History of Lisbon

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SPOT Satellite image of Lisbon on the north bank of the Mar da Palha (Sea of Straw), right. The Atlantic Ocean is to the left

The history of Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, revolves around its strategic geographical position at the mouth of the Tagus, the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula. Its spacious and sheltered natural harbor made the city historically an important seaport for trade between the Mediterranean Sea and northern Europe. Lisbon has long enjoyed the commercial advantages of its proximity to southern and extreme western Europe, as well as sub-Saharan Africa and the Americas, and today its waterfront is lined with miles of docks, wharfs, and drydock facilities that accommodate the largest oil tankers.[1]

During the Neolithic period, pre-Celtic peoples inhabited the region; remains of their stone monuments still exist today in the periphery of the city. Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in Western Europe, with a history that stretches back to its original settlement by the indigenous Iberians, then the establishment of Phoenician and Greek trading posts (c. 800–600 BC), followed by successive occupations in the city of various peoples including the Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, and Moors. Roman armies first entered the Iberian peninsula in 219 BC; and occupied the Lusitanian city of Olissipo (Lisbon) in 205 BC, after winning the Second Punic War against the Carthaginians. With the collapse of the Roman Empire, waves of Germanic tribes invaded the peninsula, and by 500 AD, the the Visigothic Kingdom controlled most of Hispania.

In 711, Islamic Moors, mostly Berbers and Arabs from the Maghreb, invaded the Christian Iberian Peninsula, conquering Lisbon in 714. What is now Portugal first became part of the Emirate of Córdoba and then of its successor state, the Caliphate of Córdoba. Despite attempts to seize it by the Normans in 844 and by Alfonso VI in 1093, Lisbon remained a Muslim possession. In 1147, after a four-month siege, Christian crusaders under the command of Afonso I captured the city and Christian rule returned. In 1256, Afonso III moved his capital to Lisbon from Coimbra, taking advantage of the city’s excellent port and its strategic central position.

Lisbon flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries as the centre of a vast empire during the period of the Portuguese discoveries, This was a time of intensive maritime exploration, when the Kingdom of Portugal accumulated great wealth and power through its colonisation of Asia, South America, Africa and the Atlantic islands. Evidence of the city's wealth can still be seen today in the magnificent structures built then, including the Jerónimos Monastery and the nearby Tower of Belém, each classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

Panoramic view of Lisbon, showing the Castle hill and the Cathedral

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake, in combination with subsequent fires and a tsunami, almost totally destroyed Lisbon and adjoining areas. The Marquês de Pombal took the lead in ordering the rebuilding of the city, and was responsible for the creation of the elegant financial and commercial district of the Baixa Pombalina (Pombaline Lower Town).

During the Peninsular War, (1807–1814) Napoleon’s forces began a four-year occupation of the city in December 1807, and Lisbon descended with the rest of the country into anarchy. After the war ended in 1814, a new constitution was proclaimed and Brazil was granted independence. The 20th century brought political upheaval to Lisbon and the nation as a whole. In 1908, at the height of the turbulent period of the Republican movement, King Carlos and his heir Luís Filipe were assassinated in the Terreiro do Paço. On 5 October 1910, the Republicans organised a coup d'état that overthrew the constitutional monarchy and established the Portuguese Republic. There were 45 changes of government from 1910 through 1926.[2]

The right-wing Estado Novo regime, which ruled the country from 1926 to 1974, suppressed civil liberties and political freedom in the longest-lived dictatorship in Western Europe. It was finally deposed by the Carnation Revolution (Revolução dos Cravos), launched in Lisbon with a military coup on 25 April 1974. The movement was joined by a popular campaign of civil resistance, leading to the fall of the Estado Novo, the restoration of democracy, and the withdrawal of Portugal from its African colonies and East Timor. Following the revolution, there was a huge influx into Lisbon of refugees from the former African colonies in 1974 and 1975.

Portugal joined the European Community (EC) in 1986, and subsequently received massive funding to spur redevelopment. Lisbon's local infrastructure was improved with new investment and its container port became the largest on the Atlantic coast. The city was in the limelight as the 1994 European City of Culture, as well as host of Expo '98,and the 2004 European Football Championships. The year 2006 saw continuing urban renewal projects throughout the city, ranging from the restoration of the Praça de Touros (Lisbon’s bullring) and its re-opening as a multi-event venue, to improvements of the metro system and building rehabilitation in the Alfama.

Prehistory to the Neolithic period[edit]

Lisbon area settlements prior to 1800 BC

There are traces of human occupation for many thousands of years in the area of what is now Lisbon. Its terrain was made attractive by the advantages of dwelling near the river Tagus and its estuary. The first human inhabitants were probably the Neanderthals, who gradually became extinct about 30,000 years ago[3] when modern humans entered the Iberian Peninsula.[4] During the Neolithic period, the region was inhabited by an unknown people who lived in farming communities around the coast. Some of the megalithic burial chambers in the region around Lisbon appear to have been built by Mesolithic pastoral-hunting peoples.[5] They built religious monuments called megaliths, dolmens and menhirs that still survive in the periphery of the city.[6] Permanent settlements are not shown in the archaeological record until c. 2500 BC.


Ancient authors refer to popular legends that the city of Lisbon was founded by the mythical hero Odysseus[7] on his journey home from Troy.[8] The Estrímnios (in Portuguese) are given by some historians as the first known native people of Portugal.[9] Called Oestrimni ("people of the far west") in Latin, they extended their territory from present-day Galicia to the Algarve[10] during the Late Bronze Age (1100-700 B.C.). These indigenous communities engaged in maritime and overland commerce, their fortified settlements dominating trade on the larger rivers and coastal estuaries of central southern Portugal.[11][12]

The Indo-European Celts entered the Iberian peninsula in the first millennium BC and gradually spread west to the Atlantic,[13] intermarrying with the native Pre-Indo-European population, and thus giving rise to Celtic-speaking local tribes such as the Cempsi and Sefes.[14] or Ophis. ("People of the Serpents").[15] They colonized the fertile lands of Oestriminis and formed a territory known to the Greeks as Ophiussa (Land of Serpents), stretching from the Douro to the Tagus.[16]

Phoenician archaeological dig in the Lisbon Cathedral cloisters

Although the first fortifications on Lisbon's Castelo hill are known to be no older than the 2nd century BC, recent archaeological finds have shown that iron age people occupied the site from the 8th to 6th centuries BC.[17][18][19] This indigenous settlement maintained commercial relations with the Phoenicians, which would account for the finding of Phoenician pottery and other material objects. Archaeological excavations made near the Castle of São Jorge (Castelo de São Jorge) and Lisbon Cathedral indicate a Phoenician presence at this location since 1200 BC,[20] and it can be stated with confidence that a Phoenician trading post stood on a site[21][22] now the centre of the present city, on the southern slope of the Castle hill.[2]

The Phoenicians are known to have traded with the resident Oestrimni[23] and related tribes. The harbour of the Mar da Palha (Sea of Staw), a large basin in the estuary of the Tagus River near the river's mouth, is the best natural port on the Atlantic coast of Portugal,[24] stretching 23 km at its widest point. This would have made it an ideal location for a settlement to reprovision Phoenician ships sailing on trade voyages to Cornwall in Britain and the legendary Tin Islands, or Cassiterides, to buy tin from the natives.[21][25][26][27]

The suffix "-ippo" (-ipo), present in "Olissipo" (the Roman name of Lisbon), is typical of Tartessian or Turdetani linguistic influence.[28][29][30] Lisbon's name was written Ulyssippo in Latin by the geographer Pomponius Mela, a native of Hispania.[31][32] It was referred to as "Olisippo" by Pliny the Elder and by the Greeks as Olissipo (Ὀλισσιπών) and Olissipona (Ὀλισσιπόνα).[33][34] According to tradition, the location was named for Ulysses, who founded the settlement after he left Troy to escape the Greek coalition,[35] but this persistent legend is completely apocryphal.[27][36] Later, the Greek name appeared in Vulgar Latin in the form Olissipona,[7][37] mentioned in the Etymologies of Saint Isidore of Seville.[38]

Iberia before Carthaginian conquests, c. 300 BC

The Phoenicians established a trading post at the site, supposedly called Alis Ubbo, meaning "Pleasant Haven" or "Safe Harbor" in the Phoenician language.[39] It may have been an outpost of the Tyrian colony at Gadir (Cádiz).[21] The indigenous settlement extended from the highest hill in the vicinity, where the Castle and Cathedral now stand, to the Tagus.

