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Mediterranean Sea

Sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region

Top 10 Mediterranean Sea related articles

Mediterranean Sea
Map of the Mediterranean Sea
LocationWestern Europe, Southern Europe, North Africa and Western Asia
Coordinates35°N 18°E / 35°N 18°E / 35; 18Coordinates: 35°N 18°E / 35°N 18°E / 35; 18
Primary inflowsAtlantic Ocean, Sea of Marmara, Nile, Ebro, Rhône, Chelif, Po
Basin countries
Surface area2,500,000 km2 (970,000 sq mi)
Average depth1,500 m (4,900 ft)
Max. depth5,267 m (17,280 ft)
Water volume3,750,000 km3 (900,000 cu mi)
Residence time80–100 years[1]
SettlementsAlexandria, Barcelona, Algiers, Izmir, Rome, Athens, Beirut, Tripoli, Tunis, Tangier, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Split, (full list)

The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Western and Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant. Although the sea is sometimes considered a part of the Atlantic Ocean, it is usually referred to as a separate body of water. Geological evidence indicates that around 5.9 million years ago, the Mediterranean was cut off from the Atlantic and was partly or completely desiccated over a period of some 600,000 years during the Messinian salinity crisis before being refilled by the Zanclean flood about 5.3 million years ago.

It covers an area of about 2,500,000 km2 (970,000 sq mi),[2] representing 0.7% of the global ocean surface, but its connection to the Atlantic via the Strait of Gibraltar—the narrow strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Spain in Europe from Morocco in Africa—is only 14 km (9 mi) wide. In oceanography, it is sometimes called the Eurafrican Mediterranean Sea, the European Mediterranean Sea or the African Mediterranean Sea to distinguish it from mediterranean seas elsewhere.[3][4]

The Mediterranean Sea has an average depth of 1,500 m (4,900 ft) and the deepest recorded point is 5,267 m (17,280 ft) in the Calypso Deep in the Ionian Sea. It lies between latitudes 30° and 46° N and longitudes 6° W and 36° E. Its west–east length, from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Gulf of Iskenderun, on the southeastern coast of Turkey, is about 4,000 kilometres (2,500 mi).

The sea was an important route for merchants and travelers of ancient times, facilitating trade and cultural exchange between peoples of the region. The history of the Mediterranean region is crucial to understanding the origins and development of many modern societies. The Roman Empire maintained nautical hegemony over the sea for centuries.

The countries surrounding the Mediterranean in clockwise order are Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco; Malta and Cyprus are island countries in the sea. In addition, the Gaza Strip and the British Overseas Territories of Gibraltar and Akrotiri and Dhekelia have coastlines on the sea.

Mediterranean Sea Intro articles: 42

Names and etymology

Wadj-Ur, or Wadj-Wer, ancient Egyptian name of the Mediterranean Sea
With its highly indented coastline and large number of islands, Greece has the longest Mediterranean coastline.

The Ancient Egyptians called the Mediterranean Wadj-wr/Wadj-Wer/Wadj-Ur.

The Ancient Greeks called the Mediterranean simply ἡ θάλασσα (hē thálassa; "the Sea") or sometimes ἡ μεγάλη θάλασσα (hē megálē thálassa; "the Great Sea"), ἡ ἡμετέρα θάλασσα (hē hēmetérā thálassa; "Our Sea"), or ἡ θάλασσα ἡ καθ'ἡμᾶς (hē thálassa hē kath’hēmâs; "the sea around us").

The Romans called it Mare Magnum ("Great Sea") or Mare Internum ("Internal Sea") and, starting with the Roman Empire, Mare Nostrum ("Our Sea"). The term Mare Mediterrāneum appears later: Solinus apparently used this in the 3rd century, but the earliest extant witness to it is in the 6th century, in Isidore of Seville.[5][6] It means 'in the middle of land, inland' in Latin, a compound of medius ("middle"), terra ("land, earth"), and -āneus ("having the nature of").

