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In ancient times several major civilizations emerged in Eurasia, or Europe and Asia. Western human being traces its roots to the individuals of Mesopotamia, in the land in between the Tigris and also Euphrates rivers, in what is now Iraq. Western expertise of the world expanded from this valley to the lands around the Mediterranean Sea. Expedition of the Mediterranean an ar went hand in hand through its colonization. The ancient Greeks and a seafaring world known together the Phoenicians created settlements transparent the Mediterranean world. Ancient Egypt, in north Africa bordering the Mediterranean, additionally developed an advanced society. Meanwhile, crucial civilizations arisen in the East, in the lands that room today China and India and Pakistan. The Chinese were energetic explorers that what are currently China and main Asia.

Early europe Exploration

Shores that the Mediterranean and the Atlantic

The first phase in european exploration centered on the Mediterranean region. In the first millennium bc Phoenicia and the Greek city-states rapidly colonized the shores of the Mediterranean and also Black seas. This widespread development must have been attach by expedition of the surrounding inland locations by many unknown soldiers and also traders. In the fifth century bc the old Greek writer Herodotus prefaced his History with a geographic description of what was then the known world. This advent reveals the the coasts of the Mediterranean and also the black seas had already been explored by then. Much of Europe, however, remained uncharted. Herodotus concludes through saying, “Whether the sea girds Europe round on the north none can tell.”

The Phoenicians were remarkable merchants, colonizers, and sailors. Fearless and also patient navigators, lock ventured into regions whereby no one rather dared come go. Castle are credited with the discovery and also use of the north Star for navigation. The Phoenicians sought to overcome trade and also exclude all your rivals. Because that this reason, they closely guarded the tricks of their profession routes and also discoveries and their understanding of winds and also currents.


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The landscape of the Phoenicians was located greatly in what is now Lebanon. From there, they established nests along the coastlines of Syria, Israel, Cyprus, Sicily, Sardinia, southern Spain, and northern Africa. Their an excellent colony that Carthage (now in Tunisia), created two notable explorers in the fifth century bc. Hanno sailed along the coast of western Africa. Himilco cruised to the north on a four-month journey. The objective of his trip was supposedly to consolidate regulate of the trade in tin along the Atlantic coast of Europe. From Carthage, he cruised to the Phoenician nest of Gades (now Cádiz, Spain). ~ visiting the coasts of Spain and Portugal, he got to northwestern France. Part historians think that Himilco may also have visited great Britain.

In ancient Greece, together in Phoenicia, expertise of various other lands came with abroad settlement. Arranged Greek colonization began in the 8 hours century bc. Advertising interests, greed, and also sheer curiosity it seems ~ to be the pressures that journey the Greek city-states come expand and explore. At its height, ancient Greece made up settlements in Asia Minor, the Greek islands, southern Italy, Sicily, and North Africa.

The Phoenicians long controlled the Strait the Gibraltar, in ~ the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. They allowed no one rather to pass with this channel come the Atlantic Ocean. In about 300 bc, however, Carthage came to be embroiled in a struggle with a Greek city in Sicily. Together a result, Phoenician power at the door of the Mediterranean temporary weakened. This lapse permitted the Greek explorer Pytheas to sail ideal through.



Pytheas was a navigator, geographer, and also astronomer indigenous the Greek nest of Massalia (now Marseille, France). He came to be the an initial Greek to visit and also describe the brother Isles and also the Atlantic shore of Europe. Cruising from the Mediterranean Sea right into the Atlantic, Pytheas quit at southerly Spain. He then probably followed the European shoreline to the tip of northwestern France. He at some point reached the southwestern pointer of England, in what is now Cornwall. Over there he may have actually visited the believe mines, i beg your pardon were well known in the ancient world. Pytheas asserted to have actually explored a large part of an excellent Britain top top foot. The may have actually sailed around the island; that accurately estimated its circumference in ~ 4,000 mile (6,400 kilometers). Pytheas visited some northern European countries and also may have reached the mouth of the Vistula river on the Baltic Sea. He likewise told of Thule, “the northernmost of the british Isles, six days sail indigenous Britain.” The location he visited may have been Iceland or Norway.

Pytheas make a variety of scientific observations during his voyage of exploration. He made calculations through a sundial at the summer solstice and noted the lengthening days together he traveled northward. He also observed that the north Star is no at the true north Pole and also that the Moon influence the tides.