For centuries, the Phoenicians had cultivated relationships with the indigenous peoples on the Atlantic coast of Iberia. From what was a simple outpost for trade with northern Europe, the Tagus settlement became an important centre of commercial trade where they exchanged their manufactured products for valuable metals,[40][41] salted fish and salt with the inland tribes in the region accessible by the Tagus.[42] Although Phoenician remains from the 8th century BC have been found beneath the Medieval Sé de Lisboa (Lisbon Cathedral), most modern historians believe[43] that Lisbon was founded as an ancient indigenous settlement that maintained commercial relations with the Phoenicians (accounting for the discovery of Phoenician pottery and artefacts at the site). It is possible that the Phocaean Greeks at one time also had a trading station at the mouth of the Tagus,[44][45] but were eventually driven out as the Phoenician colony of Carthage increasingly dominated maritime commerce in the western Mediterranean and expanded its naval power,[46] control of localized mercantile relations with Olissipo passing to that city.

A multitude of Lusitanian deities, including Aracus,[47][48][49] Carneus,[50] and Bandiarbariaicus[51][52] were worshiped at the city by the original inhabitants of the Turduli settlement.

Olisipo: Roman Lisbon[edit]

Main article: Olisipo
Roman conquest of Hispania

Recent archaeological finds show that Lisbon grew around a pre-Roman settlement on the hill of the Castelo de São Jorge, as its ancient name, Olissipo, indicates.[53] During the Second Punic War, Mago, the younger brother of Hannibal Barca, was stationed with his troops among the Cynetes, or Conii, in the Algarve,[54] while Hasdrubal Gisco was encamped at the mouth of the Tagus on the Atlantic coast.[55] After the defeat of Hannibal at the Battle of Zama in 202 BC, Rome decided to deprive Carthage of its most valuable possession, Hispania (the name given by the Romans to the whole of the Iberian Peninsula). With the decisive victory of Scipio at the Battle of Ilipa in Spain in 206 BC, the Carthaginian hold in Iberia was broken.

Following the defeat of the Carthaginians in eastern Hispania, the pacification of the West was led by Consul Decimus Junius Brutus Callaicus.[56] Brutus obtained the alliance of Olissipo by integrating it into the Empire in 138 BC. when the Romans sought to conquer the Lusitanians and other peoples of the northwest Iberian Peninsula.[56] He also fortified the city, building defensive city walls against Lusitanian raids and rebellions. The townspeople fought beside the Roman legions against the Celtic tribes; in return the city became a Municipium Cives Romanorum and was given the name Olisipo Felicitas Julia [57] by either Julius Caesar or Octavian.[58] Local authorities were granted self-rule over a territory that extended 50 kilometres (31 mi), and was integrated within the Roman province of Lusitania whose capital was Emerita Augusta. The city was granted the Latin Rights (ius Latii), giving its citizens the privileges of Roman citizenship and exempting them from paying taxes. The city population was around 30,000 at the time.[59] Among the majority of Latin speakers lived a large minority of Greek traders and slaves.

Earthquakes were documented in 60 BC, several from 47 to 44 BC, several in 33 AD and a strong quake in 382 AD, but the exact amount of damage to the city is unknown.[60] The town was located between the Castle Hill and the Baixa,[61] but most riparian areas were at the time still submerged by the Tagus. Olissipo in Roman times was an important commercial centre,[62] providing a link between the northern countries and the Mediterranean Sea. Its main products were garum, a fish sauce considered a luxury,[63] salt and the Lusitanian horses renowned in antiquity.[64][65]

Invasions and the Germanic tribes[edit]

Visigothic Kingdom

After the disintegration of the Roman empire and the subsequent feudalisation of society, the first waves of invaders, including Alans, Germanic tribes, Huns, and others, swept into the peninsula. Initially accepted as settlers in lands depopulated by the terrible epidemics (probably measles and smallpox) that killed much of the population, their incursions soon gave way to military expeditions with the sole object of plunder and conquest.

In the early 5h century the Vandals took Olissipo, followed by the Alans. In 419 Olissipo was plundered and burnt by the Visigothic king Walia, who founded the Visigothic kingdom in Spain.[66] Remismund conquered Lisbon in 468 with the help of a Hispano-Roman called Lusídio,[67] and finally in 469 it was integrated into the Suevi kingdom whose capital city was Braga. After the invasion, the Visigoths set up their court in Toledo and following several wars during the 6th century, conquered the Suevi, thus unifying the Iberian Peninsula, including the city they called Ulixbona.[68] During this tumultuous time, Lisbon lost its political links with Constantinople, but not its commercial connections. Merchant Greeks, Syrians, Jews, and others from the East formed communities[69] that exchanged local products with the Byzantine Empire, Asia and India.

Middle Ages[edit]

Al-Us̲h̲būna: Muslim Lisbon[edit]

The visible profile of the Castle of São Jorge overlooking the historical centre of Lisbon

After three centuries of looting by invaders and the devastation of its economy, Ulixbona was reduced to little more than a village by the beginning of the 8th century. In 711, taking advantage of a civil war in the Visigothic Kingdom, the Arabs, led by Tariq ibn Ziyad, invaded the Iberian Peninsula with their Moorish troops. Al-Us̲h̲būna, like the rest of the western peninsula, was conquered by the troops of Abdelaziz ibn Musa, a son of Tariq, who took the city in 714.[70]

Lisbon, known to the Arabs as "al-Us̲h̲būna" or al-ʾIšbūnah الأشبونة,[71] again became a major commercial and administrative centre for the territory along the Tagus, collecting its raw products and exchanging them for goods from the Arabic Mediterranean, particularly Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. According to contemporary accounts, the city was one of the largest cities in Europe at the time, several times larger than Paris and London, which then had only 5,000–10,000 inhabitants each.[72]

Most of the Hispano-Roman inhabitants adopted the Arabic language and Islamic religion of the Muslim invaders, who, although a minority among the population, had become the new elite. The members of the Mozarabic Christian population had their own bishop, and were speakers of Arabic, or a variety of Vulgar Latin. Mozarabic, a Romance language similar to that spoken in Galicia and the northern provinces, was tolerated by the Muslim authorities as one of the rights of residence allowed the dhimmi, in exchange for their paying a tax, the jizyah.[73] This Mozarabic community, which followed the heretical Arian Christian rites and customs of the Visigoths, was usually ostracized by Roman Catholics. The Mozarabs brought to Lisbon the remains of St. Vincent of Saragossa, who would become the patron saint of the city.

