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Chapter 1 (9-26) - Ecology and Culture Chapter 1(p 9-26 A...

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Ecology and Culture Chapter 1 (p. 9-26) A Geographical Expression 1. What is the Mediterranean? No clear cut answer can be given to the above question and the book is a whole response to it. However 2 topics can be introduced at this preliminary stage: 1. The long history of how the Med. Sea has been envisaged, beginning with the earliest traceable origins of the notion that its waters constitute a single entity. 2. ‘Scientific’ definition of the Med’s physical geography: the established answer to the question of what makes it a region. The Med unity has been characterised by either an interactionist approach (ease of communication) which is likely to emphasise the sea; and the ecologising approach (common physical features) which is likely to offer generalised description of hinterlands. These 2 approaches can be combined under the signs of the microecology and connectivity . The logical priority of the sea resulted primarily from the centrality of the sea to communications. Despite the obvious dangers, sea transport surpassed land communications in ease and created an interlocking set of routes onto which harbours and coastlands faced. In a continuum of experience through which the thought of Levantine and Greek worlds mingled, the practice of navigation brought into existence an alternative geography. A specialised terminology of land (or sea) forms was elaborated, a Med topographical expertise that has displayed striking continuity over the centuries. The circumstances of navigation are registered in the influential expression of geographical consistency, the coastwise voyage or periplous : the space of the sea is conceived as a linear route defined by a sequence of harbours or natural features. Med came to be regarded as a great river and appears so in a late Roman map (where sea is grossly elongated). Navigation required a sophisticated direction-finding art based on segmenting the discernible horizon according to the names of prevailing winds. The Med sea was local to many ancient cultures where from the time of Plato and Aristotle, the Greeks referred to it as “Sea over by Us”; the Romans regarded it as Mare Nostrum , ‘Our Sea’. The divisions of the Med reflected in the relativism of the 4 th Cent BC. It is possible to trace a whole ser of complex ideas from Homer to Hellenistic age that conceptualise the Western Med as a kind of Near and Far West. Roman self-centredness was more aggressive and its claim was part of their political and cultural process by which they defined the place of Rome at the heart of an Inhabited world – Orbis Terrarum with the Med at its centre. Eventually this relativism weakened and during Roman Empire the term ‘Mediterranean Sea’ was coined. The clear notion of the Med, part of the ‘scientific’ world-view of the time persists in the learned traditions of 1
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Ecology and Culture the medieval European Mappe Mundi and of the Arab geographical writings, where the
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