Exploration that the north Atlantic was not lugged farther until number of centuries later. This expedition was undertaken no by Mediterranean peoples but by Vikings native Scandinavia. From the 8th to the 11th century ad, bands of sweden Vikings traded southeastward throughout the Russian plains. At the very same time, teams of Danish Vikings raided, traded, and resolved along the coasts of the north Sea. They arrived in the Mediterranean region, wherein they were known as the Normans. However, neither the Swedes no one the Danes travel in these areas were trying out lands the were unknown to polite Europeans.

It was the Vikings that Norway who were the true explorers. In about ad 890 the Viking Ohthere of Norway was “desirous to shot how much that nation extended north.” the sailed approximately Norway’s north Cape, follow me the coastline of Lapland to the White Sea. By contrast, most other Vikings cruising in high latitudes explored no eastward yet westward. Sweeping under the external edge of great Britain, they cleared up in the Orkney, Shetland, and Hebrides islands and also in Ireland. They climate voyaged on come Iceland, where in 870 they settled among Irish homesteaders who had actually preceded castle by some two centuries. The Vikings might well have arrived piloted by irish sailors. Norwegian Vikings later explored aside from that west in the Atlantic, reaching Greenland and also Newfoundland in phibìc America.

Shores of the Indian Ocean and the China Sea

From really early times, world pursued trade throughout the land bridges and also through the gulfs linking the parts of Asia, Africa, and Europe that lie between the Mediterranean and also Arabian seas. It is thus not surprising that exploratory voyages beforehand revealed the shores of the Indian Ocean.

The first Western observer to give an account of India was Scylax the Caria (an old district that Anatolia, in Turkey). In around 510 bc, Darius the Great, the king the Persia (Iran), sent out Scylax to discover the course of the Indus River. Scylax travel overland come the Kabul River, in Afghanistan. He reached the Indus River and also followed it v India to its mouth at the Arabian Sea, i beg your pardon is the northwestern part of the Indian Ocean. He then sailed westward. Passing by the Persian Gulf (which was already well recognized to the western world), he discover the Red Sea. Scylax finished his trip in northern Egypt. His journey had actually taken two and a fifty percent years to complete.


The explorations in the fourth century bc of the well known conqueror Alexander the an excellent of Macedonia brought much brand-new geographic expertise to the Greek world, and also control the vast brand-new territory. They likewise carried the affect of Mediterranean society to the East and of Eastern society to the Mediterranean.

Most the Alexander’s campaigns were journeys of army exploration. His earlier expeditions were to regions already familiar come the Greeks—Babylonia (in Iraq) and Persia. The later on ones, however, brought the Greeks a good deal of new information. These campaigns took him v the enormous tract the land indigenous the south of the Caspian Sea to the hills of the Hindu Kush of main Asia. Alexander and his army crossed these mountains to the Indus flow valley. They climate marched westward through the desolate nation along the southern edge the the Iranian plateau. They eventually reached Susa (now Shush, Iran), the funding of Darius the Great, and overthrew the Persian Empire.

The admiral in command the the expedition’s naval pressures was Nearchus. That waited because that the favorable monsoon winds and then cruised from the mouth of the Indus to the mouth of the Euphrates. He discover the northern shore of the Persian Gulf ~ above his way.

The roman Republic and later the Roman empire succeeded the Greek city-states together the good power the the western world. The empire eventually contained most of western Europe, north Africa, and the center East. Together Roman power grew, increasing wealth carried increasing requirements for luxuries native the East. This led to good commercial task in the east seas. Together the coasts came to be well known, Roman seafarers skillfully supplied the seasonal personality of the monsoon winds come navigate. During the regime of the roman emperor Hadrian in the 1st century bc, west traders reached what are now Thailand, Cambodia, and Indonesia. A couple of also it seems ~ to have actually reached the shore of China. In the late second century ad, according to Chinese records, an “embassy” come from the roman emperor Marcus Aurelius come the Chinese emperor Huandi.

Chinese Exploration

The Chinese occurred an advanced civilization in early times and were energetic explorers. From their ancient homeland in the container of the Huang that (Yellow River), they spread out widely, ultimately producing a substantial empire. Beforehand explorations centered on the courses of the rivers that noted the growing state with water for farming as fine as transport routes. The state developed many canals and dikes. The search for land paths through the mountains and also deserts to the northwest and also west also became important. Expansion was a significant spur come exploration. Chinese farmers ventured out to settle new lands. State-sponsored missions additionally sent out parties to conquer and also colonize territory, to survey and administer the overcame lands, and to preserve state security.

