Portugal has a long history that dates back to the Roman Empire and is a country with a rich cultural heritage. Portugal was also a major maritime power in the 15th and 16th centuries, and its explorers helped to map the world.
The scenery in Portugal is varied and stunning. From the rugged coastline and beautiful unspoiled beaches beaches with crystal clear water to the snow-capped mountains of the Serra da Estrela affording amazing views, outdoor adventures await the visitor.
The country is also home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the historic centre of Porto, the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, and in and around the capital Lisbon are many palaces, ancient castles, and centuries old architecture, to be enjoyed with delicious local food and drink.
History of Portugal
Some believe that the Celts invaded in the in the first millennium BC whilst others believe that Celtis tribes always inhabited the area. What is known for certain is that the Romans invaded Iberia and annexed most of it before losing the western part due to an uprising by the Lusitanians and other tribes 155 BC. Military reconquest was unsuccessful so the Romans eventually chose assassination and made a deal with the new man in town in 27 BC.
All was well until the 5th century when Germanic tribes, the Vandals and Suebi, together with their allies formed the Kingdom of the Suebi, this being one of the first areas to break off from the Roman Empire. Infighting and intrigue eventually ended with the Visigothic Kingdom being installed in around 500, descending into civil war in 577 but despite this, Visigothic control lasted until the early 700s.
The Syria based Umayyad Caliphate was the second caliphate established after the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.and continued the Muslim conquests across North Africa and over to Hispania (al-Andalus). The Visigoths were quickly defeated and the area despite change of ruler, remained Islamic, fragmenting as the regions gained their independence, with each containing its own emir.
When the Visigoths were overrun, a new Visigoth leader was elected who regrouped the defeated Christian armies. They withdrew to the Cantabrian Mountains in the north of the Iberian peninsula which today is in Spain. forming a stronghold and platform from which reconquest might happen. An area in 868 was reconquered corresponding today to northern Portugal and named it after the region's major city of Portus Cale (Porto).
The Reconquista period saw the Christians reconquer the Iberian Peninsula from the Islamic Moors and push all the way south until in 1249 the Moors were completely expelled resulting in an area that aligns very closely with Portugal's modern day boundaries.
With the kingdoms secure, a new ruling dynasty from 1383 began a Golden Age, creating are, architecture, and exploration in the Age of Discovery. Portugal explored the Atlantic, Africa, India, China, Japan, and found a way to India around the bottom of South America. Trading posts and colonies were established brining great wealth back to Portugal and its people and making Portugal a major world power until the late 16th century.
Portugal suffered a succession crisis in 1580 leading to a union with Spain. A war between Spain and the Netherlands dragged in Portugal resulting in a loss of commercial interests which led to an uprising that ended the union in 1640.
The beginning of the end for Portugal came in the form of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1807 French troops invaded from Spain. A British-Portuguese alliance fought the French and as French forces closed into Lisbon the Portuguese court to the colony of Brazil, making Portugal and Brazil a single state. After Napoleon was defeated, Brazil wanted to return Brazil to the status that is was formerly but in 1820 it declared independence instead. By 1910, after the assassination of King Dom Carlos 1 and his heir, the resulting disturbances and social turmoil, Portugal became a republic.
Political weakness and instability led to unrest and a dictatorship in 1933.It was neutral in World War 2, but after the war the independence movements seen across the world resulted in territorial loss and in some cases colonial wars as Portugal struggled to hold onto a centuries long global empire.
A left wing military coup in 1974 paved the way for independence of overseas territories and civil war was narrowly averted. The last territory was Macau, handed over to the People's Republic of China in 1999.
Today, Portugal is a member of the European Union having joined in 1986.