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The Mediterranean Basin provided basic elements for what was to become Western Architecture. People undoubtedly settled around the shores of the Mediterranean because of the easy transportation the waterway provided. It's been that way throughout history. Rivers have been the highways for the transporting of goods. Junctions of rivers with seas became major centers of human habitation. Athens has had its port of Piraeus, Crete has Iraklion, Ostia served ancient Rome, while Venice, Genoa, and Naples lived off of the sea and its ships. Venetian leaders (the Doge) went so far as to establish ports throughout the Mediterranean, building fortresses to protect their shipping interests in the Peloponnesus and in Crete. These are but two examples of how Venice, in particular, went to a port and seized control, either for protection or monopolistic advantage.

Roads and their intersections were land variations of the aquatic theme. But times do not really change. Think of modern turnpikes and interstate freeways, and realize that growth happens at intersections of traffic routes. The basics spring up: gas stations, restaurants, hotels and motels. In the past there were caravans with animals acting as beasts of burden. They and their human owners had to stop at the end of the day to eat, drink, and sleep. Stops were made at watering holes, or wells were dug for that purpose, food provided, along with bedding - an inn, a barn. Thus was created man-made civilization out of the wilderness.

But we digress - back to the Med. People settled all around this Sea. The climate is generally milder than either to the north or the south, so it seems people preferred to settle in a hospitable climate; they were more comfortable. And that is where much of our Western history evolved, at least, at the beginning - the shores of the Mediterranean.

There was a variety of good building materials - stone and marble for durability, clay for brickwork, and eventually volcanic matter for cement (tufa), which allowed the creation of concrete by the Romans.

© Architecture Past Present & Future - Edward D. Levinson, 2009

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