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Tavira: History

The known origin of Tavira dates back to Late Bronze Age (1.000-800 BC). In the 8th century BC Tavira becomes one of the first Phoenician settlements in the Iberian West.
MORE Info on historic tavira


The known origin of Tavira dates back to Late Bronze Age (1.000-800 BC). In the 8th century BC becomes one of the first Phoenician settlements in the Iberian West. The Phoenicians create here a colonial urban center with massive walls, at least two temples, two harbours and a regular urban structure. Phoenician Tavira exists until the end of 6th Century BC, when is destroyed by violence.

It is thought its original name was Baal Saphon, a Phoenician Thunder and Sea god. This name will become later Balsa.

Tartessian Period

After a century of abandon, the settlement regrows bigger than ever, during the urban bloom that characterized the so called Tartessian Period. This second urban center, Tartessian Tavira, is also abandoned by the end of the 4th Century BC.

The main center moves then to nearby Cerro do Cavaco, a fortified hill occupied until the time of emperor August.


In the time of Cesar, the Romans create a new portuary town, some 7 km from Tavira, named Balsa. Balsa becomes a big town, in fact much bigger than Tavira, that grows, survives and decays, accompanying the destiny of the Roman Empire. When the Arabs conquer Iberia, in the 8th Century, Balsa is already extinct as a town.

During Roman rule, Tavira is a secondary passing place of the important road between Balsa and Baesuris (today Castro Marim). A recent archaeological survey showed that the so called "roman bridge" is not Roman but descends instead of a XIIth Century Moorish bridge.


Like the hole Algarve, Tavira becomes part of the Califat of Córdoba in 711. All the area stays rural until the 11th Century when Moorish Tavira (from the arab Tabira, "the hidden") starts to grows at a quick pace, becoming one of the important (and independent) towns of Algarve, then the South-Western extreme of Gharb al-Andalus (the West of Islamic Iberian territories.

Christian conquest

Dom Paio Peres Correia took it from the Moors in anger in 1242 after seven of his principal Knights were killed during a period of truce. Major parts of the town were destroyed, and the mosque replaced by the Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo.In 1415 the Portuguese start conquering Ceuta from here.

17th. Century - today

In the 17th Century the port in its river was of considerable importance, shipping produce such as salt, dried fish and wine. Like most of the Algarve its buildings were all virtually destroyed by the earthquake of 1755.

The town has since been rebuilt with many fine 18th Century buildings along with its 37 churches. A Roman bridge links the two parts of the town across the River Gilão. The church of Santa Maria do Castelo is built on the site of a Moorish Mosque and in it are the tombs of Dom Paio Peres Correia and his seven Knights. Its original economic reliance on the fishing industry has now been surpassed due to the change in the migration patterns of the tuna fish. The population is in the region of 20,000 inhabitants supporting a military base whilst the surrounding area is still very rural and undeveloped. This is now changing due to the demands of the tourist industry and opening of golf courses in the near vicinity. The beach for this town lies past the salt pans and is reached by a ferryboat that takes the visitor to the sandy-bar island known as Ilha de Tavira.


Copy dated: 17.12.2005

This article is based on an article Tavira from the open encyclopedia Wikipedia under the GNU license for free documentation
A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.

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