The military history of Portugal is as long as the history of the country, from before the emergence of the independent Portuguese state.

Before Portugal

Before the emergence of Portugal, between the 9th and the 12th centuries, its territory was part of important military conflicts – these were mainly the result of three processes.

Roman expansion

Roman conquest of Hispania (218 BC to 17 BC)

Germanic expansion

Hispania in 560

The invasions during the Migration Period and the Decline of the Roman Empire, in the beginning of the 5th century, and the subsequent conflicts between conquerors (until the 8th century), namely:

Islamic expansion and Christian standoff

Portuguese Reconquista (868–1249)

Main articles: Al-Andalus, Reconquista, Portugal in the Reconquista, and Portugal in the Middle Ages

County of Portugal and Kingdom of Portugal and Galicia

The county of Portugal slowly grew in power and its counts started to style themselves as dukes, one of which became regent of the Kingdom of León between 999 and 1008. In 1070, the Portuguese count Nuno Mendes wished the Portuguese title and the Battle of Pedroso was fought on February 18, 1071, the count was killed in combat led by Garcia II of Galicia. The later annexed the county and started to styled himself as "King of Portugal and Galicia" (Garcia Rex Portugallie et Galleciae). Garcia's brothers Sancho II of Castille and Alfonso VI of Leon united and annexed Garcia's Kingdom during that same year who agreed to split it among themselves, however the king of Castille was killed by a noble in that same year and Alfonso took Castille for himself and Garcia recovered his kingdom of Portugal and Galicia, but in 1073 the Alfonso VI gathered all power and started to style himself as Imperator totius Hispaniæ (Emperor of All Hispania) since 1077. When the Emperor died, the Crown was left for his daughter Urraca, while Teresa inherited the County of Portugal.

County of Portugal

Main article: County of Portugal

Kingdom of Portugal

Main article: History of Portugal (1139–1279)

Military history in modern-day Portugal at the Reconquista time outside the Kingdom of Portugal

After the Reconquista – conflicts with Castile

Main article: History of Portugal (1279–1415)

1383–85 Crisis

Main article: 1383–85 Crisis

Anglo-Portuguese Alliance

Main article: Anglo-Portuguese Alliance

Imperial expansion

Main article: Portuguese Empire

An anachronous map of the Portuguese Empire (1415–1999). Red – actual possessions; Pink – explorations, areas of influence and trade and claims of sovereignty; Blue – main sea explorations, routes and areas of influence. The disputed discovery of Australia is not shown.

Conflicts with Spain

Main article: Spanish–Portuguese War

Other European conflicts

The Napoleonic Wars

War of the Oranges (1801)

Main article: War of the Oranges

Instability prior to the French invasions

Riots of Campo de Ourique and conspiracy of the Marquis of Alorna (1803)

On 24 and 25 July 1803, in Campo de Ourique, Lisbon, a regiment of infantry commanded by liberal army man Gomes Freire de Andrade and the Legion of Light Troops commanded by the also liberal-leaning Marquis of Alorna mutinied against the state authorities, entering in confrontation with the then recently created Royal Guard of the Police. The end of the mutinies, of forcing political liberalism on Portuguese government, did not succeed.[2]

Conspiracy of Mafra (1805)

In 1805, then Princess regent (soon afterwards Queen) Carlota Joaquina promoted a conspiracy in Mafra with the objective of removing her husband Prince João from regency by claiming him to be mentally incapable, assuming regency on her own in his place, being aided in the attempted coup by the Count of Sabugal, the Marquis of Ponte de Lima, the Count of Sarzedas, the Marquis of Alorna and Francisco de Melo. The attempted conspiracy did not succeed, but it did increase the tension between the couple to the point of a divorce or separation being considered, which was never advanced due to the damage that it would bring to the Portuguese state, and the couple still had two children after the attempted conspiracy of Carlota (Maria da Assunção, born in 1805, and Ana de Jesus Maria, born in 1806), although there are suspicions about the possibility of the four children of the couple born after 1801, including the 1802-born Miguel, were not children of João but of one or several of the lovers of Carlota Joaquina).[3]

