The Portuguese controlled the trade routes around Africa and to India, forcing the Spanish to seek a westward route to the Indies. By the early 1500s, they realized that Columbus had not landed in China or the Spice Islands but on a whole new continent with a vast ocean on the other side. Vainly, they tried to find a river or strait that led through the landmass.
Hoping to discover the western route to the Indies, the Spanish king Charles I approved an expedition led by a Portuguese captain, Ferdinand Magellan. Magellan was born in 1480 in Sabrosa, Portugal. At age 12, Ferdinand was sent to the School of Pages, where he learned music, sword technique, dance, and how to conduct himself in the royal court.
The school also taught Ferdinand astronomy, navigation, and mathematics. Magellan dreamed of exploring the seas. At age 24, he joined a Portuguese armada as a common sailor. The armada sailed to the Indies, where it attacked Arab traders and ports in an attempt to destroy their role in the spice trade.
Magellan’s bravery in battle was noticed by his officers. But for a reason not known today, Magellan was hated by King Manuel of Portugal, and his plans for exploration were frustrated. Finally, Magellan traveled to Spain and offered his services.
Magellan persuaded King Charles that a western passageway to the Indies existed through South America. Delighted by the chance to extend Spanish rule, King Charles agreed to sponsor Magellan’s voyage.