Why was Columbus Looking for Asia?

Why was Columbus Looking for Asia?


How did the medieval age end? We use the term Renaissance, or more academically the early modern period, but what divides them? I’ve talked a little previously about Columbus, and his voyage to find Asia by sailing west. What I want to answer today is, why was he trying that? There are several ingredients we must consider to understand what drove Columbus to look for Asia. The first is about what he intended to do when he got there. For centuries, spices, silks, and china from India and China would travel across a long overland trade route to get to Europe. We call this the silk road. It was the reason big Mediterranean trade cities such as Alexandria, and Venice were insanely rich. Through much of the medieval age, one of the big gates that Asian goods took to get into Europe was through the Roman Empire. Wait, Roman Empire? Not as collapsed as we like to think. While the western, catholic roman empire was clinging to existence in modern Germany, a powerful Greek speaking, Orthodox worshiping Roman Empire ruled from the imperial capital of Constantinople. To distinguish it, we typically call it the Byzantine Empire, but to them they were Romans, with a Caesar and everything. This is the next ingredient pushing Columbus. The Roman empire was long past its prime. Turkish tribes migrated into Anatolia over a period of centuries, and conquest by conquest shrunk the Roman Empire. The most famous tribe, led by Osman I, was especially deadly. He would be the first Sultan or Bey of the Ottomans. Mongol invasions, and the decline of Seljuk power drove a lot of the Turkish speaking people in Anatolia under his rule. Skipping forward a few generations, the Ottomans had been on a successful campaign in Europe, conquering a vast amount of territory. In 1453, the Ottomans used early cannons to blast down the mighty walls that protected the Roman capital for centuries, and the Roman Empire finally collapsed. The Hagia Sophia, a giant Orthodox church was turned into a mosque, and the Ottomans made it the seat of their mighty empire that would persist until the end of the First World War. This severely closed down the flow of goods into Europe from Asia. There was no buying these goods from Christians. Europe began to dream of finding alternate routes to Asia that would bypass the long arm of the Ottoman Empire. The first would be the Portuguese. They had already spent decades invading and conquering African trade. The Portuguese pushed exploration further and further down the western coast of Africa looking for its southernmost point. Other European countries wanted to establish their own routes to Asia, and Columbus had his own theories as to how to get there. What I like about this story is it shows how something like the fall of Constantinople can have massive ripple effects across the world. If you know of any other really cool butterfly effect type events in history, tell me about them below. Like and share if you want to support the video, and as always subscribe for more Step Back.

28 Comments on "Why was Columbus Looking for Asia?"


  1. Really nice video! I have a few suggestions for your future videos:
    1. Ottoman conquest of Balkan peninsula (detailed)
    2. Seven Years War (Causes and Consequences)
    Oh yeah, btw, when are you coming on skype? XD (Sorry if I am too boring)
    And yes, congrats for 1000 subscribers! 😀

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  2. 1000 subs congrats p.s. columbus vs. leifur Erikson how was the better explorer ? and great video

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  3. Don't they teach this in school wherever you are?

    Regardless, congratulations on a first thousand of subs, you'll surely get more.

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  4. Thanks for the vid! congrats on the 1000 subs! (it's 999 at this time, but will hit 1000 soon enough :))

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  5. Here's a suggestion, the Somali empires that existed before the Europeans took over.

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  6. another riple efect is probebly hitler geting kicked out of art acadamy if that didnt happen a world could have been a whole lot diferent

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  7. I wouldn't say I know of this butterfly effect, but it just struck me: maybe this is why by the seventeenth and eighteenth century the ottomans were "the sick man of europe"; all of that delicious delicious trade that was going through the dardanelles was starting to go through the lisbon-goa-india route of the portuguese and the seville-acapulco-manila route of the spanish… and later through the everywhere-everywhere-everywhere routes of the brits, so by the industrial revolution the region simply wasn't the center of the world it had once been.

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  8. Venice also become rich because of the medieval slave trade with the Levant. For quite some time it even dominated.

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  9. Why couldn't they go around the Ottoman Empire by going through Russia, since Russia was Christian?

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  10. Want to watch a bit more? Here's a playlist of videos on native american history. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnpoOo7lhNnGB_LQawmOO0rL9noxow6V4

    Reply

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