In 1139 CE, Afonse Henriques, appointed count of the province of Portugal by the king of Castile, defeated a Muslim army at Ourique. Impolitely, he took that opportunity to declare Portugal independent of Castile, with himself as king of the new country. He was able to get away with it largely due to the recognition by the Christian kingdoms of Spain that the Muslims were the common enemy, and when assured that Portugal would still play an active role in the impending Reconquista, Castile-Navarre and Aragon were willing to overlook Henriques’ impudence. Two hundred years later, once the Muslims were confined to their tiny corner of Spain in Granada, Castile saw fit to repossess the Portuguese kingdom. When the Castilian army was soundly thrashed in battle by the warrior king John of Aviz, it was clear to all that Portugal was there to stay.
After the victory over Castile and the collective reconquest of Iberia from the Muslims, Portugal looked overseas to continue its expansion. King John led a campaign against Ceuta in North Africa (modern-day Morocco). The ease of Ceuta’s conquest caught the attention of his third son, Prince Henry the Navigator. Henry’s older brother Duarte succeeded to the throne after John’s death, and the two were often at odds, with Duarte skeptical and suspicious of Henry’s ambitions to explore new lands and convert the natives to Christianity. For the next twenty years Henry sponsored expeditions to western Africa, and even led a campaign to invade Tangiers in 1437 (which ended in defeat). But on the whole Henry’s personal seafaring experience was limited; his sobriquet comes from his patronage of other adventurers and the resulting age of discovery and colonization that they inaugurated with his support.
Portuguese explorers continued their discoveries after Henry’s death in 1460. The greatest was Bartolomeu Dias, whose 1488 voyage around the southern coast of Africa made Europe aware of the Indian Ocean and a shorter route to India than the one Columbus gambled on just four years later. Dias also traveled across the western Atlantic to Brazil; on that voyage he was lost at sea in 1498.
Closely following Dias was Vasco da Gama, who took Dias’ maps and went beyond their limits, landing in India in 1497. He made three trips to India over the following thirty years, the last of which took place in 1524 after his appointment by the King as viceroy of India. He did not live long after his arrival; some speculate he was poisoned by corrupt administrators who feared punishment at his hands.
In 1543, Portuguese sailors were shipwrecked in Japan. They did not stay long, but left behind the technique of musket-making — in that way, a handful of men changed Japanese history forever, as the samurai era was drowned by the sound of musketfire. By that time Portugal’s overseas holdings were vast, comprising holdings all over Africa, India, China, Macao, and South America.
In 1580 Spain awoke, flexing its muscles as the world’s pre-eminent power. It took the opportunity to occupy Portugal, and for almost 100 years the two countries were united. The Portuguese royalty did not give up, though, and through clever diplomacy and alliance with England they were able to restore their monarchy and, with Spain greatly weakened and demoralized by the Thirty Years’ War, finally forced Spanish recognition of Portuguese independence. Portugal remained an influential and wealthy European power through the Napoleonic Wars, when its alliance with Britain gave the British a foothold on the Continent to oppose Napoleon’s armies.
Portugal’s prosperity lasted until the 1890s, when a combination of inflation and sluggish industrialization undermined its industries. Dissatisfaction with the monarchy led to a coup and the establishment of a republic in 1910; this did not last long, as radical groups pursued extreme agendas and unrest grew. In 1926, the army bloodlessly overthrew the republic; the junta asked a university professor and occasional member of parliament named Antonio Oliviera de Salazar to assume control of all economic policy. Six years later, Salazar became prime minister, a limited office in theory but dictator in practice. Salazar’s new constitution formalized his powers and he ruled Portugal with absolute authority for nearly 40 years.
In 1968 Salazar suffered a stroke; his ministers tried to continue the dictatorship but in 1974 a democratic revolution re-installed a republican form of government. After narrowly avoiding a Communist coup, Portugal flourished, although it presently faces structural problems similar to those of its nearest European neighbors.
In Civilization III: Conquests, the Portuguese are considered expansionist and seafaring. They start the game with Pottery and Alphabet and build Carracks instead of Caravels.
Unique Unit: The Carrack
When Viking longships encountered Mediterranean trading galleys, enterprising shipbuilders combined the two designs. The result was the carrack, a sturdy, square-rigged ship with three masts that retained the longships’ sturdy construction (necessary in the treacherous northern seas) and the maneuverability of the Mediterranean trade ships. This combination allowed carracks to foray into waters never before seen by European eyes — and to carry back goods and maps from those faraway lands.
A Portuguese Carrack is a sea-going vessel that may safely traverse Coastal and Sea terrain squares. Unlike a caravel, if a carrack ends its turn in an Ocean square,it will not sink. The Carrack also has a higher attack strength than a standard caravel.