Bernardini - Chapter 01
Biblical History and the Americas
The Legend of Solomon's Ophir, 1492-1591
ONE CAN ONLY IMAGINE how delighted Columbus would have been to
know that his discoveries would one day be studied in a city called
Providence. To him, and to many of his contemporaries, the geography of
the New World could best be understood within the framework of the
Holy Bible, and within the historical scheme of a Divine Providence that
had determined the fate of humankind from the moment of its creation.
Moreover, the names of places were immensely important to Columbus
and his age as signposts of how those places fit into biblical mythology —
or into the body of myth and science inherited from Classical antiquity.
Indeed, one wonders what he would have thought of the fact that this
essay was first presented in a place called Salomon Hall. As I shall show
in what follows, he would almost certainly have taken this name as proof
that King Solomon had sent ships to the New World long before Spanish
caravels went there, and would assert, as he did in fact believe, that his
own travels were only a reprise or a reenactment of the voyages described
in the Bible to the rich trading port of Ophir.