Lisbon: History

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Lisbon History

The history of Lisbon is fascinating, rich and far-reaching. Prehistoric stone-age monuments, which still can be found around the city, are the oldest surviving remnants of civilization in Lisbon. The settlement that later became Lisbon operated as a harbor for trade as early as 1200 BC, and was included in the new-ly formed Roman province of Lusitania in the 3rd century BC. The Romans strengthened the city’s econ-omy and infrastructure; built temples, a theatre, a necropolis and baths, and connected Lisbon (then called Olissipo) to the Roman road network. After a couple of hundred years of Germanic control, Lisbon was taken by the Moors in 711 AD, under whose control the city flourished. Arabic was the official lan-guage and Islam the official religion, though Christians, Jews and Slavs made up significant parts of the population. Many place names still reveal their Arabic origins, such as Alfama and Alcântara.

Lisbon was retaken by crusaders led by Alfonso I of Portugal in 1147 and any remaining Arabs were either driven out or converted to Catholicism. The Middle Ages brought continued conflict with the Arab world, economic expansion and the foundation of the first Portuguese university in Lisbon. The 15-17th centuries saw exploration (Vasco da Gama) trade with Africa, India, the Far East and Brazil, and a loss and subse-quent regaining of independence from Spain. In 1755 an earthquake and tsunami destroyed 85% of Lisbon, which in turn brought about a massive rebuilding and restructuring of the city.

Lisbon was the site of the republican coup of 1910, when the Portuguese Republic was born. The city was a neutral and open port during World War II and therefore a center of espionage and major exit point for refugees fleeing to the United States. Lisbon was also the center of the 1974 Carnation Revolution, which brought about the end of Salazaar’s right wing Estado Novo. Recent events include Lisbon as European Capital of Culture (1994), Expo ’98, and the 2007 EU Summit and signing of the Treaty of Lisbon.