Europe traded with the rest of the world through ancient trade routes across the Mediterranean, a pattern established as far back as the Roman Empire. Even after the Roman Empire collapsed and new European kingdoms rose in its place, trade with the Middle East, Africa, and Asia still flowed through the Byzantine Empire, sometimes know as the Eastern Roman Empire. But in 1453, the Byzantine empire fell and its capital, Constantinople, was lost to the Ottoman Turks, who established their own empire and sought further expansion into Europe.
With an Islamic power controlling this historical trade, European countries started to fund expeditions looking for new trades routes. The Portuguese started looking for new routes as early as the 1430s, but soon found rich lands along the cost of Africa. Gold, not slaves, first inspired Europeans to develop more sophisticated seafaring technologies, such as the caravel ship, which Columbus would use to sail across the Atlantic. Other technologies for navigation and food storage were made as Spanish and Portuguese explorers opened trade with Africa. These expeditions laid the groundwork for the naval advancements that would eventually enable transoceanic expeditions to the New World.