By Ernle Bradford
A sea leaden with history…
For many, the Mediterranean conjures tranquil images – whether it’s the warm weather and good food of Italy’s coastline, or the cosmopolitan city of Istanbul; gateway between West and East.
But as Ernle Bradford details, the Mediterranean, while geologically young, is home to a long and oft times bloody history.
As he illustrates, it is a sea that has witnessed many an empire rise and fall.
From its origins as arguably the cradle of both Western and Eastern Civilisations, where early Phoenicians used it traverse the known world for trade.
Or the rise of the Ancient Greeks, whose early innovations allowed them to become the dominant empire, only to fall in the face of the Romans – the great tacticians.
Only for the likes of the Byzantines, and later the Norseman and even the Venetians to make their own kingdoms, empires and republics.
A sea later crossed by warring Crusaders and Moors.
Bradford shows in great detail how the sea and innovations made in naval, navigational knowledge and shipbuilding often made or conversely, broke an empire.
Everyone from Napoleon to Suleiman the Great to even pirates saw the importance of such waters – and the decisive battles fought on them.
But Bradford also shows the importance of the Mediterranean in the spread of culture – in science, in art, in language, in religion, in agriculture and in philosophy.
After all, it is the same sea where Homer set The Odyssey and where Lord Byron and Keats were inspired to write a wealth of poetry.
Where arguably the filtering of scientific thought and art from the Islamic Golden Age, gave way to the birth of the Renaissance.
Where the spread of advancements in agricultural enabled those ancient empires and kingdoms of Greece, Rome, Sparta and Catharge to thrive in the first place.
For Bradford, this is the Portrait of A Sea, where life and death have reigned as long as human civilization has…
Mediterranean is a fascinating read of maritime and military history from ancient to modern times across the Mediterranean.
Ernle Bradford (1922-1986) was an historian who wrote books on naval battles and historical figures. Among his subjects were Lord Nelson, the Mary Rose, Christopher Columbus, Julius Caesar and Hannibal. He also documented his own voyages on the Mediterranean Sea.