Cultures in the Mediterranean Region. Many small centers sprang up after 1500 B.C.E., mixing their cultures with Mesopotamian influences.
The Hebrews and Monotheism.The Hebrews, a Semitic people, moved into the southeast corner of the region around 1600 B.C.E. Jewish tradition relates that Moses led them from Egypt to Palestine in the thirteenth century B.C.E. Their distinctive achievement was the development of a monotheistic and ethical religion. They regarded themselves as a chosen people under their god Yahweh's guidance. Their religious ideas were written down in the Torah and other writings. Two important features were the idea of an overall divine plan in history and the concept of a divinely organized morality. The Jews were not important politically, but their written religion enabled them, even when dispersed, to retain cultural identity. The Jews did not try to convert other peoples, but the later proselytizing faiths of Christianity and Islam incorporated their ideas.
The Minoans developed a civilized society in Crete around 1600 B.C.E. They traded with Egypt and Mesopotamia. Egypt influenced Minoanarchitectural forms, mathematics, and writing, and with Mesopotamia, influenced centralized, bureaucratic political forms. The Minoans conquered parts of the Greek mainland and established its first civilization at Mycenae. Both Crete and Greece were conquered by Indo‑Europeans around 1000 B.C.E., but the Minoans left a legacy for later Greek civilization.
The Phoenicians around 2000 B.C.E. settled on the Lebanese coast. Primarily a commercial society, they gained important influences from major civilization centers. Around 1300 B.C.E. they devised a simplified alphabet that became the ancestor of the Greek and Latin lettering systems. Phoenicians established colonies on the shores of the Mediterranean; the North African settlement at Carthage later became a major political and economic power. They sailed into the Atlantic, settling on Spanish and Portuguese shores; their search for tin brought them as far as Britain. Phoenicia fell to the Assyrians by the 6th century B.C.E., but their colonies long survived.