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Lusitania (Portuguese: Lusitânia) was an ancient Roman province including approximately all of modern Portugal south of the Douro river and part of modern Spain (the present autonomous community of Extremadura and a small part of the province of Salamanca). It was named after the Lusitani or Lusitanian people (an Indo-European people). Its capital was Emerita Augusta (currently Mérida, Spain), and it was initially part of the Roman Republic province of Hispania Ulterior, before becoming a province of its own in the Roman Empire.


Pre-Roman Lusitania

Strabo's Geography mentions the ancient people called Lusitani in lands north of the river Douro, the land that in his own time was known as Gallaecia.[1]

Origin of the name

The etymology of Lusitania, like the origin of the Lusitani who gave the province their name, is unclear. The name may be of Celtic origin: Lus and Tanus, "tribe of Lusus", connecting the name with the personal Celtic name Luso and with the god Lugh.[2]

Early modern scholars derived the name from Lucis, an ancient people mentioned in Avienus' Ora Maritima and Tan, from Celtic Tan (Stan), or Tain, meaning a region or implying a country of waters, a root word that formerly meant a prince or sovereign governor of a region. [3][4][5] The name has been connected with the personal Celtic name Luso and with the god Lugh.[6]

Ancient Romans, such as Pliny the Elder (Natural History, 3.5) and Varro (cited by Pliny), speculated that the name Lusitania was of Roman origin, as when Pliny says lusum enim liberi patris aut lyssam cum eo bacchantium nomen dedisse lusitaniae et pana praefectum eius universae: that Lusitania takes its name from the lusus associated with Bacchus and the lyssa of his Bacchantes, and that Pan is its governor. Lusus is usually translated as "game" or "play", while lyssa is a borrowing from the Greek λυσσα, "frenzy" or "rage", and sometimes rage personified; for later poets, Lusus and Lyssa become flesh-and-blood companions of Bacchus. Luís de Camões' Os Lusíadas, which portrays Lusus as the founder of Lusitania, extends these ideas, which have no connection with modern etymology.

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