Europeans saw their cultural roots in Greece and Rome. Many of the more informative sites were in the Arab and Ottoman world.
The Grand Tours of the 18th century saw a parade of (mostly) European gentlemen visit ancient sites in Italy. Greece was little explored even at the turn of the 19th century, although by the turn of the 20th, it would be a focal point for archaeology. The Middle East was so little explored that effectively it was a blank on the map.
The 19th century brought to light a wealth of spectacular Greek and Roman remains in North Africa and the Middle East: Carthage and Dougga in Tunisia, Ephesus and Pergamon in Turkey. In the early years of the 20th century, aerial surveys in Tunisia illustrated Roman land-use practices that had been sought for in vain in Europe.
Feelings of empathy with the soldiers of ancient empires fostered an interest in life on the frontiers in antiquity among North African colonists. Under Napoleon, France identified with the might of ancient Rome. In Germany, high culture and political fragmentation led to feelings of greater affinity with ancient Greece.