Portugal, is country in the Southwest of Europe by the Atlantic Ocean, independent for more than eight centuries, is the oldest European country with its current frontiers since the 13th century. This long territorial unity has led to a strong national identity, despite the large variety of landscape, habits and cultures of its several regions.
Before being Portugal this territory was occupied by many different peoples: Phoenicians, Romans, Celts, Visigoths, and Muslims. The Muslims or Moors were defeated and left the south of Portugal in 1249.
The ocean has always influenced the life and culture of the Portuguese country and has played a major role in its History. In the 15th century the Portuguese started their incursions and conquests in Northern Africa and the exploration of the Atlantic Ocean with the discovery of the beautiful islands of Madeira and Azores. Sailing the seas to discover the world was the choice of the Portuguese kings in the 15th and 16th centuries and a very important navigation school was founded to support that great endeavour. First there was the discovery and setting of military and commercial positions on the west coast of Africa. In 1488 the Portuguese rounded the Cape of Good Hope, confirming their supposition that there was a maritime passage to the East by the south of Africa. In the following years they explored eastern Africa and in 1498 Vasco da Gama reached India. In the first half of the 16th century the Portuguese reached China, Oceania (Timor) and they were the first Europeans to arrive to Japan, contributing decisively to the unification of this country. Sailing to the west, they discovered Brazil in 1500 and settled there in several coastal locations and later also in other lands far from the coast.
The Portuguese were the leaders of the first globalization.
The 16th and 17th centuries were times of wealth for Portugal, until the English and the Dutch extended their control of the seas and became major world powers. However the Portuguese empire lasted until the 20th century. After the Revolution of April 25, 1974, all the colonies finally became independent countries. Portugal is back to its European territory, but still has important connections to those countries and is forever marked by this universal adventure. Having sailed the oceans and met so many different people perhaps explains the tolerant and welcoming character of the Portuguese people and certainly left very important influences in the portuguese art and culture.
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