Ponce de Leon ‘never sought Fountain of Youth’
(SMITHSONIANMAG) — Half a millennium ago, in 1513, the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León departed Puerto Rico for the verdant island of “Bimini”—an uncharted land in what is now the Bahamas. He eventually landed instead in Florida, where he staked a claim for the Spanish Crown and ensured himself a spot in the annals of history.
As legend has it , and as scholars have maintained for centuries, Ponce was in search of the Fountain of Youth, a fabled wellspring thought to give everlasting life to whoever bathed in or drank from it. But new scholarship contradicts the old fable and suggests that Ponce was interested not in longevity but political gain.
The real story goes something like this: In 1511, messy political squabbling forced Ponce to surrender the governorship of Puerto Rico, an appointment he had held since 1509. As a consolation prize, King Ferdinand offered him Bimini, assuming the stalwart conquistador could finance an expedition and actually find it.
Ponce de León's name wasn't tied to the Fountain of Youth until 14 years after his death. (The Granger Collection, NYC)
In Historia general y natural de las Indias, Oviedo’s account of the Spanish settling of the Americas, he relates a tale in which Ponce, deceived by Indians, goes tromping off on a futile hunt for the Fountain of Youth. It’s all a literary device intended to make Ponce appear foolish. Although visits to spas and mineral baths were common in the 16th century, actually believing water could reverse aging was apparently considered pretty silly.
Oviedo’s satiric version of Ponce’s travels stuck. “You’ve got this incredible story that started out as an invention,” Francis says, “and by the 17th century, it has become history.” (For what it’s worth, Ponce died at age 47 after being wounded by an arrow in a fight with an Indian tribe in Florida.)
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Ponce-De-Leon-Never-Searched-for-the-Fountain-of-Youth-208345831.html#ixzz2UaKuhWl0