The Mediterranean in 550 B.C.
Greece had emerged as a center of trade, commerce, and civilization, politically organized into autonomous city-states. Greek settlers had colonized Sicily and southern Italy, the Aegean Islands, the Black Sea, Ionia, and maintained trading centers in Libya (Cyrenaica) and Egypt (Nancratis).
Ionia was the product of the first wave of Greek colonists c. 1000 B.C. In the sixth century, Ionia was the richest part of the Greek world and its most aggressive maritime and commercial center, largely under Phoenician influence.
Phoenicia was the pioneering trading and colonizing nation of the ancient world. By 1100 B.C., its colonists had settled the Aegean, North Africa, Spain, Malta, Sicily, and Sardinia. Its mariners had circumnavigated Africa and may have sailed to the new world. Phoenicia fell to Assyria, then to Babylon, in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.
Egypt, the oldest continuously existing civilization in the Mediterranean, was closely tied to Greece in the prehistoric period. Following the Saite rebellion of 652 B.C. in which Ionians and Lydians joined Egyptians in ousting the oligarchist Assyrian Empire, Egypt became once again a cosmopolitan, trading culture.
Lydia, the wealthiest nation in this period was also largely under Phoenician influence, and nominally ruled Ionia. Lydia maintained inland trade routes throughout Asia Minor.
Babylonian Empire: The looting, tax-farming instrument of the Mesopotamian oligarchy centered in the Marduk Priesthood, Babylon had spent its force through overtaxation to the point where further expansion was impossible by the sixth century B.C.
Persia and Media: Closely related peoples, both were completely insignificant agrarian and shepherding tribalists until the Marduk priesthood assisted Persia's conquest of Lydia-allied Media. With the new wealth and military power made available by Media -- and Marduk's priesthood -- Persia overran every nation in the eastern Mediterranean in the next 25 years, except mainland Greece.
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