Map of the City of Lisbon, 1598.
The 16th century was the Golden era in Lisbon’s history. It was a starting point for many voyages of discovery and trade including those of Vasco de Gamma and Bartolomeu Dias. Their voyages and many that followed established many colonies and trading posts overseas. Circumnavigation of Africa opened up cheaper and faster transport of exotic goods from the Far East to Europe. Thus, Lisbon as a gateway to the newly discovered routes gained exclusive access to sources of products from the Indian subcontinent (spices, diamonds) and also from Africa (cotton fabrics, spices), Brazil (sugar), the Moluccas (spices) and China (porcelain, silk). The goods were further traded to the rest of Europe. This amount of trade made Lisbon one of the biggest, richest and most important cities in Europe and at that time, around 150 000 people lived in the city in late 16th century.
This era in Portuguese history is well documented in “Portuguese voyages 1498–1663 – tales from the Age of Discovery” by C.D. Ley (Editor).