Santarém (from the Arabic as-Shantariyn or Santaryn, meaning city of Santa Iria or Santa Irene) is a city, municipality and head of district in the central region of Portugal known culturally as Ribatejo (meaning around the River Tagus). Santarém is situated on a plateau, located on the right bank of the Tagus River, overlooking the river’s wide reaching fertile floodplains known as Lezíria. The area has been inhabited since prehistory, but most notably by the Lusitani people and then by the Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, Moors and later Christians.
The city was named Scalabis by the Romans, who made it an important commercial post in the mid-Tagus region and the administrative capital of one of the regions of Roman Lusitania. After the Germanic tribes invasion of the 5th century, the town was dominated by the Visigoths, and then taken in the 8th century by the Moors, who named it Shantarin and made it an important cultural centre.
The first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques (nicknamed the Conqueror, the Founder or the Great by the Portuguese, and El-Bortukali and Ibn-Arrink by the Moors), conquered the city from the Moors in 1147. The city’s large number of monasteries and its former royal palace attests it as one of the most important in medieval cities in Portugal. There are still enough examples of Gothic buildings in the city for it to be known as the "Capital of the Portuguese Gothic".
Santarém is connected to important personalities of the period of Portuguese discoveries in the 15th-16th centuries, such Pedro de Meneses, first governor of conquered Ceuta and Pedro Álvares Cabral, the navigator who discovered the maritime route to Brazil in 1500.
Salgueiro Maia, a Captain in the Portuguese Army was stationed at the army base in Santarém, and was a key figure in the Carnation Revolution of 1974, which put an end to one of the longest European standing dictatorships.