Above left: The ocean off Sicily. Source: Unsplash. Creator: Cecilia Gremmo. Above right: Vicinity of Mt. Etna, Sicily. Source: Unsplash. Creator: Eduan de Bruijne.
License for both: Unsplash license.

Ancient Greek migrants in Sicily produced societies and economies that both paralleled and differed from their homeland. Explanations for these similarities and differences have been hotly debated. On the one hand, some scholars have viewed the ancient Greeks as one in a long line of migrants who were shaped by Sicily and its inhabitants. On the other hand, other scholars have argued that the Greeks acted as the main source of innovation and achievement in the culture of ancient Sicily, a culture that was still removed from that of mainland Greece. Neither of these positions is completely satisfactory. What is lacking in this debate is a basic framework for understanding ancient Sicily's social and economic history. Archaic and Classical Greek Sicily represents the first ever systematic and comprehensive attempt to synthesize the historical and archaeological evidence, and to deploy it to test the various historical models proposed over the past two centuries. It adopts an interdisciplinary approach that combines classical and prehistoric studies, texts and material culture, and a variety of methods and theories to put the history of Greek Sicily on a completely new footing. While Sicily and Greece had conjoined histories from the start, their relationship was not one of periphery and center or of colony and state in any sense, but of an interdependent and mutually enriching diaspora. At the same time, local conditions and peoples, including Phoenician migrants, also shaped the evolution of Sicilian Greek societies and economies. This book reveals and explains the similarities and differences between developments in Greek Sicily and the mainland, and brings greater clarity to the parts played by locals and immigrants in ancient Sicily's impressive achievements.

The Mediterranean has been for millennia one of the global cockpits of human endeavor. World-class interpretations exist of its Classical and subsequent history, but there has been remarkably little holistic exploration of how its societies, culture and economies first came into being, despite the fact that almost all the fundamental developments originated well before 500 BC. This book is the first full, interpretive synthesis for a generation on the rise of the Mediterranean world from its beginning, before the emergence of our own species, up to the threshold of Classical times, by which time the "Middle Sea" was already in effect made. Thanks to unrivalled depth and breadth of exploration, Mediterranean archaeology is one of the world's richest sources for the reconstruction of ancient societies. This book is the first to draw in equal measure on ideas and information from the European, western Asian and African flanks, as well as the islands at the Mediterranean's heart, to achieve a truly innovative focus on the varied trajectories and interactions that created this maritime world. The Mediterranean combines unusual conditions in a strictly unique fashion that goes a long way towards explaining its precocious development: it is the world's largest inland sea, easily the largest of the five challenging, opportunity-rich "mediterraneoid" environments on the planet, and adjacent to the riverine cores of two of the earliest civilizations, in Mesopotamia and Egypt. No wonder its societies proved exceptional. Extensively illustrated and ranging across disciplines, subject matter and chronology from early humans and the origins of farming and metallurgy to the rise of civilizations--Egyptian, Levantine, Hispanic, Minoan, Mycenaean, Phoenician, Etruscan, early Greek--the book is a masterpiece of archaeological and historical writing.

The Ancient Mariners: Seafarers and Sea Fighters of the Mediterranean in Ancient Times

Lionel Casson, 2nd ed. 1991

Written by the renowned authority on ancient ships and seafaring Lionel Casson, The Ancient Mariners has long served the needs of all who are interested in the sea, from the casual reader to the professional historian. This completely revised edition takes into account the fresh information that has appeared since the book was first published in 1959, especially that from archaeology's newest branch, marine archaeology. Casson does what no other author has done: he has put in a single volume the story of all that the ancients accomplished on the sea from the earliest times to the end of the Roman Empire. He explains how they perfected trading vessels from mere rowboats into huge freighters that could carry over a thousand tons, how they transformed warships from simple oared transports into complex rowing machines holding hundreds of marines and even heavy artillery, and how their maritime commerce progressed from short cautious voyages to a network that reached from Spain to India.

The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek

Barry Cunliffe, 2003

Around 330 BCE, a remarkable adventurer named Pytheas set out from the Greek colony of Massalia (now Marseille) on the Mediterranean Sea to explore the fabled, terrifying lands of northern Europe. Renowned archaeologist Barry Cunliffe here re-creates Pytheas's unprecedented journey, which occurred almost 300 years before Julius Caesar landed in Britain. Beginning with an invaluable pocket history of early Mediterranean civilization, Cunliffe illuminates what Pytheas would have seen and experienced—the route he likely took to reach Brittany, then Britain, Iceland, and Denmark; and evidence of the ancient cultures he would have encountered on shore. The discoveries Pytheas made would reverberate throughout the civilized world for years to come, and in recounting his extraordinary voyage, Cunliffe chronicles an essential chapter in the history of civilization.

