The Mediterranean Sea Cradle of Civilization

By Saglamer, Gulsun | UN Chronicle, April 2013 | Go to article overview

The Mediterranean Sea Cradle of Civilization


Saglamer, Gulsun, UN Chronicle


The Mediterranean Basin has been the cradle of world civilization since the first settlements in Jericho in 9000 BC. Known in English and the romance languages as the sea "between the lands", the Mediterranean goes and has gone by many names: Our Sea, for the Romans, the White Sea (Akdeniz) for the Turks, the Great Sea (Yam Gadal) for the Jews, the Middle Sea (Mittelmeer) for the Germans and more doubtfully the Great Green for the ancient Egyptians. (1) Our Sea played a major role in the communication of the peoples around it and prevented clashes between people with different interests from different parts of the Basin. No other such basin exists in the world. The world map shows what a unique location the Mediterranean Sea has in the world--it is big enough to house all of us but at the same time, with its unique shape, with its islands, bays and straits, it creates the means to connect the people around it. It looks as if it is a closed sea, but it offers the main transportation routes between east and west.

The Mediterranean Sea is a symbol of creativity, of the search for the meaning of life and for wisdom, and of the love of people and nature. This sea has always been an environment that has bred outstanding people who have made remarkable contributions to the development of history in philosophy, art, music, literature, science and technology. Magnificent civilizations have scattered all around the Basin, from east to west, from north to south, from Mesopotamia to Egypt, from Anatolia, Troy to Macedonia, from the Greek city states to Phoenician civilization, from Carthage to Rome, from Baghdad to Al-Andalus, from Byzantium to the Ottoman Empire and from Alexandria to Bologna, and have formed a sound base for world civilizations. One cannot imagine a history of the world without the Egyptian, Hellenistic, Roman and Ottoman civilizations.

THE HISTORY OF INTELLECTUAL DEVELOPMENT IN THE MEDITERRANEAN BASIN

Established in 300 BC, the Ancient Library of Alexandria in Egypt was one of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world. The first intellectual developments emerged in the eastern Mediterranean and focused mainly on philosophy. People around the Mediterranean Sea have had limitless opportunities to meet with different cultures and to learn about the world and this fact, starting from the Hellenistic period, gave birth to the emergence of philosophers and scientists who made great contributions to intellectual development. Among them were Thales from Miletus, Anaxirnandros, Anaximendes, Pythagoras, Xenophanes and Diogenes from Apollo, Hipocrates, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle (sixth, fifth, fourth centuries BC).

The Middle Ages were the Golden Age of the Islamic people in the region, and between 622 and 750 AD, starting in the Arab Peninsula, Islamic state expansion spread over the Middle East, part of Asia Minor, Persia, Northern Africa and Iberia. For centuries, Al-Andalus in Iberia and Morocco were alternative cultural centres to Baghdad. From the eighth until the fifteenth century, many philosophers had a notable impact on the development of Islamic philosophy in the region, among them Jabir Ibn Hayyan, Al Farabi, Al Biruni, Ibn Sina, Al Qushayri, Al Ghazali, Al Baghdaadi, Ibn Rushd, Jalal ad-Din Rum i, and Ibn Khaldun.

From ancient times to the medieval and Renaissance periods, the Mediterranean Basin played a major role in philosophy, art and science. After the eighteenth century, however, when long-range seafaring became possible and new trade routes developed, the Mediterranean region began to lose its importance and other parts of Europe and North America gained influence. Thus, there was a shift both from south to north and from east to west in the development of modern philosophy, art, science and technology.

THE HISTORY OF UNIVERSITIES IN THE MEDITERRANEAN REGION

The list of the oldest universities in the world varies, depending on how one defines a university. …

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