Before the discovery of the Americas and Oceania, human civilization was Mediterranean for it was the link between the only known continents.
Don’t let its gentle climate, beautiful landscapes and welcoming inhabitants fool you! For thousands of years, this sea has been the center of turmoil and war as well as the core of human creation and creativity.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This article is not a history lesson but rather an unconventional trip down memory lane. So buckle up!
In the beginning there was Man, and Man discovered wood, and with wood Man created boats. That was pretty much the beginning of everything. The beginning of unification and destruction by humankind. Now, there is trade, there is colonization, and there is cultural exchange.
PHOENICIANS: THE POWER OF TRADE
First of all, I call to the stand the Phoenicians! These guys started around 2500 BC, colonizing peacefully some strategic trade center all around the Mediterranean coast. Yes I know how can colonization be peaceful?! Well, that is their uniqueness and genius! Instead of losing funds and manpower on war, they thought it more efficient to simply use trade. Of course, force was sometimes necessary and for that they were well equipped. Creating their own alphabet, the first in its kind, they introduced the world to a more effective means of communication and exchange.
Among their most famous colonies, which might I mention were more like a series of independent states, there is the famous or the infamous Carthage, founded in 814 BC, allegedly by Princess Dido of Tyre (capital of Phoenicia) who fled her tyrant brother.
CARTHAGE: THE POWER OF STRATEGY
Situated in North Africa, west of the Mediterranean, Carthage was the best or rather the only getaway to the riches of Africa. By land or by sea, it was the most strategic place to be. So attractive, that even the mighty Romans wanted it.
Having Phoenician blood in them, Carthaginians, unrivaled sailor, were never really that much into war. Unless their mainland was directly attacked, its citizens never had to raise their sword.
Instead they preferred paying mercenaries. Why put yourself at risk if you can pay someone to do that?!
On the other hand, Romans were breastfed with military training. To sum up, the whole Punic Wars thing, Carthage got beat down in a long bloody exhausting financially impairing fight, over 3 separate wars that lasted for almost 100 years. Its highlights were this: Hannibal, ruler of Carthage and a military genius, almost defeated Rome by coming through the Alps using war elephants (so cool!) but you greed got the best of him (bumper!). So that failed. Hannibal killed himself for his “principles” (so noble!).
THE ROMAN REPUBLIC: THE POWER OF FORCE
Moving on to the Romans (version 1.0), I have to say, these fellows are truly exhausting historically speaking… Not really no, there are EXHAUSTING in every sense of the word.
At first, around 509 BC, Rome was a republic with a democracy (How ironic). A democracy where its two “democratically assigned” rulers, had the sole responsibility to raise and win as many wars as possible. These consuls were members of the “democratically elected” senate assigned by the “democratically elected” senate which took care of all the ruling. When the situation got more serious, the “democratically elected” senate appointed “democratically” one ruler with absolute power called (wait for it) A DICTATOR!
Of course, having two equally powerful leaders plus the legal possibility of making it just one is begging for a civil war. So, unsurprisingly, civil wars are what they got as power and territory grew, that is omitting the several uprisings of the people because of the deep social dichotomy within the Republic.
Anyways, after 482 years, Rome metamorphosed back into an autocracy to become, in 27 BC, the Roman Empire at the hand of Augustus who was none other than Julius Caesar’s nephew.
To sum up, we went through the Phoenicians, creators of the first phonetic alphabet (ancestor of the Greek alphabet) and renowned merchants, the Carthaginians a kingdom of traders known for their naval power and threat to Rome, and the Roman Republicans known for their unmatched military force and genius generals.
I hope you liked this first episode of “MEDITERRANEAN SEA: INCUBATOR OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION”. In the next episode, we will tackle other civilizations which marked human history.
If you want to know more about the civilizations tackled or just verify the stories you can always visit britannica.com or ancient.eu.
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BY Alia TRIKI