Riots of Saint Torcato (1805)

The riots of Saint Torcato was a popular uprising in the Portuguese country side with a strong mixture of religious influence and zealotry.[4]

Peninsular War (1807–14)

Main article: Peninsular War

First invasion

During the Napoleonic Wars, Portugal was, for a time, Britain's only ally on the continent. Throughout the war, Portugal maintained a military of about 200–250 thousand troops worldwide. In 1807, after the Portuguese government's refusal to participate in the Continental System, French troops under General Junot invaded Portugal, taking Lisbon. However, a popular revolt against Junot's government broke out in the summer of 1808 and Portuguese irregulars took up arms against the French. This enabled a British army under Arthur Wellesley to be landed in Portugal where, aided by Portuguese troops, they defeated Junot at the Battle of Vimeiro; this first French invasion was ended by the Convention of Sintra negotiated by his superiors, which allowed Junot's men to withdraw unmolested with their plunder. Meanwhile, the general revolt against the French in Spain led to the landing of Sir John Moore in the north of that country, forcing Napoleon himself to lead an army into the Peninsula. Though Moore was killed, the British managed to extricate themselves from the Peninsula in the Battle of La Coruña. Portugal itself, however, remained independent of the French, and Napoleon left things in the Iberian Peninsula in the hands of Marshal Soult.

Second and third invasions

Soult proceeded to invade Portugal in the north. However, the Portuguese held on, giving the British the impetus to send Wellesley back with additional regiments of troops to help recover the Iberian peninsula. Wellesley, aided by the remaining Portuguese regiments hastily scraped together, liberated Portugal. A third invasion took place, led by Marshal André Masséna. The Anglo-Portuguese Army managed to halt the French advance at the fortifications of Torres Vedras and successfully defeat Masséna's troops, and slowly recovered the Iberian peninsula. Wellesley was made Duke of Wellington in recognition of his services. The Portuguese army was put under the command of Marshal Beresford and was most heavily engaged under his leadership in the bloody Battle of Albuera. Portuguese forces also formed part of Wellington's advance into southern France, in 1813–14.

Persecutions of the Setembrizada (1810)

The Setembrizada was the arrest and deportation of a group of personalities connected to the Portuguese Freemasonry, Jacobinist currents and following of the ideals of the French Revolution who had collaborated with the French occupation during the First Invasion, with the first detentions occurring between 10 and 13 September 1810 (hence the name setembrizada), after the entry of the Second Invasion led by general Jean-de-Dieu Soult. By 1814, King João VI gave an amnesty to all the former collaborationists.

British de facto occupation

Conspiracy of Gomes Freire (1817)

Civil Wars (1820–51)

Liberal Revolution (1820)

Martinhada (1820)

On 11 November 1820 (day of St. Martin, hence the name of the revolt, also known in slang as "o imbróglio", "the plot" or "a pavorosa", "the dreadful one"), a group of military leaders known as exaltados (exalted ones), who challenged the civilian rule in which the 1820 liberal Provisional Junta of Supreme Government of the Kingdom was falling and also what they considered to be the moderate proposals of a constitutional being drawn under influence of the liberal orator Manuel Fernandes Tomás, defending instead the immediate adoption of the Cádiz Constitution or even a more advanced liberal one. These groups rose up in a paradoxical wide informal coalition with conservative military and politicians and radical bourgeois people. It had a brief success, but by 17 November of the same year a counter-coup restores Manuel Fernandes to leadership of the Junta, forcing some Martinhada leaders, like Gaspar Teixeira de Magalhães e Lacerda, António da Silveira Pinto da Fonseca and Bernardo de Sá Nogueira, forced to exile, and only the sections of the Constitution relating to electoral instructions are adopted, at 22 November 1820, with the first elections after the 1820 Revolution (the elections for the General Extraordinary and Constituting Courts, that is, the Constitution writing constituting assembly) occurring under those instructions between 10 and 27 December 1820.