Zhang Qian and also the Silk Road


During the Han empire (206 bc–ad 220), the expanding Chinese realm was endangered by raiders from the north. Civilization who led a nomadic, or wandering, life in the north steppe land would certainly invade cleared up agricultural communities to the south to solve regular food shortages. The great Wall of China had actually been constructed to protect Chinese territory versus northern nomads, especially the Xiongnu. The Xiongnu may have been the same human being known together the Huns in Europe. Starting in the regime of the Han emperor Wudi, the Chinese lugged out long and also costly military campaigns along the northern and also northwestern borders.

Wudi also dispatched an envoy, Zhang Qian, to shot to forge a military alliance with another nomadic people against the Xiongnu. Zhang ended up being a pioneering explorer. He to be the an initial person to bring earlier a trusted account that the soil of central Asia to the court the China. He collection off in 138 bc to shot to develop relations through a nomadic people called the Yuezhi. The traveled through what is now the Chinese province of Gansu, however he was caught by the Xiongnu. They retained him prisoner for 10 year in the Altai Mountains prior to he finally controlled to escape. He then proceeded on his mission, getting to the Yuezhi in what is now Afghanistan. On his return trip via Tibet, he to be again recorded by the Xiongnu, yet he escaped about a year later. He returned to China ~ an lack of part 13 years. 7 years later Zhang was sent out on an additional mission, this time to the Wusun, a civilization living in the Ili flow valley (in what is now northwestern China).

Although Zhang was no able to create an alliance v the Yuezhi or the Wusun, the made essential diplomatic contacts and collected much valuable information. In enhancement to travel himself, he sent his assistant come visit parts of what are currently Uzbekistan and also Afghanistan. Zhang gathered details on Parthia (now in Iran), India, and other says in the area. His missions opened the means for exchanges the envoys in between these main Asian states and also China. His voyages additionally brought the Chinese into contact with the outposts of Greek culture established by Alexander the Great. As a an outcome of Zhang’s missions, new items were introduced in China, consisting of a superior breed of steeds and new plants, such together grapes and also alfalfa.

Commerce as well as conquest inspired Chinese travel. Zhang Qian had actually encountered a series of trade courses that skirted the good Takla Makan Desert of central Asia. Trade began to grow along these caravan routes. The routes are currently known collectively as the Silk Road, since Chinese silk to be a major and an important product traded along them. The Silk Road eventually extended native China through main Asia to the middle East. From there, goods were transport to Europe. One more branch of the Silk Road caused India. In enhancement to gift a advertisement thoroughfare, the Silk Road became a major route for take trip and cultural exchange in between the East and also the West.

In the first century advertisement Chinese envoys to be frustrated in an attempt to visit the western part of the world. However, as currently mentioned, a mission from Rome reached China by ship in the second century. The an initial record of main visitors arriving at the Han court indigenous Japan is for the year ad 57.

Buddhist Pilgrimages to India

Chinese expertise of India was broadened by the voyages of Chinese buddhist monks to research there, in the “Holy Land” the Buddhism. The an initial known Chinese monk come undertake together a expedition was Faxian. He set out in ad 399 in order to bring earlier Buddhist messages from India the were unavailable in China. His expedition took him throughout the trackless desert wastes of main Asia to Khotan (now Hotan, China), an oasis center for caravans on the Silk Road. He climate crossed the hill area known as the Pamirs along a treacherously narrow and also steep path. In 402 he arrived in India. There he went to the most crucial seats of buddhism learning and the holiest buddhist places. He continued to be for a lengthy time at what is now the city of Patna, transcribing buddhist texts.

On the way home, Faxian cruised to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), wherein he collected additional buddhism writings. After setting sail for China, a violent storm drove his delivery onto one island the was more than likely Java (now in Indonesia). He took one more boat, yet it too was pushed astray before finally gift blown come a Chinese port. In all, Faxian spent more than 200 days at sea. After returning to his homeland, Faxian translated into Chinese the Buddhist messages he had actually taken so lot trouble to carry back. He likewise wrote a thorough account of his pioneering journeys.

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After Faxian, many other Chinese monks go on pilgrimages to India. Amongst them to be Xuanzang in the 7th century. He was unable to attain a take trip permit, so he left Chang’an, China, by stealth in 629. He traveled phibìc of the Takla Makan Desert and throughout the mountains well-known as the Hindu Kush come northwestern India. From there he sailed down the Ganges River, showing up at its eastern reaches in 633. ~ visiting numerous holy places and also studying at a buddhism monastery for numerous years, he returned residence in 645. He had been unable to do 16 years. Favor Faxian, the brought earlier numerous religious texts. Xuanzang’s record of his travels, through its wealth of precise data, has actually been of good value to modern historians and also archaeologists.