Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Brief History of Portugal

Ancient Battles

Portugal, as we now know it, was inhabited first by Neanderthals and then by Homo Sapiens, who roamed the border-less region of the northern Iberian peninsula. Early in the first millennium BC, several waves of Celtic invaders flowed into Portugal and inter-married with the local populations, forming many different tribes.
  1. Gallaeci in the north
  2. Lusitanian in the central plains
  3. Celts of Alentejo
  4. Conii of the Algarye
In the south the Phoenicians and Carthaginians established port cities and coastal settlements.

The powerful Roman Empire invaded the Iberian Peninsula in 219 BC, expelling the Carthaginians and began a slow expansion from the south to the north. During this Roman colonization, Lusitania grew in prosperity and many of modern Portuguese cities and towns were founded. Eventually, Rome named Lusitania and Gallaecia, Roman provenances.

In the early 5th century, as Rome weakened, Germanic Tribes began wave after wave of invasions until the Visigoth conquered all of the Iberian Peninsula. Then, in the 8th century, the Moors invaded from Northern Africa, destroying the Visigothic Kingdom.

In 868, Count Vimara Peres drove down from the mountainous north and reconquered the region between the rivers Minho and Douro. By then the county was known as Portu Cale which eventually became Portugal.

At the end of the 11th century,  Henri, the knight  from Burgundy became Count of Portugal and defended his independence, merging the County of Portucale and the Coimbra while the rest of the Iberian Peninsula was locked in a bloody civil war. His son, Afonso Henriques then took control of the country and with the support of the clergy of Braga, demanded the independence of the renewed country.

The Battle of Sao Mamede marks the national origin of Portugal as we now know it. Afonso proclaimed himself  first Prince of Portugal and in 1139 the first King of Portugal. By 1143, with the assistance of a representative of the Holy See at the conference of Zamora, Portugal was formally recognized as independent.

Colonial Expansion

By 1279, King Diniz invited a Genovese sea captain to Portugal and placed him in charge of developing the mercantile and naval fleets. He also ordered the Atlantic coastline planted with trees to provide timber for the ocean-going fleets, he envisioned in Portugal's future. Sixty three years later, in 1341, a fleet of three vessels sailed from Lisbon and explored the Canary Islands, off the northwestern coast of Africa, the beginning of  the golden years of exploration under Henry the Navigator.

The Treaty of Windsor Peace Pact made between Dom João I and King Richard II of England in 1386, linking the two countries together formed a alliance that secured their independence in the face of French and Spanish expansionism.

Although Portugal became a kingdom under Alfonso Henriques around 1140, its Empire didn't actually begin until the 15th century, following a period of world exploration. It came under Spanish domination between the years 1580 to 1640 and was invaded in 1807 by the French.

Modern Portugal

The First Republic was set up in 1910, following the overthrow of the monarchy. In 1926 a military coup took place and this was followed by a 35 year dictatorship under Dr. Salazar.

This period of stability came to an end in 1974 due to yet another military coup. After another 10 years of political unrest, the Social Democratic party obtained a large enough majority to enable them to govern the country properly. For the first time in over sixty years, Portugal had a President, Mario Soares.

 Today, Portugal is an active member of the European Union and has alliances with England, France, Spain and the United
States which secure its borders.

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