Lagos

The city of Lagos and its history

Photo: Lacobrigo

Lagos is located in southern Portugal, the Barlavento region of the Algarve. Situated along the Atlantic Ocean Lagos is one of the most visited cities of both Algarve and Portugal. Hence its 22,000 to 31,000 inhabitants if considered the whole of the municipality increase rapidly during season accommodating tourists and temporal residents.

Lagos’ name is derived from the Latin (lacobriga) attributed by Romans and Zawaia (lago) provided by the Moors bearing the meaning of lake.

Lagos may be considered in the group of the oldest cities in Europe with 8,000 years of history reaching back to the Tartessian era. The rich historical background of the city is marked by many civilizations like the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Visigoths and the Moors reaching its current Christian times. The Carthaginians were recruiting Celtic solders for their war against the Romans. The rule of Roman Empire over Lagos was replaced by the Visigoths and later by the Byzantines. The Moors from North Africa who arrived in the 8th century erected the Lagos Castle. One of the marks of Christianity is the oldest church in the area built in 1174 and dedicated to São João Baptista.

During the 15th Century Henry the Navigator, a Portuguese prince and the third son of King John found his home in Lagos. He established the famous school of Navigation in Sagres. The latter was considered at that time to be the end of the earth. The Great Henry is viewed to be one of the key figures in the development of European exploration and the intercontinental maritime trade. His father King John is also known of making the first step in opening the Muslim world to medieval Europe which has led to the Age of Discovery and worldwide sailing.

During the XVI century Lagos’ coast has been under regular attack of pirates and corsairs. A marking point of Lagos’ history is its elevated state as capital of Algarve between 1576 and 1755. This period ended when the old city was destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami in 1755.

Lagos was famous with its shipyard and important harbour. These provided the beginning of many great voyages into the new world. One of these has been Vasco de Gama’s sailing leading to the discovery of the trade routes to India via the Cape of Good Hope. This period is famous with Portugal control over a large part of the world, providing the country with the worldly riches from the explorations. One of the most significant evidence from this time is attributed to the world’s first slave market. At that time Lagos has been the centre of the European slave trade. This historical site is located in the heart of the city. Other famous marks might be considered as the old city walls, fortress and churches which have undergone successful restoration and presently reflect their original glory. The incredible cultural, religious, social and military inheritance derived from this background marks the present outlook of Lagos.

There is an old legend which claims that the lost city of Atlantis has been located at the very place of Lagos and as proof points to the old settlements in the waters off the coast of Lagos. However another explanation may be provided in the outcomes from the Great Earthquake of 1755.


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