Traveloid by Through Lisbon, Portugal

Venture forth with me and see what I see
as we explore the imaginary

Lisbon, possibly the oldest city in Europe, goes back in time through very interesting history when it comes to diversity of settlements and the identities they brought and formed, at first Iberian, Greek, Pre-Celtic,….later Roman, replaced by Suebi, Visigoths then Moors,…. all focused around the river of Tagus, the longest river on the Iberian peninsula. A story tells of Odysseus, the Greek mythological hero who after fleeing Troy arrived at Tagus and founded the city. Of course, this story starts and ends within the vast space of imagination. History preaches of many tribes and empires establishing themselves there and one of the most prominent more in the sense of trading than anything else, the Phoenicians called it Puerto Sereno, the “Serene Port”. Indeed that seems to be the prevailing atmosphere of this whole region, maybe facing the fears and Adamastor so early in the Age of Discovery made them realize that serenity is the most powerful of collective human attributes.

Perhaps never before nor since has a color achieved such status. Isn’t it fascinating that humans were marking the territory of dominance and superiority with something as immaterial as color, and it seemed incredibly important among Romans, Greeks and many others who escalated the status of this color and restricted it’s use and availability to royalty alone.

We often think critically of our society as being too excessive in spending and creating status symbols but to produce to produce a sufficient amount of Tyrian purple dye, even for only part of a garment it was necessary to collect 12,000 sea-snails. It is important to note that the intensity of color wouldn’t diminish with time but instead intensify, something even our current technology, or at least mass producing technologies would have difficulty in accomplishing. As it was an item of luxury more valuable than gold, great economy revolved around it and it ran through the veins of the old world not only in a practical sense but also in its imaginary life.


Lisbon, Portugal
Date Autumn 2017
Exploring History of Lisbon, Moors, Tagus, Phoenicians, Romans, Greeks, Mediterranean, celts, Jorge, Castle, Praca do Comercio
Connecting Age of Discovery, Royal color, purple, Adamastor, Hercules, Tyrus, Tyrian, Mondrian, Carlos Botelho, Van Gogh, Monumental, architecture

Greeks placed the story of Hercules and Tyrus to be the discovery of Tyrian Purple, namely, when his dog ate the shellfish and his mouth turned brilliant purple, nymth Tyrus whom he loved requested a robe of that same intense color, which he fulfilled as the Mediterranean sea was within easy command for him to collect such a great quantity of status-producing sea-snails.

As for the command of Portugal, even though history goes way beyond Homo Sapiens 400.000 years ago when it was populated by Homo Heidelbergensis, the more recent ancient history claims that Celts inhabited the region in the first millennium BC until the Romans came and were in turn supplanted and replaced by the first of many succeeding empires until the “Age of Discovery” which created sufficient power to propel Portugal into an era of colonial imperialism.

Lisbon, a center of water communication with the world turned into a center of gravity commencing with the 15th and 16th centuries of discoveries. Geography was at the time the most powerful of sciences, equivalent to today’s computer technology. Whole empires depended on the discoveries, brevity, vision and geographical knowledge of their explorers. The octopus head of Portugal spread her tentacles into Asia, South America, Africa and the Atlantic islands but for now we will focus on Lisbon and how it was perceived by two entities visiting from future.

Charlie and Earling went on to explore as they float through their quantum existence. In their weightless shells they are not only able to see what we see but also see the multidimensionality of all the alternative, parallel existences. They are also possibly in a position to understand the reason why those alternative options didn’t happen to our realm. In a way we live in a Goldilocks zone on many levels, a golden balance, a world of Mondrian where various forces rise and fall but only the one in the middle is the living one.

Charlie: Let’s start this Lisbon experience by seeing it through Carlos Botelho’s eyes, mind and canvases as the subject of his work so fervently focuses on Lisbon and Portugal in general. He is a prime example of artist that was breathing in and out the social and political changes, through the comic publications that he worked on for twenty years, amidst all the censorship and wars raging, he was still able to express the trends and ridiculousness of the everchanging and raging world around him.

Earling: It seems that Van Gogh left perhaps the greatest imprint on the artist’s painting, the strivings towards expressionism and abstractionism, but also the fact that he lived in central Lisbon, near Sao Jorge Castle was perhaps also a factor in the vitality of the buzzing world, full of people, almost merged with the architecture that he conveyed. The paintings are strangely devoid of people, but the buildings seem to have that aura of living, even the choice of color sometimes creates a reminiscence of human skin under various atmospheric lights.

Charlie: Botelho went through various stages but for me his sense of archetypal city is the most fascinating, it is akin to giving life to something previously inanimate and it begins a life of it’s own. That seems to be the universal truth of art and architecture and now I want to explore this very concept through some of the buildings we visited in central Lisbon, a city of seven hills.

Earling: One such example is Praca do Comercio (Commerce Square), once a location of the Royal Palace, a tsunami and earthquake of 1755 completely destroying what human hand/vision created to serve the Royal family and the powerful trade and administration required to run an empire of colonies.

Charlie: It is interesting how nature rebelled and rewrote the architectural expression of the whole square, the river Tagus that nurtured and provided the communication with the world decided to destroy. I could only imagine the interpretation that the local community that experienced such a power put on it at the time. All the metaphysical and mystical experiences linked to it.

Earling: This way or another, it must have been a humbling experience, a reminder that humans are just a tiny element in the greater scheme of things called nature, terra, sky. Statue of King Jose I was erected at the center of the square. A work by Joaquim Machado de Castro, one of the greatest classical Portuguese sculptors, also an analytical mind as he went into extensive details in describing the process of creating statue of D.Jose I. Created after Earthquake of 1775, it demonstrates the power of care and careful planning. Much later, in 1873, a triumphal arch Arco da Rua Augusta was built and designed by Verissimo da Costa. It is a monumental piece with statues that speak of glory, ingenuity and valor.

Earling: The sense of heaviness is an obvious sign of confidence and rebellion commemorating the earthquake that destroyed in 1755 and they wanted to bring closer to God the figures from the past such as Viriatus, Vasco da Gama, Marquis of Pombal almost like a security against a raging nature. There is a sense of Biblical offerings to the God in pieces such as this one.

Charlie: The monumental vision and scale of the architectural pieces doesn’t end there with the Arco da Rua Augusta. Stepping back chronologically, it was and is also in Lisbon Cathedral built in the 12th and 13th century. It survived many earthquakes, alterations and idealistic crusaders, being a Gothic royal pantheon, hosted brotherhoods, and acted as a Catholic charitable institution. This architectural piece is a relic and reminiscence of the times and space at the crossings of powerful Eastern and Western empires, mixing their styles and finding solace in it’s monumental scale heaviness.

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