The Latin word is a calque of Greek μεσόγειος (mesógeios; "inland"), from μέσος (mésos, "in the middle") and γήινος (gḗinos, "of the earth"), from γῆ (, "land, earth"). The original meaning may have been 'the sea in the middle of the earth', rather than 'the sea enclosed by land'.[7][8]

Ancient Iranians called it the "Roman Sea", in Classic Persian texts was called Daryāy-e Rōm (دریای روم) which may be from Middle Persian form, Zrēh ī Hrōm (𐭦𐭫𐭩𐭤 𐭩 𐭤𐭫𐭥𐭬).[9]

The Carthaginians called it the "Syrian Sea". In ancient Syrian texts, Phoenician epics and in the Hebrew Bible, it was primarily known as the "Great Sea", HaYam HaGadol, (Numbers; Book of Joshua; Ezekiel) or simply as "The Sea" (1 Kings). However, it has also been called the "Hinder Sea" because of its location on the west coast of Greater Syria or the Holy Land (and therefore behind a person facing the east), which is sometimes translated as "Western Sea". Another name was the "Sea of the Philistines", (Book of Exodus), from the people inhabiting a large portion of its shores near the Israelites. In Modern Hebrew, it is called HaYam HaTikhon 'the Middle Sea'.[10] In Classic Persian texts was called Daryāy-e Šām (دریای شام) "The Western Sea" or "Syrian Sea".[11]

In Modern Arabic, it is known as al-Baḥr [al-Abyaḍ] al-Mutawassiṭ (البحر [الأبيض] المتوسط) 'the [White] Middle Sea'. In Islamic and older Arabic literature, it was Baḥr al-Rūm(ī) (بحر الروم or بحر الرومي}) 'the Sea of the Romans' or 'the Roman Sea'. At first, that name referred to only the Eastern Mediterranean, but it was later extended to the whole Mediterranean. Other Arabic names were Baḥr al-šām(ī) (بحر الشام) ("the Sea of Syria") and Baḥr al-Maghrib (بحرالمغرب) ("the Sea of the West").[12][6]

In Turkish, it is the Akdeniz 'the White Sea'; in Ottoman, ﺁق دكيز, which sometimes means only the Aegean Sea.[13] The origin of the name is not clear, as it is not known in earlier Greek, Byzantine or Islamic sources. It may be to contrast with the Black Sea.[12][10][14] In Persian, the name was translated as Baḥr-i Safīd, which was also used in later Ottoman Turkish. It is probably the origin of the colloquial Greek phrase Άσπρη Θάλασσα (Άspri Thálassa, lit. "White Sea").[12]

Johann Knobloch claims that in classical antiquity, cultures in the Levant used colours to refer to the cardinal points: black referred to the north (explaining the name Black Sea), yellow or blue to east, red to south (e.g., the Red Sea), and white to west. This would explain the Greek Άspri Thálassa, the Bulgarian Byalo More, the Turkish Akdeniz, and the Arab nomenclature described above, lit. "White Sea".[15]

Mediterranean Sea Names and etymology articles: 33


Ancient civilizations

Greek (red) and Phoenician (yellow) colonies in antiquity c. the 6th century BC
The Roman Empire at its farthest extent in AD 117

Several ancient civilizations were located around the Mediterranean shores and were greatly influenced by their proximity to the sea. It provided routes for trade, colonization, and war, as well as food (from fishing and the gathering of other seafood) for numerous communities throughout the ages.[16]

Due to the shared climate, geology, and access to the sea, cultures centered on the Mediterranean tended to have some extent of intertwined culture and history.

Two of the most notable Mediterranean civilizations in classical antiquity were the Greek city states and the Phoenicians, both of which extensively colonized the coastlines of the Mediterranean. Later, when Augustus founded the Roman Empire, the Romans referred to the Mediterranean as Mare Nostrum ("Our Sea"). For the next 400 years, the Roman Empire completely controlled the Mediterranean Sea and virtually all its coastal regions from Gibraltar to the Levant.

Darius I of Persia, who conquered Ancient Egypt, built a canal linking the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. Darius's canal was wide enough for two triremes to pass each other with oars extended, and required four days to traverse.[17]

In 2019, the archaeological team of experts from Underwater Research Center of the Akdeniz University (UA) revealed a shipwreck dating back 3,600 years in the Mediterranean Sea in Turkey. 1.5 tons of copper ingots found in the ship was used to estimate its age. The Governor of Antalya Munir Karaloğlu described this valuable discovery as the "Göbeklitepe of the underwater world”. It has been confirmed that the shipwreck, dating back to 1600 BC, is older than the "Uluburun Shipwreck" dating back to 1400 BC.[18][19][20][21]

Middle Ages and empires

The Western Roman Empire collapsed around 476 AD. Temporarily the east was again dominant as Roman power lived on in the Byzantine Empire formed in the 4th century from the eastern half of the Roman Empire. Another power arose in the 7th century, and with it the religion of Islam, which soon swept across from the east; at its greatest extent, the Arab Empire controlled 75% of the Mediterranean region and left a lasting footprint on its eastern and southern shores.

