The people who inhabited Lusitania were known as the 'Lusitani' or, as they are often referred to by modern historians, the 'Lusitans'. They, like many non-Roman peoples, were described as 'barbaric' and 'savage' by Roman authors. However, we now understand that this was far from true based on the discovery of countless pieces of intricate Lusitan artwork including statues and weaponry.
Many people from modern Portugal and even western Spain view the Lusitans as their ancestors. Viriato, a Lusitan leader and war-hero, is a national hero in Portugal. There is a commemorative statue of him in Viseu, Portugal.
On May 7, as lunchtime ended within sight of Ireland's south coast, the Lusitania was hit by a torpedo from a German u-boat, followed by a much bigger secondary explosion (likely a steam-pipe explosion). Listing sharply toward the wound in her starboard side, she sank in only 18 minutes, taking 1195 men, women, and children with her.
123 of the 159 Americans on board were killed, plus 94 of the 129 children on board (including 35 of 39 infants), indirectly goading the United States to enter the war on Britain's side.
May 7, just 11.5 miles from the Irish coast, a torpedo rocked the ship. Listing sharply to starboard and continuing at full speed for two miles, she had lost control. Panic ensued as she plunged under the surface, head-first.
Power was soon lost, trapping many below-decks and a number in the first-class elevators.
The starboard lifeboats swung away from the ship, while the port boats swung inward; although the ship had 48 lifeboats, only six starboard boats would be safely lowered while many others tipped or were lowered on top of each other. The port boats had to slide down the hull, splintering as they snagged on rivets, while one broke loose and careened down the boat deck, crushing passengers who were not already injured on the sloping decks. The maimed littered the deck and a sea that was choked with floating debris.
While parents tried to find their children in the frenzy, children squealed for their parents. Many put on their life-jackets upside-down and backwards in the panic.
In less than twenty minutes, the Lusitania was gone, taking the trapped to the bottom and leaving several hundred more at the surface to die of hypothermia.
The Lusitania casualties were tiny compared to the soldiers who died daily at the front, but they got an immediate reaction; not even civilians were safe.