The city of Silves
, the first capital of the Algarve
Human presence in southern Portugal dates back to the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. The presence of megalithic stones in the area of Vila do Bispo attests to this presence.
The Cynetes, influenced by Tartessos, were established by the sixth century BC in the region of the Algarve (called Cyneticum). They were strongly influenced by the Celtici. Those Indo-European tribes, Celtic or pre-Celtic, founded the city of Lagos (then called Lacóbriga). The Phoenicians had established trading ports along the coast c. 1000 BC. Some sources claim that the Carthaginians founded Portus Hanibalis – known today as Portimão – c. 550 BC. Much of the Iberian Peninsula was absorbed into the Roman Republic in the second century BC (despite the resistance of the Lusitanians and other tribes), and the Algarve region similarly came under Roman control. Many Roman ruins can still be seen, notably in Lagos, but also at Milreu. Roman bath complexes and fish-salting tanks have been found near the shore in several locations, for example the ones near Vilamoura and Praia da Luz.
In the fifth century, the Visigoths took control of the Algarve until the beginning of the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in 711. When the Moors conquered Lagos in 716, it was named Zawaia. Faro, which the Christian residents had called Santa Maria, was renamed Faraon, which means "settlement of the knights". Due to the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, the region was called Gharb Al-Andalus: Gharb means "the west", while al-Andalus is the Arabic name for the Iberian Peninsula. For several years, the town of Silves was the capital of the region.
In the mid-13th century, during the Reconquista, the Kingdom of Portugal conquered the region in a series of successful military campaigns against the Moors. Al-Gharb became the Kingdom of the Algarve, and the moors were expelled, but battles with Muslim forces persisted. The Portuguese finally secured the region against the subsequent Muslim attempts to recapture the area in the early 14th century. King Afonso III of Portugal started calling himself King of Portugal and the Algarve. After 1471, with the conquest of several territories in the Maghreb – the area considered an extension of the Algarve – Afonso V of Portugal began fashioning himself "King of Portugal and the Algarves", referring to the European and African possessions.
Prior to the independence of Brazil, "United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves" (1815–1822) was an official designation for Portugal which also alluded to the Algarve. Portuguese monarchs continued to use this title until the proclamation of the First Portuguese Republic in 1910. Between 1595 and 1808, the Algarve was a semiautonomous area of Portugal with its own governor, as well as a separate taxation system.
In the 15th century, Prince Henry the Navigator based himself near Lagos and conducted various maritime expeditions which established the colonies that comprised the Portuguese Empire. Also from Lagos, Gil Eanes set sail in 1434 to become the first seafarer to round Cape Bojador in West Africa. The voyages of discovery brought Lagos fame and fortune. Trade flourished and Lagos became the capital of the historical province of Algarve in 1577 and remained so until the fabled 1755 Lisbon earthquake. The earthquake damaged many areas in the Algarve and an accompanying tsunami destroyed or damaged coastal fortresses, while coastal towns and villages were heavily damaged except Faro, which was protected by the sandy banks of Ria Formosa lagoon. In Lagos, the waves reached the top of the city walls. For many Portuguese coastal regions, including the Algarve, the destructive effects of the tsunami were more disastrous than those of the earthquake itself.
In 1807, while Jean-Andoche Junot led the first Napoleonic invasion in the north of Portugal, the Algarve was occupied by Spanish troops under Manuel Godoy. Beginning in 1808, and after subsequent battles in various towns and villages, the region was the first to drive out the Spanish occupiers. During the Portuguese Civil War, several battles took place in the region, especially the battle of Cape St. Vicente and the battle of Sant’Ana, between liberals and Miguelites. Remexido was the guerrilla Algarvian leader who stood with the Miguelite absolutists for years, until he was executed in Faro in 1838.
The establishment of the First Portuguese Republic in 1910 marked the end of the Kingdom of Portugal and the Algarve.