The Arab invasions disrupted the trade relations between Western and Eastern Europe while disrupting trade routes with Eastern Asian Empires. This, however, had the indirect effect of promoting the trade across the Caspian Sea. The export of grains from Egypt was re-routed towards the Eastern world. Products from East Asian empires, like silk and spices, were carried from Egypt to ports like Venice and Constantinople by sailors and Jewish merchants. The Viking raids further disrupted the trade in western Europe and brought it to a halt. However, the Norsemen developed the trade from Norway to the White Sea, while also trading in luxury goods from Spain and the Mediterranean. The Byzantines in the mid-8th century retook control of the area around the north-eastern part of the Mediterranean. Venetian ships from the 9th century armed themselves to counter the harassment by Arabs while concentrating trade of Asian goods in Venice.[22]

The Battle of Lepanto, 1571, ended in victory for the European Holy League against the Ottoman Turks.

The Fatimids maintained trade relations with the Italian city-states like Amalfi and Genoa before the Crusades, according to the Cairo Geniza documents. A document dated 996 mentions Amalfian merchants living in Cairo. Another letter states that the Genoese had traded with Alexandria. The caliph al-Mustansir had allowed Amalfian merchants to reside in Jerusalem about 1060 in place of the Latin hospice.[23]

The Crusades led to flourishing of trade between Europe and the outremer region.[24] Genoa, Venica and Pisa created colonies in regions controlled by the Crusaders and came to control the trade with the Orient. These colonies also allowed them to trade with the Eastern world. Though the fall of the Crusader states and attempts at banning of trade relations with Muslim states by the Popes temporarily disrupted the trade with the Orient, it however continued.[25]

Europe started to revive, however, as more organized and centralized states began to form in the later Middle Ages after the Renaissance of the 12th century.

The bombardment of Algiers by the Anglo-Dutch fleet in support of an ultimatum to release European slaves, August 1816

Ottoman power based in Anatolia continued to grow, and in 1453 extinguished the Byzantine Empire with the Conquest of Constantinople. Ottomans gained control of much of the sea in the 16th century and maintained naval bases in southern France (1543–1544), Algeria and Tunisia. Barbarossa, the famous Ottoman captain is a symbol of this domination with the victory of the Battle of Preveza (1538). The Battle of Djerba (1560) marked the apex of Ottoman naval domination in the Mediterranean. As the naval prowess of the European powers increased, they confronted Ottoman expansion in the region when the Battle of Lepanto (1571) checked the power of the Ottoman Navy. This was the last naval battle to be fought primarily between galleys.

The Barbary pirates of Northwest Africa preyed on Christian shipping and coastlines in the Western Mediterranean Sea.[26] According to Robert Davis, from the 16th to 19th centuries, pirates captured 1 million to 1.25 million Europeans as slaves.[27]

The development of oceanic shipping began to affect the entire Mediterranean. Once, most trade between Western Europe and the East had passed through the region, but after the 1490s the development of a sea route to the Indian Ocean allowed the importation of Asian spices and other goods through the Atlantic ports of western Europe.[28][29][30]

The sea remained strategically important. British mastery of Gibraltar ensured their influence in Africa and Southwest Asia. Especially after the naval battles of Abukir (1799, Battle of the Nile) and Trafalgar (1805), the British had for a long time strengthened their dominance in the Mediterranean.[31] Wars included Naval warfare in the Mediterranean during World War I and Mediterranean theatre of World War II.

With the opening of the lockless Suez Canal in 1868, the flow of trade between Europe and Asia changed fundamentally. The fastest route now led through the Mediterranean towards East Africa and Asia. This led to a preference for the Mediterranean countries and their ports like Trieste with the direct connections to Central and Eastern Europe experienced a rapid economic rise. In the 20th century, the 1st and 2nd World War as well as the Suez Crisis and the Cold War led to a shift of trade routes to the European northern ports, which changed again towards the southern ports through European integration, the activation of the Silk Road and free world trade.[32]

21st century and migrations

Satellite image of the Mediterranean Sea at night

In 2013, the Maltese president described the Mediterranean Sea as a "cemetery" due to the large number of migrants who drowned there after their boats capsized.[33] European Parliament president Martin Schulz said in 2014 that Europe's migration policy "turned the Mediterranean into a graveyard", referring to the number of drowned refugees in the region as a direct result of the policies.[34] An Azerbaijani official described the sea as "a burial ground ... where people die".[35]

