Mediterranea and Africa–East of the Sun

This week we’re visiting a very interesting part of the world. You know it as the home of olives and pasta, and maybe the beginnings of civilization. It’s the Mediterranean Sea, with all of it’s surrounding countries. Let me list off some of the important ones for you.



Greece is responsible for most of what makes the world “civilized” today. Including, but not limited to, sculpture, architecture, geometry, philosophy, theatre, democracy, and the Olympics. Ancient Greece was obsessed with theatre as a vehicle for storytelling and teaching, and so all of the great ancient Greek writers were playwrights. They include writers like Sophocles, who gave us the infamous Riddle of the Sphinx and the still celebrated tragedy Antigone about a young girl who defies the state to obey a higher, moral law.


Italy gave us Rome who then proceeded to conquer the world, spreading roads and Latin wherever they went. This imposition of a single language contributed more than anything to the rapid spread of knowledge and literacy that may have led to the Renaissance and, from there, to the industrial revolution. The Romans learned what they good about art from the Greeks, and some of that knowledge must have stayed in their blood for the Italians have given us some of the greatest art in the world. Roman authors also abound, most notably Homer who’s Iliad and Odyssey are still talked about today.


One could argue that it is their presence on the Mediterranean that gives the French people their passion and sets them apart from their Celtic neighbours to the north. French, like Spanish, is derived from Latin, and French adventure writers have been regaling us with their wit and romance for centuries. While the English author Dickens was working on the Pickwick Papers, Alexandre Dumas was turning out a chapter a week of The Three Musketeers. Raphael Sabatini wrote classics such as Scaramouche, and Captain Blood. And let us not forget Victor Hugo’s epic political commentaries Les Miserable and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.


Now days Spain is mostly known for her contribution in colonizing Mexico, but before that, she was definitely a world power in her own right, trading extensively with North Africa, most notably Morocco where Spanish and French are still spoken. Spain’s greatest literary work is Don Quioxte by Cervantes, possibly the greatest satire piece ever written.


Land of power, land of mystery, Egypt is the home of the Nile, the pyramids, Cleopatra, the sphinx itself, and one of the most baffling writing systems in the world–hieroglyphs. Possibly no other culture in the world has contributed so much to the imagination and popular conception of modern media. Modern classics like “Night at the Museum” wouldn’t be the same if the Egyptians hadn’t given us mummies and hammered gold effigies, tomb curses and fabulous buried treasure.


Who can forget Turkey, home of the great Ottoman Empire? While Rome was busy fighting off barbarians, and Europe was figuring how to not be the barbarians, the Ottoman Empire was holding civilization together. The great works of Greece had been translated into Arabic and years later, after the crusades, many important works that would otherwise have been lost were able to find their way to Europe and be translated back into Latin, or into English. The Turks made incredible advances in the sciences such as astronomy, alchemy, and medicine. While the west descended into darkness and warfare, the light of peace and civilization was being kept alive in the east.

Reading List

The Thief – Megan Whalen Turner (Greece)
The Face of Apollo–Fred Saberhagen (Greece)
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Greece)
The Court of the Stone Children – Eleanor Cameron (France)
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (Nigeria)
The Osiris Ritual–George Mann (Egypt)

Don’t forget to come back on Wednesday for our interview with Sarah Hans–editor of Steampunk World, an anthology that’s both steampunk and diverse! Once again, our reading list for this week is very small, so please feel free to let us know about any suggestions you have!

Katie Lynn Daniels is the author of Supervillain of the Day, and the mastermind behind Vaguely Circular. She blogs about science and things that are peripherally related to science. You can read all her posts here.


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