Ancient Maritime World

Workshop – Summer School – Research

The Maritime World of Classical Antiquity

From the Late Bronze Age to Late Antiquity the history of classical antiquity is to a large extent a maritime history and in many ways influenced by the Mediterranean Sea, its conditions and opportunities. The mare mediterraneum was, of course, the main factor for the emergence and development of numerous coastal settlements, their cultural influence on neighbouring regions as well as the spread of ancient culture in general. It gave rise to several maritime powers, most prominent e.g. the Phoenicians, Athenians and Carthaginians, as well as to piracy in its various forms. With imperial Rome and its political supremacy over the Mediterranean world, the opportunities and prosperity of a large, interconnected and mainly maritime – i.e. globalised world then became apparent for the first time on this geographical scale. But also before and for centuries, the sea enabled easy connections over long distances and a largely free exchange of goods and culture. And because of the sea, one can certainly speak of a globalised Mediterranean world already at a very early stage.

Nevertheless, the various conditions in individual areas of the Mediterranean could hardly have been more diverse. Unlike today, navigation and trade routes were particularly dependent on regional and supra-regional meteorological conditions as well as on the specific natural environment. Furthermore, the hinterland of coastal regions offered various influences. Whereas the sea in antiquity was always both a connecting and a dividing element – and in terms of cultural and historical development the 'simultaneity of the non-simultaneous' was not an exception but the rule.

The Ancient Maritime World

The Ancient Maritime World takes a closer look at the maritime context of classical antiquity. It focuses on both the complexity of historical developments as well as the underlying and determining maritime factors in certain cases and regions. It is obvious that early epochs like the Mycenaean or Archaic periods offered specific and, in many ways, different historical settings than the Roman Empire or Late Antiquity. And socio-historical conditions, exploitation of natural resources or technical know-how are just some of the factors that influenced historical developments. 

Travelling the sea can therfore provide a comprehensive and more direct understanding of cultural-historical changes and their respective conditions. It certainly offers a clear view of ancient time and space as well as the potential, difficulties and dangers of the sea. And it may provide a deeper insight into the understanding of cultural interconnection as well as their critical consideration.

International Workshop / Summer School – Ancient Maritime World VI

In Odysseus' Home Waters

from/to Lefkada – Sept 2023