Last Updated September 5, 2023.
The Lusiads is Portuguese writer Luís Vaz de Camões's 1572 epic poem that recounts Portugal's expeditions of discovery in the fifteenth century.
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.