The port of Nice, France, which began life as a Greek colony named after the goddess of victory, Nike. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Creator: Tobi 87. License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Negotiating Identity in the Ancient Mediterranean: The Archaic and Classical Greek Multiethnic Emporia

Denise Demetriou, 2012

The Mediterranean basin was a multicultural region with a great diversity of linguistic, religious, social and ethnic groups. This dynamic social and cultural landscape encouraged extensive contact and exchange among different communities. This book seeks to explain what happened when different ethnic, social, linguistic and religious groups, among others, came into contact with each other, especially in multiethnic commercial settlements located throughout the region. What means did they employ to mediate their interactions? How did each group construct distinct identities while interacting with others? What new identities came into existence because of these contacts? Professor Demetriou brings together several strands of scholarship that have emerged recently, especially ethnic, religious and Mediterranean studies. She reveals new aspects of identity construction in the region, examining the Mediterranean as a whole, and focuses not only on ethnic identity but also on other types of collective identities, such as civic, linguistic, religious and social.

The Poetics of Colonization: From City to Text in Archaic Greece

Carol Dougherty, 1993

Tales of archaic Greek city foundations continue to be told and retold long after the colonies themselves were settled, and this book explores how the ancient Greeks constructed their memory of founding new cities overseas. Greek stories about colonizing Sicily or the Black Sea in the seventh century B.C.E. are no more transparent, no less culturally constructed than nineteenth-century British tales of empire in India or Africa; they are every bit as much about power, language, and cultural appropriation. This book brings anthropological and literary theory to bear on the narratives that later Greeks tell about founding colonies and the processes through which the colonized are assimilated into the familiar story-lines, metaphors, and rituals of the colonizers. The distinctiveness and the universality of the Greek colonial representations are explored through explicit comparison with later European narratives of new world settlement.

Most classical authors and modern historians depict the ancient Greek world as essentially stable and even static, once the so-called colonization movement came to an end. But Robert Garland argues that the Greeks were highly mobile, that their movement was essential to the survival, success, and sheer sustainability of their society, and that this wandering became a defining characteristic of their culture. Addressing a neglected but essential subject, Wandering Greeks focuses on the diaspora of tens of thousands of people between about 700 and 325 BCE, demonstrating the degree to which Greeks were liable to be forced to leave their homes due to political upheaval, oppression, poverty, warfare, or simply a desire to better themselves. Attempting to enter into the mind-set of these wanderers, the book provides an insightful and sympathetic account of what it meant for ancient Greeks to part from everyone and everything they held dear, to start a new life elsewhere―or even to become homeless, living on the open road or on the high seas with no end to their journey in sight. Each chapter identifies a specific kind of "wanderer," including the overseas settler, the deportee, the evacuee, the asylum-seeker, the fugitive, the economic migrant, and the itinerant, and the book also addresses repatriation and the idea of the "portable polis." The result is a vivid and unique portrait of ancient Greece as a culture of displaced persons.

Famine and Food Supply in the Graeco-Roman World: Responses to Risk and Crisis

Peter Garnsey, 1988

The first full-length study of famine in antiquity. The study provides detailed case studies of Athens and Rome, the best known states of antiquity, but also illuminates the institutional response to food crisis in the mass of ordinary cities in the Mediterranean world. Ancient historians have generally shown little interest in investigating the material base of the unique civilisations of the Graeco-Roman world, and have left unexplored the role of the food supply in framing the central institutions and practices of ancient society.

Satellite view of Crimea, a peninsula along the north coast of the Black Sea in Eastern Europe and site of many significant ancient Greek colonies.
Source: Wikimedia Commons. Creator: NASA. License: Public domain.

The Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History

Peregrine Horden & Nicholas Purcell, 2000

This book is a history of the relationship between people and their environments in the Mediterranean region over some 3,000 years. It advocates a novel analysis of this relationship in terms of microecologies and the often extensive networks to which they belong. This is the first major work since Braudel's The Mediterranean to address the problems of studying the area as a whole and on a long time-scale. The authors emphasize the value of comparison between prehistory, Antiquity and the Middle Ages. They draw on an exceptionally wide range of evidence - literary works, documents, archaeology, scientific reports and social anthropology. The themes addressed include past conceptions of the Mediterranean, its historiography, the history of primary production, the rhythms of exchange and communication, the pace of environmental and technological change, the geography of religion, and the contribution of Mediterranean social anthropology to an assessment of the region's unity. The book offers a provocative and innovative approach to the history of the Mediterranean, explaining what has made Mediterranean history distinctive.

