Famous Portuguese

A selection of famous Portuguese. The first ten were nominated by the Portuguese public during the Portuguese public broadcasting station RTP show which invited the public to vote for The Greatest Portuguese in history.

Antonio_Salazar 1. António de Oliveira Salazar (1889 – 1970) – Salazar was the Prime Minister of Portugal from 1932-1968 during a period of authoritarian rule. He was opposed to democracy and socialism and supported Franco during the Spanish civil war. He kept Portugal neutral during WWII and offered some help to Allied shipping. His authoritarian state collapsed a few years after his death and led to Portugal becoming a democracy.

Alvaro_Cunhal 2. Álvaro Cunhal (1913 –  2005) – Leader of the Portuguese Communist Party from 1961 to 1992. He was the main opposition figure during Salazar’s government and was very supportive of the Soviet Union.

aristides-mendes 3. Aristides de Sousa Mendes (1885 – 1954) Mendes was a Portuguese diplomat serving in the French city of Bordeaux, who during World War Two defied the orders of Salazar’s government to continue issuing exit visa for Jewish and other refugees fleeing Nazi Europe.

afonso 4. Afonso I – (c. 1111 – 1185) The first Portuguese king who created an independent nation from the Kingdom of Galicia. He also defeated the Moors, increasing the size of the new kingdom of Portugal.

luis-de-camoes 5. Luís Vaz de Camões – Poet (4.0%) Considered Portugal’s greatest poet. He wrote a considerable amount of lyrical poetry and drama. His best known work is the epic The Lusiads. Camoes had a profound influence on the Portuguese language and culture.

John_II_of_Portugal 6. John II (1455–1495), King of Portugal and of the Algarves. Under John II, Portugal became established as a major European power. In particular, he promoted a policy of expansion and colonialism sponsoring expeditions to Africa to try and open routes up to India. He also transformed the economy and state.

Henry_the_Navigator1 7. Henry the Navigator – (1394 – 1460) A Portuguese prince, Henry was an influential person in the Age of Discovery. He encouraged a new policy of outward expansion and voyages of discovery. He wished to explore new lands by sea and claim them for a Portuguese Empire. It encouraged other European nations to follow suit.

Pessoa_fernando 8. Fernando Pessoa – Poet  1888 – 1935) A prolific and highly influential 20th Century writer. Pessoa wrote numerous books and articles, often assuming and writing from the perspective of an imaginary heteronym. Pessoa was sceptical of democracy and socialism but became a critic of fascism and the Salazar government for their censorship.

SebastiãoJoseph 9. 1st Marquis of Pombal (1699 – 8 May 1782) – Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, was the 1st Marquis of Pombal. He was the most powerful an effective minister in the government of Joseph I of Portugal from 1750 to 1777. After the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755, he initiated significant reforms which threw off the shackles of the inquisition and opened the country to modern business and some Enlightenment style reforms to education and religion.

Vasco_da_Gama 10. Vasco de Gama (1469 – 1524) Vasco de Gama was a Portuguese explorer who was the first European to reach India by sea. De Gama made a direct voyage to India – travelling around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa – arriving in Calicut in 1498.

Cristiano Ronaldo cristiano-ronaldo (1985 – ) Portuguese footballer born in Madeira, he has played for Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus. One of the greatest players of all time, he has been awarded the Ballon d’Or five times.

Amalia_Rodrigues Amalia Rodrigues (1920 –   1999) Portugueuse singer who popularised the fado genre of music and become its most noted exponent. She was a leading female fadista during her 50-year recording and stage career.


Ferdinand Magellan (1480 – 1521) Portuguese sailor and adventurer who led the first expedition to make a successful circumnavigation of the globe. Magellan also made the first crossing from the Atlantic into the Pacific and also the first successful crossing of the Pacific Ocean. He died before the expedition reached Europe.

Jose_Mourinho Jose Mourinho (1963 – ) (Portugal, football) Football manager who has achieved success with clubs in Portugal (Porto), Italy (Inter Milan), Spain (Real Madrid) and England (Chelsea).


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