The next sequence of steps to establish an empire in India seemed as obvious as the stages down the west African coast. The first Portuguese viceroy of India, Francisco de Almeida, destroyed the Muslim fleet in 1509. Afonso de Albuquerque, the next Portuguese governor of India, conquered Ormuz, the gateway to the Persian Gulf, in 1507, made Goa capital of the Portuguese possessions in 1510, took Malacca in 1511, and then opened sea trade with Siam, the Moluccas, or Spice Islands, and China. The Portuguese now ruled the Indian Ocean.

The consequences reached around the world. Much Italian splendor had been based on the wealth of the East pouring through Venice and Genoa. Now the traffic in Asiatic treasure – spices, drugs, gems, and silks would no longer come through the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the Levant, but on Portuguese ships around the Cape of Good Hope to Atlantic – facing Europe. The Egyptian sultans had been able to keep the price of pepper high by keeping the consignments down to about two hundred and ten tons per year. So quickly was the effect of the Portuguese sea route felt that by 1503 the price of pepper in Lisbon was only one-fifth of what it was in Venice. The Egyptian-Venetian trade was destroyed. The wealth of Asia, the fabled treasures of the Orient, were flowing west. The new Age of the Sea moved the entrepôts of commerce and civilization from the coasts of a finite body, the closed Mediterranean, the “Sea-in-the-Midst-of-the-Land,” to the shores of the open Atlantic and the boundless world-reaching Oceans.

“The Portuguese Discoverers”, from “The Discoverers”, Daniel J. Boorstin, The National Board for the Celebration of Portuguese Discoveries, Lisbon, 1987

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