Ancient Colonizations: Analogy, Similarity & Difference

ed. Henry Hurst & Sara Owen, 2005

In recent years the archaeological understanding of both Greek and Roman 'colonisations' has changed radically. One important element of that change has been the understanding that traditional loose analogy with Modern European Imperialism has been unproductive. However, while many scholars have pointed to the negative impact of such comparisons, there has as yet been no real attempt to understand the pervasiveness of the analogy. Nor has there been any attempt to assess the viability of analogy in general as a tool for understanding these ancient 'colonisations'. In this book leading scholars in the field open the debate on this important issue. They expose the implicit comparisons that underlie some current interpretations and suggest ways in which modern analogies, rigorously constructed, can help to elucidate the processes of settlement and cultural interaction in the past.

This remarkably rich and multifaceted study of early Greek exploration makes an original contribution to current discussions of the encounters between Greeks and non-Greeks. Focusing in particular on myths about Odysseus and other heroes who visited foreign lands on their mythical voyages homeward after the Trojan War, Irad Malkin shows how these stories functioned to mediate encounters and conceptualize ethnicity and identity during the Archaic and Classical periods. Synthesizing a wide range of archaeological, mythological, and literary sources, this exceptionally learned book strengthens our understanding of early Greek exploration and city-founding along the coasts of the Western Mediterranean, reconceptualizes the role of myth in ancient societies, and revitalizes our understanding of ethnicity in antiquity. Malkin shows how the figure of Odysseus became a proto-colonial hero whose influence transcended the Greek-speaking world. The return-myths constituted a generative mythology, giving rise to oral poems, stories, iconographic imagery, rituals, historiographical interpretation, and the articulation of ethnic identities. Reassessing the role of Homer and alternative return-myths, the book argues for the active historical function of myth and collective representations and traces their changing roles through a spectrum of colonial perceptions—from the proto-colonial, through justifications of expansion and annexation, and up to decolonization.

The Open Sea: The Economic Life of the Ancient Mediterranean World from the Iron Age to the Rise of Rome

J.G. Manning, 2018

In The Open Sea, J. G. Manning offers a major new history of economic life in the Mediterranean world during the Iron Age, from Phoenician trading down to the Hellenistic era and the beginning of Rome's supremacy. Drawing on a wide range of ancient sources and the latest social theory, Manning suggests that the search for an illusory single ancient economy has obscured the diversity of the Mediterranean world, including changes in political economies over time and differences in cultural conceptions of property and money. At the same time, this groundbreaking book shows how the region's economies became increasingly interconnected during this period―and why the origins of the modern economy extend far beyond Greece and Rome.

Below: The Greek theater of Syracuse, Sicily. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Creator: fotovideomike. License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.

The Athenian Trireme: The History and Reconstruction of an Ancient Greek Warship

J.S. Morrison, J.F. Coates, and N.B. Rankov, 2nd ed. 2000

Shortly before the launch of the reconstructed Greek warship, Olympias, the first edition of The Athenian Trireme was published, providing historical and technical background to the reconstruction of the ship. Since then, five seasons of experimental trials have been conducted on the ship under oar and sail, and the lessons learned have been supplemented by new archaeological discoveries and by historical, scientific and physiological research over the past fifteen years. For this second edition, the text has been recast and a number of substantive changes have been made. In addition, there is an entirely new chapter that describes the trials of Olympias in detail, reports the performance figures, and outlines the changes desirable in any second reconstruction. There are nineteen new illustrations, including eleven photographs of Olympias at sea demonstrating features of the design that could be represented only by drawings in the first edition.

Greek and Roman Oared Warships 399-30 BC

J.S. Morrison & J.F. Coates, 2016

This is an important study of the new types of warships which evolved in the navies of the Mediterranean in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, and of their use by Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans in the fleets and naval battles in the second and first centuries, culminating in the Battle of Aktion. The book includes a catalogue and discussion of the iconography of the ships with over fifty illustrations from coins, sculptures and other objects. John Coates discusses reconstructions, crews, ships and tactics illuminated by the recent experiments with the reconstructed trireme Olympias . Complete with gazetteer, glossary, bibliography and indexes.

Maritime Traders in the Ancient Greek World

C.M. Reed, 2003

This is the first full work since Hasebroek's Trade and Politics in the Ancient World to deal directly with the place of maritime traders in ancient Greece. Its main assumption is that traders' juridical, economic, political and unofficial standing can only be viewed correctly through the lens of the polis framework. It argues that those engaging in inter-regional trade with classical Athens were mainly poor and foreign (hence politically inert at Athens). Moreover, Athens, as well as other classical Greek poleis, resorted to limited measures, well short of war or other modes of economic imperialism, to attract them. However, at least in the minds of individual Athenians considerations of traders' indispensability to Athens displaced what otherwise would have been low estimations of their social status.

