With the discovery of the Americas and a route around Africa to South and East Asia in the 16th century, The Mediterranean became less important to world trade as the countries capable of long-range seafaring like Spain, Portugal, France, England and The Netherlands began to colonise and exploit the Americas, and Ottoman domination of the Middle East ensured that nothing was coming from the Silk Road. Slowly but surely, the Maritime Kingdoms of Italy lost the power and prestige they gained during the Renaissance.

The Ottoman empire was at its greatest extent, with the taking of Hungary in the 1520s under Suleiman the Magnificent indicating that the Ottomans may finally take the rest of Europe. Nevertheless, with the death of Suleiman 40 years later, the empire began to stagnate not unlike the Byzantine Empire that they conquered. Less than ten years after Suleiman’s death, the Ottoman Navy was destroyed by a combined force. By the late 17th Century, the Ottoman Empire was no longer a threat to Christian Europe after a crushing defeat at the Siege of Vienna.

Meanwhile, the countries that got a foothold in America, Asia and Africa began to grow in strength. With the Renaissance sweeping through Europe, the vanguard of technological development moved from Muslim nations to Christian nations. New military and trading ships were developed, with the former playing a vital role in the outcome of Lepanto. Explorers began to circumnavigate and map out the world, leaving the way open for European colonisers to invade and conquer the native forces with ease, due to the massive technological edge they had. Italy was reunited under Vittorio Emmanuel II, creating a powerful nation that began jockeying with other European powers for control of the sea.

As the Ottoman Empire stagnated, many ethnic groups in Europe, influenced by both the American and French Revolution, began to clamour for control of their own nations. The early 19th century saw the Ottoman Empire shrinking down to a fraction of its past glory: Serbia, Romania, Greece, Bulgaria, Moldavia and Montenegro achieved independence by the turn of the century, and many North African states became colonies or vassals of the now-great European empires. 2 disastrous wars with Russia drained the Ottomans of money and manpower even further.

A massive development in Mediterranean affairs was the creation of the Suez Canal, a vital shipping route and thoroughfare to the East. Britain, France and other empires were reliant on the canal for shipping goods to and from their various empires. It also had the side effect of making eastern Africa easier to colonise, which was a major focus of European affairs.

With the creation of the canal, the Mediterranean was re-established as an important trading route. With the turn of the century, the Mediterranean would begin to see naval warfare after hundreds of years of peace, complemented by new technology that allowed for iron and steel behemoths of the seas: the Battleship. To this day, the Mediterranean remains important to maritime trade, and more recently, tourism. If you’re looking for a yacht charter based in Monaco and Antibes with access to ports around the western Mediterranean and the Caribbean, superyacht charter south of France provides several cruising locations in the Mediterranean so you can see some of the history of the Mediterranean for yourself.