6 Historical Periods from the Oceanic Perspective
When and how did Europe become established as a single historical entity?
This chapter deals with the division of historical periods into ancient, medieval, early modern (16th to 18th centuries) and modern (19th century onwards) in accordance with Europeans_ sense of their own history and with reference to the views of the best historians that Europe has produced. From this it will become apparent that two factors had a particularly profound influence on the periods of transition between these ages. The first was Europe_s relationship with the sea and the second was its interaction with the Orient (Islam).
(1) The Making of Ancient Europe
The Mediterranean Origins of European History
The story of Europe cannot be told without reference to the Histories of Herodotus (484_430 b.c.), the _Father of History._ The theme of the Histories is the East-West conflict between Greece and Persia culminating in the wars of the early 5th century b.c. Herodotus relates the events leading up to the defeat of Persia by Athens, skillfully weaving in tales that vividly convey the Orient during this period. Herodotus_s account is more a history of the Orient than of Europe, but the description of the Orient_the Arab Middle East of today _throws light on maritime Athens by conveying its distinct differences with Persia. For example, Herodotus describes the outcome of the naval battle of Salamis in 480 b.c. as follows:
_In this fierce battle, many great men of Persia, Media and other allied countries were slain, including Ariavignes??, son of Darius and younger brother of Xerxes. The Greek navy also suffered casualties but their number was small. Because the Greeks could swim, even after their boats were destroyed, those who escaped their enemies_ swords swam to the safety of Salamis Island. Most of the Persian soldiers could not swim and perished in the sea. A large part of the Persian fleet was destroyed when the boats in the front line started to turn and flee, colliding with the advancing line behind them as they rushed forward in their eagerness to show their mettle to the King._
It is apparent from this account that the Greeks were a seafaring people who could swim while the Persians were a landlocked people who could not. The arena of the Greeks activities was of course the Mediterranean Sea. According to the earliest history book, Europe took its name from the daughter of the King of Phoenicia, Europa, who was carried off by the God Zeus, and had its origins in the Mediterranean Sea. Herodotus is known as the _Father of History,_ but it might be more accurate to call him the _Father of European History._
(2) The Establishment of Medieval Europe
External Pressure from Islam - The Mediterranean Blockade
What brought about the transition from the ancient to the medieval period? This question has been brilliantly analyzed by the Belgian historian Henri Pirenne, whom Masuda Shiro described as _one of the greatest historians of Europe in the first half of the twentieth century._ In his masterpiece, Mohammed, Charlemagne, and the Origins of Europe, Pirenne stated that Europe came into being through the medium of Islam. Rejecting the conventional view of most historians that the collapse of Roman civilization was caused by pressure from Germanic peoples in the north, Pirenne argued that the Germans took over Roman culture as part of a continuous process and that it was pressure from Islam that caused the decisive break in European history, resulting in the transition from the ancient to the medieval period.
The Mediterranean Sea was effectively blockaded as a result of external pressure from Islam. The Mediterranean, which had been a Roman lake in ancient times, became an Arab lake, creating an isolated, landlocked Europe. After the Christian army led by Charles Martel defeated the Arabs at Tours-Poitiers in 731, the two sides became encamped on either side of the Pyrenees.