Coimbra University Portugal

Portugal, the World's First Global Power - in a Nutshell

Author: Sue
Date: 15th December 2020

What is the History of Portugal?

  • The area now known as Portugal was originally settled by the Celtic peoples.
  • It was later subject to Phoenician and Carthaginian incursions.
  • Portugal was a part of the Roman Empire from 45 BC to 298 AD. What we now call Portugal (well 80% of it and a piece of Spain) was then known as Lusitania (after the Roman god Lusus, son of Bacchus, the god of wine - the area was famous for its sweet wine). This is why speakers of Portuguese are still known as lusophones.
  • The Germanic tribe of Visigoths came next, establishing the strong institution of the Church in their kingdom. Soon after that came the Arabic invasion and occupation, a time in which many Arabic words entered and formed Portuguese. The name Portugal came from the Roman-Celtic place name Portus Cale ( an early settlement located at the mouth of the Douro River which later became Porto). Portugal was occupied for approximately 500 years and finally became a kingdom independent of Spain in 1279. The borders established then are still the same today.
  • Portugal then evolved into the first global power. This was the era of explorers such as Vasco da Gama, Fernando Magellan and Bartolome Dias and Portugal established colonies all over the world.
  • In the sixteenth century the Portuguese Empire fell into steady decline, due to war in Europe and colonial resistance.
  • Portugal has a long established old alliance with Great Britain, who helped the Portuguese resist Napoleon, principally at the Battle of Trafalgar.
  • In 1808, the king, Dom João, moved to Brazil and proclaimed a single state that he called the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and the Algarves. The new capital of the kingdom was Rio de Janeiro. The state was disestablished in 1822 after the king returned to Portugal in 1821, leaving his son, Prince Dom Pedro, to rule Brazil. In turn, Brazil soon declared independence from Portugal.
  • Eventually, in 1910, the First Portuguese Republic was established after a Republican revolution that also brought on the King’s resignation. This was followed in 1933 by the Second Republic, also known as Estado Novo (New State) under the dictator António Oliveira de Salazar. Salazar’s motto: “Proudly alone” saved Portugal from taking part(mostly) in both World Wars. The peaceful Carnation Revolution, a military coup d’état, finally led Portugal into democracy; the first elections took place in 1975.

Is Portugal in the EU?

Portugal joined the European Union in 1986 and was one of the first countries to adopt the euro on 1 January 1999.

Facts and Factoids

  • This is the oldest country in Europe.
  • Portugal and England have the oldest diplomatic alliance in the world. The Anglo-Portuguese Alliance was signed in 1373 and is still in force to this day.
  • Half of the known globe once belonged to Portugal. The Treaty of Tordesillas gave Portugal the eastern half of the "New World," including Brazil and parts of Africa and Asia.
  • Portuguese is the official language of eight countries. Over 236 million people worldwide are native Portuguese speakers. Portuguese is the official language of Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Angola, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Sao Tome et Principe and Equatorial Guinea. It is also spoken in Goa (India), Macao, and East Timor.
  • The University of Coimbra established in 1290 is one of the oldest universities in Europe.
  • The oldest bookstore in the world is in Lisbon, Portugal's capital.
  • Portugal has the world's largest cork forest and is the largest cork producer in the world.
  • Salt cod and grilled sardines reign supreme.
  • The Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon, at 7.6 miles is the second-longest bridge in Europe, after the Crimean Bridge, opened in Russia in 2018.

What is There to See and Do in Portugal?

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