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Gomes Eanes de Zurara (c. 1410 – 1474), sometimes spelled Eannes or Azurara, was the second of the notable Portuguese chroniclers, after Fernão Lopes.

He adopted the career of letters in middle life. He probably entered the royal library as assistant to Lopes during the reign of King Duarte (1433-1438), and he had sole charge of it in 1452. His Chronicle of the Siege and Capture of Ceuta, a supplement to the Chronicle of King John I by Lopes, dates from 1450, and three years later he completed the first draft of the Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, our authority for the early Portuguese voyages of discovery down the African coast and in the ocean, more especially for those undertaken under the auspices of Prince Henry the Navigator. It contains some account of the life work of that prince, and has a biographical as a geographical interest.

On 6 June 1454 Zurara became chief keeper of the archives and royal chronicler in succession to Lopes. In 1456 King Afonso V commissioned him to write the history of Ceuta, the land-gate of the East, under the governorship of D. Pedro de Menezes, from its capture in 1415 until 1437, and he had it ready in 1463. A year afterwards the king charged him with a history of the deeds of D. Duarte de Menezes, captain of Alcácer-Ceguer, and, proceeding to Africa, he spent a year in the town collecting materials and studying the scenes of the events he was to describe, and in 1468 he completed the chronicle. Afonso corresponded with Zurara on terms of affectionate intimacy, and no less than three comendas of the order of Christ rewarded his literary services.

Zurara had little of the picturesque ingenuousness of Lopes, and loved to display his erudition by quotations and philosophical reflections, showing that he wrote under the influence of the first Renaissance. Nearly all the leading classical, early Christian and medieval writers figure in his pages, and he was acquainted with the notable chronicles and romances of Europe and had studied the best Italian and Spanish authors. In addition, he had mastered the geographical system of the ancients and their astrology. As a historian he is laborious, accurate and conscientious, though his position did not allow him to tell the whole truth about his hero, Prince Henry.

His works include:

  • Chronica del Rei D. Joam I de boa memória. Terceira parte em que se contam a Tomada de Ceuta (Lisbon, 1644)
  • Chronica do Descobrimento e Conquista da Guiné (Paris, 1841; Eng. version by Edgar Prestage in 2 vols. issued by the Hakluyt Society, London, 1896-1899: The Chronicle of Discovery and Conquest of Guinea),
  • Chronica do Conde D. Pedro de Menezes), printed in the Inéditos de Historia Portugueza, vol. ii (Lisbon, 1792)
  • Chronica do Conde D. Duarte de Menezes, printed in the Inéditos, vol. iii (Lisbon, 1793)

The preface to the English version of the The Chronicle of Discovery and Conquest of Guinea contains a full account of the life and writings of Azurara and cites all the authorities.

References

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