History of Alcoutim: a brief summary
The history of Alcoutim was always strictly related to the Guadiana river on one hand, and to the defense of the border on the other. The region of Alcoutim was inhabited in pre-historic times, especially in the Neolithic period. This is evidenced by several archaeological finds (dolmens and menhirs) in the region.
During the Roman period, the village was called Alcoutim. It was situated near the Roman road from the Algarve to Mértola. In 415, the region was occupied by the Alans. A century later it was occupied by the Visigoths. In the 8th century followed another occupation by the Moors. They built a fortress, which is now in ruins and is called ‘castelo velho’ (old castle). In the region there were many Moorish villages and dwelling places. This is attested in the various names of Arabian origin, such as: Alcaria, Alcaria Queimada, Alcaria Alta, etc.
Castle of Alcoutim
The castle of Alcoutim was built at the end of the 13th century after the Christian Reconquest. This was due to the strategic defensive importance of the place, from where it was possible to control both the river and the border (which is formed by the river). The castle and the village were donated to the Military Order of Santiago. Archaeological excavations inside the castle have evidenced that this place was settled in the Roman period and even before, during the Iron Age.
In 1371, a peace treaty was signed (on a boat in the middle of the river) between the Portuguese king Fernando I and the Castillian king Henrique II. This put an end to the war between the two countries. During the Portuguese Restoration War (1640-1668), Alcoutim was heavily attacked by Spain. From Sanluçar del Guadiana, the Spanish attacked Alcoutim with artillery. This Spanish town is located on the other side of the Guadiana river, across Alcoutim. However, Alcoutim did heroically resist the Spanish attacks.
Modern Alcoutim history
The castle of Alcoutim was used for military purposes until 1878. During that time, the castle was in bad condition and was abandoned. Restoration works for the castle are being undertaken. Nowadays, there is a friendly relationship between Alcoutim and Sanlúcar del Guadiana. There is also a regular connection by boat between the sides of the river, connecting the two villages.