Oil Painting by Carlos Alberto Santos

One of the earliest tribal groups to have inhabited much of the territory which is now Portugal, were the Lusitanians. Lusitania was the name given by the Romans to a province of the Iberian Peninsula inhabited by the Lusitanian people. It included all of modern central Portugal and much of western Spain.

Little is know about the Lusitanians and most of what we do know comes from the writtings of ancient Roman historians. There is uncertainty as to their ethnic origins. Some historians claim that they come from the Alps and others that they were indigenous to Iberia and dominated by the Celts until they gained independence from them.

The Lusitanians were fierce and able warriors. Despite defeats in battle they resisted Roman domination. Indeed after the famous Viriatus (Viriato) became the leader of the Lusitanian people, Roman rule in the region and beyond was severely damaged. Tragically, Viriatus was betrayed by his companions Audax, Ditalcus and Minurus. They were bribed and promised a handsome reward if they would kill Viriatus, which they did while he slept. However, when they went to claim their reward, the Roman Consul Servilius Cipianus ordered their execution, declaring, "Rome does not pay traitors".

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