Following the 2013 Lampedusa migrant shipwreck, the Italian government decided to strengthen the national system for the patrolling of the Mediterranean Sea by authorising "Operation Mare Nostrum", a military and humanitarian mission in order to rescue the migrants and arrest the traffickers of immigrants. In 2015, more than one million migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea into Europe.[36]

Italy was particularly affected by the European migrant crisis. Since 2013, over 700,000 migrants have landed in Italy,[37] mainly sub-Saharan Africans.[38]

Mediterranean Sea History articles: 72


A satellite image showing the Mediterranean Sea. The Strait of Gibraltar appears in the bottom left (north-west) quarter of the image; to its left is the Iberian Peninsula in Europe, and to its right, the Maghreb in Africa.
The Dardanelles strait in Turkey. The north (upper) side forms part of Europe (the Gelibolu Peninsula in the Thrace region); on the south (lower) side is Anatolia in Asia.

The Mediterranean Sea connects:

The 163 km (101 mi) long artificial Suez Canal in the southeast connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea without ship lock, because the water level is essentially the same.[10][39]

The westernmost point of the Mediterranean is located at the transition from the Alborán Sea to the Strait of Gibraltar, the easternmost point is on the coast of the Gulf of Iskenderun in southeastern Turkey. The northernmost point of the Mediterranean is on the coast of the Gulf of Trieste near Monfalcone in northern Italy while the southernmost point is on the coast of the Gulf of Sidra near the Libyan town of El Agheila.

Large islands in the Mediterranean include:

The Alpine arc, which also has a great meteorological impact on the Mediterranean area, touches the Mediterranean in the west in the area around Nice.

The typical Mediterranean climate has hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. Crops of the region include olives, grapes, oranges, tangerines, carobs and cork.

Marginal Seas

The Mediterranean Sea includes 12 marginal seas:[40][41][42]

Number Sea Area (Km2) Marginal Countries
1 Libyan Sea 350,000 Libya, Greece, Malta, Italy
2 Levantine Sea 320,000 Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, United Kingdom
3 Tyrrhenian Sea 275,000 Italy, France
4 Aegean Sea 214,000 Turkey, Greece
5 Ionian Sea 169,000 Greece, Albania, Italy
6 Balearic Sea 150,000 France, Spain
7 Adriatic Sea 138,000 Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Italy, Montenegro, Slovenia
8 Sea of Sardinia 120,000 Italy, Spain
9 Sea of Crete 95,000 Greece, Libya, Egypt
10 Ligurian Sea 80,000 Italy, France
11 Alboran Sea 53,000 Spain, Morocco, Algeria, United Kingdom
12 Sea of Marmara 11,500 Turkey
- Other 500,000 Consist of Gulfs, Straits, Channels and other parts that don't have the name of a specific sea
Total Mediterranean Sea 2,500,000 23 Countries

Note 1: The International Hydrographic Organization defines the area as generic Mediterranean Sea, in the Western Basin. It does not recognize the label Sea of Sardinia.[43]

Note 2: Thracian Sea and Myrtoan Sea are a sea that are part of the Aegean Sea.

Note 3: The Black Sea is not considered part of it.


The Çanakkale 1915 Bridge on the Dardanelles strait, connecting Europe and Asia, will become the longest suspension bridge in the world.[44]

The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Mediterranean Sea as follows:[43] Stretching from the Strait of Gibraltar in the west to the entrances to the Dardanelles and the Suez Canal in the east, the Mediterranean Sea is bounded by the coasts of Europe, Africa, and Asia and is divided into two deep basins:

Coastal countries

Map of the Mediterranean Sea from open Natural Earth data, 2020

The following countries have a coastline on the Mediterranean Sea:

Several other territories also border the Mediterranean Sea (from west to east):

Alexandria, the largest city on the Mediterranean
Barcelona, the second largest metropolitan area on the Mediterranean Sea (after Alexandria) and the headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean
The Acropolis of Athens with the Mediterranean Sea in the background
The ancient port of Jaffa (now part of Tel Aviv-Yafo) in Israel: where Jonah set sail (according to the Bible) before being swallowed by a whale[45]
Catania, Sicily, with Mount Etna in the background
İzmir, the third metropolis of Turkey (after Istanbul and Ankara)

Exclusive economic zone

Exclusive economic zones in Mediterranean Sea:[41][46]

