The Iberian Peninsula was originally inhabited by two peoples known as the Iberians and the Celtiberians. A sub-group of these, living along the western coast, was known by classic historians as the 'Lusitanians', the traditional name sometimes given to the Portuguese in literature and the arts.
From early days, influences of other sea peoples were felt along the Portuguese coast. Romans entered the Iberian Peninsula in the 3rd century BC, and, 100 years later, assumed control of the entire region. The Roman presence ushered in a long period of stability and development until the 5th century - the Portuguese language, in its structure, clearly evolved from its Latin origins. It was during the Roman presence, at the end of the 1st and 2nd century AD, that Christianity was introduced into the Iberian Peninsula, and became a defining feature in the life and the culture of the people living there until the present day. The Roman Empire disintegrated following the 'barbarian' invasions and for about three centuries a Visigothic Kingdom existed in the Iberian Peninsula.
In 711, Arabs crossed from the north of Africa and conquered almost all of the Iberian Peninsula. As a result of the fight against this occupation, called the “Reconquista”, several principalities came into being, including the Kingdom of Portugal.
In 1143, King D. Afonso Henriques saw his independence from the neighboring Kingdom of Castile and Leon recognized, while continuing the expansion of the kingdom to the south.
In 1267, with the definitive conquest of the Algarve, Portugal acquired the borders that, with minimum changes, it still possess today. There are innumerous traces of the Arab presence in the Iberian Peninsula, not only architectural and cultural, but also in terms of the spoken language.
The first dynasty lasted from 1143 to 1383, when a serious crisis led to the rise to power of D. João I, who began the ‘Avis’ Dynasty. It was during this period, which extends from 1385-1580, that Portugal embarked on an unprecedented maritime expansion and a series of discoveries that transformed, not only the map of the world, but the way men looked at the world. This glorious period, when the Portuguese reached the islands of the Atlantic (1417), the coast of Brazil (1500), the Cape of Good Hope (1460), India (1498), Sri Lanka (1503), Thailand (1511), China (1513), East Timor (1512-1514) and Japan (1543), ended suddenly in 1580, when a young Portuguese king was killed and his army disarrayed at the battle of Alcácer Quibir, in Morocco.
From 1580 to 1640, while retaining a theoretical independence, Portugal was ruled by three Spanish kings.
In 1640, a revolution in Lisbon proclaimed a Portuguese king and the 4th Dynasty of “Braganza”, which extends to 1910 and curiously coincides with the Qing Dynasty of China, brought the country new periods of great prosperity, but it also saw terrible calamities, such as the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, the Napoleonic invasions at the beginning of the 19th century, and a devastating civil war in the thirties of that same century.
In 1910, a popular revolution deposed the constitutional monarchy and the First Republic, characterized by political instability and the participation of Portugal in the World War II, alongside the Allied forces, followed.
The political instability and the financial crisis led to a military revolution and the establishment of an authoritarian state, similar to what occurred at that time in other countries in the world.
The regime's inability to solve the country’s many problems, and the colonial war seeking to prevent the independence of African colonies, led to a military coup in April 1974 leading to the emergence of the current democratic regime.
In 1986, Portugal joined the EU and, since then, has enjoying a period of accelerated economic growth and an improvement in living standards for its population.
The National Flag
The national flag is divided in two parts by a vertical line.
The first part is green and represents 2/5 of the flag.
The second part is red and represents 3/5 of the flag.
By the centre of the vertical line there’s a shield with 7 castles and 5 figures in blue.
Around the shield there’s an armillary sphere in yellow.
The 5 figures in blue represent the 5 Moorish kings defeated by D. Afonso Henriques in the battle of Ourique.
The 5 white spots inside each figure in blue represent the five sores of Christ.
The seven castles symbolize the fortresses that D. Afonso Henriques conquered from the Moorish.
The yellow sphere represents the world that the Portuguese explorers discovered in the XV and XVI centuries and all the people with whom they exchange ideas and commerce.
The green represents hope.
The red represents courage and the blood of all those Portuguese killed in combat.
Authors of the republican flag: Columbano, João Chagas and Abel Botelho.
more about portugal
- Official name: Portuguese Republic
- State Foundation: 1143
- National Day: 10th June - Day of Portugal, Camões and Portuguese Communities
- Language: Portuguese. Portuguese is also the official language of other seven countries and is spoken by more than 200 million people
- Territorial distribution: 2 autonomous regions (Azores and Madeira) and 18 districts in the Continent
- Capital: Lisbon
- Area: 92.212 km2
- Population (thousands): 10.562 (2012)
- Working Population (thousands): 5.455 (2012)
- Population density: 114,3 (2012)
- Currency: Euro
- Gross Domestic Product (GDP): 165.387 million EUR (2012)
- Gross Domestic Product per capita: 15.635 EUR (2012)
Climate (average temperature)
- Seaside and islands: Winter: 12º; Summer: 21º
- Interior and mountains: Winter: 5º; Summer: 25º