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History of Lisbon

Lisbon was founded by the Phoenicians under the name Ulissipo and was soon conquered by the Greeks and Carthaginians. Finally Lisbon became the capital of Roman Lusitania, taking the name Olisipo When the Roman Empire fell, it became part of the Galician Suebi Kingdom until 585.

Muslim period and reconquest of Lisbon

Monument to the Marquess of Pombal
Monument to the Marquess of Pombal
Tomb of Vasco da Gama
Tomb of Vasco da Gama

In 711 it fell into the hands of the Muslims, who named it al-Usbuma. Alfonso II the Chaste took the city back for 10 years, from 798 to 808. The final reconquest was led by Afonso I Henriques, supported by the fleet of the second crusade.

During Afonso III’s reign, Lisbon became the base for Portugal's maritime expansion, which contributed fundamentally to the development of the maritime laws enacted by King Ferdinand I.

At the end of the 14th Century, the merchant oligarchy enthroned the House of Aviz, and a period began which would bring about the grand discoveries of the following century.

Lisbon in the Renaissance

From the 15th Century onward, the port of Lisbon became one of the most important in the world. At that point the Casa da Guiné e Mina was established, which gave great strength to Lisbon in centralizing commerce with the Cape Verde coast.

The wealth attracted the Genoese, Jews, Flamencos and Majorcans, whose maritime knowledge would have influenced the court of Henry the Navigator.

In the 16th Century the Casa da Índia enriched the city even more, due to commerce with Asia, Africa and Brazil, and became the most important slave trade centre in Europe.

In 1580 the Duke of Alba conquered Portugal and the Spanish King Phillip II was recognised as the King of Portugal.

The restoration of independence in 1640, and the massive riches that came from Brazil, led to an era of great splendour in Lisbon.

The great earthquake of 1st November 1755 destroyed Lisbon, giving the Marquess of Pombal an opportunity to use the riches provided by Minas Gerais to rebuild the city of Baixa, according to a regular plan, with wide avenues in the classical style.

The city fell into Napoleon’s hands in 1807, but was recaptured by the English, led by General Wellington.

In 1833 the constitutional monarchy was reinstated, lasting until the proclamation of the Republic in 1910.

Lisbon in the 20th Century

Lisbon Expo Park
Lisbon Expo Park

In 1932 the Salazar Dictatorship was installed, which would remain until 25th April 1974, when it was ended by a coup d'état led by General Spinola. This event is known as the “Carnation Revolution.” During these years Lisbon suffered a great change in its demography and expansion.

During World War II, Lisbon was a refuge for many exiles in transit from the countries occupied by the Axis to the United States and Great Britain.

In 1986 Portugal entered the European Union, and twelve years later, in 1998, Lisbon hosted the World Expo, which changed this beautiful city’s appearance. In the same year a great fire destroyed the Chiado.