“The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean” by David Abulafia (Oxford, 2011)

Great Sea
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The Mediterranean Sea has been there for a very long time.  Over the millennia it has shrunken and grown, given birth to islands, then drowned then, then birthed them once again; at one point it was even a dried-up seabed for a little while until the Atlantic began pouring into it once more, filling it up like a bathtub.  Humanity has also played an important part with the Mediterranean; without it our history would be very different.  From the days of the Neolithic people, to the ancient Egyptians, to the Greek and Roman empires, on through the many events of history taking place along its shores, this Great Sea has always played an important part.  Now David Abulafia, Professor of Mediterranean History at Cambridge University, brings historians and interested readers the ultimate biography of this unique sea, as seen and used and experienced by the people who lived and still live on its long coastline.

Abulafia divides The Great Sea into five parts, chronologically: 2200 BC – 1000 BC, 1000 BC – AD 600, 600 – 1350, 1350 – 1830, and 1830 – 2010.  Filled with many illustrations and maps, as well as two sets of detailed photographs, this book is certainly not a quick and easy read, but is nevertheless an invaluable one.  A lengthy index helps guide readers to certain periods and places in history and time for the Mediterranean, but what works best is to just start from the beginning and work your way through this heavy tome and learn about just how important this body of water has been for humanity.

Originally written on December 1, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

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