Riots of 1821

Conspiracy of Major Pimenta (1821)

Conspiracy of Formosa street (1822)

Riots of the 24th and 10th Infantry Regiments (1822)

Riots in Castelo Branco and S. Miguel d'Acha (1822)

Saldanha's coup d'état (1822)

Rebellion of the Count of Amarante (1823)

The Vilafrancada (1823)

The Vilafrancada was the first of two uprisings of Prince D. Miguel's uprisings supported by several other people of traditionalist and absolutist leanings, against the liberalism adopted by his father D. João VI in the later phase of his rule.

Conspiracy of Elvas (1823)

The Abrilada (1824)

On 30 April 1824, Prince D. Miguel rose again against his father. The King took refuge aboard the British ship Windsor Castle, with the aid of the Portuguese diplomatic corp, while grandes of the kingdom like the Duke of Palmela were arrested in Belém, being then moved to imprisonment in Peniche, with the then intendent-general of police Baron of Rendufe being persecuted by the Miguelist rise-up, which then turned its attentions to the Count of Vila Flor (later more famous for his future title of Duke of Terceira) and the Count of Paraty. The reactionary philosopher José Agostinho de Macedo was one of the leaders of the rallying up of support among the masses for the movement, denouncing the prisoners the movement made at political rallies. On 13 May, D. Miguel was finally forced to leave for exile on board the frigate Pérola towards France, while on the following day D. João returned to Bemposta, and impeached the brutal pro-Miguelist Minister of Justice José António de Oliveira Leite de Barros, replacing him by Friar Patrício da Silva, and the Duke of Palmela was promoted to Minister of the Kingdom.[5]

Disturbances of 1826–27

The Liberal Wars (1828–34)

Main article: Liberal Wars

After the Napoleonic War, the British ruled Portugal in the name of the absent king in Brazil, with Beresford as de facto Regent, until the Liberal Revolution of 1820 when they were driven out and the king was forced to return as a constitutional monarch. Over the next 25 years the fledgling Portuguese democracy experienced several military upheavals, especially the Liberal Wars fought between the brothers Dom Pedro, ex-Emperor of Brazil and the absolutist usurper Dom Miguel. To assert the cause of the rightful Queen, his daughter Maria da Glória, Pedro sailed from Terceira in the Azores with an expeditionary force consisting of 60 vessels, 7500 men including the Count of Vila Flor, Alexandre Herculano, Almeida Garrett, Joaquim António de Aguiar, José Travassos Valdez and a volunteer British contingent under the command of Colonels George Lloyd Hodges and Charles Shaw and effected a Landing at Mindelo on the shores north of Porto. On 9 July Porto was taken by the liberal forces, and after an inconclusive result at the Battle of Ponte Ferreira on 22–23 July were besieged in the city by the Miguelites for nearly a year until, in July 1833, the Duke of Terceira (as Vila Flor had now been created) was able to land in the Algarve and defeat Miguel's forces at the Battle of Almada. Meanwhile, Miguel's fleet was comprehensively defeated by Pedro's much smaller squadron, commanded by Charles Napier, in the fourth Battle of Cape St. Vincent. The Miguelites were driven out of Lisbon but returned and attacked the city in force, unsuccessfully. Miguel was finally defeated at the Battle of Asseiceira, 16 May 1834, and capitulated a few days later with the Concession of Evoramonte. He was exiled, though his supporters continued to plot for his return and cause trouble up to the 1850s.

Coup attempt of 1835

Guerrilla of the Remexido (1835–38)

Other guerrillas

In the period of instability after the end of the Portuguese Civil War, several guerrillas happened between pro-governmental and anti-governmental local groups and between local groups and government forces, both by forces of the defeated Miguelites who kept the guerrillas and between different factions of Portuguese liberals. Among these were included:

September Revolution (1836)

Main article: September Revolution

Belenzada (1836)

Main article: Belenzada

Conspiracy of the Marnotas (1837)

Revolt of the Marshals (1837)

Main article: Revolt of the Marshals

Massacre of Rossio and Riots of the Arsenal (1838)

Main article: Rossio massacre

Riots of Lisbon (1840)

Military revolt of Castelo Branco (1840)

