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Despite the long presence of indigenous cultures in Iberia, it was not until after the Second Punic War that Iberia and its people would begin to make their presence felt on a global level. During the war, the Romans ingeniously attacked the Carthaginians in their homeland and in a stunning victory at Zama, forced the Carthaginians to cede all of their colonial possessions, including Iberia, to Rome. The Romans would extend their control over the region beyond the Carthaginian colonies into the rest of the Iberian peninsula over the next two hundred years. They did not only leave their imprint in the region administratively, but even successfully established their culture over the occupied tribes therein. Every aspect of Iberic culture was effected, if not completely supplanted through the process of Latinisation. The only exception was the Basque, or Vasconians as they were called. All Iberic citizens were granted Roman citizenship, and enjoyed the same rights as those who were natives of Latium. The Iberians would even offer one of their own brethren, a soldier known to us as Trajan, as a Roman Emperor. Trajan would not only became the Emperor of the Roman Empire, but one of its most successful and celebrated rulers.
The Visigothic Kingdoms
By the 7th century, however, the Visigothic kingdom was only nominally united. Their system of elected Kings created rival factions which encouraged foreign intervention by the Greeks, the Franks, and, finally, the Muslims.
Under the rule of the Arabs
Beginning in 711, Muslim expeditions crossed into Spain, and killed the king of the Visigoths, who until that time had been ruling Iberia since the day they first arrived there. They quickly swept through Spain, aided by the vast Roman road system, and were able to subjugate the Goths easily, due to the political disarray of the nobility. Muslim forces spread throughout the Iberian Peninsula and eventually crossed the Pyrenees into the domain of the Franks (in modern day France), reaching as far as Poitiers by 732. Despite this, there were a number of holdouts in the North that would be able to not only resist the new invaders, but go on create the modern states of Portugal and Spain, but their time would not come well until half a millenium or so later.
Nonetheless, these newcomers left lasting influences on Lusitanian culture, transmitted into Spain itself through Arabised Christians who were known as musta'rabeen or, in Spanish, mozarabes (in later years of the Muslim occupation of Spain), the evidence of which can be seen to this day. It is not uncommon to travel throughout Hispanic nations to discover that Arab-style tiling is often used for decoration of houses, or to discover many words in modern-day Spanish and Portuguese which are in fact loanwords from old Arabic.
Reconquista and Leonese Rule
Once the Umayyad-founded Emirate of Cordoba was extinguished, however, Islamic power in Spain began to wane. As power shifted from one ruling dynasty to another and local Spanish Muslims quarreled with their Berber rivals, the Christians were making headway, taking advantage of the vacuum of power left behind by the Umayyads in Lusitania. In 868, a Galician warrior, Vimara Peres, captured a swathe of land between the Minho and Douro rivers located in the highlands south of Galicia, and founded a small settlement called Vimaranes (now Guimarães, near present-day Braga, Portugal). This town eventually evolved into a small county, subject to the Galician crown and was called Portus Cale, or "Portugal". The County gained further lustre with the rise of its countess Mumadona Dias in the mid-10th century, who initiated many construction projects in the town and the surrounding countryside, including its cathedral and a castle. An abortive revolt in the 11th century however saw the death of count Nuno, and the County was annexed directly to the Crown of Galicia.
In the meantime, the mountains south of Galicia were liberated from Moorish domination, and were subsequently added on to the "County of Portugal", which remained subject to Galician, then Leonese rule. A French volunteer to the Reconquista, Henry of Burgundy, was married to a young Spanish noblewoman and elected as its count. His son, Alfonso Henriques, would continue the Reconquista in Portugal, and would continue increasing his holdings in Portugal, while subject to the kingdom of Leon, just as how the descendants of William the Conqueror continued to unify England under their rule while being French vassals.
