The  Mediterranean  Sea

-  a brief history  Page 8  -


Recent history

The Mediterranean has since witnessed innumerable turmoils, caused principally by the greed for riches and by the ambition for power of certain Mediterranean leaders. Many empires came and went, some created by the sword, others by trade. Ships became larger and more suitable to face the oceans, so that the distant descendants of the Phoenicians, again set off westwards, to discover, conquer and populate the new lands of the Americas.

 Piracy, rape and plunder continued on the isolated coastal areas right up to the last century. This is the reason why in Sardinia, which was particularly prone to attack, there are no cities on the coast, except those few founded by the Phoenicians. The sea was a source of terror and today you will find that all old farmhouses are built in recesses amongst the rocks, well hidden from the sea.

 Pisa, Genoa, Ravenna and Venice became the dominating maritime powers and accumulated much wealth, reflected in the beautifully decorated buildings and churches and in the art treasures stored there. Italy during the Renaissance period, produced in a short time, something like 70% of the world’s current art treasures. The Italians produced four maritime republics, today recalled in the Italian maritime flag, with its crest representing Venice, Genoa, Pisa and Amalfi. Their influence and domination was considerably widespread in the Eastern Mediterranean, evidenced today with innumerable coastal watch towers and castles.

The Venetians

The Venetian Republic dominated both sides of the Adriatic coast, much of the Greek arcipelago and as far as the Turkish coast. You will find many Venetian harbours and fortresses, Venetian style architecture often dominated by the Venetian symbol of Saint Mark's lion with its paw on the bible.

 However, as the local supply of large timber began to diminish in the depleted forests, the once unbeatable fleet of ships, could no longer be maintained or replaced, so that the dominance of the Seas passed to other nations outside of the Mediterranean, to Portugal, to Holland and finally to England.

 Gibraltar represents one of the last British strongholds in the Mediterranean, which England is very reluctant to relinquish; the same with Spain and its stronghold Ceuta, on the Moroccan side.  More recently still, we find that the protection of the Mediterranean has been entrusted to NATO forces, headed by the United States, with several navy and air-force bases in the area: Rota (Spain), Naples, Verona, Sigonella (Sicily), Corfu, Malta, Turkey and Kosovo.

 The history of the Mediterranean is still being written today, as we are living right now the new changes in the Balkans, in Palestine, the elimination of barriers between the European countries and the dramatic migrations from the poorer countries to the wealthier ones.

 There is also a growing consciousness amongst all the bordering countries of the Mediterranean, of their responsibility towards this sea and concrete steps are now being taken to protect it, to keep it clean, healthy and safe, for all those fortunate enough to be able to navigate and explore its many, many wonders.  (Click here for Save the Med)

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   The Mediterranean Sea
   Copyright L. Camillo 2008