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Old 09-21-2018, 08:58 PM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is online now
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Why is Portugal so tidy and rectangular?

Looking at a map of the Iberian peninsula the other day and I was struck by how tidy and rectangular it is, tall and narrow.

Why is that?
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Old 09-21-2018, 09:27 PM
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A river on the northern border and a river on the eastern border. It's quite logical, especially compared to some European nations.
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Old 09-21-2018, 09:28 PM
DPRK DPRK is offline
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This is the same Portugal with various rivers along the border? I grant it extends more to the north and south than to the east but it never resembled a rectangle... As for the south of Portugal, they had to get that back from the Moors.
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Old 09-21-2018, 09:32 PM
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This is the same Portugal with various rivers along the border? I grant it extends more to the north and south than to the east but it never resembled a rectangle... As for the south of Portugal, they had to get that back from the Moors.
You mean from the Mops?

Last edited by Ignotus; 09-21-2018 at 09:33 PM.
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Old 09-21-2018, 10:18 PM
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You mean from the Mops?
You mean from the Moops?
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Old 09-21-2018, 10:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Northern Piper View Post
Looking at a map of the Iberian peninsula the other day and I was struck by how tidy and rectangular it is, tall and narrow.
We must be looking at different maps. It's really quite untidy. I wonder if you might be being tricked into thinking it's rectangular because its alignment is roughly North-South. If it were at more of a slant, it would just look like another oddly-shaped country.
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Old 09-21-2018, 10:37 PM
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A river on the northern border and a river on the eastern border. It's quite logical, especially compared to some European nations.
Several rivers on the eastern border.
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Old 09-21-2018, 10:38 PM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
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Originally Posted by kunilou View Post
A river on the northern border and a river on the eastern border. It's quite logical, especially compared to some European nations.
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Originally Posted by DPRK View Post
This is the same Portugal with various rivers along the border? I grant it extends more to the north and south than to the east but it never resembled a rectangle... As for the south of Portugal, they had to get that back from the Moors.
What are you all getting on about? Portugal's borders are only briefly delineated by four rivers: the Minho in the north, the Douro in the NE, the Tagus in the middle of the eastern border (but incidentally while the river itself is flowing east to west!), and the Guadiana in two separate sections along the eastern border to the south. Of the border with Spain, only about a fifth of it is river.

The reason for the seeming regularity of the borders is simply that the County of Portucale was established as a subdivision of the kingdom of Leon, Galicia and Asturias. It initially included the part now owned by Spain as Galicia; that was separated off amicably in the Tenth Century, I believe.

Later, the Count of Portugal took advantage of weakness on the part of the kingdoms of Castile and Leon, and joined his county (which for some time had been operating quite independent of Leon) with the County of Coimbra. These when joined became the nascent Kingdom of Portugal after the Battle of S„o Mamede in 1128. In that battle, the Portuguese defeated the troops from Leon, sent to re-establish control. From then on, for the most part, Portugal and the kingdoms that became Spain were on relatively good terms.

Algarve was added at the bottom when the Portuguese drove out the Moors.

As for why it's shaped the way it is: basically, it's everything inland from the Ocean for a certain distance. That's partly by design, partly happenstance.

ETA: forgot about the River Chanca in the SE, adding a small distance of border.

Last edited by DSYoungEsq; 09-21-2018 at 10:38 PM. Reason: Added a river
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Old 09-22-2018, 12:07 AM
DPRK DPRK is offline
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Thank you for the elaborate post! I was trying to say that I have never ever looked at a map of Portugal and thought, "rectangle" (nor ever seen France as a hexagon, for that matter). Borders limned by natural features (including but not limited to rivers) and random county limits always have that fractal look, the way I see them. But your point that Portugal was always (roughly) a strip stands.

Last edited by DPRK; 09-22-2018 at 12:07 AM.
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Old 09-22-2018, 12:26 AM
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We must be looking at different maps. It's really quite untidy.
At least it doesn't look like the double penis and scrotum that Norway, Sweden, and Finland form. Who thought that was a good look for Scandinavia?

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Old 09-22-2018, 12:51 AM
Tim@T-Bonham.net Tim@T-Bonham.net is offline
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You want a map of a real rectangle, look at the US state of Colorado!