The Jewish community, which had existed since the city's earliest days, grew more influential as Jews established themselves as merchants[59] and gained the financial advantage of living in the city's rising commercial hub. Besides salt, fish and horses, they traded spices from the Levant, medicinal herbs, dried fruit, honey and furs. The Saqaliba (Arabic:Saqāliba), slaves from Eastern Europe who served as mercenarys, joined the population and gained a prominent position in society. The Slavic slave Sabur al-Saqlabi ((Sabur the Slav)) became, during what was later known as the régulo eslavo,[74] ruler of the Taifa of Badajoz.[75] He was the son of Sabur al-Jatib, a Slav who had been in the service of al-Hakam II. His sons Abd al-Aziz ibn Sabur and Abd al-Malik ibn Sabur ruled successively as emirs of the Taifa of Lisbon.

Moorish walls, part of the Cerca Moura surrounding the city

Al-Us̲h̲būna was renovated and rebuilt in the customary pattern of the Middle Eastern city:[76] high walls (muralhas) surrounding the main buildings, which were a large mosque, a castle at the top of the hill (which in modified form became the Castelo de Sao Jorge), a medina or urban centre, and an alcácer, or fortress-palace for the governor.[77] The Alfama neighbourhood grew next to the original urban core. The citadel of al-Madan, now the city of Almada, was built on the south bank of the Tagus to protect the port.

The Arabs and Berbers introduced new methods of irrigated agriculture that were much more productive than the old Roman system of irrigation.[36][78] The waters of the Tagus and its tributaries were used to irrigate the land in summer, producing several crops a year of vegetables including lettuce and annual crops of oranges.

Lisbon became part of the Umayyad Caliphate based in Damascus, Syria, soon after the beginning of Muslim rule in Iberia. An ongoing rebellion (740–743) of the Berber or "Moorish" elite against the Umayyads had spread through the Maghreb (North Africa) and across the Strait of Gibraltar to al-Andalus, but needed reinforcements to defeat the caliphate. When the Umayyad dynasty was finally toppled by the Abbasid Revolution in 750, Abd al-Rahman I, an Umayyad prince, fled with his family from the capital in Damascus across North Africa to al-Andalus, and gained independence from the new Abbasid Caliphate. There he established the Umayyad Emirate of Córdoba and Lisbon came under its dominion.

With the beginning of the Reconquista, the opulent al-Us̲h̲būna became a target of raids by the Christians, who plundered the city first in 796 and on other occasions in the following years, led by King Alfonso II of Asturias, but the border between Muslim and Christian Iberia remained north of the Douro. In 844 several dozen Viking boats sailed into the Sea of Straw.[79] After a siege of 13 days, the Scandinavians conquered the city and the surrounding territory, but eventually retreated in the face of continued resistance by the townspeople led by their governor, Wahb Allah ibn Hazm.[80][81][82]

At the beginning of the 10th century, various Islamic sects rose in al-Us̲h̲būna and converted the Hispano-Roman population. These sects were a form of political organization in revolt against the hierarchical system of the Muslim conquerors which institutionalised obstacles to their social mobility. The elite descendants of the Prophet Muhammad ranked first, then full-blooded Arabs, then Berbers or Moors, and lastly the Arabized Muslims and Hispano-Romans. Several Hispano-Roman leaders emerged, including Ali ibn Ashra and others, who claimed to be prophets or descendants of `Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib, regarded by Shias as the first Imam. With their allies in other cities they started civil wars against the Sunni Arab troops. The Mozarabs and the Jews were treated even worse, sometimes suffering persecution that, although regrettable in modern eyes, was a pale reflection of what the Catholics would do not only against Muslims and Jews, but even against fellow Christians themselves when they reconquered the land.

The king of Asturias, Ordonho I, took the city in 851, as did Alfonso VI of León in 1093 when al-Mutawakkil of Badajoz surrendered al-Us̲h̲būna, S̲h̲antarīn (Santarém), and S̲h̲intra (Sintra) to Alfonso in 1093,[57][83] but it was soon retaken by the .Amoravids in 1094.[84] An unsuccessful new attack by the Vikings followed in 966.

With the fragmentation of the Caliphate of Córdoba around the year 1000 as a result of political infighting, the notable leaders of al-Us̲h̲būna oscillated between obedience to the Taifa of Badajoz or to that of Seville, and were able to maneuver politically to obtain considerable autonomy. This situation lasted a short time until the return of the division of the Taifa brought autonomy and prosperity for al-Us̲h̲būna. However, in 1191 a new pan-Hispanic Caliphate was established after an Almoravid invasion from the deserts of Morocco led by the caliph Abu Yusuf Ya'qub al-Mansur.[85] His troops forced the city of Silves to surrender in 1191 after several unsuccessful attempts,[86] although they were defeated in the region of Tomar by Gualdim Pais, Grand Master of the Order of Knights Templar of Portugal .

Conquest of al-Us̲h̲būna[edit]

Main article: Siege of Lisbon
The Siege of Lisbon in 1147, part of the Reconquista

Internal dissensions eventually divided the loyalties of the kingdoms in al-Andalus of the 11th century, the collapse of the Caliphate of Córdoba in 1031 led to a period of smaller successor states (taifas),[87] the Kingdom of León lying directly to the north was ceded the county of Portugal. The history of the county is traditionally dated from the reconquest in 868 by Vímara Peres of the city of Portucale (Porto), which was the port of Cale, the present Gaia. Although the county had its seat at Guimarães, the economic strength that enabled its autonomy was based in Portucale. The isolated Atlantic province, recently centred in Coimbra, separated from the Kingdom of León to become the independent Kingdom of Portugal in 1139. It was eventually attached to Lisbon, thus integrating the territories adjoining the entire length of the Tagus.

Famed for its opulence, al-Us̲h̲būna's capture would bring the kingdom great prestige. Afonso I and his Christian forces first attempted to conquer the city in 1137 but failed to breach the city walls. In 1140 crusaders passing through Portugal launched another unsuccessful attack. According to the Anglo-Norman chronicler, in June and July 1147, a more numerous force of crusaders, consisting of 164 boatloads of English, Norman, and Rhineland crusaders,[88] left from Dartmouth in England bound for the Holy Land. Bad weather forced the ships to stop on the Portuguese coast at Porto where they were persuaded to join in a new assault on the city. While the Portuguese forces attacked by land, the crusaders, lured by promises of booty to be taken and prisoners to be ransomed, set up their siege engines, among them catapults and towers, and attacked both by sea and land, preventing the arrival of reinforcements from the south. In their first encounters the Muslims killed many Christians; this affected the Crusader's morale, and occasioned several bloody conflicts between the various Christian contingents.

Portrait of King Afonso I of Portuga

Legend has it that after many previous attempts, the Portuguese knight Martim Moniz led an attack on the castle doors and when he saw the Moors closing them, blocked the doorway with his own body, allowing his companions to enter, and was crushed. With the success of the crusaders' assault on the city's walls with siege engines, the Moors capitulated on 22 October. According to an account by the priest Raol addressed to Osbert of Bawdsley (Osbernus),[89][90][91][92][93][94] Germans from Cologne and the Flemish cohort violated their oaths to the king of Portugal after entering the city and plundered it. These crusaders behaved in a wanton manner, looting Muslims and Mozarabs indiscriminately, debauching virgins and even cutting the throat of the elderly Mozarab bishop.[95][96] Afterwards, an epidemic of the plague killed thousands among the Mozarabic and the Muslim populations.

Afonso I officially took possession of the city on 1 November, when the Great Mosque in the Moorish Aljama was dedicated to St. Mary in a religious ceremony converting it to a Cathedral.[97][98] He appointed Gilberto of Hastings, an English crusader, the first Catholic bishop of the city,[99][100][101] and granted lands and titles to many of the most prominent crusaders in the region.

