Article by Francisco José Viegas, Secretary of State for Culture:
The Lusiads, by Luis de Camões, is the Portugal’s great epic poem and the best known Portuguese literary work of the Renaissance, first printed in 1572. Modeled after the classic Greek epic poems, The Lusiads is structured in 10 chants that celebrate Portugal’s History and the 16th century Portuguese voyages of discovery.
The central theme is the Vasco da Gama pioneer voyage to India via southern Africa, in 1497-98, whose narrative comprises episodes of the Portuguese history since the days of Lusitania, alongside the description of the voyage itself, its perils and troubles, and the fascinating encounter with Africa, India and the Far East. The poem’s plot is compounded with a mythological plan in which the Olympian Gods intervene throughout the story, discussing the fate of the voyage and taking stands for the success or failure of the enterprise.
Recognised as a literary masterpiece that was since early translated in a variety of languages, The Lusiads would come to symbolise a turning point for mankind’s understanding of the world, in which creativity is combined with a vision about the nature of power and precariousness of nations . Universally celebrated as the Portuguese national poem, The Lusiads have been influential to many renowned authors such as Fernando Pessoa, in his Message.