Number Country Area (Km2)
1  Italy 541,915
2  Greece 493,708
3  Libya 355,604
4  Spain 260,000
5  Egypt 169,125
6  Algeria 128,843
7  Tunisia 102,047
8  Cyprus 98,088
9  France 88,389
10  Turkey 72,195
11  Croatia 59,032
12  Malta 55,542
13  Israel 25,139
14  Lebanon 19,265
15  Morocco 18,302
16  Albania 13,691
17  Syria 10,189
18  Montenegro 7,745
19  Palestine 2,591
20  Monaco 288
21  Slovenia 220
22  Bosnia and Herzegovina 50
23  United Kingdom Very low
Total Mediterranean Sea 2,500,000

Coastline length

The Coastline length is about 46,000 km.[47][48][49]

Coastal cities

Major cities (municipalities), with populations larger than 200,000 people, bordering the Mediterranean Sea include:

Country Cities
Algeria Algiers, Annaba, Oran
Egypt Alexandria, Damietta, Port Said
France Marseille, Toulon, Nice
Greece Athens, Patras, Thessaloniki, Heraklion
Israel Ashdod, Haifa, Netanya, Tel Aviv
Italy Bari, Catania, Genoa, Messina, Naples, Palermo, Rome, Taranto, Trieste, Venice
Lebanon Beirut, Tripoli
Libya Benghazi, Misrata, Tripoli, Zawiya, Zliten
Malta Valletta
Morocco Tétouan, Tangier
Palestine Gaza City
Spain Alicante, Almería, Badalona, Barcelona, Cartagena, Málaga, Palma de Mallorca, Valencia.
Syria Latakia, Tartus
Tunisia Sfax, Sousse, Tunis
Turkey Alanya, Antalya, Ayvalık, Bodrum, Çanakkale, Çeşme, Fethiye, Foça, İskenderun, Istanbul (Sea of Marmara), İzmir, İzmit (Sea of Marmara), Kemer, Kuşadası, Marmaris, Mersin.


Africa (left, on horizon) and Europe (right), as seen from Gibraltar

The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) divides the Mediterranean into a number of smaller waterbodies, each with their own designation (from west to east):[43]

Other seas

Some other seas whose names have been in common use from the ancient times, or in the present:

Many of these smaller seas feature in local myth and folklore and derive their names from such associations.

Other features

View of the Saint George Bay, and snow-capped Mount Sannine from a tower in the Beirut Central District
The Port of Marseille seen from L'Estaque
Sarandë, Albania, stands on an open-sea gulf of the Ionian sea in the central Mediterranean.

In addition to the seas, a number of gulfs and straits are recognised:

Ten largest islands by area

The two biggest islands of the Mediterranean: Sicily and Sardinia (Italy)
Country Island Area in km2 Population
Italy Sicily 25,460 5,048,995
Italy Sardinia 23,821 1,672,804
Cyprus Cyprus 9,251 1,088,503
France Corsica 8,680 299,209
Greece Crete 8,336 623,666
Greece Euboea 3,655 218.000
Spain Majorca 3,640 869,067
Greece Lesbos 1,632 90,643
Greece Rhodes 1,400 117,007
Greece Chios 842 51,936


Map of climate zones in the areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, according to the Köppen climate classification

Much of the Mediterranean coast enjoys a hot-summer Mediterranean climate. However, most of its southeastern coast has a hot desert climate, and much of Spain's eastern (Mediterranean) coast has a cold semi-arid climate. Although they are rare, tropical cyclones occasionally form in the Mediterranean Sea, typically in September–November.

Sea temperature

Mean sea temperature (°C)
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Málaga[50] 16 15 15 16 17 20 22 23 22 20 18 16 18.3
Barcelona[51] 13 12 13 14 17 20 23 25 23 20 17 15 17.8
Marseille[52] 13 13 13 14 16 18 21 22 21 18 16 14 16.6
Naples[53] 15 14 14 15 18 22 25 27 25 22 19 16 19.3
Malta[54] 16 16 15 16 18 21 24 26 25 23 21 18 19.9
Venice[55] 11 10 11 13 18 22 25 26 23 20 16 14 17.4
Athens[56] 16 15 15 16 18 21 24 24 24 21 19 18 19.3
Heraklion[57] 16 15 15 16 19 22 24 25 24 22 20 18 19.7
Antalya[58] 17 17 16 17 21 24 27 29 27 25 22 19 21.8
Limassol[59] 18 17 17 18 20 24 26 27 27 25 22 19 21.7
Mersin[60] 18 17 17 18 21 25 28 29 28 25 22 19 22.3
Tel Aviv[61] 18 17 17 18 21 24 27 28 28 26 23 20 22.3
Alexandria[62] 18 17 17 18 20 23 25 26 26 25 22 20 21.4

Mediterranean Sea Geography articles: 210