Several ancient civilizations were located around its shores; thus it has had a major influence on those cultures. It provided routes for trade, colonization and war, and provided food (by fishing and the gathering of other seafood) for numerous communities throughout the ages. The sharing of similar climate, geology and access to a common sea led to numerous historical and cultural connections between the ancient and modern societies around the Mediterranean.
Two of the most notable Mediterranean civilizations in classical antiquity were the Greek city states and the Phoenicians. When Augustus founded the Roman Empire, the Mediterranean Sea began to be called Mare Nostrum (literally:"Our Sea") by the Romans. Darius I of Persia, who conquered Ancient Egypt, built a canal linking the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. Darius's canal was wide enough for two triremes to pass each other with oars extended, and required four days to traverse. The western Roman empire collapsed around AD 476. Temporarily the east was again dominant as the Byzantine Empire formed from the eastern half of the Roman empire. Another power soon arose in the east: Islam. At its greatest extent, the Arab Empire controlled 75% of the Mediterranean region. Europe was reviving, however, as more organized and centralized states began to form in the later Middle Ages after the Renaissance of the 12th century. Ottoman power continued to grow, and in 1453, the Byzantine Empire was extinguished with the fall of Constantinople. The growing naval prowess of the European powers confronted further rapid Ottoman expansion in the region when the Battle of Lepanto checked the power of the Ottoman navy. The development of oceanic shipping began to affect the entire Mediterranean. Once, all trade from the east had passed through the region, but now the circumnavigation of Africa allowed spices and other goods to be imported through the Atlantic ports of western Europe. Phoenicia (UK pron.: /fn?/, US /fni?/; from the Greek: ?: Phoinike) was an ancient Semitic civilization situated on the
western, coastal part of the Fertile Crescent and centered on the coastline of modern Lebanon. All major Phoenician cities were on the coastline of the Mediterranean, some colonies reaching the Western Mediterranean. It was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean from 1550 BC to 300 BC. The Phoenicians used the galley, a man-powered sailing vessel, and are credited with the invention of the bireme. They were famed in Classical Greece and Rome as 'traders in purple', referring to their monopoly on the precious purple dye of the Murex snail, used, among other things, for royal clothing, and for their spread of the alphabet (or abjad), from which all major modern phonetic alphabets are derived. Phoenicians are widely thought to have originated from the earlier Canaanite inhabitants of the region. In the Amarna tablets of the 14th century BC, people from the region called themselves Kenaani or Kinaani (probably same as Canaanites), although these letters predate the invasion of the Sea Peoples by over a century. Much later, in the 6th century BC, Hecataeus of Miletus writes that Phoenicia was formerly called ? (Latinized: khna), a name Philo of Byblos later adopted into his mythology as his eponym for the Phoenicians: "Khna who was afterwards called Phoinix". Egyptian seafaring expeditions had already been made to Byblos to bring back "cedars of Lebanon" as early as the third millennium BC. "Phoenicia" is really a Classical Greek term used to refer to the region of the major Canaanite port towns, and does not correspond exactly to a cultural identity that would have been recognised by the Phoenicians themselves. It is uncertain to what extent the Phoenicians viewed themselves as a single ethnicity and nationality. Their civilization was organized in city-states, similar to ancient Greece. However, in terms of archaeology, language, life style and religion, there is little to set the Phoenicians apart as markedly different from other Semitic cultures of Canaan. As Canaanites, they were unique in their remarkable seafaring achievements.