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The Mediterranean colonized: 8th - 3rd century BC

The Mediterranean is the chief arena of European development from the 8th century BC.

The focus at first is on the Aegean Sea. Here the civilization of Greece develops; from here Greek colonists move west to Italy and Sicily. Settlements of Phoenicians and Carthaginians also become established in the western Mediterranean. By the 3rd century Rome is firmly in control of central and southern Italy. Greece, Carthage and Rome are all involved in the Sicilian hostilities which in 264 provoke the first Punic War and which lead, eventually, to the dominance of the Roman empire throughout the region.


Rome's private sea: 1st century BC - 6th century AD

The gap between the establishment of Rome's first province outside mainland Italy (Sicily in 241 BC) and Roman control of the entire Mediterranean is little more than two centuries. With the annexation of Egypt in 30 BC, the Mediterranean becomes for the first time one political unit - a large lake within a single empire.

This situation lasts for four centuries, until Germanic tribes move round the western Mediterranean in the 5th century AD. This most historic of seas will continue to play a central role in human history, but never again under unified control. Tribal pressure from the north has been gradually building up throughout the heyday of Rome.


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