What is the History of Lagos?
Lagos, a historic town in the Algarve region of Portugal, boasts a rich and varied history stretching back centuries. Its story intertwines with the maritime exploration, trade, and cultural exchange that defined Portugal's Golden Age of Discovery.
Lagos' origins go back to ancient times when it was known as Lacobriga, and its inhabitants were Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Romans. However, it indeed rose to prominence during the medieval period. In the 13th century, King Afonso III granted Lagos its town charter, making it a hub for maritime activities. The town's strategic coastal location facilitated trade and communication with other Mediterranean civilizations.
Lagos was pivotal during the Age of Exploration in the 15th century. From Lagos, Henry the Navigator launched several voyages to chart new maritime routes and discover unexplored lands. In 1415, the Portuguese set sail from Lagos on their expedition to conquer Ceuta in North Africa, marking the beginning of Portugal's overseas empire.
One of Lagos' most significant historical events occurred in 1444, when the town was the starting point for the first slave expedition to the African continent. Although this expedition had a lasting impact on the transatlantic slave trade, Lagos' history is a testament to the complexity of its past, encompassing both exploration and exploitation.
During the 16th century, Lagos continued to thrive as a trade centre, with its harbour bustling with ships engaged in commerce and exploration. However, the town faced challenges as it became a target for attacks by pirates and rival European powers.
The 1755 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Lisbon also profoundly impacted Lagos. The town suffered significant damage and severely affected its once-prosperous maritime activities. As the Age of Exploration waned and Portugal's focus shifted, Lagos gradually lost its central role in naval affairs.
Today, we celebrate Lagos for its historical significance, charming architecture, and beautiful coastline. The town's old quarter retains much of its medieval character, featuring narrow streets, traditional houses, and remnants of its past as a maritime power. You can explore landmarks such as the Forte da Ponta da Bandeira, built to defend the harbour, and the Church of St. Anthony, which dates back to the 18th century.
Lagos embodies Portugal's maritime legacy, encompassing the glory of exploration, empire-building, and the darker moments of history. The town serves as a powerful reminder of historical narratives' intricate and multifaceted nature.