Three years later, in 1150, Afonso I built a cathedral on the site of the Great Mosque, now the Sé.[102][103] The original Christian edifice built on the site had been converted into a mosque by the Moors, but when Afonso took the city, the building was already decrepit. He had the structure rebuilt and enlarged under the name of the first cathedral of Lisbon, Santa María, and all the privileges of Mérida, the ancient ecclesiastical capital of the former Roman province of Lusitania, passed to the new diocese.[104]

Medieval Christian Lisbon[edit]

Afonso I granted Lisbon a Foral in 1179, and tried to restore the city's commercial connections by inaugurating a major new fair or market. Consequently, the Portuguese merchants, Christian and Jewish, not only reestablished some of the old trade links of al-Us̲h̲būna with Seville and Cádiz, and in the Mediterranean with Constantinople, but also opened up new trade routes to the ports of northern Europe that the Muslims rarely visited because of religious differences. Lisbon became a conduit for maritime trade between the North Sea and the Mediterranean, and thanks to advances in navigation, the volume of ocean shipping increased. Portuguese merchants opened trade houses in Seville, Southampton, Bruges, and in the cities of the Hansa, which later joined to form the Hanseatic League.[105] Meanwhile, the Portuguese Jews continued to trade with their relatives in North Africa. They exchanged Portuguese olive oil, salt, wine, cork, honey and wax as well as wool and fine linen textiles, tin, iron, dyes, amber, guns, furs and artisanal works of the north for the spices, silks and herbal remedies of the Mediterranean countries, in addition to the gold, ivory, rice, alum, almonds and sugar bought from the Arabs and Moors. Shipyards were founded to build more commercial and military vessels for the naval fleet (armada) essential to protect this trade from Saracen pirates.[106] Increasing demand for goods by the growing populations of Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries stimulated innovations in the construction of boats, the sturdy but clumsy barge (barca) becoming obsolete when a gradual synthesis of Christian, Viking and Arabic sea-going knowledge led to the development of the caravel (first mentioned in the early 13th century), the first truly seaworthy Atlantic sailing ship.[107] Professions in the maritime industry, such as those of ships-carpenters and sailors, were allowed certain privileges and protections, including the creation in 1242 of a maritime judicial office in Lisbon called the Alcaide do Mar (Alcaide of the Sea).[108]

An indirect effect of this economic dynamism was that Lisbon's trade contributed to the ruin of the south German merchants, who engaged in the same commerce by using a more costly land route between the ports of Italy and those of the Netherlands and the Hansa[109] that was only viable when Muslim pirates and their ships controlled southern Spain and the Strait of Gibraltar. As the Holy Roman Empire lost influence over its kingdoms, duchies and city-state constituents,[110] the German merchants, hitherto the masters of European trade, were forced to seek new markets in the East.

With the new prosperity and increased security of Lisbon after the final conquest of the al-Gharb or al-Garve (Arabic: al-Gharb, "the west"), in 1256 Afonso III took note of its obvious advantages and chose the largest and most powerful city in the kingdom for his capital,[111] moving his court, the national archives and the treasury from Coimbra to Lisbon. Denis, the first Portuguese king to rule during all his reign at Lisbon, created the University in 1290, which was transferred to Coimbra in 1308[112] because of increasing conflicts between the students and Lisbon residents. At this time the area where the Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square) is today was reclaimed from the sea by draining the already muddy terrain (the river flowed freely until the time of the conquest, but had become clogged due to sediment deposits). New streets were laid out, such as Rua Nova, while the Rossio square became the city centre, stealing that distinction from the Castle hill. Other construction projects initiated by King Denis included a wall to protect the Cais da Ribeira from pirate raids, and reconstruction of the Alcáçova or Moorish Palace (later destroyed in the 1755 earthquake) and the Sé.

Just as there were Portuguese communities in the cities of northern Europe, there were colonies of merchants from the rest of Europe in Lisbon,[113][114] then one of the most important cities in international trade.[115] Not counting the Jewish population (already established as a Portuguese minority), the Genoese were the most numerous expatriate community, followed by those of the Venetians and other Italians, and the Dutch and English. These merchants brought new cartographic and navigational techniques to Portugal, as well as an understanding of financial and banking practices and of the mercantilism system, not to mention the knowledge gained through their contacts with Byzantine and Muslim middlemen of the origins of imported Asian luxury goods such as silks and spices.

Political tensions with Castile were counterbalanced by an alliance made in 1308 by King Denis between Portugal and England,[108][116] the main trading partner of Lisbon (and also of Porto), which has continued uninterruptedly until the present. This alliance later fought on one of the two sides of the so-called Caroline War; the second phase of the Hundred Years' War, on the other were Castile and France. During Ferdinand's reign, Portugal started a war with Castile, and Lisbon boats armed with cannons were recruited to participate in an unsuccessful Genoese attack on Seville. In response to this provocation, the Spaniards laid siege to Lisbon, taking it in 1373, but departed when they were paid a ransom. It was following this calamity that the Great Fernandine Walls (Grandes Muralhas Fernandinas de Lisboa) of Lisbon were built.[117]

On the lower end of the social scale in Lisbon were all types of laborers and street merchants, as well as fishermen and farmers of vegetable gardens. In this era the streets were occupied by tradesmen who had organised artisans' guilds directed by masters of their respective trades. These included: Rua do Ouro (Goldsmiths' Street), Rua da Prata (Silversmiths' Street), Rua dos Fanqueiros (Drapers' Street), Rua dos Sapateiros (Cobblers' Street), Rua dos Retroseiros (Mercers' Street) and Rua dos Correeiros (Saddlers' Street).[118] Such corporations were formed for social protection and to educate apprentices, and were employed to enforce a system of price controls for the benefit of their members. The aristocracy, attracted to Lisbon by the court, established its residence with the building of large palaces, and served in the bureaucratic offices of governmental administration. But the most powerful segment of society in Lisbon, even after the city gained its status as the nation's capital, was the bourgeoisie, the merchant class that was the economic powerhouse of this rising commercial centre, now among the most important in Europe. They were the magnates of commerce who controlled the city and its oligarchic council. It was to serve their needs that business professionals organised in the city: bankers to raise capital and coordinate the financial risks; lawyers to protect the rights of citizens and handle their legal cases; naval architects and marine engineers to build boats, and scientists to design their navigational instruments. With their political influence, they could extract from the monarchy concessions that favored their mercantile interests, and were a great impetus for exploration to find new markets. A mutual benefit association, the Companhia das Naus, was founded in 1380 as a kind of insurance company which required the payment of compulsory quotas from all ship owners in exchange for the sharing of losses after shipwrecks. As an umbrella organisation covering more than five hundred large vessels owned by the magnates of the city, it was the forerunner of Portuguese overseas expansion. With rising profits, the wealthiest merchants acquired titles of nobility, even as the poorer nobles engaged in trade.

Minorities in the city included Sephardic Jews and Muslims (not only the Moors but also Arabs and Islamized Arabic-speaking Latinos). There was a large Jewish quarter occupying the parishes of St. Mary Magdalene, St. Julian and St. Nicholas along the Rua Nova dos Mercadores, where the Great Synagogue was located. The Jews (perhaps 10% of the population, or even more) were great traders, who took full advantage of connections to their coreligionists throughout Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Those who did not engage in trade were largely scholars or professionals such as doctors, lawyers, cartographers and other specialists in the sciences or arts. The Jewish community's business activities were fundamental to the vitality of the city's economy. The Jews of Lisbon included such distinguished families as the Abravanels, descendants of Samuel Abravanel, a converso who had served as royal treasurer in Andalusia and comptroller in Castile. He apparently fled to Portugal with his family where they reverted to Judaism and later served in high governmental positions.[119][120][121] No matter how eminent a social position individual Jews of Lisbon might attain, however, they were always the first victims of popular revolts. Their living quarters were segregated from those of the rest of the population and they were forbidden to go out at night; as well as being forced to wear distinctive clothes and to pay extra taxes.

