Última flor do Lácio: that is how the Brazilian poet Olavo Bilac described Portuguese in his famous poem: the last flower from Latium, it is one of the latest languages derivated from Latin. The first documents in Portuguese appear in the thirteenth century.
Initially it was a variety of Galician, but Portugal developed fast and Portuguese became a national language and after an Imperial language: Portuguese ships lead the great Discoveries and spread their language all over the world.
The written language kept strongly its resemblance with other romance languages, specially Spanish, which is not so far to be mutually comprehensible.
Today, Portuguese is spoken in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea Bissau, Macau (China), Mozambique, Portugal, and São Tomé and Príncipe by more than 200 million native speakers, being the fifth or sixth most-spoken first language in the world. Portuguese also developed into several varieties of Creole in Africa. The main varieties of Portuguese are the Brazilian and the European Portuguese. The Portuguese spoken in the ex-collonies in Africa is more similar to the European variety. The differences between these varieties are mainly phonetic, but there are some ortographic disparities. Lexical is similar in formal language, but the familiar language are very enriched in the ex-colonies, by american indians in Brazil or by African black people.
Some remarkable literary works are the epic poem The Lusiad, written by Luís de Camões in 1572, which marks the change point from archaic to modern Portuguese. The poem tells the period of the Great Discoveries, specially the journey of Vasco da Gama, the first European to reach India by sea.
Modern literature in Portuguese is very productive. Important writers include Portuguese novelist such as Eça de Queirós and José Saramago, Brazilian novelists, Machado de Assis, Jorge Amado, Érico Veríssimo, and Luís Fernando Veríssimo, the Angolan novelist Pepetela, the Mozambican novelist Brazilian poets like Olavo Bilac, Carlos Drummond de Andrade Portuguese poets Fernando Pessoa.