The Mediterranean

The Mediterranean : Portrait of a Sea

4.41 (12 ratings by Goodreads)
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For thousands of years people have sailed, traded, and fought across the waters of the Mediterranean. On its shores and islands they have built cities, colonised, dreamed, conquered and fallen. This sea, which brings together three continents, was the cradle of western civilisation. Ernle Bradford spent almost 30 years sailing into nearly every corner of the Mediterranean and here he tells its fascinating story. Once it was realised that the sea could be a link rather than a barrier, discovery was possible and he follows the explorations of the Egyptians, the Cretans, the Phoenicians, the Greeks and others. The Mediterranean became a Roman and Byzantine sea until displaced by the Arab and Turkish conquests which reached their apogee with the great siege of Malta in 1565; by the 18th century Europe again dominated, with France and England in contention for sovereignty. The author continues his story through the grand sweep of historic events including the Napoleonic wars, the building of the Suez Canal and on to two World Wars ending with the peace of 1945. Into his account of the history of the region, the author weaves a wealth of detail: of flora and fauna, trade and commerce, society and religion, war and peace. The result is a portrait of an enormously vibrant region and its more

Product details

  • Paperback | 608 pages
  • 136 x 214 x 50mm | 639.56g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • 20pp B&W illustrations
  • 0141390336
  • 9780141390338

Review Text

A ubiquitous survey of the Mediterranean world from prehistoric times to the present which emphasizes shifting political hegemonies and the "steady process of cross-fertilization" between Phoenician, Greek, Roman, Arab, Norman, Viking, Venetian, Turkish and British rulers. The bulk is devoted to detailed but superficial summaries of ancient maritime rivalries with the author drawing generously on Pliny, Homer and Herodotus as well as a few modern authorities - G. Lowes Dickinson for the Greeks and S. Runciman for the Crusades. The Mediterranean seafarers had their unique ships and Bradford gives detailed and interesting descriptions of the construction and dimensions of the Athenian "trireme," the Venetian galleon, the Great Carrack of Rhodes and the "xebec" of the Barbary Corsairs along with the advantages and disadvantages of each vessel in a sea which is highly saline and comparatively free of tides. Vegetation (the Turks brought in the goat, which denuded the Aegean Islands), meteorology, and marine life are also covered and various cultural contributions - e.g., the Arabs introduced citrus fruit and the magnetic compass - are appreciatively noted. The author is particularly fond of the islanders of Sicily, Rhodes, Cyprus and the Maltese archipelago who were always ruggedly independent and stubbornly resisted new waves of conquerors. The sharp discontinuities in Mediterranean history, i.e., the "stagnation and erosion" of the Mediterranean economy in the early Medieval period and again between the 16th and 18th centuries is given short shrift, and you wish Bradford had paid more attention to the flow of commerce which historically has been the lifeline of the region. Overall it's readable though shallow in pleasant National Geographic style. But would-be tourists will find surprisingly little local color. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Table of contents

Book 1: an island; the sea and the land; early mariners; Etruscans and Greeks; the island battlefield; Greeks, Phoenicians, and Etruscans; Persians and Greeks; ships and the men; the second round; after the war. Book 2: goddess and island; two sides of a Greek coin - Athens and Sparta; the Peloponnesian War; Greece and the East; Romans and Carthaginians; Romans and Greeks; the Roman Sea; portrait of a city; Romans, Jews and Christians;; Rome and Constantinople - the pendulum swings east; the navel of the sea. Book 3: the troubled sea; Byzantium and the sea; west and east; invasion of the Arabs; Arabs and Vikings; the Arabic centuries; Normans and Arabs; crusades; Knights of Saint John; the fall of Byzantium; the maritime republics; triumphs in the east and west; the Turkish Sea; Preveza, Malta, Lepanto. Book 4 Islands under the sun; Dutch, English, and Corsairs; Gibraltar; a ship-of-the-line; French and English; Napoleon and Nelson; after the war; islands and English; mid-Victorian; the great transformation; another century; peace - and war again; time and the more

Rating details

12 ratings
4.41 out of 5 stars
5 58% (7)
4 25% (3)
3 17% (2)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
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