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Lesson 2.5: A Bridge Lesson on Empires of the Indo-Mediterranean in Context


Lesson 2.5: A Bridge Lesson on Empires of the Indo-Mediterranean in Context


Topic 4: Power and authority


This brief lesson provides context for the empires that students study in detail in typical courses, by giving points of reference and framing questions about imperial expansion into and out of the region (Assyrians, Greeks, Phoenicians, Persians, Romans, Barbarian groups, then Muslims). Using course materials, maps, and timelines, the lesson encourages students to examine issues surrounding the emergence, conflict and reach of empires and their relationship to the development of civilization. World history lessons on empires from World History For Us All are highlighted, including the concept of the Indo-Mediterranean as an interacting zone.


Susan Douglass


Our Shared Past in the Mediterranean: A World History Curriculum Project for Educators


Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies, George Mason University




2014, Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies, George Mason University, published under Creative Commons – Attribution-No Derivatives 3.0 License


Varies, depending on manner of use intermittently throughout the course


• Students will be able to locate major Bronze and Iron Age empires that impacted the Mediterranean on maps and timelines

• They will identify the factors that made empire-building possible, as well as the motivations of rulers in setting out on expansionist ventures.

• Comparing and contrasting the successes and failures of empires, students will analyze factors that influenced continuity and change at the level of empires

• They will differentiate between empire and civilization as historical concepts, and describe the relationship between imperial power and cultural development

• They will identify regions and societies in the Mediterranean region (broadly considered) that were drawn into the contests for empire, and describe their responses to the threat of invasion or absorption over time.

• As they work through the world history survey, they will consider the earliest Mediterranean empires and those in other world regions, and be able to draw comparisons, using the questions discussed about this era.


• Projection device to show multiple maps of empires, or classroom historical atlas, Panorama PPT from World History For Us All at - pan (see Slide 37-38) or Maps of War animation (90 seconds) at

• Module 1 Timeline of states and empires (see tiki-toki timeline files)

• Textbook or other course materials, lectures

World History For Us All Landscape Units for Era 4: 4.1, “From the Mediterranean to India: Patterns of power and trade, 1200 - 600 BCE”; 4.4, “From the Mediterranean to India: An age of Greek and Persian power, 600 - 200 BCE”; 4.5, “Giant empires of Afroeurasia, 300 BCE - 200 CE”

• Student handout 2.5.1 with questions for studying empires.

Lesson Plan Text

1. This lesson can be used to preview a unit on the ancient and classical period in the Mediterranean, or it can be used to close out such a unit. The purpose is to encourage students to question the civilizational narratives of Mediterranean powers as “belonging” to the Mediterranean vs. being outside intruders. By comparing what they learn in their textbook and other course materials in a framework of shared Mediterranean histories, they will explore changing, overlapping imperial maps and ask fundamental questions, exploring what it took to become a Mediterreanean imperial player and sustain empire (or not). This lesson also draws upon learnings from the other lessons and readings in this module, such as texts and images about moving armies, the composition of armies, transportation technologies, food, etc.

2. Use maps of empires during the period from textbook, atlas, or other source), Maps of War animation (90 seconds) at to show how Mediterranean territory was contested among empires over time, and from what geographic positions the empires expanded. Have students use the States & Cites Timeline from Module 1 to make a list of empires from 900 BCE to 700 CE.

3. Use Student Handout 2.5.1 as a guide for questioning empires. Divide students either by assigning specific empires or selected questions and have them work through in discussion.

4. Use the WHFUA Panorama lesson & Powerpoint slides, as well as Landscape Units listed above for Era 4, on the Mediterranean and the rise of large states in world history.

5. The lesson methodology can be applied throughout the course. In this era, students learn about the major contests among Greeks, Persians, Romans, Carthaginians, Goths, Visigoths, Vandals, Huns, etc. A major objective of this exercise is to have students explore the idea of the Mediterranean as “a closed sea connected to many places” (see Module 1, Lesson 3, the annotated map activity, which can be continued for this time period). Accordingly, they use what they have learned to find examples of empires’ connections to the wider Afroeurasian land/sea relationships during a time of expansion.

6. Teachers can repeat this questioning exercise for the next era, incorporating and modifying the questions. Students can assess and formulate questions about empires of the next era (Module 3) and beyond. Which of the questions about Mediterranean empires apply to the next period? What questions need to be discarded, and what new questions should be added? This inquiry process can continue throughout the course, including the European imperial powers of the 19th and 20th centuries.



Susan Douglass, “Lesson 2.5: A Bridge Lesson on Empires of the Indo-Mediterranean in Context,” Our Shared Past in the Mediterranean: Teaching Modules , accessed August 3, 2020,

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