Fernand Braudel on Syria

At the other, eastern end of the Mediterranean, Syria was another island, a halfway house between sea and desert, a source from which many things were to dow: men, techniques, empires, civilizations, and religions. It gave the Mediterranean the alphabet, the art of glassmaking, purple dyes for cloth, and the secrets of dry-farming in Phoenician times; it provided first Rome and then Byzantium with emperors; its ships ruled over the Phoenician sea, the first, or almost the first Mediterranean in history, and finally in 1516 -as in 634 – it was through its conquest of this vital region that triumphant Islam (Arabs in the seventh century, Turks in the sixteenth) reached the stage of history.
Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the age of Phillip II, 1949.

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