Portuguese Sea Pioneers

Among those most encouraged were the seamen of Portugal, who had an assignment from geography for their role in history. On the westernmost edge of the Iberian peninsula, the nation attained its modern borders very early, in the mid-thirteenth century. Portugal had no window on the Mediterranean – the “Sea-in-the-Midst-of-the-Land” – but was blessed by long navigable rivers and deep harbors opening oceanward. Cities grew up on the shores of waters that flowed into the Atlantic. The Portuguese people, then, naturally faced outward, away from the classic centers of European civilization, westward toward the unfathomed ocean, and southward toward a continent that for Europeans was also unfathomed.

“The Portuguese Discoverers”, from “The Discoverers”, Daniel J. Boorstin, The National Board for the Celebration of Portuguese Discoveries, Lisbon, 1987