Europeans wanted a new route to Asia via the sea because traveling over land routes was dangerous and required more resources to undertake. Portuguese sailor Vasco da Gama was the first European to sail around Africa and land in Asia (India) during his journey from 1497 to 1499.Continue Reading
A land route from Europe to Asia was possible but fraught with peril. Young Marco Polo and his brother first made the journey along the Silk Road through Armenia, Persia, Afghanistan and into China in the late 1200s. In the early part of their initial travels, the brothers encountered a war zone, and the two friars traveling with them immediately turned back.
Ten years later, the brothers attempted to reach Asia again but found the trip difficult along a more northerly route. Boats in African ports were not seaworthy. Polo traversed deserts, mountains and disease-plagued human settlements before reaching China.
Europeans sought a sea route to Asia because a land route was too dangerous, overly long and too expensive. If Europeans wanted to travel along Polo's land route, they needed vast amounts of supplies for defense. After da Gama's journey, European countries with seafaring ships became very powerful. Arabs from the Middle East already had sea routes with India, but their ships were not nearly as technologically advanced as those from Spain and Portugal. When the Arab fleet was destroyed in 1515, European trading prowess took over Indian and Chinese ports for the next 100 years.Learn more about Middle Ages