Prior to becoming a kingdom under the rule Alfonso I, in 1139 Portugal was inhabited by a range of settlers that included the Celts, Romans, and Arabs, to mention only a few. This all had a share in laying the foundation of Portuguese culture.
Additionally, in Portugal’s history were the many maritime navigators that played a vital role in what Portugal has become today. One important figure is Vasco da Gama; he and his crew spent a great length of time at sea accompanied with great adversity, with what reward? They became the first Europeans to reach India by sailing around the southern edge of Africa. Unfortunately, these accomplishments were not without consequence, as many lives were lost during these remarkable voyages.
Since the days of Da Gama’s laborious voyage, there have been great strides in technology. Yet with advanced knowledge and far less life threatening consequences, it would still be a demanding voyage today. Da Gama’s voyages were neither the beginning nor the end of Portuguese sea explorations that lead to a changed world.
Another principal figure of the early Portuguese empire was the navigator Prince Henry. He was credited for the beginning of the worldwide European explorations. Henry was not only a promoter… but also a participant in conquering the Muslim port on the North African city of Ceuta, Spain, in 1415.
He saw this as a new opportunity of profit in the African trading routes--hence possibilities to expand the Portuguese empire.
Early explorers discovered something else in addition to wealth--new foods. Upon returning to Portugal, they brought back with them these newly discovered fruits, nuts, and plants from lands around the globe. This came from lands such as Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Madeira and the Azores--lands eventually coming under Portuguese control.