Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Mediterranean: crucible of Western Civilization

The Mediterranean is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Europe, on the south by Africa, and also on the east by Asia. Its connection to the Atlantic (the Strait of Gibraltar) is only 9 mi wide.

It was a superhighway of transport in ancient times, allowing for trade and cultural exchange between emergent peoples of the region — the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Semitic, Persian, Phoenician, Carthaginian, Greek and Roman cultures. The history of the Mediterranean is important in understanding the origin and development of Western Civilization.

The term Mediterranean derives from the Latin mediterraneus, 'inland' (medius, 'middle' + terra, 'land, earth'). To the ancient Romans, the Mediterranean was the center of the Earth as they knew it.

The Greeks name it Mesogeios, meaning ('middle' + 'land, earth', hence inland, interior. In the Old Testament it was the "Great Sea" or simply "The Sea" . In Hebrew, it is called "ha-Yam ha-Tikhon", "the middle sea". In Turkish, it is Akdeniz, "the white sea". In Arabic, it is Al-Baħr Al-Abyad Al-Muttawasit, "the middle white sea".

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