The present-day terretory of Portugal has been inhabited since very remote times, with a succession of peoples settling here, as Celts, Iberians, Phoenicians and Carthaginians, Although Romans were those who had a distinct influence on the region's culture and administration. After a period of domination by the Visigoths, the western region of the Iberian Peninsula was invaded and occupied by the moors at the beginning of the 8th century.
Afonso Henriques, recognized as the first king of Portugal in 1143, set about reconquering the territories from the Moors, expanding his dominions from north to south. In 1147, he conquered the strongholds of Santarém and Lisboa, followed by a series of conquests. This process only came to an end with the conquest of Algarve in the 13th century, in the reign of D. Afonso III.
In the 15ht century, the Portuguese embarked upon a cycle of discoveries and opened up new forntiers overseas, a natural impulse in a country bordered upon the ocean.
The discovery of the archipelagos of Madeira and Azores was folloed by a series of voyages along the coast of Africa, culminating in the rounding of the Cape of Good Hop, at the point where the Atlantic Ocean comes to an end and the Indian Ocean begins. Vasco da Gama was the first to discover the sea route to India, a feat wich herald the dawning of a new era for Europe.
In 1500, the fleet commanded by Pedro Álvares Cabral reached the coast of Brazil, whilst at the same time Portuguese ships continued do sail eastwards and a regular trade was soon established with Malaca, China and later, Japan. As a consequencem, Portuguese became the most widely spoken language in the world at that time. These close links with other cultures broght new influences and different ways of life to Europe, and Lisbon became the great trading center of that time, a bustling seaport where all sorts of exotic products were unloaded.
This golden age in the history of Portugal, the defeat of Portuguese armies in the Batle of Alcácer Quibir, in the north of Africa and the death of the Portuguese king, D. Sebastião, who left no heir was followed by an era of Castilian domination, but the king D. João IV, who started the dinstay of the House of Bragança, regained the countries independence in 1640. In the reign of D. João V (1707-1750), the crowns immense revenue made it possible to carry out a number of remarkable public works. The king, a lover of pageantry and a great patron of the arts, broought countless European craftsmen and artist to Portugal, who left behind many of their works and created schools here. The last king of Portugal, D. Manuel II, was deposed in 1910.
Amid corruption, repression of the church, and the near bankruptcy of the state, a military coup in 1926 installed a dictatorship that remained until another coup in 1974. The new government instituted sweeping democratic reforms and granted independence to all of Portugal's African colonies in 1975.
Portugal is a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). It entered the European Economic Community (now the European Union) in 1986.
Portugal is currently enjoyng a period of great economic growth, having successively preserved its national heritage and mantained its tradicional hospitality over the years, features wich have made it a pleasent port of call for any visitor.