Portugal is an enigma: the heart of the first modern world empire, it is also a small country with the oldest settled national boundaries in Europe. In Portugal, old and new mix in surprising ways. The country is both an innovative crossroads of international exchange, and a peaceful harbour of cultural tradition.
General information and history of Portugal
Portugal (República Portuguesa) is a democratic republic located on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe, and is the westernmost country in continental Europe. Portugal is bordered by Spain to the north and east and by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south. In addition, Portugal includes two archipelagos in the Atlantic, Azores and Madeira Islands.
Portugal has witnessed a constant flow of different civilizations during the past 3,100 years - Iberian, Phoenician, Carthaginian, Celtic, Greek, Roman, Germanic, and Moorish cultures have all made an imprint on the country. The naming of Portugal itself reveals most of the country's early history, stemming from the Roman name Portus Cale, a possibly mixed name of either Greek, Latin, Celtic or Phoenician origins.
Portugal is an ancient nation and for more than 1,000 years it has maintained its specific culture while being influenced by the various civilizations that crossed the Mediterranean world. Thus, Portugal has always absorbed habits and traditions from such civilizations and from the regions that it discovered and conquered throughout the world during the Portuguese empire. An explicit instance of this absorption and adaptation of previous culture is seen in the countless festivals to pagan local and Roman deities which were transformed into festivals to Christian saints; only some pagan festivals have changed little over 2,000 years, due to the religious passion of the Middle Ages and the inquisition.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal was a major economic, political, and cultural power, its empire stretching from Brazil to the Indies. Following its heyday as a world power, Portugal lost much of its wealth and status with the destruction of Lisbon in the earthquake of 1755, occupation during the Napoleonic Wars, and the independence in 1822 of Brazil as a colony. A 1910 revolution deposed the monarchy; for most of the next six decades repressive governments ran the country. In 1974, a left-wing military coup installed broad democratic reforms. The following year, Portugal granted independence to all of its African colonies. Portugal entered the EC (now the EU) in 1986.
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Lisbon occupies one of the most beautiful natural settings in Europe. The city of two million inhabitants was, according to ancient Greek myth, founded by Ulysses. With age-old migration and trade connections to Asia, Africa, the Americas, and the rest of Europe, Lisbon is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.