The Moorish quarter was the corresponding ghetto for Muslims, containing the Great Mosque situated on the Rua do Capelão (Chaplains Street). However, they were not as prosperous nor as educated as the Jews, since the Muslim elites had fled to North Africa, while the Jews, who were literate speakers of Portuguese, had no other homeland. Most Muslims were workers in low-skilled, low-wage jobs and many were slaves of Christians. They had to display identifying symbols on their robes and pay extra taxes, and suffered the violence of the crowds. The deprecatory term saloio (countryman) came from a special levy, the salaio, that the Muslims who cultivated gardens within the city limits had to pay. Likewise, the term alfacinha (little head of lettuce) came from the cultivation by the Moors of lettuce plants,[122] then little consumed in the north.

The city's prosperity was interrupted in 1290 by the first major earthquake in its recorded history, with many buildings collapsing and thousands of people dying. Earthquakes were recorded in 1318, 1321, 1334, and 1337; the temblor of 1344 leveled part of the Cathedral and the Moorish palace, or Alcáçova, and later quakes occurred in 1346, 1356 (destroying another portion of the Cathedral), 1366, 1395 and 1404, all probably resulting from displacements in the same geological fault. Famine in 1333 and the first appearance of the Black Death in 1348 killed half the population; new outbreaks of lower mortality occurred in each succeeding decade. The aftermath of these disasters, in Lisbon as well as in the rest of Europe, led to a series of religious, social, and economic upheavals, destroying the vibrant European civilization of the Middle Ages and the spirit of universal Christianity symbolised by the soaring Gothic architecture of its cathedrals. Yet it also paved the way for the emergence of a new civilization with the coming of the age of discovery and the rise of a revitalised spirit of scientific inquiry.

Revolution: the 1383-1385 crisis and its aftermath[edit]

Main article: 1383-1385 Crisis
In the battle of Aljubarrota, the new bourgeois elite of Lisbon and their national allies defeated the old feudal aristocracy and its ally, Castile.

A new chapter in the history of Lisbon was written with the social revolution of the 1383-1385 Crisis. This was a time of civil war in Portugal when no crowned king reigned. It began when King Ferdinand I of Portugal died without male heirs, and his kingdom ostensibly passed to the King of Castile, John I of Castile.[123] The powerful aristocrats and clerics in the north of Portugal owned large estates in the south acquired during the redistribution of land after the Reconquista; their cultural point of view was similar to that of the Castilians, with an emphasis on social distinctions based on the possession of land. They were invested in the spirit of Crusade against the Moors from the Maghreb[124] and the potential benefits of the union of all Hispania. However, these were not the main concerns of the merchants of Lisbon (many of them small gentry).[125] For them, union with Castile meant a severing of trade links with England and the countries of northern Europe, and also with the Middle East; as well as a diversion of attention from their privileges and the building of commercial ships to the privileges of the nobles (fidalgos) and the waging of war with land armies. This helps explain why the merchants and lesser nobles supported the cause of the Master of Avis.[126][127]

The war fought in 1383-1385 was at bottom a war between the conservative land-owning medieval aristocracy (very similar to and allied with their Galician and Castilian counterparts)[128] centered in the former County of Portugal in Minho (except the bourgeois city of Porto, a Lisbon ally, among a few other cities and personages of the north), and the rich merchants of the pluralistic society of Lisbon. The nobles had reclaimed the country from the Muslims and founded the northern counties—as their alliance with the Castilian nobility was reestablished the increasing dominance of Lisbon threatened their supremacy. For the merchants of Lisbon, a commercial city, the feudal practices and land wars of the Castilians were a threat to their business interests. It was the bourgeoisie who, with their English connections and substantial capital, would win the struggle.[129] The Master of Avis was acclaimed King John I of Portugal,[130] his forces having survived the Siege of Lisbon in 1384 and won the Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385 against the forces of Castile and the northern Portuguese nobles, under the leadership of his constable Nuno Álvares Pereira/[131] The new Portuguese aristocracy[132] rose from the merchant class of Lisbon, and it is only from this date that the centre of power in north Portugal actually moved to Lisbon, it becoming a sort of city-state, whose interests almost entirely determined the course of the country's independence.

The new bourgeois nobles built their palaces and stately homes in the Santos neighbourhood; other important buildings included the University, which had returned to Lisbon in the Alfama; the Carmo Church (Igreja do Carmo); the Alfândega (Customs Building);[133][134] and some of the first residential buildings built in medieval Europe with several floors (up to five). The town had the narrow, winding streets characteristic of medina quarters, mostly unpaved, its houses alternating with gardens and orchards. As the city continued to grow, the widespread abandonment of highly productive Moorish irrigation techniques[135] meant that it had to import wheat from Castile, France, the Rhineland and even Morocco. With this expansion into the countryside, the adjacent territory became suburbs like those of other European commercial cities. Lisbon, along with Antwerp, served the same function of an organised trade centre on the Atlantic coast as Venice, Genoa, Barcelona or Ragusa on the Mediterranean; or Hamburg, Lubeck and the other cities on the Baltic Sea. Wanting to improve public hygiene, the city council in 1417 prohibited garbage piles near the Carmo Monastery and other areas, and in 1426 another law was enacted prohibiting the dumping of trash in the streets, under penalty of paying a fine.

Portuguese foreign policy promoted the interests of Lisbon: trade and cooperation agreements were signed with the commercial city-states of Venice (accord of 1392), Genoa (1398), Pisa and Florence, whose merchants had already formed communities in the city, and many of whom were naturalized and married into the Portuguese nobility. Ceuta on the north African coast was captured by the Portuguese during the Battle of Ceuta in 1415,[136] giving Lisbon's merchants a base from which to attack Saracen pirates and better local control of the Mediterranean trade that passed through the Strait of Gibraltar, as well as the importation of Moroccan wheat at the best prices. Moreover, at this time Ceuta received caravans bearing gold and ivory, a trade Lisbon wanted to dominate, and it was feared that its Castilian rivals in Seville or the Aragonese of Barcelona might seize the outpost. A renewed alliance with England, one of its most important trade partners, was pursued.

Lisbon, mistress of the seas[edit]

Prince Henry the Navigator

Prince Henry the Navigator organised and directed the expansion of Portugal's maritime trade through the systematic exploration of Western Africa and the islands of the Atlantic Ocean, and the search for new trade routes to Asia. Several exploratory expeditions were undertaken by Portuguese ships in the early 15th century, and soon the archipelagos of the Azores (1427), Madeira (1419), and Cape Verde (c. 1445)[137][138] were discovered by voyages launched at his command. New port cities were established on these islands, useful as jumping-off points for further exploration to discover new markets. An active slave-trader, Henry took a personal interest in managing sugar plantations on these islands and in the Algarve, among his many other enterprises.[139][140] By the 1480s Portugal was consolidating its slave-trade commerce with African states and traders in West Africa. An estimated 150,000 enslaved Africans were transported to Lisbon and sold there between 1450 and 1500, most of them probably remaining in Portugal.[141][142]