Or even states bordering it, Wyoming, Arizona, Utah, & New Mexico. Look at the neat 4-corners spot between Colorado and those last 3.
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Old 09-22-2018, 01:02 AM
Ulf the Unwashed Ulf the Unwashed is offline
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Oh, I’m with Northern Piper on this one. The whole Iberian peninsula looks a lot like a 3x3 grid, with Portugal claiming the lower two squares in the left column and the remaining seven boxes belonging to Spain.

No, it’s not Wyoming or Saskatchewan, and it works best if you don’t look too closely, but pretty rectangular for a country whose borders are in large part affected by some other’s borders as well.

—but France as a hexagon? Nah...
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Old 09-22-2018, 01:03 AM
Stranger On A Train Stranger On A Train is offline
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Oh, Iím with Northern Piper on this one. The whole Iberian peninsula looks a lot like a 3x3 grid, with Portugal claiming the lower two squares in the left column and the remaining seven boxes belonging to Spain.
So, they lost the game of Iberian tic-tac-toe.

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Old 09-22-2018, 01:10 AM
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At least it doesn't look like the double penis and scrotum that Norway, Sweden, and Finland form. Who thought that was a good look for Scandinavia?

Stranger
Slartibartfast. He one an award for Norway, you know ... all done in fjords, of course ...
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Old 09-22-2018, 01:25 AM
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An oblique answer to this is that delineating boundaries on maps is a relatively recent practice. Before that, they followed on-the-ground practicalities, of geography or inherited local ownerships; maps, insofar as they existed at all, followed on, and to modern eyes look much more haphazard. So the shape on the map would have been meaningless.

(This sort of compares with the discussion on other threads about the boundaries of political constituencies, where it seemed to matter what the shape on the map looked like, which seems to me an odd concept).
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Old 09-22-2018, 01:30 AM
Stranger On A Train Stranger On A Train is offline
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Slartibartfast. He one an award for Norway, you know ... all done in fjords, of course ...
So where did that award from from, again?

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Old 09-22-2018, 05:17 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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This is the same Portugal with various rivers along the border? I grant it extends more to the north and south than to the east but it never resembled a rectangle... As for the south of Portugal, they had to get that back from the Moors.
Oh no, they had to get all of it back. It's only that the first part of the "getting it back" was done under a different name, but then, it was done back when people from Iberia were still trying to figure out that if your capital changes constantly, it makes sense to name your realm something different from your capital.
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Old 09-22-2018, 06:27 AM
Sangahyando Sangahyando is offline
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DPRK writes: "nor ever seen France as a hexagon, for that matter"

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óbut France as a hexagon? Nah...
I've never been able, either, to buy into the French thing of likening the country to a hexagon. On the map, it looks to me like a pentagon: the base thereof being France's southernmost stretch from the Bay of Biscay at Hendaye, following the Franco-Spanish border to the Mediterranean, thence the Med. coast to Menton and the Italian border -- this southernmost limit of the country making a not-particularly-wiggly line, and pleasingly forming a fifth side of five all -- roughly -- comparable in length. One is apt to assume that French logic-and-order-hyper-consciousness forbade the sensible lumping-together of a "land" stretch the length of the Pyrenees, and a "shore" one the length of the Mediterranean coast, and calling that a "fifth side".
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Old 09-22-2018, 01:38 PM
Ulf the Unwashed Ulf the Unwashed is offline
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So, they lost the game of Iberian tic-tac-toe.

Stranger
Well, itís tough to win when you get only two turns to your opponentís seven.

Perhaps Portugal was simply not paying attention?
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Old 09-22-2018, 01:53 PM
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Well, itís tough to win when you get only two turns to your opponentís seven.

Perhaps Portugal was simply not paying attention?
Itís been a commom problem in Spanish-Portuguese relations that directly lead to the War of the Portuguese Succession.

