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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 229

The Lusiads is Portuguese writer Luís Vaz de Camões's 1572 epic poem that recounts Portugal's expeditions of discovery in the fifteenth century.

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The principal character in the poem is Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer who first successfully navigated to India.

In true epic fashion, many Roman and Greek gods make appearances as antagonists in the poem. Among them is Bacchus, who tricks the Portuguese explorers into believing they are in a safe land when, in fact, they have arrived in a land inhabited by hostile Moors:

The crafty Moor by vengeful Bacchus taught
Employ'd on deadly guile his baneful thought . . . .

Aiding the Portuguese is Venus, goddess of love and beauty, who foils Bacchus's designs and protects the explorers from storms.

Fernando Velosó, one of the Portuguese sailors, is described by Camões as "brave" and briefly leaves the expedition to explore the coasts of Africa. He is contrasted by the more amorous Leonardo, who finds himself seduced by the nymph Ephyre.

Adamastor, a monster who is also the Spirit of the Cape of Good Hope, is described with a terrific form:

Grotesque and enormous stature
With heavy jowls, and an unkempt beard . . . .

Other characters in the poem include the king of Mombassa; the emperor of Malabara; Jove, the king of the gods who intervened in favor of the Portuguese and whose commandments "the gods in silence heard"; and Mars.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 318

Vasco da Gama

Vasco da Gama (VAHS-koh dah GAH-mah), a Portuguese sailor and explorer. He is chosen to head the expedition that first rounds Africa’s Cape of Good Hope to find a sea route to Asia.

Jove

Jove (johv), the chief of the gods. He announces that the Fates have decreed that the Portuguese expedition shall succeed in its mission.

Venus

Venus, a goddess friendly to the Portuguese. She takes their side against Bacchus and helps them in their adventures. She saves them from storms and ambushes and provides them with a resting place on their way home. She gives da Gama a vision of Portugal’s future greatness.

Mars

Mars, a god who sides with Venus on the side of the Portuguese.

Bacchus

Bacchus (BAK-uhs), the patron god of Asia. He tries to prevent the Portuguese from success in their expedition. He enlists the aid of Neptune in his efforts against them.

Veloso

Veloso (veh-LOH-soh), one of da Gama’s men. He explores part of Africa before rejoining the expedition.

The Spirit of the Cape of Good Hope

The Spirit of the Cape of Good Hope, who appears to da Gama. The spirit says he was once a Titan named Adamastor. He has been made into a range of mountains forming the Cape of Good Hope for his pursuit of a nymph.

The king of Mombassa

The king of Mombassa, an African monarch to whom da Gama relates his adventures and the history of Portugal up to that time.

The emperor of Malabar

The emperor of Malabar, an Asiatic monarch who welcomes the Portuguese to Asia and arranges for them to trade their goods for spices and other Oriental products.

Mercury

Mercury, a god who guides the Portuguese to Mombassa.

Neptune

Neptune, the god of the sea who, at the request of Bacchus, sends storms to destroy the ships of the Portuguese. Venus saves the ships.

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