Sometime around the year 138 BCE, the Roman consul and military commander Decimus Junius Brutus Callaicus aka. Gallaecus led a military expedition into the region that was known back then as Gallaecia. This region stretched between the Douro river and the northwestern Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Or in other words, what we now call northern Portugal and Galicia. Although most of the Iberian Peninsula had already been conquered by the Romans, the clans of Gallaecia continued to resist and defy Roman authority.
Gallaecus led his legionnaires northwards through Portugal, successively defeating the local resistance. His party eventually reached the River Lima, which the Romans called the River Lethe. In classical mythology, the River Lethe was one of the five rivers in Hades and the river of forgetfulness. His troops, afraid that if they crossed the river would lose their memories, refused to follow Gallaecus’s orders. Realising he had to set the example, Gallaecus crossed the river and then, probably using several profanities, ordered his troops to follow him. He certainly had not lost his memory!
This fun story is recreated on the banks of the River Lima in the Portuguese town of Ponte de Lima where our Camino Portugués tours start walking to Santiago, in the footsteps of Gallaecus, his troops and millions of other pilgrims.
Gallaecus successfully continued his expedition into current day Galicia, pacifying all of northern Portugal and southern Galicia. Hence his nickname: Gallaecus.