Swimming was a popular sport in Egypt as early as 2500 BCE, and it spread to the Assyrian, Greek, and Roman civilizations after that. Swimming was a component of martial arts instruction in ancient Greece and Rome, and it was taught to male students in primary school alongside the alphabet. With some evidence of swimming competitions in Japan as early as the first century BCE, swimming has a long history in the Orient. By the 17th century, swimming instruction in schools was mandated by imperial decree. Before Japan was made accessible to the West in the 19th century, organized swimming competitions were staged there. Evidently, youngsters of the preliterate maritime peoples of the Pacific learned to swim around the time they could walk.