Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Discoverer of the Pacific Ocean from the west coast of Central America, born in Spain, 1475, either at Badajoz or at Jerez de los Caballeros; died at Darien, 1517.

He went to Central America, in 1500 with Rodrigo de Bastidas and thence, in secret, with Martín Fernández de Enciso to Cartagena. The story that he got aboard either in an empty barrel or wrapped up in a sail may be true. He soon assumed an important role among the participants of the expedition, and settled Darien in 1509. Then he proclaimed himself governor, and sent both Enciso and Nicuesa away. From Darien he undertook, with a few followers, the hazardous journey across the isthmus that led to the discovery of the Pacific Ocean. 25 September, 1513, and established beyond all doubt the continental nature of America.

The appointment in 1514 of Pedrarias Dávila as governor of the regions discovered and partly occupied by Balboa, and his appearance on the coast of Darien with a large armament, at once gave rise to trouble. Arias was an aged man of mediocre attainments, jealous, deceitful, and vindictive. Balboa was generous, careless, and over-confident in the merits of his achievements, and was no match for the intrigues that forthwith began against him. To mask his sinister designs Arias gave one of his daughters to Balboa in marriage. The latter was allowed to continue his explorations while Arias and the Licentiate Gaspar de Espinosa were slowly tightening a net of true and false testimony around him under cover of the inevitable Residencia . The Crown gave Balboa the title of Adelantado of the South Sea, Governor of Coyba and of what subsequently became the district of Panama, but Arias and his agents understood how to reduce these titles to empty honours.

Quevedo, Bishop of Castilla del Oro, was Balboa's sincere friend and assisted him, but with Quevedo's departure for Spain the case was lost. Fearful lest the bishop's appeal for his friend might result against Arias and his party, the Residencia was at once converted into criminal proceedings, death sentence hastily pronounced, and Balboa beheaded for high treason in 1517 at Darien. One of the main pretexts for the sentence was Balboa's action towards Enciso and Nicuesa.

Balboa has been credited by most authors with having been first to hear of Peru. This is incorrect. In his few attempts at exploring the coast of southern Panama he heard only of Indian tribes of northern or northwestern Colombia.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Revelation 15:1-4
1 And I saw in heaven another sign, great and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 98:1, 2-3, 7-8, 9
1 [Psalm] Sing a new song to Yahweh, for he has ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:12-19
12 'But before all this happens, you will be seized ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 26th, 2014 Image

St. John Berchmans
November 26: Eldest son of a shoemaker, John was born at Diest, Brabant. He ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter