clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

BatiGol Weekly 252: America

In which we discuss the person who may be the most famous Florentine ever. And no, we’re not referring to Rose McGowan.

Amerigo Vespucci, Italian navigator and explorer
Given the stadium issues, some real estate here in his bag would be just fine.
Photo by Icas94 / De Agostini Picture Library via Getty Images

Today is the 566th birthday of one of Florence’s most famous sons: Amerigo Vespucci. Part of the numerous and well-attested Vespucci clan that settled in the Ognisanti district. While not wealthy, the Vespuccis were well-connected to the Medici, and Amerigo capitalized on that relationship to work as a representative of the family’s interests in Seville.

It was from there that he became a navigator. After working under Gianotto Berardi, who outfitted several of Christopher Columbus’ expeditions, Vespucci—well-educated in astronomy and mathematics and thus possessed of an excellent skillset as a navigator—took the the sea himself. While scholars hotly debate whether or not he actually made his first voyage in 1497 (there’s pretty compelling evidence that he faked the whole thing in order to claim that he was the first European to reach the mainland in the Americas). He made at least two (and maybe three) more voyages in which he coasted up and down the eastern coast of South America, creating maps and surveying the coasts.

He took up service of the Spanish crown and died at the age of 57 in Seville. While his work as a navigator and explorer was impressive, it was his letter-writing that served a major historical purpose. Those letters, describing the New World in educated terms for other Europeans, increased interest in journeying across the Atlantic and resulted in the new continents being named after him on a map by Marvin Waldseemüller. The name stuck, and Vespucci is now credited as being one of the most important figures of the era.

The punchline, of course, is that he may not have written the letters. Remember how nobody’s sure about that first voyage? The only evidence for it is a letter that was published several years later and attributed to him, but a lot of experts seem to think it’s a forgery. The same can be said about his “fourth” voyage. A number of those experts seem convinced that Vespucci may not have forged the letters himself, but there’s no evidence of his denying them in the subsequent decade, either. We’ll probably never know for sure, but it really seems like naming the continents after him is a bit like naming the capital of the US after militia commander John Cadwalader rather than George Washington.

Still, though, anyone who could navigate a wooden boat across an ocean several times in the 15th century deserves some measure of admiration, as that’s a pretty dicy business. Naming Florence’s airport after him was a solid decision in that regard, although we also shouldn’t pretend that he was a perfect citizen of the Republic or a blameless human: he was personally in the capture and purchase of slaves from Africa and the Caribbean, and he accepted citizenship of Spain to further advance his career rather than remaining a loyal Tuscan. While the latter probably made pretty good sense for practical reasons, the former remains despicable no matter the context.

So that’s the story of perhaps Florence’s most famous son, the namesake of more than a quarter of the earth’s dry land. He was, it would seem, a bright and fearless and educated man who was also perfectly willing to exaggerate his accomplishments and to own other people. In that respect, he’s very human, and that’s always worth remembering and commemorating in and of itself.

Latest news

Stadium news is some of the most frustrating news there is if you’re a Fiorentina fan, and we have two pieces. The first is an explanation of the tender system between the club and the city over the Mercafir project, and the second is about Rocco Commisso’s rejection of it.

Serie A called off a bunch of matches last week and we weren’t exactly thrilled. As the COVID-19 outbreak sweeps through Italy, though, we fully understand why the league (under heavy pressure from the government) has finally put a full stop to matches, likely ending the season.

Because it’s March, it’s time for transfer rumors. This one is about Bayer Leverkusen and Chile midfielder Charles Aránguiz, whose contract runs out this summer, and involves his agent mentioning Fiorentina by name as an interested party.

And oh yeah, there was a match for the first time in about a century. Find all our usual coverage here.

Must read

We’re two years on from Davide Astori’s death. It still doesn’t feel real and probably never will.

It’s mostly positive from the boys on loan in Serie C, and that’s a good thing, especially since there are a couple of prospects in that group who have the potential to work their way into the first team eventually.

We asked you what the best kind of goal is and you answered. Thunderbastards are a go!

It’s been a long time since Fiorentina went on a 40-match unbeaten streak. Step into the time machine and learn some more about this remarkable stretch.

Comment of the week(ish)

If Viola Nation is a family, then slakas is the cool uncle who slips you a beer when you’re 14 and teaches you how to roll a, uh, thing. He’s been here longer than just about anyone and even ran the site for awhile, and I cannot imagine life without him. Thankfully, I don’t have to.

That’s it for this week, folks. Go scratch a cat’s back right in front of the tail. You’ll feel better.