Portuguese navigator and explorer, 1450-1500. Explored the coasts of western Africa for kings John II and Manuel I. His surname is also spelled Diaz.
His descent is not known but believed to be quite humble. Unlike other famous seafarers of the time, he was not a freelancer but spent his life in the service of the
His first major assignment was the exploration of the Gold Coast in western Africa. In August 1487 he set sail for another exploratory voyage down the African coast and
ended up rounding the southern tip of the continent in February 1488 after being blown off course by a storm. This voyage paved the way for Vasco da Gama to discover the
complete sea route to India nine years later. Dias himself did not have the supplies and his men were tired so he did not continue all the way to India.
Dias died in a storm in the South Atlantic while commanding a vessel on its way to India. During the fatal voyage, he had become one of the first Europeans to see Brazil although, at the time, they thought it was an island.
His voyages and those of others gave Portugal the edge in the "spice race" to open sea routes to India after the Turkish conquest of Constantinople and closure of the
overland route to Asia. The Cape of Good Hope which he first saw was named thus by John II, hoping it would lead to the riches of the orient. Dias, having first-hand experience, had named it the Cape of Storms.