Who are the Portuguese?
Hominoids settled in the Iberian Peninsula before 200,000 BC.
During the Palaeolithic period, 30,000 years ago, early Portuguese ancestors created stone carvings.
Cave drawings of animals and humans date back to 15,000 BC.
Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens co-existed for 10,000 years. Scientists have never come to an agreement about the fate of the Neanderthals – stout and robust beings who used stone tools and fire, buried their dead and had brains larger than those of modern humans. The most common theory is that Homo sapiens drove Neanderthals to extinction. A less- accepted theory is that Neanderthals and humans bred together and produced a hybrid species.
Celtic people migrated across the Pyrenees with their families and flocks and built fortified villages in northern and western Portugal around 700 BC. They intermarried with local tribes.
Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians, followed. They founded coastal stations and mined metals inland.
The Romans swept into southern Portugal in 197 BC and expected an easy victory. The Celtic warrior tribe, Lusitani, resisted ferociously for 50 years. The Romans finally offered a peace treaty. Roman agents, posing as intermediaries, poisoned the Lusitani chief. Celtic resistance collapsed and the Romans took power in 139 BC. This power lasted for 600 years. During this time they built roads and bridges by collecting taxes; introduced wheat, barley, olives and vines; established farming estates and vineyards, a legal system, a salting-and-drying-fish trade and a latin-based language.
Moors and Christians
After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Vandals, Alans, Visigoths and Suevi filled the gap. Internal Visigothic disputes paved the way for the Moors from North Africa to invade. The Moors introduced irrigation, new crops (oranges and rice) and established schools. They ruled for 400 years, until 1147 when the Christians (mainly British crusaders) were finally able to defeat them after a four month siege.
This is the cultural and genetic source of the modern day Portuguese people.
Lisbon is the second oldest capital in Europe.
Today we meandered uphill and down, negotiating the maze of alleyways and hidden courtyards of Lisbon’s neighbourhood of Alfama. The sun was shining, the temp was 14C and the locals were enjoying their weekend.
We had no set agenda. We chanced upon historic sites; uttered astonishment at the size, elegance, history and architecture of our discoveries; basked in the child-like wonder of “Look at that!” Unknowingly we meandered into other Lisbon neighbourhoods, which seemed to morph in and out of Alfama.
One of Lisbon’s icons is the fortress-like Se (cathedral) de Lisboa built in 1150 on the site of a mosque soon after the Christians recaptured the city from the Moors. It was restored in the 1930s.
Basilica of the Martyrs
Praca do Comercio (plaza)
This grand 18th century square was, and still feels like, the gateway to Lisboa. It used to be the site of a palace. At its centre is the statue of Dom Jose I of the historical royal family. The Arco da Rua Augusta celebrates the historically famous of Portugal throughout the ages.
This was an absolutely thrilling ride!!
Rick Steve’s Lisbon
We returned to the hotel on the tram – exhausted but extremely content!