Ancient Gods in ancient Lisbon

Like any other old European city, Lisbon has had its share of occupying cultures: native Iberians, Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Arabs, and the crusaders who assisted the first Portuguese king in the siege of 1147. The beginning of every new occupation caused migrations in both ways, with new settlers arriving and older residents leaving; some remained, only to be assimilated or eventually kicked out. And with new lords and inhabitants often came new gods, not all of which have left traces in modern-day Lisbon. Especially when it comes to the oldest occupants, remains of religious practices are scarce, if any, hidden behind the layers of invasions and the city’s changes, the most dramatic of which was its destruction in the Great Earthquake of 1755. Still, there’s enough information to at least know some of the gods honoured in the ancient settlement and the likely location of some of Their places of worship.

Two goals presided over the writing of this post. The first is the sharing of historical information on pre-Christian Lisbon, since the available data often fails to leave the limited world of Portuguese publications. Secondly, as an offshoot of the first goal, it provides a practical guide for curious tourists in general and polytheists in particular who happen to visit Lisbon and wish to go through the city’s pre-Christian past; this is something that is often excluded or downplayed in the more commonly available booklets, which focus on the highly visible Christian monuments and in historical periods from the Middle Ages onwards. In order to avoid a very long post – which discourages reading – I’ve divided the data in yet another series. It will have reference notes, maps, photos, a final bibliography, some tips on urban transports, and links to websites of museums where you can see archaeological remains or collections of ancient artefacts.

1. The Tagus and the hills
2. A Phoenician settlement?
3. Natives Gods, romanized or not
4. Minerva and Jupiter on high ground
5. Magna Mater by the Forum
6. The baths and Aesculapius
7. Diana of Olisipo
8. A statue of Apollo
9. Thetis next to the beach?
10. Mercury along the way
11. A place for Concordia
12. A fulfilled vow to Liber Pater
13. The necropolis
14. Around ancient and modern Lisbon
15. Sites, caveats, and books

Note: Please keep in mind that, until the series is finished, the list above is temporary. I’ll be publishing a post every week and do my research along the way, so as I go through libraries and museum collections, I may need to change the topics and order of the posts or even add new ones. Be on the lookout for that.

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