Long-term planning was possible only because the Portuguese had undertaken a collaborative national adventure. Earlier national epics of European people sang the courage and the exploits of some particular hero, a Ulysses or an Aeneas or a Beowulf. The Portuguese epic of seafaring could not sing as Virgil did “Of Arms and the Man.” Now the hero had become plural. “This is the story”, Camoens begins his Lusiads (appropriately named after the sons of Lusus, companion of Bacchus and mythical first settler of Portugal), “of heroes who, leaving their native Portugal behind them, opened a way to Ceylon, and further, across seas no man had ever sailed before.” The dimensions of life had broadened and become more public and more popular. While ancient lays celebrated a god-hero, modern lays would celebrate heroic peoples.

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