The First Western Greeks

David Ridgway, 1992

The purpose of this book is to acquaint a wider audience with an archaeological project that could hardly be more revolutionary: the effective discovery and excavation, from 1952 onwards, of the first Greek establishment in the West, Euboean Pithekoussai on the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples. This vast trading settlement is not at all typical of the Western colonial scene. Pithekoussi is very large and very early, and it marks the northern limit of Greek South Italy; furthermore, the earliest immigrants may not all have been Greek. This book about Pithekoussai and its implications is based on Giorgio Buchner's excavations there, which have revealed a variety of component sites so far without parallel in the contemporary Greek homeland. The cemetery, the acropolis dump and suburban industrial quarter each shed light on a different aspect of everyday life at one of the great crossroads of antiquity.

View from a container ship that has just passed through the pair of promontories at the Atlantic gateway of the Mediterranean which were known in antiquity as the Pillars of Heracles: left background, Jebel Musa (Morocco), and right background, the Rock of Gibraltar (Spain). Source: Wikimedia Commons. Creator: Gregor Rom. License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.

Space and Society in the Greek and Roman Worlds

Michael Scott, 2013

We cannot properly understand history without a full appreciation of the spaces through which its actors moved, whether in the home or in the public sphere, and the ways in which they thought about and represented the spaces of their worlds. In this book Michael Scott employs the full range of literary, epigraphic and archaeological evidence in order to demonstrate the many different ways in which spatial analysis can illuminate our understanding of Greek and Roman society and the ways in which these societies thought of, and interacted with, the spaces they occupied and created. Through a series of innovative case studies of texts, physical spaces and cultural constructs, ranging geographically across North Africa, Greece and Roman Italy, as well as an up-to-date introduction on spatial scholarship, this book provides an ideal starting point for students and non-specialists.

How important has the sea been in the development of human history? Very important indeed is the conclusion of this ground-breaking four volume work. The books bring together the world's leading maritime historians, who address the question of what difference the sea has made in relation to around 250 situations ranging from the earliest times to the present. They consider, across the entire world, subjects related to human migration, trade, economic development, warfare, the building of political units including states and empires, the dissemination of ideas, culture and religion, and much more, showing how the sea was crucial to all these aspects of human development. This book ranges very widely in its coverage, beginning with pre-historical maritime activity and going on to cover not only the classical Greek and Roman Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds but also Africa, Asia and the Americas. Fascinating subjects covered include the migration of the Taíno people in the pre-historic Caribbean, the Athenian maritime empire at its height, the port of Alexandria in classical times, andships, sailors and kingdoms in ancient Southeast Asia.

Maritime Networks in the Mycenaean World

Thomas F. Tartaron, 2013

In this book, Thomas F. Tartaron presents a new and original reassessment of the maritime world of the Mycenaean Greeks of the Late Bronze Age. By all accounts a seafaring people, they enjoyed maritime connections with peoples as distant as Egypt and Sicily. These long-distance relations have been celebrated and much studied; by contrast, the vibrant worlds of local maritime interaction and exploitation of the sea have been virtually ignored. Dr Tartaron argues that local maritime networks, in the form of 'coastscapes' and 'small worlds', are far more representative of the true fabric of Mycenaean life. He offers a complete template of conceptual and methodological tools for recovering small worlds and the communities that inhabited them. Combining archaeological, geoarchaeological and anthropological approaches with ancient texts and network theory, he demonstrates the application of this scheme in several case studies. This book presents new perspectives and challenges for all archaeologists with interests in maritime connectivity.

During the Bronze Age, the ancient societies that ringed the Mediterranean, once mostly separate and isolate, began to reach across the great expanse of sea to conduct trade, marking an age of immense cultural growth and technological development. These intersocietal lines of communication and paths for commerce relied on rigorous open-water travel. And, as a potential superhighway, the Mediterranean demanded much in the way of seafaring knowledge and innovative ship design if it were to be successfully navigated. In this book, Shelley Wachsmann presents a one-of-a-kind comprehensive examination of how the early eastern Mediterranean cultures took to the sea--and how they evolved as a result. The author surveys the blue-water ships of the Egyptians, Syro-Canaanites, Cypriots, Early Bronze Age Aegeans, Minoans, Mycenaeans, and Sea Peoples, and discusses known Bronze Age shipwrecks. Relying on archaeological, ethnological, iconographic, and textual evidence, Wachsmann delivers a fascinating and intricate rendering of virtually every aspect of early sea travel--from ship construction and propulsion to war on the open water, piracy, and laws pertaining to conduct at sea. This book brings together for the first time the entire corpus of evidence pertaining to Bronze Age seafaring and will be of special value to archaeologists, maritime historians, philologists, and Bronze Age textual scholars. Offering an abundance of line drawings and photographs and written in a style that makes the material easily accessible to the layperson, Wachsmann's study is certain to become a standard reference for anyone interested in the dawn of sea travel.

A view of the coastline of Zakinthos, Greece. Source: Unsplash.
Creator: Mihail Minkov. License: Unsplash license.