The prosperity of Lisbon was threatened when the Ottoman Empire invaded and conquered the Arab territories of North Africa, Egypt and the Middle East in the 15th century. The Turks were initially hostile to the interests of Lisbon and its allies in Venice and Genoa;[143] consequently the trade in spices, gold, ivory and other goods suffered heavily. The merchants of Lisbon, many of them descendants of Jews or Muslims with links to North Africa, reacted by seeking to negotiate directly with the sources of these goods, without using Muslim mediators. The Portuguese Jews' connections with the Jews of the Maghreb, and the conquest of Ceuta, allowed the Lisbon merchants to spy on the Arab merchants. They learned that the gold, slaves and ivory brought to Morocco in the great caravans travelled through the Sahara desert from the Sudan (which at that time included all the savannas south of the desert, the current Sahel). and that spices like black pepper were transported to Egyptian ports on the Red Sea from India. The new strategy of the merchants of Lisbon – Christian and Jewish Portuguese, Italian and Portuguese-Italian – was to send ships to the sources of these valuable products.[144]

Prince Henry, based in the city of Tomar, was the major proponent of this initiative,. As headquarters of the Order of Christ (formerly the Knights Templar),[57] and with a large community of Jewish merchants, the city was also very connected to Lisbon by its trade in grains and nuts (one of Lisbon's main exports). The ready access to large amounts of capital and knowledge of the Orient that the Templars and the Jews had were key to achieving the objectives of the Lisbon merchants. Although Prince Henry was the driving force of this project, it was not actually of his own design, but rather had been conceived by the merchants of Lisbon. Those who supported the monarchy financially by the payment of taxes and customs tariffs, making it virtually independent of the resources of the territorial nobles, bent it to their own mercantilist purposes. Prince Henry was, however, the organizer of the state's policy of dirigisme (state-directed investment): the substantial risk involved and the capital needed to finance the opening of new trade routes required the cooperation of all merchants throughout the realm (just as today many large capital projects are undertaken with international cooperation). Henry organised and supervised preparations by the Portuguese merchant fleet to reach the sources of gold, ivory and slaves, efforts that the merchants themselves had managed inefficiently. Using funds made available by the Order of Christ, mariners' schools were founded to centralise the resources and practical knowledge of the merchants of Lisbon. Several expeditions were launched under contract to some of the most influential of the bourgeoisie in Lisbon, and the Gulf of Guinea was finally reached around 1460, the year Prince Henry died.

After Henry's death, by which time the sea route was already open, the expansion of the African trade led to the rise of a private sector in the Portuguese economy. In 1469, Afonso V granted the Lisbon merchant Fernão Gomes the monopoly of this trade, in exchange for exploring 100 leagues southward on the West African coastline each year for five years, and payment of an annual rent of 200,000 reais. With his profits from the African trade, Gomes assisted Afonso in the conquests of Asilah, Alcácer Ceguer, and Tangier in Morocco, where he was knighted

Meanwhile, there were new attempts by the remaining feudal nobles of northern Portugal to retake control of the kingdom, frustrated as they were by the growing prosperity of Lisbon's merchants in contrast to their own loss of income. Their purpose was to seek further conquest in North Africa, which offered the prospect of more and relatively easy victories. Such a campaign would be favorable to the interests of the feudal nobles, who stood to gain lands and tenants in Morocco by waging war,[145][146] but was anathema to the merchant nobles and Jews in Lisbon who would be paying the extra taxes needed to finance such expeditions. The merchants favored investing the resources of the kingdom and its military forces in the discovery of new African and Asian markets, not in augmenting the power of the hostile and pro-Castilian Portuguese nobility. The ongoing disputes that John II engaged in against these nobles, with the backing of the merchants, demonstrate the underlying reality of the conflict between Lisbon and the former County of Portugal, birthplace of the nation: its resolution would set the future course of the country. Following the exposure of several conspiracies and various other incidents of their treachery, the northern nobles again sought the aid of their Castilian counterparts, but Lisbon and its merchants eventually prevailed: the ringleaders of one plot were executed, including the Duke of Bragança in 1483 and the Duke of Viseu in 1484. A great confiscation of estates followed and enriched the Crown, which now became the sole political power of the realm, aside from the Catholic Church. John II famously restored the policies of active Atlantic exploration, reviving the work of his great-uncle, Henry the Navigator. The Portuguese explorations were his main priority in government, pushing ever further south on the west coast of Africa with the purpose of discovering the maritime route to India and breaking into the spice trade. The colonial ventures in north Africa were abandoned to pursue trade in the new lands discovered further south.

Gulf of Guinea

As the islands of Madeira and the Azores were colonised, the Crown encouraged production of commercial products for export to Lisbon, primarily cane sugar and wine, which soon appeared in the markets of the capital. In the recently discovered land of Guinea, cheap products like metal pots and cloth distributed from Lisbon-controlled depots were exchanged for gold, ivory and slaves. The natives of the region relocated their economic activities closer to the coast for this European trade, but their settlements were left unmolested because such campaigns of conquest were deemed too costly. Sham weddings between officials of the trading posts and the daughters of local chieftains were made to facilitate commerce, albeit with an aim for profit and not colonisation. The result was a new impetus to trade in Lisbon: wheat was shipped from Ceuta, as well as musk, indigo, other clothing dyes, and cotton from Morocco. Significant amounts of gold were obtained from Guinea and the Gold Coast; other sources of this precious metal were sorely lacking in Europe of the late 15th century.[145] Berber slaves from the Canaries and later, black Africans, were trafficked in the often brutal slave trade. For the first time, African slaves were distributed in the Portuguese home territory,[147] and dark-skinned Africans, purchased by the lords of the large estates, were now seen even in the hinterland. One market innovation was the commercial exploitation of the melegueta pepper,[148] closely related to cardamom. The pungent fruits originated in Guinea, and the use of their seeds as a spice was quickly adopted in Mediterranean cooking as a popular substitute for black pepper.

The best markets and most valuable products were to be found, however, in India and the East. The war between the Ottoman Empire and Venice resulted in greatly increased prices for black pepper, other spices, and silks brought by the Venetians to Italy from the Ottoman-controlled Egypt, which received Arabian boats sailing from India at its ports on the Red Sea (and thence to Lisbon and the rest of Europe). To circumvent the "Turkish problem", a voyage of discovery to be captained by Vasco da Gama was organised, again on the initiative of the Lisbon merchants, but this time with royal funding; his boats arrived in India in 1498.[149][150]

Before the end of the 16th century, the Portuguese merchant fleets had reached China (where they founded the commercial colony of Macau), as well as the island archipelagos of present-day Indonesia and Japan. They established the ports of call of the Eastern trade route and made commercial agreements with the chiefs and kings in Angola and Mozambique. A large colonial empire was consolidated by Afonso de Albuquerque, his armed forces securing those ports on the Indian Ocean in locations convenient for ships outbound from Lisbon against competition from the Turks and Arabs. Local territories were generally not seized, excepting the ports that carried on a profitable trade with the natives. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Pedro Álvares Cabral had arrived at Brazil in 1500.

