The elites of early-modern Europe would have understood Goethe’s response to Sicily. Steeped as they were in the great works of Greek and Roman culture, Sicily was a living memory of those ancient, brilliant civilisations stretching across Europe, Africa and Asia. The revival of this classical heritage was a key characteristic of Renaissance culture and would be again in Goethe’s day, which we celebrate as the start of Europe’s Enlightenment. Familiarity with these vast empires gave them a global vision which the increasing popularity of maps, atlases and long-distance travel reinforced. Fragments of this reached those without substantial means or formal education through popular tales and published materials. In any case, Europeans of all stripes had a broad vision of the world inculcated into them from birth as a result of belonging to one of three universalist religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Their sacred texts originated in lands beyond Europe, whence many of their principal figures were born or had lived. This alone gave them a sense of belonging to a wider world. Christianity and Islam inspired and justified global expansion in the early-modern world. While Islamic states expanded into Europe, Africa and Asia, from the fifteenth century Christian European sovereigns conquered and settled lands scattered over several continents, including two, America and Australia, which had been unknown to the revered Ancients. News and tales of the almost unbelievable variety of peoples, landscapes, flora and fauna to be found beyond Europe were widely circulated.