Adamastor

From Academic Kids

Adamastor (in Greek "imitative rival of Adam") was used by the Portuguese poet Luís de Camões in his epic poem Os Lusíadas, as a symbol of the forces of nature Portuguese navigators had to overcome during their discoveries. Camões gave his creation a history as one of the Gigantes of Greek mythology who had been spurned by Thetis, now appearing in the form of a threatening stormcloud to Vasco da Gama and threatening ruin to anyone hardy enough to pass the Cape and penetrate the Indian Ocean, which was Adamaster's domain. Adamastor became the Spirit of the Cape, a hideous phantom of unearthly pallor:

"Even as I spoke, an immense shape
Materialised in the night air,
Grotesque and enormous stature
With heavy jowls, and an unkempt beard
Scowling from shrunken, hollow eyes
Its complexion earthy and pale,
Its hair grizzled and matted with clay,
Its mouth coal black, teeth yellow with decay. —Camões, The Lusiads Canto V.

Adamastor represented the dangers Portuguese sailors faced when trying to round the Cape of Storms, henceforth called, in consequence of the resultant success in despite thereof, Cape of Good Hope.

Adamastor has figured in much poetry of the Cape. In The First Life of Adamastor, a novella by André Brink, the writer refashioned the Adamastor story from a 20th-century perspective.

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Adamastor was also the name of a cruiser in the Portuguese navy. The Adamastor was built in Italy using the revenue of a national subscription made after the British ultimatum to Portugal in 1890. It played an important role in the republican revolution of October 5, 1910, being one of the two revolting cruisers. In 1934 it was decommissioned and sold to the merchant marine.

References

J.C. Pereira ed., Dicionário Ilustrado da História de Portugal (Lisbon: Alfa, 1985).

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