In this way Lisbon gained access to the sources of products it exclusively sold to the rest of Europe for many years: in addition to African products including pepper, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, herbs, and cotton fabrics, as well as diamonds from Malabar in India[151] transported on the Carreira da Índia ("India Run"),[152] it sold Moluccan spices, Ming porcelain and silk from China, slaves from Mozambique,[153] brazilwood and Brazilian sugar. Lisbon also traded in fish (mainly salted cod from the Grand Banks), dried fruit, and wine.[154] Other Portuguese cities, like Porto and Lagos, contributed to foreign trade only marginally, the country's commerce being practically limited to the exports and imports of Lisbon. The city still controlled much of the commerce of Antwerp through its depot there, which exported fine fabrics to the rest of Europe. The German and Italian merchants, seeing their trade routes, by land in the case of the first, and by the Mediterranean sea in the second, mostly abandoned, founded large trading houses in Lisbon for re-exporting goods to Europe and the Middle East.[155]

As Lisbon became the prime market for luxury goods to satisfy the tastes of the elite classes all across Europe:[156] Venice and Genoa were ruined.[157] The Lisbons controlled for several decades all trade from Japan to Ceuta. In the 16th century Lisbon was one of the richest cities in the world,[158][159] and the city gained a mythic stature. England and the Netherlands were obliged to imitate the Portuguese mercantile model to halt the loss of foreign exchange. Meanwhile, merchants migrated from all over Europe to establish their businesses in Lisbon, and even some Indian, Chinese, and Japanese traders found their way to the city. Large numbers of African and a few Brazilian Indian slaves were imported at this time as well. During the reign of King Manuel I, festivals were celebrated on the streets of Lisbon with parades of lions, elephants, camels and other animals not seen in Europe since the time of the Roman circus. In 1515, Afonso de Albuquerque presented an Indian rhinoceros to King Manuel, who had it let loose in a ring with an elephant to test the reputed mutual animosity of the two species.[160][161] The rhinoceros was then forwarded as a gift to Pope Leo X. In Europe the prestige of Lisbon and its land discoveries had grown so great that when Thomas More wrote his book Utopia, about the political system of an ideal and imaginary island nation, he tried to further its plausibility by saying that the Portuguese had discovered it.[162]

Belém Tower

To organize private trade and manage the collection of taxes, the great Portuguese trading houses of the capital were founded in the late 15th-century: the Casa da Mina ( House of Mina), the Casa dos Escravos (House of Slaves), the Casa da Guiné (House of Guinea),[163] the Casa da Flandres (House of Flanders), and the famous Casa da Índia (House of India). Their huge revenues were used to finance construction of the Jerónimos Monastery and the Torre de Belém (Belém Tower),[164] prominent examples of the Manueline architectural style (evocative of the overseas discoveries and trade), the Forte de São Lourenço Bugio with its garrison and heavy artillery on an island in the Tagus,[165][166][167] the Terreiro do Paço (Palace Square), the new and imposing Paço da Ribeira or Ribeira Palace (destroyed in the earthquake of 1755), and the "Arsenal do Exercito" (Military Arsenal), all raised next to the Mar da Palha; and even the Hospital Real de Todos-os-Santos (Royal Hospital of All Saints). Numerous palaces and mansions were built by the merchants with their profits. As the city expanded and reached nearly 200,000 inhabitants, the Bairro Alto urbanisation (known initially as Vila Nova de Andrade) was developed by the wealthy Galicians Bartolomeu de Andrade and his wife, and quickly became the richest neighbourhood in town.[168][169]

Jerónimos Monastery

The 16th century in Lisbon was the cultural golden age for Portuguese science and arts and letters: among the scientists who called the city home were the humanist Damião de Góis (friend of Erasmus and Martin Luther), the mathematician Pedro Nunes, the physician and botanist Garcia da Orta and Duarte Pacheco Pereira; and the writers Luís de Camões, Bernardim Ribeiro, Gil Vicente and others. Isaac Abravanel, one of the greatest Hebrew philosophers, was appointed the King's Treasurer. All social classes benefited from the city's prosperity, although the urban nobility serving in royal administration and the bourgeoisie benefited the most, but even the common people enjoyed luxuries unattainable to their English, French or German contemporaries. Heavy manual labor was done by African slaves and by Galicians.[170] The first African slaves were sold in Praça do Pelourinho (Pelourinho Square); they were separated from their families, worked all day without pay, and were subject to brutal treatment. The Galicians, although uprooted from their homes, certainly found their lot improved, considering their miserable condition in rural Spain,[171] and their language being very similar to Portuguese facilitated their integration into Portuguese society..

The Jewish population, as always, included some of the poor, as well as scholars, merchants, and financiers who were among the most educated and wealthy citizens in the city. A commentary on the Pentateuch, written in Hebrew by Moses ben Nahman, and published by Eliezer Toledano in 1489, was the first book printed in Lisbon. In 1496, the Spaniards expelled the Jews from Spanish territory, motivated by a fundamentalist spirit that demanded an exclusively Christian kingdom. Many of the Jews fled to Lisbon, and may have temporarily doubled its population. Although acknowledging the central importance of the Jews to the city's prosperity, Manuel I decreed in 1497 that all Jews must convert to Christianity, only those who refused being forced to leave, but not before the expropriation of their property. His desire to wed Princess Isabel of Castile, daughter of the Catholic Monarchs, who required that he first expel all the Jews of Portugal, is generally given as his reason for the forced conversions.[172] For many years these New Christians had practiced Judaism in secret or openly despite the riots and the violence perpetrated against them[173] (many Jewish children were torn from their parents and given to Christian families who treated them as slaves).[174] For now, they were tolerated till the start of the Inquisition in Portugal decades later. Without the disadvantage of being considered Jewish, they were able to rise in the social hierarchy, even to the higher ranks of the court. Again the elite descendants of the ancient families of the old aristocracy of Asturias and Galicia created barriers to the social ascent of Jews, who were often better-educated and more proficient than their antagonists.The anti-semitic movement among the Old Christians infected the common people, and in 1506, spurred by the perceived blasphemy of some injudicious remarks uttered by a converso over the occurrence of a supposed miraculous event at the Church of São Domingos, and then further inflamed by the invective of three Dominican friars,[175][176] culminated in a massacre of New Christians, in which between 3,000 and 4,000 people were killed.[175] The king was at Evora when these events occurred, but angered when he received the news, he ordered an investigation which resulted in two of the instigating friars being excommunicated and burned alive, and the Dominicans were expelled from their convent.[177]

Burning at the stake by the Portuguese Inquisition at the Terreiro do Paço in front of the Ribeira Palace

As a result of the dissension aroused by this catastrophe, King Manuel was persuaded by the territorial nobles to introduce the Inquisition (which did not become formally active until 1536)[178] during the reign of his son and successor, King John III, and legal restrictions were imposed on all descendants of New Christians (similar to those the Old Christians had imposed on the Jews), to prevent them from threatening senior government posts held by the Old Christian aristocracy. The first auto-da-fé was held at the Palace Square in 1540.[179][180] Besides the Inquisition, other social problems arose; in 1569 the great Plague of Lisbon killed 50,000 people.[181]

The inquisition put to death many of the New Christians, and expropriated the property and wealth of many others. The riches of even some Old Christian merchants were expropriated after false anonymous complaints were made that the inquisitors accepted as valid, since the property of the condemned reverted to themselves. On the other hand, few merchants would not have had some New Christian ancestry, as marriages between the children of Christian and Jewish partners in the major firms were commonplace. The Inquisition thus became an instrument of social control in the hands of the Old Christians against almost all the Lisbon merchants, and finally restored their long lost supremacy.

In this climate of intolerance and persecution, the expansion of the economy enabled by the genius of the traders was undone by the large landowners (whose collectible rents were much less than the receipts of the merchants), and the prosperity of Lisbon was destroyed. The former climate of liberalism conducive to trade disappeared and was replaced by Catholic fanaticism and a rigid conservatism. The noble elites persecuted those who were alleged to be not of "pure blood" and truly Old Christian. Many of the merchants fled to England or the Netherlands, bringing their naval and cartographic knowledge with them as they settled in those places. Lisbon was taken by the feudal mentality of the great nobles, and the Portuguese merchants, with no security or social support and unable to obtain credit during the persecutions of the Inquisition, could not compete with the English and Dutch merchants (many of them of Portuguese origin) who subsequently took over the markets of India, the East Indies and China.

