Pêro was born in Alenquer.

He accompanied Bartolomeu Dias on his journey around the Cape of Good Hope in 1487/1488. He was the pilot of Vasco da Gama's flagship on the latter's first voyage to India and later wrote of it.

Álvaro Martins

Álvaro Martins, also known as Álvaro Martins Homem, was a 15th-century Portuguese alleged to have explored the western Atlantic and later the African coast. He is claimed to have accompanied João Vaz Corte-Real on an undocumented expedition to Terra Nova do Bacalhau (literally, "New Land of the Codfish") in the early 1470s, by Gaspar Frutuoso in his 1570s book Saudades da Terra.It is known however, that he was granted the captaincy of Praia, in the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores, on 17 February 1474 for his services to Infante Ferdinand, Duke of Viseu, an office he held for some years. It was following the disappearance of Jacome de Bruges that the King divided the island between Angra and Praia, granting Praia to Álvaro Martins, while João Vaz Corte-Real obtained the Captaincy of Angra. Álvaro Martins and his son (Antão) were responsible for the fortifications, and the development of agriculture and commerce in northern Terceira.He is also said to have accompanied Bartolomeu Dias on his journey around the Cape of Good Hope from 1487 to 1488.

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