The Economic History of Lisbon, Portugal
San José State University

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The Economic History of Lisbon, Portugal

The Geographic Setting

The Tagus River (Rio Tejo in Portuguese) rises far to the east in east central Spain. It is just about as long as a river can be in the Iberian Peninsula. At its mouth on the Atlantic Ocean it is so wide as to be considered a bay called the Sea of Palha. There is shelter from the ocean waves and winds. It is a natural setting for a port and probably there was a port there from Neolithic times. The only question is whether the port would be on the northside or the southside of the river. Lisbon is located on the northside because that side gives easier access to the bulk of the Iberian peninsula. It was the Carthagians who first formally established a city at the site of Lisbon. Then came the Romans after their defeat of the .Carthagians in the Punic Wars,

The Name

There are two questions concerning the name Lisbon. First what was the derivation of the Portuguese name Lisboa for the city and second, how did the English get Lisbon from Lisboa.

There is a quaint legend that the city was founded by the Greek venturer Ulysses. There seems to be no foundation for this legend. It is probably a speculation based upon the old version of the name, Olissipo. There was a story of Ulysses founding a city in what is now southern Spain but that city was supposed to be on the Mediterrean coast.

The Carthaginians probably used their port at Lisbon to handle their voyages to secure tin in Cornwall, a metal vitally needed to make bronze.

A Celtic people came into the Iberian peninsula through the Pyrenees Mountains from France in about 500 BCE. The names Galicia and Gallegos are allusions to the Celts (who called themselves Gauls).

The Roman Era

When the Romans defeated the Carthaginians in the Punic Wars they took over the valuable colonies, such as the mineral rich valley of the Rio Tinto. In the Lisbon area they built fortifications. It might be surmised that the Romans created the basis for the Portuguese language, but the Portuguese language came to Portugal by a different route. The Galicians of northwest Spain conquered Portugal from the Moors and the Galician language became the language of Portugal. Of course the Galician language came from the Latin of the Romans, but in the northwest of the Iberian peninsula rather than the area of Lisbon.

The Visigoths and Suebians

When the Western Roman Empire collapsed about the middle of the fifth century Germanic tribes started migrating into the former Roman territories, including the Iberian peninsula. Along with the Germanic tribes came a nomadic group called the Alans, who spoke a language in the Iranian family.

The Timeline of the History of Lisbon

(To be continued.)


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