Falconer's The Shipwreck (1762) contains substantial passages in which the poet surveys the Greco-Roman cities and ruins visible to sailors as they sail past landmasses in the Mediterranean. This survey of past and present is a reminder of the changing fortunes—the rise and fall—of powerful city-states and empires. The poem's primary theme is the peril faced by sailors on trading voyages, on which they provide the labor, face the dangers, but earn few of the profits. By invoking the Greco-Roman past, however, Falconer also warns his readers of the human costs of commercial and imperial ambition.

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