Anthroponyms seta GONÇALVES, Antão

He was attendant to infant Prince Henrique. In 1444, as captain of a small ship, he left for the region south of Cape Bojador with the purpose of loading a specific type of merchandise (skins and oil of monk seals). During the voyage he was knighted by Nuno Tristão, having this moment in history been registered in mapmaking with the name of ?Porto do Cavaleiro? (literally, Port of the Knight). Nuno Tristão decided to bestow this honour on him because Antão Gonçalves had explored three leagues of the coast?s inland territory and had convinced nine of his comrades to capture moors with him, in order to satisfy the Prince?s desire to find out more about those lands. Actually, he did capture two moors, a man and a woman, the first captives to be traded afterwards, thus initiating a practice that in the future would prove to be profitable and well-known. In fact, according to Zurara, Antão Gonçalves suggested to infant Prince Henrique they would return to the place where the moors had been captured and exchange them for African slaves, thus reasoning that those slaves could tell them more about those lands and that their souls could be saved by converting them to Christianity. So, in 1442, with infant Prince Henrique?s permission, he took on a new mission and exchanged the moors for about ten slaves and a little gold; he was also informed that in that region there were merchants who traded that precious material. Antão Gonçalves was helped by Martim Fernandes, who had previously served the infant Prince in the rescue of Portuguese prisoners in Maghreb. In 1444 he sailed from Portugal on a small ship bound for the ?Rio de Ouro? (River of Gold or Río de Oro), having reached the regions beyond ?Pedra? or ?Porto da Galé?; at the time he just got to know the area better and brought back seal skins and oil, but few slaves. In this expedition he was helped by Gomes Pires, captain to the king, at the service of infant Prince Pedro, and by Diogo Afonso, of infant Prince Henrique?s House. João de Barros tells us that with Antão Gonçalves went a squire named João Fernandes, who was left there in order to gather more information on the Azenegue Berbers; they picked him up seven months later, in 1445. At this time, Antão Gonçalves sailed again from Portugal as captain of a three-ship fleet with Diogo Afonso and Garcia Homem. Besides collecting João Fernandes, the captains of the three caravels should devote themselves to the capture and commerce of slaves, so that the enterprise could be economically viable. After a stop at Madeira, they went on to the White Cape, and Diogo Afonso was the first to reach land. There, the captains decided to capture slaves at the island of Arguin - and indeed they captured 25 slaves. When they collected João Fernandes, he informed Antão Gonçalves that there was a Moorish knight called Aude Meilão who was willing to do business with the Portuguese, trading nine African slaves and a bit of gold dust for a handful of worthless merchandise. For the Europeans this rendezvous was set down on the map as ?Cabo do Resgate? (Cape of Ransom). When they returned to the White Cape they imprisoned another 55 moors; nevertheless, when they noticed that there was neither room nor food to keep the moors imprisoned, they were set free and the fleet went straight back to Lisbon. After four voyages, Antão Gonçalves settled down and accepted the captaincy of Lanzarote Island, offered him by infant Prince Henrique (at the time, the prince believed the island belonged to him, but the Alcáçovas Treaty, after the Prince?s death, definitely acknowledged it as belonging to Castile).

ALBUQUERQUE, Luís de, Navegadores, Viajantes e Aventureiros Portugueses, Lisboa, Caminho, 1992. GODINHO, Vitorino Magalhães, A Economia dos Descobrimentos Henriquinos, Lisboa, 1962. OLIVEIRA, José Pinto de, ?Gonçalves, Antão? in Dicionário de História dos Descobrimentos Portugueses, Vol. I, Lisboa, Caminho, 1994, pp. 470-471. ZURARA, Gomes Eanes de, Crónica dos feitos notáveis que se passaram na conquista de Guiné por mandado do infante D. Henrique, 2 vols., Lisboa, Academia Portuguesa de História, 1973-1981.

Author: Teresa Lacerda
Translated by: Maria das Mercês Pacheco

Sponsorship: Câmara Municipal de Lagos

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