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Luís de Camões and The Lusiads

Luís de Camões (c.1524–1580) is considered Portugal’s greatest poet. His mastery of verse has been compared to that of Shakespeare, Homer, Virgil and Dante.

He wrote a considerable amount of lyrical poetry and drama but is best remembered for his epic work Os Lusíadas.
His collection of poetry was lost in his lifetime, but the influence of his masterpiece is so deep that Portuguese is sometimes called the language of Camões.

Many details concerning his life remain unknown, but Camões is thought to have been born around 1524. He lived a semi-privileged life and was educated by Dominicans and Jesuits.

He was a romantic and an idealist. He enlisted in the overseas militia, and travelled to Ceuta in the fall of 1549. During a battle with the Moors, he lost the sight in his right eye.

He eventually returned to Lisbon in 1551, a changed man, living a bohemian lifestyle.

At the end of his military service, Camões was given the position of chief warrant officer in Macau. There he was charged with managing the properties of missing and deceased soldiers in the Orient. During this time he worked on his epic poem, The Lusiads.

The Lusiads

The Lusiads focuses mainly on a fantastical interpretation of the Portuguese voyages of discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries.

It is often regarded as Portugal’s national epic, much in the way as Virgil’s Aeneid was for the Ancient Romans, or Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey for the Ancient Greeks. It was first printed in 1572, three years after the author returned from the Indies.

The heroes  The heroes of the poem are the Lusiads, in other words, the Portuguese.

The initial strophes of Jupiter’s speech in the Council of the Olympian Gods open the narrative part.

In these strophes, Camões speaks of Viriatus and Quintus Sertorius, who were predestined by the Fates to accomplish great deeds.

Jupiter says that our history proves it because this tiny nation has gone on to discover new worlds.

At the end of the poem, on the Island of Love, the fictional finale to the glorious tour of Portuguese history, Camões writes that the Portuguese will become gods.

Camões dedicated his masterpiece to King Sebastian of Portugal.

Sources: Luís de Camões [online]. Wikipedia. [2017-03-23]. Retrieved from

RUY, José ‒ Os Lusíadas. Editorial Notícias.


Escola Básica e Secundária de Muralhas do Minho, Valença