Coup of 1842

Revolt of the 26th Hunters Battalion (1842)

Military revolt of Torres Novas (1844)

Revolution of Maria da Fonte (1846)

Main article: Revolution of Maria da Fonte

Emboscada (1846)

Main article: Emboscada (historical event)

Patuleia (1846–47)

Main article: Patuleia

Revolt of Pinotes (1846)

The Revolt of Pinotes was the uprising at Viana do Castelo within the bigger Patuleia revolution.[10]

Montaria (1847)

A failed badly planned attempt of revolt against the government in the afternoon of 29 April 1847, which ended with the imprisonment of several of the involved members.

Conspiracy of the Hidras (1848)

A conspiratorial movement in Lisbon and Coimbra in August 1848, inspired by the popular and students' uprising of Paris from 22 to 24 February 1848 (which led to the fall of King Louis Philippe I and the proclamation of the Second Republic). It was controlled by the government of the Duke of Saldanha (with detaining of some of the heads of the conspiracy, the remaining ones falling in clandestinity), with the name by which the conspiracy became known deriving from the term used by Saldanha to define the organization ("revolutionary hydra")[11]

Coup of the Regeneração (1851)

Colonization of Africa

Further information: Scramble for Africa

In the 19th century, Portugal became involved in the scramble for Africa, enlarging its territories in Portuguese Angola, Portuguese Mozambique, Portuguese Cabinda, and Portuguese Guinea.

British Ultimatum (1890)

Main articles: 1890 British Ultimatum and Pink Map

Coup attempts during the last stages of the monarchy

Republican insurrection of 1881

Regicide of 1908

First Republic (1910–26)

After the revolution that would establish the First Portuguese Republic, the Republic would suffer many coup attempts, see Portugal enter World War I and end 16 years later with the 28 May 1926 coup d'état.

Revolution of 1910

Main article: 5 October 1910 revolution

Military instability before World War I

Main article: Royalist attack on Chaves

Main article: May 14 Revolt

World War I (1916–18)

Main article: Portugal during World War I

German incursions in Mozambique

A raid by Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck's remaining troops evaded British troops and managed to penetrate relatively far into Portuguese Mozambique, seizing arms, capturing troops, and sparking unrest among the population (African and European).


Portugal sent an Expeditionary Corps of two reinforced divisions (40,000 men) to France and Belgium, which fought alongside the British XI Corps. German offensives in the British sector hit the Portuguese hard, with one division destroyed in the Battle of La Lys, April 9, 1918, as it became known in Portugal, or Operation Georgette or the Battle of Estaires to the British. In the Treaty of Versailles, the Portuguese acquired the territory of Kionga from what was once German East Africa.

Military instability and coups during and after World War I

Main article: December 1917 coup d'état

Main article: Monarchy of the North

Main article: Bloody Night (Lisbon, 1921)

Estado Novo (1926–74)

Main article: Estado Novo (Portugal)

28 May 1926 coup d'état

Main article: 28 May 1926 coup d'état

Military dictatorship (1926–33)

Main article: Ditadura Nacional

Involvement in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39)

Main article: Spanish Civil War

Salazar gave material and diplomatic aid to Francisco Franco's nationalist forces while maintaining a formal neutrality. A special volunteer force of 18,000, called Os Viriatos (in honour of Lusitanian leader and Portuguese national hero Viriatus), led by regular army officers, was recruited to fight as part of Franco's army, even if unofficially. When the civil war ended in 1939, Portugal and Spain negotiated the Treaty of Friendship and Nonaggression (Iberian Pact). The pact committed the two countries to defend the Iberian Peninsula against any power that attacked either country and helped to ensure Iberian neutrality during World War II.

World War II (1939–45)

Although Portugal proclaimed neutrality in the conflict, the Japanese Imperial Army invaded the Portuguese Timor colony in distant Oceania, killing thousands of natives and dozens of Portuguese. In response, the Portuguese civilians joined Australia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States against the Japanese. See Battle of Timor.


