What great cultures existed in the Mediterranean world of 500 BC? Which could compete with the new Republic of Rome? It had four major competitors in its early years. First was Greece, in 500 BC a loose federation of many great city-states, some such as Athens with large populations, but all united by language and culture. The Greek states dominated the whole of the northeastern corner of the Mediterranean. Second were the Phoenicians. The international Phoenician empire was based in present-day Lebanon, in cities such as Tyre, Byblos, and Sidonia, extending west to the great western capital of Carthage. Phoenicia dominated the south coast of the Mediterranean all the way to Gibraltar. Third were the Etruscans, who controlled central and northern Italy. We will devote a separate evening to the Etruscans since they were central to the formation of the Roman nature. And fourth were the Egyptians. These were the four great cultures that were more advanced than Rome in the year 500 BC.


You will all want one book to use as an introduction and as a reference book to search out answers and maps and other study aids for this year on ancient Rome. There is an excellent older book by Michael Grant that is out of print and thus good quality copies are harder and harder to find, but it is still the best choice. The Michael Grant book is out there in used copies and you can search Amazon and make your own decision. Although the Grant book is an old one, it has the advantage of being succinct, primarily historical and political with the basics well explained.

Michael Grant,

History of Rome,

Prentice Hall,

ISBN 0023456108

About the Author :

Michael Grant (1914-2004) was a historian whose over forty publications on ancient Rome and Greece popularised the classical and early Christian world. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, served in intelligence and as a diplomat during the Second World War, and afterwards became deputy director of the British Council's European division, when he also published his first book. He later returned to academia, teaching at Cambridge and Edinburgh, and serving as Vice Chancellor at the University of Khartoum and at Queen's University, Belfast.


If, as a preface to our studies of Rome, you would like to have a general introduction to the world of the Mediterranean, this wonderful book will be perfect:

It is not too long,  but it is rich in detail about Greece and Phoenicia.  This is a grand sweep of history by the late Fernand Braudel–one of the twentieth century’s most influential historians–Memory and the Mediterranean chronicles the Mediterranean’s immeasurably rich past during the foundational period from prehistory to classical antiquity, illuminating nothing less than the bedrock of our civilization and the very origins of Western culture. Essential for historians, yet written explicitly for the general reader, this magnificent account of the ebb and flow of cultures shaped by the Mediterranean takes us from the great sea’s geologic beginnings through the ancient civilizations that flourished along its shores.

Fernand Braudel,

Memory and the Mediterranean,

Vintage; Reprint edition (December 3, 2002) ,

ISBN 0375703993