The defeat of his stepfather (who married Alfonso's mother, Theresa, after his father Henry died) in 1128 outside São Mamede, and his driving out a Muslim invasion force at Ourique during the Feast of Saint James in 1139 would help consolidate Alfonso Henrique's rule over the land. Awed by his military prowess, Muslim adversaries would dub him as Ibn Arrik, or "son of Henry", and "Ibn Arrik" would soon accept as well the title of "Prince" or "Infante". The Treaty of Zamora, agreed upon by Lusitanian, Spanish and Papal representatives would mark Portugal's first step toward independence, but it would be 40 years after Ourique before Alfonso Henriques would be recognised as her monarch, styled Dom Afonso I of Portugal, with Papal approval.
The House of Aviz
By the time he passed away, king Alfonso's realm had doubled its size. Under his descendents, Portugal saw many changes: the establishing of a permanent civil code of law; a formal alliance with the English; the increase in Portuguese holdings in Iberia; and the Treaty of Alcanizes, in which the Christian rulers of the Iberian peninsula unanimously recognised the borders of the new kingdom. Yet, there would soon be trouble. In 1383, the Portuguese monarch, Fernando, passed away without leaving a suitable heir, and the country soon faced civil war. Rival nobles vied for power while foreign powers attempted to make their influence felt in the nation, but eventually, a chivalric order, the Order of Aviz, set its Master, João, as king.
The Hundred Years' War spilled into Portugal as a Franco-Castillian army was sent to dethrone João, now styled John I, but was defeated near Aljubarrotta by Anglo-Portuguese forces in 1385, cementing further the House of Aviz' hold on the throne and its alliance with England. The new king, soon dubbed "John the Good" or "John the Great", was an unusual man: described as a "powermonger", and yet considered a highly enlightened and charitable personality, João's experience as master of a chivalric order also meant that he was a well-learned and cultured man, and his intellectual tendencies and love of learning would soon rub off him onto his own sons (his successor Duarte was an author in his own right), laying the seeds for the Age of Discovery and the foundation of the Portuguese overseas empire.
King João's third son, Infante Henrique, would not ascend the throne, but his patronage of the arts and sciences would allow him to eclipse the fame of his elder brother Edward, or Duarte I of Aviz: this Infante came to be better known to the English-speaking world as Henry the Navigator.
New Nation, New Empire
The first phase of Portuguese exploration and colonisation began with the crusades. In an attempt to compete against the Islamic world, military expeditions were sent out under various orders to North Africa and beyond, but these soon became expeditions intent on creating wealth via trade or conquest instead. Maderia and the Azores were discovered in time for Duarte's successor, Alfonso V "the African" to inherit them; six decades later, Bartolomeu Dias reached Cabo de boa Esperança (Cape of Good Hope). With the African coast mapped out, Portugal's next target was Asia. For almost the whole length of the Middle Ages, Venice and her Muslim allies had a stranglehold on the spice trade, which allowed for the growth of the Venetian empire and the Golden Age of Islam in both Spain and the Middle East. The Battle of Diu, pitting the all-new Portuguese carrack against Venetian-built galleys off the Indian coast, smashed Arabo-Venetian control of the spice trade and opened the waters of Southeast Asia to the Portuguese. This they soon followed up by sending the sultan of Melaka (now Melaka state in present-day Malaysia) packing in 1511, and eventually reached China by 1513. Japan was reached by 1542. Portuguese activity in Asia also coincided with attempts to colonise present-day Brazil as well.
The results were astounding. In the span of almost two centuries, Portugal had founded colonies around the African coast, granting it access to a steady supply of gold, commodities and slaves through trade, and was also making headway in the Amazon as well. It was this network of trade which allowed Portugal to ship spices back to Europe from Asia, across the African coast that maintained Portuguese prestige and power for at least 200 years, but the remoteness of Portuguese outposts and their ill-treatment of natives would attract the eye of other rivals. By the 17th century, Portuguese power in Asia would be usurped by the Dutch, and eventually the British would build their own empire over waters where the Portuguese once sailed supreme in Africa and Asia.
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