The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterraneanby David Abulafia
Pub. Date: 10/13/2011
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Situated at the intersection of Europe, Asia, and Africa, the Mediterranean Sea has been for millenia the place where religions, economies, and political systems met, clashed, influenced and absorbed one another. David Abulafia offers a fresh perspective by focusing on the sea itself: its practical importance for transport and sustenance; its dynamic role in… See more details below
Situated at the intersection of Europe, Asia, and Africa, the Mediterranean Sea has been for millenia the place where religions, economies, and political systems met, clashed, influenced and absorbed one another. David Abulafia offers a fresh perspective by focusing on the sea itself: its practical importance for transport and sustenance; its dynamic role in the rise and fall of empires; and the remarkable cast of characterssailors, merchants, migrants, pirates, pilgrimswho have crossed and recrossed it.
Ranging from prehistory to the 21st century, The Great Sea is above all the history of human interaction across a region that has brought together many of the great civilizations of antiquity as well as the rival empires of medieval and modern times. Interweaving major political and naval developments with the ebb and flow of trade, Abulafia explores how commercial competition in the Mediterranean created both rivalries and partnerships, with merchants acting as intermediaries between cultures, trading goods that were as exotic on one side of the sea as they were commonplace on the other. He stresses the remarkable ability of Mediterranean cultures to uphold the civilizing ideal of convivencia, "living together," exemplified in medieval Spain, where Christian theologians studied Arabic texts with the help of Jewish and Muslim scholars, and traceable throughout the history of the region.
Brilliantly written and sweeping in its scope, The Great Sea is itself as varied and inclusive as the region it describes, covering everything from the Trojan War, the history of piracy, and the great naval battles between Carthage and Rome to the Jewish Diaspora into Hellenistic worlds, the rise of Islam, the Grand Tours of the 19th century, and mass tourism of the 20th. It is, in short, a magnum opus, the definitive account of perhaps the most vibrant theater of human interaction in history.
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Table of Contents
Part 1: THE FIRST MEDITERRANEAN
1: Isolation and insulation: island communities before metal
2: Copper and Bronze
3: Merchants and Heroes
4: Sea Peoples and Land Peoples
Part 2: THE SECOND MEDITERRANEAN
1: The purple traders
2: The heirs of Odysseus
3: The triumph of the Tyrrhenians
4: Towards the Garden of the Hesperides
6: The Lighthouse of the Mediterranean
7: 'Carthage must be destroyed'
8: 'Our Sea'
9: Old and new faiths
Part 3: THE THIRD MEDITERRANEAN
1: Mediterranean troughs
2: Crossing the Boundaries
3: The great sea-change
4: 'The profit that God shall give'
5: Ways across the Sea
6: The fall and rise of empires
7: Merchants, mercenaries and missionaries
8: Serrata - Closing
Part 4: THE FOURTH MEDITERRANEAN
1. Would-be Roman emperors
2. Transformations in the West
3: Holy Leagues and unholy alliances
4: Akdeniz - the battle for the White Sea
5: Interlopers in the Mediterranean
6: Diasporas in despair
7: Encouragement to others
8: Views through the Russian prism
9: Deys, beys and bashaws
Part 5: THE FIFTH MEDITERRANEAN
1: Ever the twain shall meet
2: The Greek and the unGreek
3: Ottoman exit
4: A tale of four and a half cities
5: Mare Nostrum - again
6: A fragmented Mediterranean
7: The Last Mediterranean Appendix: The physical Mediterranean
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I am thoroughly enjoying The Great Sea. It is quite comprehensive and readable with a couple of limitations. It is necessary to have a good historical atlas at the ready to constantly look up the places cited and the political entities mentioned. Abulafia's book needs more maps and a reader's guide to the various evolving tribes, kingdoms, alliances, etc. to make it more readable for a reader without a strong background in history. I highly recommend this book to all those interested in our past.
Probably the single most informative and comprehensive book on a history subject I have read in years. It is difficult to put into context the various ways that civilizations across the Mediterranean interacted with each other; expanded (or not) and grew their wealth and culture (or not) without knowledge of how they were able to use the sea. This book does a nice job of exploring the region over thousands of years and through myriad changes in the balance of power, trade and religion...themes that have special relevance today and into the future. The changes shaking the region today are echoes of similar episodes over the millennia which the author lays out in a matter of fact yet interesting way. My only suggestion is for better maps, or none at all. The included diagrams are used over and again and do not add much to the mix. More detailed maps indicating the extent of each culture/civilization along the shores and islands would be an easy addition and enormously helpful. This must have been a tough task to write such a complete book and stay focused on the Sea itself and not get seriously sidetracked with so much history in the region. Outstanding read overall.
I think I am going to throw this peice of crap away and buy an IPAD