Gaspar Correia is one of the Portuguese historians who, in the 16th century, wrote about Portugal of the fifteen hundreds. However, only in the 19th century was his most important work, Lendas da Índia (Legends of India), edited for the first time. His biographical data are scarce, but António Banha de Andrade indicates 1492 as his birth date. In spite of the existence of several namesakes, this biographer attributes fatherhood to Aires Botelho, Knight Commander of São Martinho das Feixedas, in the bishopric of Viseu.
This historian of India mentions the fact that he started working as a groom in the Royal Chamber, when prince Dom Luís, son of D. Manuel and D. Maria, was born on the 3rd of March 1506. On the 12th of March 1512, Gaspar Correia left to India with Captain Jorge de Melo Pereira, reaching Goa on the 15th of August. He took office as one of the four clerks who regularly accompanied Afonso de Albuquerque, writing the rulings dictated by this governor. Correia worked for him for 3 years. In December 1515 he was aboard the carrack ship Frol da Rosa, in the bar of Goa?s harbour, on the final days of governor Afonso de Albuquerque?s rule.
The following year, Gaspar Correia took the job of construction overseer for Goa, looking over the construction work governor Lopo Soares was having done on the city. In 1521, he accompanied Pêro Lopes de Sampaio to Saint Thomas of Mylapore. His mission was to repair the chapel built on the place where Saint Thomas had supposedly lived. He remained there for some time, closely watching the repair work of the building. In 1524, he described the details of the rebuilt areas and drew the settlement. The monarch received the drawing, which served as a reference, in 1537, to the inhabitants of the place, to explain the growth of the settlement.
In May 1525, Correia took the job of keeper of the warehouse of the shipyard of Kochi, supervising the entrance and exit of products. There he witnessed the fights between Afonso Mexia, the Overseer of the General Estates, and Pêro de Mascarenhas, the nobleman who would take the position of captain of Malacca and who joined the fleet of Viceroy Vasco da Gama.
Holding several positions in Portuguese local administration, we find him still in Kochi by October 1528. Correia was then negotiating with local merchants the plundering that some Portuguese had got out of the attack to Porca led by the ruling governor of the time, Lopo Vaz de Sampaio.
In 1529, Nuno da Cunha took over as India?s governor, and his mission was to conquer Diu. The following year the preparation of the fleet began, in which individual participants were admitted. Gaspar Correia set up a ship, spending a large part of his savings to accompany the governor. In his Legends he described how he went round the island of Bete, located 5 leagues away from Diu, and witnessed the total annihilation of the island of the Dead, as it would become known. After that, Nuno da Cunha sailed for Diu where he faced a strong resistance, and failed to conquer it. Although Fernão Lopes de Castanheda witnessed this siege, there is no reference in the Legends to the History of the Discovery and Conquest of India by the Portuguese, and vice-versa. However, authors such as Duarte Barbosa, Francisco Álvares or Miguel de Castanhoso are mentioned, who, like Castanheda or Correia, wrote about India.
Gaspar Correia accompanied Nuno da Cunha, in December 1532, in the capture of Bassein, and witnessed the destruction of the enemy fortress on the 20th of January 1533, after its conquest. Between 1532 and 1534 he wrote the Chronicas dos Reys de Portugal e summarios das suas vidas com a historia da India e Armadas que se mandaram athe o anno de 1533 [Chronicles of the Kings of Portugal and summaries of their lives with the history of India and the Fleets that were sent until the year of 1533], about Dom Afonso Henriques, Dom Sancho I, Dom Afonso II, Dom Afonso III, Dom Dinis, Dom Afonso IV, Dom Sancho II, Dom Pedro, Dom Fernando, D. João I, Dom Duarte, Dom Afonso V, Dom João II, Dom Manuel and Dom João III.
Between 1535 and 1536, Gaspar Correia was in Diu when Nuno da Cunha got permission from Bahadur Shah to build a Portuguese fortress there. In 1539, he was in Kochi, where he witnessed the fights that broke out between the captains Pêro Lopes de Sousa and António da Silveira. The latter returned to Portugal after having led the Portuguese resistance in Diu to the 1538 siege.
Sill in India, Gaspar Correia was called by the viceroy D. João de Castro, in 1547, to guide a local painter in the painting of the portraits of several governors of India, since Dom Francisco de Almeida until the one in office.
D. João de Castro was painted with his weapons, evoking his triumph over the besiegers of Diu. Gaspar Correia?s presence in Asian territory led him to write the Legends of India, where he narrated Portuguese deeds since Vasco da Gama?s first voyage until the year 1550. This is, in fact, the first date the chronicler mentions as the starting point for the writing. In 1563, he was still engaged in it, and this is the last piece of biographic information known about him.
The compilation of data for the writing of his Legends surely took place before 1550. It must be noted that they are preceded by the Chronicles of the Kings of Portugal?
Gaspar Correia wrote the Chronicles?between 1532 e 1534, compiling data which would make possible the outline of the royal chronicles since Dom Afonso Henriques until Dom João III, and referring to those written by Rui de Pina and António Galvão. It is worth mentioning that Galvão arrived in Goa on the 8th of December 1515, where Gaspar Correia was at the time. According to the chronicler, Galvão had been ordered by D. Manuel to summarize the lives and accomplishments of the kings who had preceded him in the throne of Portugal. This work, which remained a manuscript, anticipates the structure of his Legends of India. In it, the chronology of the fleets that left the kingdom every year is underlying to the narration.
The Legends were organized in four books. The first book, describes the several expeditions to India since 1497, as well as the government of Dom Francisco de Almeida. The second book narrates the governments of Afonso de Albuquerque, Lopo Soares, Diogo Lopes de Sequeira, Dom Duarte de Meneses, Dom Vasco da Gama and Dom Henrique de Meneses. The third book describes the deeds of Pêro de Mascarenhas, Lopo Vaz de Sampaio and Nuno da Cunha. The fourth and last book narrates the governments of Dom Garcia de Noronha, Dom Estevão da Gama, Martim Afonso de Sousa, Dom João de Castro, Garcia de Sá and Jorge Cabral.
Besides narrating the events, Gaspar Correia made drawings of places and governors. Currently only the drawings of Malacca, Calicut, Aden, Kollam, Ormus Judah, Ceylon, Kannur, Chale, Bassein and Diu are known; as regards the human element, the drawings of Afonso de Albuquerque, Diogo Lopes Sequeira, Dom Vasco da Gama, Pêro de Mascarenhas, Lopo Vaz de Sampaio, Nuno da Cunha, Dom Garcia de Noronha, Dom Estevão da Gama, Martim Afonso de Sousa, Dom João de Castro, Garcia de Sá and Jorge Cabral are also known.
Gaspar Correia?s death occurred at an uncertain date and on unknown circumstances. After his death the manuscript was bought by Dom Miguel da Gama, who returned to the kingdom in 1582. The text of the Legends would move within Portuguese circles, serving as a source of information for works such as Crónica de D. João III (Chronicle of Dom João III), by Francisco de Andrade, or História de S. Domingos (History of St. Dominic), by Friar Luís de Sousa.
Author:Ana Paula Avelar
Translated by: Ana Toste