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Balboa, Vasco Nunez de, 1475-

Discoverer of the Pacific Ocean; born in Xeres de los Caballeros. Spain. in 1475; went to Santo Domingo in 1501; and thence to [251] the Isthmus of Darien in 1510. Pope Alexander VI. (q. v.) gave to the Spanish crown, as God's vicegerent on the earth, all lands that lay 300 leagues westward of the Azores — in fact, all of America. Ferdinand of Spain divided Central America, whose shores Columbus had discovered, into two provinces, over one of which he placed as governor Ojeda, the navigator, and over the other Diego de Nicuessa, with Bachelor Enciso as lieutenant. Nuez, deeply in debt in Santo Domingo, escaped from his creditors by being carried in a provision-cask on board Enciso's ship. When she had weighed anchor Nuņez came from his cask. Enciso, angered by the deception, threatened him, but became reconciled. At Darien, where the seat of government was to be established, Nuņez, taking advantage of the discontent of the Spaniards, headed a revolt. When Nicuessa came, they defied him and sent him adrift in a crazy vessel; and Enciso, seeing no chance for subduing the insurgents, went back to Spain with loud complaints against Nuņez, and the Spanish government sent out Davila, with a fleet and troops, as governor of Darien.

Meanwhile Nuņez had become a great discoverer. The cacique, or Indian ruler, of a neighboring district, named Caveta, had treated two Spaniards with great kindness, who requited his hospitality by advising Nuņez to attack and plunder him, for he had much gold. While the people of Caveta's village were slumbering, Nuņez and his followers entered it and carried off the cacique and his whole family and others, and, with considerable booty, returned to Darien. Caveta and Nuņez soon became friends. The former gave his young and beautiful daughter to the Spanish adventurer as his wife, and she acquired great influence over her husband. While visiting a powerful cacique, a friendly neighbor of Caveta, Nuņnez was told that beyond the mountains was a mighty sea that could be seen from their summits, and that the rivers that flowed down the slopes of the mountains on the other side abounded with gold; also that along the coast of that sea was a country where gold was as plentiful as iron. This story was confirmed by others, and finally Nuņez, with nearly 200 men and a number of bloodhounds, set out for the tops of the mountains. On Nov. 26, 1513, Nuņez and his men were near the bold rocky summit of a mountain. The leader ascended it alone, when he beheld a mighty sea. It was the Pacific Ocean. On that summit he and his followers set up a huge cross, and then descended to the shore of the sea. Wading into its waters, Nuņez took formal possession of the great ocean in the name of his sovereign. After that he made voyages along its coast, and heard tidings of Peru, where the Incas, or rulers, drank out of golden vessels. After Davila came, Nuņez was falsely accused of traitorous intentions by his jealous successor and rival, and he was beheaded at Acla, near Darien, in 1517. So perished the discoverer of the Pacific Ocean.

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