Main article: NATO

Parachuters (1956)

Portuguese–Indian War (1961)

Main article: Portuguese–Indian War

The Portuguese–Indian War was a conflict with the Republic of India's armed forces that ended Portuguese rule in its Indian enclaves in 1961. The armed action involved defensive action against air, sea and land strikes by a numerically superior Indian force for over 36 hours, and terminated in Portuguese surrender, ending 451 years of Portuguese rule in Goa. Thirty-one Portuguese and thirty-five Indians were killed in the fighting.

Portuguese Colonial War (1961–74)

Main articles: Portuguese Colonial War, Angolan War of Independence, Guinea-Bissau War of Independence, Mozambican War of Independence, and Portuguese irregular forces in the Overseas War

Portugal remained steadfastly neutral in World War II, but became involved in counterinsurgency campaigns against scattered guerrilla movements in Portuguese Angola, Portuguese Mozambique, and Portuguese Guinea. Except in Portuguese Guinea, where the revolutionary PAIGC quickly conquered most of the country, Portugal was able to easily contain anti-government forces through the imaginative use of light infantry, home defense militia, and air-mobile special operations forces, despite arms embargoes from other European countries. During the counterinsurgency campaigns in Angola and Mozambique, Portugal was significantly aided by intelligence provided by native residents who did not support revolutionary forces. However, the ideology of the guerrillas, especially the PAIGC, had a profound impact on the officers of the Portuguese armed forces and a left-wing military coup in Lisbon by Portuguese military officers in 1974 toppled the Caetano government and forced a radical change in government attitudes. Faced with international condemnation of its colonial policies and the increasing cost of administering its colonies, Portugal quickly moved to grant the remainder of its African colonies independence.

Commandos (1961)

Military coup attempts

Carnation Revolution (1974)

Main articles: Carnation Revolution, Timeline of the Carnation Revolution, and Armed Forces Movement

The "hot" years of the revolution (1974–75)

International involvement (1991 to present)

Portugal was a founding member of NATO, and, although it had scarce forces, it played a key role in the European approaches. After 1991, Portugal committed several infantry and air-landing battalions to international operations. The Portuguese Army keeps soldiers in Iraq, Jordan, Mali, Central African Republic, Somalia, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe, Kosovo and Baltic states.

Since 1991, Portuguese Armed Forces have participated in the following missions;

 NATO missions:

 United Nations missions:

 European Union missions:

See also


This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Military history of Portugal" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (October 2007) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
  1. ^ Fontes, Luís. "O Norte de Portugal ente os séculos VIII e X: balanço e perspectivas de investigação" (in Portuguese). Archaeology Unit of the Minho University. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  2. ^ CRONOLOGIA DO LIBERALISMO - DE 1777 A 1926 - O governo de D. João, Príncipe Regente, até à ida para o Brasil, de 1799 a 1807, O Portal da História
  3. ^ D. João VI: perfil do rei nos trópicos Archived 22 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Marieta Pinheiro de Carvalho, Rede da Memória Virtual Brasileira
  4. ^ S. Torcato, 1805: o povo, a religião e o poder. (Análise de um motim de província), A. Santos Silva, Estudos contemporâneos, nº 0 (1979), 15-82
  5. ^ Revolta da Abrilada (1824), José Adelino Maltez, Respublica, 3 May 2007
  6. ^ Concelho de Mangualde, antigo concelho de Azurra da Beira: subsídios para a história de Portugal, Valentim da Silva, Mangualde City Hall, 1945
  7. ^ História, Município de Marvão
  8. ^ ARQUIFOLHA - JORNAL TRIMESTRAL COM NOTÍCIAS DO PASSADO Archived 7 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Santiago do Cacém City Hall
  9. ^ Boletim do Arquivo Histórico Militar, Volume 63, Arquivo Histórico Militar de Portugal, 1999, p. 18
  10. ^ FEIJÓ, RUI (1983), «A revolta dos pinotes. Mobilização rural e urbana em Viana no tempo da Patuleia», in Ler História, 2, pp. 61-82
  11. ^ [A conspiração das Hidras], blog Onofrinhos de Caldas da Rainha, 21 February 2010