The Appearance of Lighthouses on Portolan Charts: 1300-1600 AD

The Appearance of Lighthouses on Portolan Charts: 1300-1600 AD

By Kevin Sheehan

North and South, East and West: Movements in the Medieval World: Proceedings of the 2nd Postgraduate Conference of the Institute for Medieval Research, University of Nottingham, 30-31 May 2009, edited by Judith Mills and Marjolein Stern (2009)

Introduction: Seafaring is the life-blood of the Mediterranean and it has been for several millennia: the Phoenicians built their empire by the sea, as did the Athenians. The Romans understood the importance of the Mediterranean for the shipping of goods between the far corners of their Empire, and later the Byzantines ruled the eastern Mediterranean with their dromon and naves, while the Arabs secured dominion over the north African coast, conquered Sicily, and pushed deep into Iberia and the Italian peninsula through naval power. By the high Middle Ages, seafaring merchants and naval conquest fuelled the development of western Mediterranean nations. The same is true for the Atlantic European coast. In his seminal 1949 work La Méditerranée et la Monde Méditerranéen à l’Époque de Philippe II Fernand Braudel examined the entire economic history of the fifteenth-and sixteenthcentury Mediterranean, and the importance of the sea was well documented. In more recent years David Abulafia has written extensively on medieval Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic history and economy with particular reference to seafaring, and Geoffrey Scammell concentrated chiefly on how the dominion of the seas led to the first empires.

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