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Old 09-22-2018, 03:39 PM
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Maybe the game wasn't tic-tac-toe, but rather reversi (Othello). They still lost rather badly.
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Old 09-22-2018, 05:41 PM
SpoilerVirgin SpoilerVirgin is offline
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I once had someone ask me what is the face on the map of Europe, and I immediately answered Portugal without even having to look. Portugal is a profile with a giant mop of Spanish hair. I would never think of it as a rectangle (there's a huge nose sticking out).
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Old 09-22-2018, 07:05 PM
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At least it doesn't look like the double penis and scrotum that Norway, Sweden, and Finland form. Who thought that was a good look for Scandinavia?
Finland isn't part of Scandinavia.
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Old 09-22-2018, 08:40 PM
Ulf the Unwashed Ulf the Unwashed is offline
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Maybe the game wasn't tic-tac-toe, but rather reversi (Othello). They still lost rather badly.
Good point! It works, too, though we still have to assume some very poor play on the part of Portugal:

1. Spain takes NW corner of the peninsula.
2. Portugal takes the center.
3. S takes NE corner.
4. P slots in below—east central. Bad move, P, because...
5. S takes SE corner, flipping the piece above and giving Spain the entire east column.
6. P takes West Central, or the northern half of the current Portugal. I don’t think much of this move either, but it works out for the moment because instead of replying by taking the SW corner and flipping this piece, Spain’s response is...
7. S takes north central, filling in the top.
8. P takes SW, the better of the two choices, but less than great because
9. S takes south central, the only remaining space, flipping the center square previously belonging to Portugal.

I would imagine that Portugal’s disastrous mistake in move 4 has been rehashed by historians as often as other military blunders. But I don’t know what the consensus explanation might be. Momentary lapse in concentration perhaps, or possibly snowblindness.

—And I can’t believe I actually worked out a whole game to see if it was possible within the rules.

ETA: whoops! Move 5 actually flips both of Portugal’s pieces. The end result is the same though.

Last edited by Ulf the Unwashed; 09-22-2018 at 08:43 PM.
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Old 09-22-2018, 09:09 PM
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So where did that award from from, again?

Stranger
Douglas Adams neglected to tell us ("Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" reference).

And at least the double phalli are flacid. It isn't as if Northern Europe is pointing a massive erection at Canada.

Then again, we have the open-mouthed Quebec about to eat the Belcher Islands (Sanikiluaq, if you prefer).

And Louisiana giving everybody the finger, even if it is presented upside down (the outline of Louisiana, when not drawn with enough detail to show all the individual islands in the Mississippi channel in the Gulf looks to me like a short stubby arm hanging upside down with a bird being flipped at Mexico).
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Old 09-22-2018, 10:50 PM
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Gotta wonder at the nerve of someone from Saskatchewan questioning the border tidiness of another jurisdiction.
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Old 09-22-2018, 11:03 PM
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At least it doesn't look like the double penis and scrotum that Norway, Sweden, and Finland form. Who thought that was a good look for Scandinavia?

Stranger
Wasn't that Slartibartfast, as I recall?
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Old 09-23-2018, 03:35 AM
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the base thereof being France's southernmost stretch from the Bay of Biscay at Hendaye, following the Franco-Spanish border to the Mediterranean, thence the Med. coast to Menton and the Italian border -- this southernmost limit of the country making a not-particularly-wiggly line, and pleasingly forming a fifth side of five all -- roughly -- comparable in length. One is apt to assume that French logic-and-order-hyper-consciousness forbade the sensible lumping-together of a "land" stretch the length of the Pyrenees, and a "shore" one the length of the Mediterranean coast, and calling that a "fifth side".
Naah, these clearly are two stretches - the Pyrenees parallels the Belgium-Luxembourg-Rheinland-Pfalz-Saarland border, the Med coast more roughly parallels the Channel coast. It's not just "logic-and-order", it's also rather obvious that there's a big change in direction when the France-Spain border meets the Med.

Last edited by MrDibble; 09-23-2018 at 03:35 AM.
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Old 09-23-2018, 05:04 AM
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I always assumed that it would have been the mice that gave Slartibartfast his award.

Quote:
And when Arthur Dent encounters Slartibartfast, the Magrathean coastline designer who won an award for his work on Norway, and learns that the whole history of mankind was run for the benefit of a few white mice anyway, surprise is no longer adequate and he is forced to resort to astonishment.



Scene 1. Int. Slartibartfastís Office. Magrathea

ARTHUR:
Mice? What do you mean mice? I think we must be talking at cross purposes. Mice to me mean the little white furry things with the cheese fixation and women standing screaming on tables in early Sixties sitcoms.

