HISTORY: FROM ITS ORIGINS TO THE MIDDLE AGES
Like the other Christian states of the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal was born and established itself in the context of the centuries-old struggle for the Reconquista, that is, by waging war against Muslims. However, it was born later than the other kingdoms: and this for understandable geographical reasons, the same ones that had made Lusitania and Gallaecia the last (in order of time) Roman provinces. Its position as a “balcony” on the unknown and feared ocean (finis terrae) and the poor fertility due to the predominantly rough terrain (except in the southern part, from the Tagus valley downwards) made it much less attractive than any other region of the peninsula. The Swabians who arrived there in the century. V, at the fall of the empire, they did not descend to the S of the Douro, making Gallaecia the epicenter of their kingdom (with capital in Braga and a fortified port in Portus Cale, or Porto); and almost two centuries later the Visigoths, while eliminating the Swabian kingdom, recognized a certain autonomy in that same north-western reduced of the peninsula. It is therefore not strange that the Arab invasion (8th century) spread like wildfire in the SE and in the center, as far as the Pyrenees, was less solid and insistent in the remote corner of the NW; the same, in fact, in which, et pour cause, the first Christian resistance was manifested, materialized in the creation of the kingdom of Asturias. An integral part of this soon became the North of Portugal up to the Douro, called in the most ancient documents (9th century) terra or comitatus portucalensis, from the name of its political-commercial center of Porto (Braga remained above all the ecclesiastical capital); and its autonomy was strengthened in the century. X thanks to a powerful count family, which came from a count Ermenegildo (name of Visigothic origin) and from the famous Mumadona. When therefore, in the sec. XI, Alfonso VI of Castile “officially” created the county of Portugal for his son- in- law Henry of Burgundy (husband of his illegitimate daughter Teresa), a valid collaborator of the Castilian king in the Reconquista, did nothing but consecrate a pre-existing “fact”. Henry’s son, Alfonso, took the last step towards independence, proclaiming himself king after the battle of Ourique (1139), fighting against his own mother Teresa and his cousin Alfonso VII of Castile and carrying out on his own the reconquest of the Muslims (taken of Lisbon, 1147). With him begins the Burgundian dynasty, which was to reign until 1383, laying the foundations for the unification of the country along two main directives: reconquest on the Moors (and defense from their counterattacks) and distrust of Castile, which in its impetuous path towards domination over the entire peninsula necessarily had to consider small Portugal as a “vassal” state and try to swallow it, as in fact it tried several times (succeeding only in 1580, that is, too late to be able to reduce it to a simple Spanish “province”). The battle of Aljubarrota (1385), in which John I of Portugal defeated the Castilian king of the same name, was the most sensational episode of this centuries-old struggle between Portuguese and Spanish; but certainly not the only one. Among all the Burgundian kings the figure of Dionysius (1279-1325), politician, legislator, colonizer (Rei lavrador), creator of the Portuguese navy (with the Genoese Pessagno, his first admiral), founder of the first university (founded in Lisbon in 1290 and moved to its headquarters in Coimbra in 1308), humanist and even poet “in the manner of the Provençals”. Portugal thus begins, thanks to him, to emerge from the medieval age.
HISTORY: THE FORMATION OF THE COLONIAL EMPIRE
According to globalsciencellc, the severe dynastic crisis of 1383-85 (which saw the Castilians at the gates of Lisbon) brought the Grand Master of Aviz, John I, bastard of king Peter I; and until 1580 Portugal lived an age of true splendor, due to the acquired solidity of the internal structures, codified in the Ordenações alfonsinas, the energetic personality of sovereigns such as John II, the “perfect Prince” (1481-95), and Emanuele I (1495-1521), and above all the great discoveries and colonizations overseas, made possible by the divinatory genius of Prince Henry the Navigator (1415-60), who launched his pilots along the Atlantic routes. Within a few decades Portugal acquired an immense empire on three continents (Africa, Asia, America), the scene of marvelous deeds worthy of being sung, as they were, by an epic poet (Camões); but due to its enormity – especially in relation to the smallness of the motherland and the smallness of its population (1 million residents) – it is also the cause of interminable wars of defense, the object of endless greed and finally reason (up to our days) of worries and anxieties. The empire gave Portugal enormous wealth (from the spices of India, to the gold and sugar of Brazil) and allowed it to open new avenues for world trade, but it nailed it to a destiny beyond its strength, also inducing it to horrible misdeeds such as the trafficking of blacks, and favoring monarchical absolutism, religious intolerance and, ultimately, the political and moral decadence of the country. Sign of the end of the brief “imperial” season was the dramatic disappearance of the Aviz dynasty, in the person of Sebastiano, killed by the Moors, with the flower of the Portuguese nobility, in the battle of Alcazarquivir, in Morocco (1578). Two years later, Philip II succeeded in the feat that his Castilian ancestors had never been able to accomplish: to subjugate Portugal to Spain.