The name “Cambados” probably comes from the Spanish word “combado”, that’s to say round, because the town lies in a bay with a round shape.
The history of Cambados may begin in prehistoric times; 'the most ancient monuments in the town are its pathways', as Luis Rei, a historian from “O Grove” likes to say . The road from 'A Modia' (a little hill in the east) to the shore, where Cambados lies today, is the oldest road in town. 'Modia' comes from the word in Galician language: 'mámoa', an ancient stone monument built between neolitic and bronze age (at the same time as Stonehenge in England). Nothing remained of this monument but the name of the place. However, there is some evidence that something was there in the past. The older archeological sites that we have in the town are ' O Castro de Sete Pías ' , located (not by chance) near 'A Modia'. Castros were little villages lying at the top of a hill for defensive reasons. People who lived in those villages were warriors who cultivated land and reared cattle, they also caught food from the sea: fish and seafood. The culture of these people has similarities with other Celtic tribes of Europe (for example they used iron) but we are not sure if there was a Celtic ethnic group in Galicia in those times or if it is only cultural influence.
Phoenicians and Romans were here in ancient times, they came here looking for tin, lead and other metals. Pliny, Avieno and other Roman historians talked about 'The Cassitérides' (tin islands) located in the northwest of Spain, and Sálvora, an island that is opposite Cambados could be one of these islands. Both Phoenicians and Romans, took also salt from the flat lands in the mouth of River Umia, and perhaps the name of the county ('O Salnés') where Cambados is placed, comes from this ancient activity. Xaquín Sánchez-Peña, a local historian who wrote in the early 20th century, talked about a Roman bridge located in the borough of Fefiñáns, but according to him it was demolished at the beginning of the 20th century. A Roman road went from Bracara Augusta (Braga) to Lucus Augusti (Lugo) along the coast ('per loca marítima') but we are not sure if this road passed near Cambados. Some people say so and they also think that the name of the promenade 'A Calzada' comes from the fact that this road crossed the town through this walk.
During the Middle Ages German tribes settled here and became great land owners. Some historians think that the name of Fefiñáns (a borough of Cambados) comes from the word 'faffilanis' that is to say, The 'villae' of Faffila, a land owner with German origins. Later, these lands passed down to the Church. Many sources talk about St Rosendo’s family (the founder of Celanova’s benedictine monastery) as important land owners in the 9th and 10th century in this area; this fact perhaps explains the building of the church dedicated to St. Benedict in Fefiñáns square. The archbishop of Santiago de Compostela was an important land owner as well; St. Sadurniño Tower was probably built by the bishop Sisnando in the 10th century and rebuilt by archbishop Xelmirez in the 12th century. It was a fortress that occupied the little island of St. Sadurniño in order to protect people from Norman invaders who came across the bay (or 'Ría de Arousa') and tried to reach the rich city of Santiago and steal its treasures. Nothing remained of this fortress but its watchtower which, by making fires, warned other parts of the county about the arrival of Normans and other pirates.