Seven Cities of Gold (myth)

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The Seven Cities of Gold is a myth that led to several expeditions by adventurers and conquistadors in the 16th century. It is also featured in several works of popular culture.

Origins of myth[edit]

In the 16th century, the Spaniards in New Spain (now Mexico) began to hear rumours of "Seven Cities of Gold" called "Cíbola" located across the desert, hundreds of miles to the north. The stories may have their root in an earlier Portuguese legend about seven cities founded on the island of Antillia by a Catholic expedition in the 8th century. The later Spanish tales were largely caused by reports given by the four shipwrecked survivors of the failed Narváez expedition, which included Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and an African slave named Esteban Dorantes, or Estevanico. Eventually returning to New Spain, the adventurers said they had heard stories from natives about cities with great and limitless riches. However, when conquistador Francisco Vázquez de Coronado finally arrived at Cíbola in 1540, he discovered that the stories were 'lies' and that there were in fact no treasures as the friar had described — only adobe pueblos.

While among the pueblos, Coronado heard an additional rumor from a native he called "the Turk" that there was a city with plenty of gold called Quivira located on the other side of the great plains. However, when at last he reached this place (variously conjectured to be in modern Kansas, Nebraska or Missouri), he found little more than straw-thatched villages.

Seven Cities of Gold in popular culture[edit]

  • The film O No Coronado by Craig Baldwin details Coronado's ill fated expedition, in the context of contemporary treatment of indigenous Americans and usage of their traditional lands.
  • The movie sequel National Treasure: Book of Secrets involves a search for the Seven Cities of Cibola.
  • The 1982 cartoon-serial The Mysterious Cities of Gold is heavily based on the legend.
  • The 1984 video game The Seven Cities of Gold, dramatizing the Spanish conquest of the Americas, takes its name from this legend.
  • In the turn-based strategy game Sid Meier' Colonization (1994), scouting lost city rumors (tiles in the map) may result in finding one of the Seven Cities of Cibola, granting the player a treasure with a huge amount of gold.
  • The Western based game Gun centers around a land baron's search for Quivira in the 1880s.
  • In Civilization Revolution for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and the Nintendo DS, players can find the Seven Cities of Gold. The player who finds the Seven Cities of Gold receives 200 to 350 gold pieces, depending on the era, to spend on building cities, military units, settlers (people that found new cities), or roads.
  • The novel The King's Fifth by Scott O'Dell, tells the story of one such (fictional) expedition through the eyes of a teenage cartographer.
  • The 1954 Uncle Scrooge comic "The Seven Cities of Cibola" (Uncle Scrooge #7), by Carl Barks, centered on an expedition to the legendary cities.

See also[edit]