SLARTIBARTFAST:
Earthman, it is sometimes hard to follow your mode of speech. Remember I have been asleep inside this planet of Magrathea for five-million years and know little of these early Sixties sitcoms of which you speak. These creatures you call mice you see are not quite as they appear, they are merely the protrusions into our dimension of vast, hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings. The business with the cheese and squeaking is just a front.

ARTHUR:
A front?

SLARTIBARTFAST:
Oh yes, you see the mice set up the whole Earth business, as an epic experiment in behavioural psychology; a ten-million year program -

ARTHUR:
No, look, youíve got it the wrong way round. It was us. We used to do the experiments on them.

SLARTIBARTFAST:
A ten-million-year program in which your planet Earth and its people formed the matrix of an organic computer. I gather that the mice did arrange for you humans to conduct some primitively staged experiments on them just to check how much youíd really learned, to give you the odd prod in the right direction, you know the sort of thing: suddenly running down the maze the wrong way; eating the wrong bit of cheese; or suddenly dropping dead of myxomatosis.
  #30  
Old 09-23-2018, 05:50 AM
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Good point! It works, too, though we still have to assume some very poor play on the part of Portugal:

1. Spain takes NW corner of the peninsula..
BEEEEEP! ERROR!

At the time Hispania/Spain was the whole peninsula. There has been no actual nation-state called Spain until 1841+ unless you want to count the Napoleonic invasion, which we don't. During the 8th century, a handful of different pockets of resistance against the Muslim invasion created different (pseudo)-independent realms*, none of which happened to be called Spain: they were part of Spain, they were (mainly) in Spain, but none of them was Spain. The part which got the NW corner was initially called the Kingdom of Asturias or Oviedo; they later changed name to Kingdom of Leon when they captured that city and made it their capital (remember I mentioned we were still changing names every time the capital moved?). As DSYoungEsq already mentioned (thank you, counselor), the County of Portugal was created as an administrative subdivision of the Kingdom of Leon.


+ In 1833, an illegal decree defined a nation-state called EspaŮa by merging the previous ones of Castille and Navarre and removing the Laws of Navarre. You could say Navarre disagreed; eventually, an agreement was reached after 8 years of my foreparents running around the mountains and the guiris running after them
* Whether they were truly independent or happened to be tributaries of someone else, including Charlemange, Venice and Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain), changed a zillion times.
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Last edited by Nava; 09-23-2018 at 05:53 AM.
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Old 09-23-2018, 06:29 AM
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BEEEEEP! ERROR!

At the time Hispania/Spain was the whole peninsula. There has been no actual nation-state called Spain until 1841+ unless you want to count the Napoleonic invasion, which we don't.
This is perhaps a bit "angels on the head of a pin" as to the distinction between a nation-state and the state(s) controlled by a single monarch - but the rest of Europe had no trouble identifying what they meant by Spain, at least as far back as Charles V's division of his empire in the mid-16th century.
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Old 09-23-2018, 09:16 AM
DPRK DPRK is offline
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Come to think of it, Lusitania resembled a narrow strip even less, containing most if not all of Extremadura. Though that predates by even more centuries the political entities named after Portugal.
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Old 09-23-2018, 09:48 AM
Sangahyando Sangahyando is offline
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And, no: I hold firmly to my "take" on this business.

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Naah, these clearly are two stretches - the Pyrenees parallels the Belgium-Luxembourg-Rheinland-Pfalz-Saarland border...
Parallels only roughly: in my perception, more roughly and inexactly, than my "fifth side" Hendaye -- Cerbere where Franco-Spanish border meets Med. -- Med. coast on to Italy, parallels the Channel coast.


(Quote): ... the Med coast more roughly parallels the Channel coast.("Unquote")


I would say (see above): better than "roughly", and IMO the entire "fifth side" does quite a good paralleling act with the Channel coast.


(Quote): It's not just "logic-and-order", it's also rather obvious that there's a big change in direction when the France-Spain border meets the Med.("Unquote")


Said "change" is not obvious to me. The Golfe du Lion takes quite a big bite northwards out of the line; aside from that, the change in direction is, overall, only slight.


