At the end of the first millennium BC and the start of the first millennium AD, Rome held sway, politically speaking, in the Mediterranean area at large. These were centuries in which a great number of peoples of diverse cultural traditions, religious habits of mind, and social structures all lived peacably together, accepting to a great degree the economic practices and system of administrative organization that went with Roman power.

For several centuries there existed an area which stretched from the Atlantic ocean to the Red Sea, and from the Caucasus, the Rhine and the Danube to the Euphrates and the wastes of the Sahara. Within this area, there was free circulation of people, beliefs, products and ideas; a situation which gave rise to very distinct political and social conditions, hitherto unknown in these regions. It was also an environment which permitted a culture founded on the double inheritance of Greece and Rome -the culture we know as 'Graeco-Roman'- to make its appearance. So decisive was the influence of this culture, that the majority of the peoples of Europe today can trace the beginnings of their political history to their period of Romanization. Furthermore, the years during which the peoples of the eastern Mediterranean lived under Roman rule reshaped many of their values, so much so that this was one of the key periods in their culture.


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