Battle of Alcântara (1580)

The young king Sebastian I was burning with zeal to go to Morocco and stop the advances of the Turkish-supported armies,[182] an enterprise which held the promise of more land and revenues in North Africa for the nobles (they perhaps believing this would allow them to maintain their economic supremacy over the merchants), but the mercantile bourgeoisie also supported the effort as it would benefit Portuguese commerce in North Africa. Sebastian used much of Portugal's imperial wealth to equip a large fleet and gather an army. He and the flower of the Portuguese nobility were killed in the military disaster of the Battle of Alcácer Quibir in 1578, his death triggering a succession crisis, where the main claimants to the throne were Philip II of Spain and António, Prior of Crato. The remaining Portuguese nobles and the high clergy were gathered once again to the arms of their like-minded counterparts, the Castilians, and supported Philip, a maternal grandson of Manuel I of Portugal.[183] Philip sent an army of 40,000 men under the command of the Duke of Alba to invade Portugal. They defeated António's troops at the Battle of Alcântara and Philip was crowned Philip I of Portugal in 1581.[184] Thus he at least partly fulfilled the ambition of his father, the Habsburg King Carlos I of Spain (also Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire), who was famously quoted by Friar Nicolau de Oliveira: "Se eu fora Rei de Lisboa eu o fora em pouco tempo de todo o mundo" ("If I were King of Lisbon, I would soon rule over all the world.")[185] The union of Portugal with Spain lasted sixty years (1580–1640).[186]

16th century[edit]

The 16th century marks the golden age for Lisbon. The city became the European hub of commerce with Africa, India, the Far East and, later, Brazil, exploring riches like spices, slaves, sugar, textiles and other goods. This was the time of the exuberant Manueline style, which has left its mark in two 16th century Lisbon monuments, the Belém Tower and the Jerónimos Monastery, both of which were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

Lisbon experienced five important earthquakes in the 16th century (several in 1504, 1528, 1530, 1531 that destroyed 1,500 houses, 1551, and in 1597 when three streets vanished).

Portugal lost its independence to Spain in 1580 after a succession crisis, and the 1640 revolt that restored the Portuguese independence took place in Lisbon (see Philip III of Portugal).

17th century[edit]

Lisbon experienced three important earthquakes in the 17th century (main one in 1699).

18th century[edit]

In the early 18th century, gold from Brazil flooded the country and city, allowing King John V to sponsor the building of several Baroque churches and theaters in the town.

Earthquakes were again felt in 1722, 1724 and in 31 July 1750.

1755 earthquake[edit]

On 1 November 1755 Lisbon was destroyed by another earthquake, which killed between 60,000 and 90,000 people and destroyed eighty-five percent of the city.[187] Among several important structures of the city, the Royal Ribeira Palace and the Royal Hospital of All Saints were lost. The event shocked the whole of Europe. Voltaire wrote a long poem, "Poême sur le désastre de Lisbonne", shortly after the quake, and mentioned it in his 1759 novel Candide (indeed, many argue that this critique of optimism was inspired by that earthquake). Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. also mentions it in his 1857 poem, The Deacon's Masterpiece, or The Wonderful One-Hoss Shay.

After the 1755 earthquake, the city was rebuilt largely according to the plans of Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the Marquess of Pombal; hence the designation of the lower town as Baixa Pombalina (Pombaline Downtown). Instead of rebuilding the medieval town, Pombal decided to demolish the remains of the earthquake and rebuild the downtown in accordance with modern urban rules.

19th century[edit]

In the first years of the 19th century, Portugal was invaded by the troops of Napoléon Bonaparte, forcing Queen Maria I and Prince-Regent John (future John VI) to flee temporarily to Brazil. During the Peninsular War the city was a base of operations for British and Allied forces under Arthur Wellesley. From 1810 it was defended by the Lines of Torres Vedras.

During the 19th century, the Liberal movement introduced new changes into the urban landscape. The principal areas were in the Baixa and along the Chiado district, where shops, tobacconists shops, cafés, bookstores, clubs and theatres proliferated. The development of industry and commerce determined the growth of the city, extending north along the Avenida da Liberdade (1879), distanciing itself from the Tagus River.

20th century[edit]

Lisbon was the stage of the regicide of Carlos I of Portugal (1908), which culminated two years later in the First Republic, in 5 October 1910.

The city refounded its university in 1911 after centuries of inactivity in Lisbon, incorporating reformed former colleges and other non-university higher education schools of the city (such as the Escola Politécnica – now Faculdade de Ciências). Today there are 3 public universities in the city (University of Lisbon, Technical University of Lisbon and New University of Lisbon), a public university institute (ISCTE - Lisbon University Institute) and a polytechnic institute (IPL – Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa). See list of universities in Portugal.

During World War II Lisbon was one of the very few neutral, open European Atlantic ports, a major gateway for refugees to the U.S. and a spy nest. More than 100,000 refugees were able to flee Nazi Germany via Lisbon.[188]

During the Estado Novo regime (1926–1974), Lisbon was expanded at the cost of other districts within the country, resulting in nationalist and monumental projects. New residential and public developments were constructed; the zone of Belém was modified for the 1940 Portuguese Exhibition, while in along the periphery new social barrios appeared to house the growing populations. The first line of the Lisbon Metro opened in 1959. The opening (in 1966) of the bridge over the River Tagus, allowed the rapid connect between the two banks of the river.

Lisbon was the centre of the coup of 25 April 1974 which established the democratic Portuguese Republic. The period following the Carnation Revolution was one of intensive political mobilization, with the city as the stage of many large demonstrations. During 1974 and 1975, many residents of the city's poor neighbourhoods formed resident's commissions to fight for the right to housing and, in some cases, occupied hundreds of vacant properties across the city.[189]

In 1988, a fire near the historical centre of Chiado greatly disrupted normal life in the area for about 10 years. In the 1990s, many of the barrios were renovated and projects in the historic quarters were established to modernize the areas; architectural and patrimonial buildings were recuperated; the northern margin of the Tagus was re-purposed for leisure and residential use; the Vasco da Gama bridge was constructed; and the eastern part of the municipality was re-purposed for Expo '98 (intended to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Vasco da Gama's sea voyage to India). In 1994, Lisbon was the European Capital of Culture.

21st century[edit]

The Lisbon Agenda was a European Union agreement on measures to revitalize the EU economy, signed in Lisbon in March 2000. In October 2007 Lisbon hosted the 2007 EU Summit, where agreement was reached regarding a new EU governance model. The resulting Treaty of Lisbon was signed on the 13 December 2007 and came into force on 1 December 2009.

On the 3 November 2005, Lisbon hosted the MTV European Music Awards. The show was opened by a leotard-clad Madonna, who exploded from a shiny disco ball to the tune "Hung Up".

On the 7 July 2007, Lisbon held the ceremony of the "New 7 Wonders Of The World"[190] election, in Luz stadium, with live transmission for millions of people all over the world.

It is the host city for the Portuguese editions of Rock in Rio, the largest rock festival in the world.

It hosted the NATO summit (19–20 November 2010), a summit meeting that is regarded as a periodic opportunity for Heads of State and Heads of Government of NATO member countries to evaluate and provide strategic direction for Alliance activities.[191]

Historical population[edit]

Demographic evolution of Lisbon
43 900 1552 1598 1720 1755 1756 1801 1849 1900 1930 1960 1981 1991 2001 2011
30,000 100,000 200,000 150,000 185,000 180,000 165,000 203,999 174,668 350,919 591,939 801,155 807,937 663,394 564,657 545,245

See also[edit]

This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the Portuguese Wikipedia.


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