I'm thinking that we'll need to agree to disagree on this matter...
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Old 09-23-2018, 11:15 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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This is perhaps a bit "angels on the head of a pin" as to the distinction between a nation-state and the state(s) controlled by a single monarch - but the rest of Europe had no trouble identifying what they meant by Spain, at least as far back as Charles V's division of his empire in the mid-16th century.
Thing is, at the time "Spain took over the NW corner of the Iberian Peninsula" (early 8th century)

Spain WAS the Peninsula

there was more than one Christian realm there

and Portugal did not exist yet.

Your reference is off by almost 900 years and one whole King (it was Charles V's son Philip II who was king of Spain and Portugal but did not join the Portuguese crown to the rest in terms of succession).
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Last edited by Nava; 09-23-2018 at 11:17 AM.
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Old 09-23-2018, 01:47 PM
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I'm in Portugal right now. I could ask someone for you.
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Old 09-24-2018, 08:50 AM
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I'm in Portugal right now. I could ask someone for you.

I'm sure their answer will be "well, it fits on the page of the atlas nicely".


The size of the feudal zones, the principalities kingdoms dukedoms provinces, etc, is basically set by N days ride.. 2 days ride so the garrison in the middle is a day away from anywhere.


Or maybe it its because the map was drawn on stellae.
See a portugal area stellae ....

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tartes...ile:Beja48.jpg
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Old 09-24-2018, 10:30 AM
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I still can't figure out how Portugal avoided getting gobbled up into the conglomeration of other Iberian kingdoms that we now call "Spain". Especially considering that they did get gobbled up. Even if Portugal itself is no prize you could at least steal their colonies.
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Old 09-24-2018, 01:35 PM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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I still can't figure out how Portugal avoided getting gobbled up into the conglomeration of other Iberian kingdoms that we now call "Spain". Especially considering that they did get gobbled up. Even if Portugal itself is no prize you could at least steal their colonies.
Well, as you noted they did get gobbled up after the disaster at El-Ksar el Kebir in 1578 made them an easy target. And the resultant involvement in Spain's wars did indeed end in the loss of their Indian Ocean carrying trade hegemony and quite a few colonial possessions( mostly to the Dutch at that point ). Some of what they successfully clung to in East Africa was subsequently lost to the Omanis in the late 17th century when the monarchy was still in recovery.

Before that they sorta got lucky as at Aljubarrota.

They got loose from Spain pretty much only as a result of the Thirty Years War( 1618-1648, to a lesser extent though Rocroi may have been a back breaker in terms of morale if nothing else )and the Eighty Years War( the Dutch independence war, 1568-1648 )basically bankrupting and ruining the Spanish empire. Even then the Portuguese Restoration War itself dragged from 1640-1668. Under normal circumstances Spain still should have prevailed( at least on paper ), but some some poor performance on the battlefield and the aforementioned exhaustion proved too much.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 09-24-2018 at 01:39 PM.
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Old 09-24-2018, 02:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Ulf the Unwashed View Post
...

No, itís not Wyoming or Saskatchewan, ...
Look closely at the map of Saskatchewan, and you'll see spherical geometry at work. The eastern border is an extended series of steps about 40km long as the square township squares are adjusted to fit the globe.
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Old 09-25-2018, 12:42 AM
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Old 09-25-2018, 01:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Northern Piper View Post
Looking at a map of the Iberian peninsula the other day and I was struck by how tidy and rectangular it is, tall and narrow.

Why is that?
The main reason Portugal's shape is so tidy and rectangular is:


Because it is *not*.
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Old 09-25-2018, 07:46 PM
Ulf the Unwashed Ulf the Unwashed is offline
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Look closely at the map of Saskatchewan, and you'll see spherical geometry at work. The eastern border is an extended series of steps about 40km long as the square township squares are adjusted to fit the globe.
Right. Wyoming isn't rectangular either (surveying errors, plus earth's curvature making the southern border about 20 miles longer than the northern border). Must be true of Colorado as well--could scarcely be otherwise!

Looks like a couple people misunderstood/misinterpreted my comment about "Spain begin[ning] by taking the NW corner of the Iberian Peninsula." Just so we are clear, that was not intended to be a factual historical answer to the questions posed in the thread. Rather, it was the supposed start of an elaborate board game (Othello) being played in the corner of southwestern Europe. No need for error messages and the like...if you're not sure what I was actually talking about, please go back and reread my entire post 24 .
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