The debated term “Mediterranean” has been variously understood as a modern construct, a “politics of knowledge,” and/or a zone of community or conflict. This article argues that such polyvalence can be traced back to the second century BCE. During this period, and in Polybius' Histories, a teleological understanding of world power was evolving, one that labeled Rome as an inevitably superior focal point of a Mediterranean-centered “oikoumenē.” Geographic determinism combined with a language of cultural capital to weave a new map of the “inhabited world,” according to which “global” time and space unified along the spine of an “Our Sea.”

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