Portugal, the forgotten first European superpower

real expert

Regular Member
Messages
795
Reaction score
455
Points
63
As a history enthusiast, it fascinates me that the small country of Portugal, which is overshadowed by Spain, was a dominant cultural force during the Middle Ages. Many people today are unaware of what the Portuguese have accomplished, which was and continues to be significant.


(CBS News) It's Columbus Day weekend, when we remember the sea captain who sailed to the New World in 1492 under the flag of the King and Queen of Spain. It was the AGE OF DISCOVERY something the people of the small, sea-faring country next door to Spain had a lot to do with, as Martha Teichner reports in our Cover Story:

.........
The Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, came to Nazare, too, to pray before he set out in 1497 -- and again after a successful return from his voyage to find a sea route to India with its rich spice trade. He did what Christopher Columbus tried to do but failed.
Casimiro said that as a country, Portugal turns to the sea: "Our backs are turned to the land, and we are always looking at the sea. We have that kind of impulse to see what is after that."
Even if it's frightening? "Yeah."
.....Portugal is a country where the sea is and always has been regarded as a living being -- to be stared down, confronted.
A song laments the price paid, but Portugal's greatest heroes -- Vasco da Gama among them -- are its explorers and their patrons during the Age of Discovery.
In Lisbon, Portugal's capital, there's a monument to them: da Gama, Dias, Cabral, Magellan, Prince Henry the Navigator. All those names you memorized in grade school and immediately forgot.
But think about this: In the 1400s and 1500s, their daring and navigational skill made little Portugal -- smaller than the state of Indiana -- the first global sea power.
And very rich.
How it happened is a story about innovation. We'll begin at Prince Henry the Navigator's outpost in Sagres.
"The classical people, Romans, Greeks and other civilizations, they believed this is the point where the world finished," said historian Artur de Jesus of the craggy and windswept southwest corner of Europe. "They give you a picture, very interesting, how the sun sets here . . . they believe the sun dived inside the sea and might boil the sea."
But the Portuguese thought otherwise.
Here, close to where many explorers began their voyages, Prince Henry surrounded himself with scholars, mapmakers, astronomers, as well as navigators, amassing knowledge and intelligence -- the 15th century version of R&D. Like a venture capitalist, he financed expeditions intended to push the boundaries of the known world -- for profit, and to spread Christianity.
The idea, said de Jesus, was to take Christianity to other cultures, to other people, to other lands.
"So Christianity and exploration were always tied together?" asked Teichner.
"Always."
Prince Henry died at Sagres in 1460. But by that time, Portuguese explorers had inched their way south along the coast of Africa, as far as Sierra Leone.
In 1488, Bartolomeu Dias made it around the Cape of Good Hope. Ten years later, Vasco da Gama reached India. Then, just two years after that, in 1500, Pedro Alvares Cabral discovered Brazil . . . and on it went, each explorer armed with knowledge provided by the last.
At its peak, said Lt. Goncalves Neves, who heads the research department at the Portuguese Maritime Museum in Lisbon, Portugal's reach extended from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Tanegashima in Japan.
From Brazil to Japan, with everything in-between.
New technology was key, and this is what it looked like, circa 1440: A ship with triangular sails. It was called the caravel, an ocean-going version of smaller fishing boats. The caravel revolutionized exploration.
The advantage to the type of rigging, said Lt. Neves, was that "you could sail very close to the winds, meaning that you would sail basically where and when you wanted to." In a caravel you weren't restricted to winds that just pushed you along from behind, as square-riggers were.
The Portuguese had the best and most up-to-date navigational tools as well. For example, the mariner's astrolabe, which helped to plot location by measuring the altitude of the sun and stars.
And they had the equivalent of today's proprietary computer software: accurate maps, such as the first cartographic representation of Brazilian territory, drawn in 1502.
By order of King Manuel I, the selling of maps showing Portuguese navigations was prohibited outside of Portugal. "So maps were Portugal's secret weapon?" asked Teichner.
"Maps were power," said Lt. Neves, "because knowledge is power."
Portugal monopolized world commerce, but only as long as it managed to keep its knowledge out of the hands of competitors. Ferdinand Magellan commanded the first expedition that made it around the world. He was Portuguese, sailing for the Spanish -- foretelling the beginning of the end of Portugal's Golden Age.
But it was awfully good while it lasted. King Manuel, who outlawed the sale of maps, began in 1502 building the Jeronimos monastery in Lisbon. With its wonderful Gothic details, it's an extravagant shrine to Portugal's discoveries -- and to its heroes. Vasco da Gama, the embodiment of Portugal's long history of taking on the sea, is buried here.
.......



https://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-portugal-became-the-first-global-sea-power/




 
I thought the first european super power was Macadonia and Rome
 
I recommend reading Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire, Roger Crowley. It essentially describes the first century of the establishment of the Portuguese empire in India. The entry of the Portuguese into the Indian Ocean and their struggle against the Muslims, from Ceuta in Morocco to Arabia, Persia and India. It is comparable to the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs and Incas, involving the same level of brutality.
 
Excerpts from the prologue of Conquerors

“In a symmetrical arc, the Royal House of Aviz began its rise in Ceuta in 1415 and was destroyed 163 years later. In the meantime, the Portuguese advanced faster and farther than any other people in history. From an established beginning, they proceeded along the coast of Africa, round the Cape of Storms and reached India in 1498; they reached Brazil in 1500, China in 1514 and Japan in 1543. It was a Portuguese navigator, Fernão de Magalhães, who allowed Spain to circumnavigate the Earth after 1518.

