Urban Bestiary (7)

During the more than four centuries of Moorish domination (AD 714 to 1147,) Lisbon was variously known as Luxbona, Lixbuna, Ulixbone and Olissibona, names that eventually morphed into the Portuguese Lisboa. Most likely, the name evolved from Olissipo or Olisippum, the way it was known when the Romans established the city in 205 BC. From there, it is not such a long stretch to... Odysseus, who legend has it as the founder of Lisbon.

In his magnum opus "Os Luisiadas" (1572,) the Portuguese national poet Luis de Camoes writes that,

"... the city was founded by Ulysses on the exact spot

Where the Tagus mingles its fresh water

And white sands with the salt sea."

In the legend, the beautiful queen of the snakes, Offiusa (perhaps an incarnation of the nymph Calypso,) falls madly in love with Ulysses. Upon discovering that he fled her kingdom under the cover of night, Queen Offiusa chases after him, and as she races towards the Tagus, her long snake tail hits the ground with such force that the earth swells, forming the seven hills of Lisbon.

At he Castle of Sao Jorge, sitting at the top of the highest of the seven hills, the "Torre de Ulisses" memorializes in its name this mythical foundation of the city.