I've got tomorrow off work in honor of Columbus Day. According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, Columbus read the apocryphal "2 Esdras" (6:42) which states that the Earth is six parts land to one of water, leading Columbus to believe that a voyage across the sea would be shorter and less hazardous than it turned out to be.
Columbus was also influenced by the medieval theologians' racist interpretation of Genesis. Ham, who commits the offense of accidentally seeing his father Noah passed out naked in a drunken stupor, is consigned to serve his brothers, as are Ham's descendents, thought by Western Christian theologians at the time to be Africans. Columbus saw the dark complexion of the natives living in the land he had discovered, Hispaniola, as evidence of their inferiority, making his slaughter and enslavement of them part of the divine natural order. Happy Columbus Day everyone!
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