Courtesy Reuters

Hegemony in the Mediterranean

THE Mediterranean question has existed less than three centuries. In classical and mediæval times there could be no Mediterranean problem for the simple reason that there then existed nothing but the Mediterranean. By this I mean that only in the lands which faced naturally towards the middle sea did there develop, flourish, struggle and decay Powers capable of creating civilizations. All of history converged upon that sea, most often by way of the great streams that fed it. There it is that archeological research is continually pushing back the curtain of time, revealing to us ever more remote origins of Mediterranean pre-history in Egypt, Crete, Malta, and even Libya. The paintings at Knossos and the vases of Vaphio attest the vigorous artistic, economic, and social development of the Ægean civilization, as the carved stones and pottery of pre-dynastic Egypt demonstrate that five thousand years before Christ and two thousand before the Pharaohs certain manifestations of organized life had attained unsurpassable perfection in the Valley of the Nile.

For millennia, then, the Mediterranean was a world -- we may say the world. There it was that the sea Powers arose and succeeded each other as the rulers of that closed domain. Did any of them dare pass its limits? Some have tried to prove that the "Odyssey" is not, as we long thought, the drama of the legendary exordium of adolescent humanity, but rather, like the "Iliad" (a synthesis of a resplendent age that had fallen into oblivion) the poetic transfiguration of a complex of terrifying inventions intentionally propagated by the Phœnicians with the purpose of dissuading others from venturing with their ships into the little-known waters of the western Mediterranean or into the mysterious immensity that lay beyond the Pillars of Hercules. It is told that after the voyages of Bartholomew Diaz and Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese bethought themselves of the same device to fend off their rivals from the Cape route to the East. In the"Lusiads"

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