The Portuguese arrived without blessings or magnificence. Gama's tiny ships, numbering around 150 men, could all fit inside one of Zheng He's junks. The gifts they offered the Hindu king were so meager that he refused to inspect them, but the Portuguese announced their intentions with red crosses painted on their sails and bronze cannons.

This is a far-reaching epic episode in navigation, trade, technology, finance, crusades, political diplomacy, espionage, sea battles, shipwrecks, resistance, courage - and extreme violence. At its core, it was an astonishing explosion over the thirty years or so that form the subject of this book, when these few Portuguese, led by a handful of extraordinary empire builders, tried to destroy Islam and control the entire Indian Ocean and world trade. In the process, they laid the foundations of a maritime empire with global reach and ushered in the great age of European discovery. Vasco da Gama's historic era set in motion five hundred years of western expansion and the forces of globalization that still shape our world today.”

One of the handful of extraordinary empire builders was Afonso de Albuquerque, called The Great, The Terrible or the Lion of the Seas. Admiral and Viceroy of Portuguese India, his campaigns were fundamental for the establishment of the first Portuguese Empire. He was considered the greatest naval commander of that age. Among his conquests were Goa and Malacca.
 
Excerpts from the prologue of Conquerors

“In a symmetrical arc, the Royal House of Aviz began its rise in Ceuta in 1415 and was destroyed 163 years later. In the meantime, the Portuguese advanced faster and farther than any other people in history. From an established beginning, they proceeded along the coast of Africa, round the Cape of Storms and reached India in 1498; they reached Brazil in 1500, China in 1514 and Japan in 1543. It was a Portuguese navigator, Fernão de Magalhães, who allowed Spain to circumnavigate the Earth after 1518.

The Portuguese arrived without blessings or magnificence. Gama's tiny ships, numbering around 150 men, could all fit inside one of Zheng He's junks. The gifts they offered the Hindu king were so meager that he refused to inspect them, but the Portuguese announced their intentions with red crosses painted on their sails and bronze cannons.

This is a far-reaching epic episode in navigation, trade, technology, finance, crusades, political diplomacy, espionage, sea battles, shipwrecks, resistance, courage - and extreme violence. At its core, it was an astonishing explosion over the thirty years or so that form the subject of this book, when these few Portuguese, led by a handful of extraordinary empire builders, tried to destroy Islam and control the entire Indian Ocean and world trade. In the process, they laid the foundations of a maritime empire with global reach and ushered in the great age of European discovery. Vasco da Gama's historic era set in motion five hundred years of western expansion and the forces of globalization that still shape our world today.”

One of the handful of extraordinary empire builders was Afonso de Albuquerque, called The Great, The Terrible or the Lion of the Seas. Admiral and Viceroy of Portuguese India, his campaigns were fundamental for the establishment of the first Portuguese Empire. He was considered the greatest naval commander of that age. Among his conquests were Goa and Malacca.


The history of the Catholic Church in Japan and the Portuguese mission to Japan are also very exciting. Portuguese ships arrived in Japan in 1543. Moreover, Catholic missionary activities in Japan began around 1549, performed mainly by Portuguese-sponsored Jesuits until Spanish-sponsored Franciscans and Dominicans gained access to Japan. The guns the Portuguese brought with them, at a time of civil war in Japan, made them particularly welcome. Japan's feuding warlords were quick to recognize the power of this new weapon, and they were later produced in the masses in Japan.
 
You’re right, the Japanese called then Namban, which means southern barbarians. They had a base in Nagasaki, for trade between Japan, China and Europe.
The Japanese were very impressed by the weapons taken by the Portuguese, as you said.
And in a short period of time the Japanese were able to reproduce the production of these weapons.
The Japanese were not so impressed with the Portuguese tendency to evangelize and to regard all other religions as heretical.
The portuguese created a christian community in Japan that the established powers, the shogunate, feared.
That was one of the reasons they were expelled in the 17th century. There's a movie by Martin Scorsese called "Silence" about that period, after the expulsion, about the persecution of the Christian community.
 
One of the least known aspects in the history of the Portuguese Discoveries is the role played by a religious order, the Order of Christ. Henry the navigator, the main driver of the initial phase of the great discoveries was Grand Master of that order.
And several discoverers were members, like Vasco da Gama.
The role of the order was fundamental in the Portuguese expansion throughout the world. Throughout the 15th century, the entire process of discovering new sea routes and territories was supervised by the Order of Christ. The Order of Christ was the refounded Templar Order, the Knights Templar.
In the 14th century the Templar Order was extinguished and persecuted in France and the rest of Europe. But not in Portugal. The Portuguese king created the Order of Christ, this being the heir of all Templar assets in Portugal.
The members of the Templar Order, portuguese and foreign refugees, joined this new order while conserving their assets and liberty.
This because the Templars had played an essential role in the period of the Reconquista and in the foundation of the kingdom. Thus, the Portuguese expansion was sponsored and guided by the refounded Templar Order. And it was an adaptation of the Templar cross that was painted on the sails of their ships.
 

This thread has been viewed 1372 times.

Back
Top