Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Pedro Arias de Avila

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 1
Pedro Arias de Avila

by Adolph Francis Alphonse Bandelier


(Also known as Pedrarias Davila).

A Spanish knight from Segovia, b. about the middle of the fifteenth century; d. at Leon, 1530. He married an intimate friend of Queen Isabella (whence probably his preferment) and saw some service in Europe. At the age of nearly seventy years he was made commander (1514) of the largest Spanish expedition hitherto sent to America, and reached Santa Marta in Colombia with nineteen vessels and 1,500 men. Thence he went to Darien, where the discoverer of the South Sea, Balboa, governed. Pedrarias superseded him, gave him his daughter in wedlock, and afterwards had him judicially murdered. (See BALBOA.) In 1519 he founded the city of Panama. He was a party to the original agreement with Pizarro and Almagro which brought about the discovery of Peru, but withdrew (1526) for a small compensation, having lost confidence in the outcome. In the same year he was superseded as Governor of Panama and retired to Leon in Nicaragua, where he died, over eighty years old. He left an unenviable record, as a man of unreliable character, cruel, and unscrupulous. Through his foundation of Panama, however, he laid the basis for the discovery of South America's west coast and the subsequent conquest of Peru.

Enciso, Suma de Geographia (1519, 1539, 1549); Oviedo, Historia general y natural de Indias (Madrid, 1850); Gomara, Historia general de las Indias (Medina del Campo, 1553); Peter Martyr ab Anglereia, Enchisidion de insulis nuper reportis simulatque incolarum moribus (Basle, 1521); Documentos ineditos de Indias; Herrera, Historia general (Madrid, 2d ed., 1726-9). — Every book on Spanish America contains of course, at least a passing notice of Arias de Avila. — Among later publications see Andagoya, Relacion de los Sucesos de Pedrarias Davila en las Provincias de Tierra Firme; Navarrete, Coleccion de los viajes y descubrimientos (Madrid, 1825), III. The report of Andagoya has been translated into English by Markham and published by the Haklyut Society (London, 1865) under the title Narrative of Proceedings of Pedrarias Davila. A fair appreciation of the character of Arias de Avila is to be found in the first volume of Prescott, History of the Conquest of Peru.

Ad. F. BANDELIER