Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/66

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the situation when Turkey and Egypt should combine with the Arabs to drive Portugal from the precarious lodgment she had acquired ? And if the mere threshold of the East had proved so hard to win, how much harder would it be to strike into the heart of the field, and attack the Muslim in the strong positions of the Far East, with the countless millions of China at their back ?

Against such arguments the honour of a Christian nation, the lust of territorial aggrandisement, and above all the greed of gold, prevailed in the end. Twenty ships were despatched, in three squadrons, under the general command of the first adventurer, Vasco da Gama, and other commanders followed in rapid succession. The original plan of campaign was still adhered to. Whatever the cost, the Moors must be dislodged from Calicut, the resistance of the native king broken, and the control of the trade transferred to the Portuguese, whose king the Zamorin must acknowledge as his sovereign. Beaten at every point in fair fight, the Zamorin maintained his ground by fraud and treachery. The stream of wealth still poured into Portugal through Cochin and Cananor, immensely augmented by the spoils of captured Moorish vessels, but the Zamorin still held his ground. In an interval during which the Portuguese forces were weakened by the withdrawal of returning ships, he attacked and destroyed Cochin. The Portuguese having retaken it, restored its prince, and built a strong fort for themselves, the infuriated Rajah, having roused such of his neighbours as were amenable to his appeal, seized a similar opportunity and assailed Cochin with fifty thousand men. In a campaign of five months he was defeated and slain by the Portuguese under Duarte Pacheco, who earned the title of the Portuguese Achilles; but his successor maintained the same attitude, and despatched an embassy to the Sultan of Egypt, asking for aid in resisting the invaders. The Sultan sent word to the Pope threatening to destroy the holy places at Jerusalem if the Portuguese persisted in their invasion of India. The only effect of this empty menace was to stimulate the Portuguese King to renewed efforts on a larger scale. The crisis of the struggle was approaching; and in view of this a more comprehensive scheme was adopted. Abandoning the attempt to reduce the obstinate resistance of a single prince, it was determined to attack the Muslim maritime system in all its parts, and to establish a new emporium on the Malabar coast as the commercial and naval centre of the new Portuguese eastern empire. Already the Moorish traders in search of the produce of the Far East had begun to avoid the Malabar coast, and to make their way from the Arabian and African ports by a new route to Malacca. It was resolved to seize this key of the Far East without delay, and to gain possession of the Moorish settlements on the African coast, and the Arabian ports of Hormuz and Aden. By exacting heavy duties at these places the whole trade would gradually be diverted, and the Portuguese would ultimately control the Red Sea itself.