The Mediterranean Sea is a part of the Atlantic Ocean almost completely enclosed by land, on the north by Europe, on the south by Africa, and on the east by Asia. It covers an approximate area of 2.5 million km² (965 000 mi²). It is also called the Eurafrican Mediterranean Sea or the European Mediterranean Sea in oceanography to distinguish it from mediterranean seas elsewhere.
It was a superhighway of transport in ancient times, allowing for trade and cultural exchange between emergent peoples of the region — Egyptians,Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, and the Middle-East (Arab/Persian/Semitic) cultures. The history of the Mediterranean is important in understanding the origin and development of Western Civilization.
The Mediterranean Sea has been known by a number of alternative names throughout human history. It was, for example, commonly called Mare Nostrum (Latin, Our Sea) by the Romans. In the Bible, it is referred to as the Great Sea or the Western Sea. In modern Hebrew, it is called "ha-Yam ha-Tichon" (הים התיכון), "the middle sea", a literal adaptation of the German equivalent Mittelmeer. In Turkish, it is Akdeniz, "the white sea". In Arabic, it is Al-Baħr Al-Abyad Al-Muttawasit (البحر الأبيض المتوسط), "the middle white sea".
Currently, "The Med" is a common British English contraction for the Mediterranean Sea and its surrounding regions when employed in informal speech.
The Mediterranean Sea is connected to the Atlantic Ocean by the Strait of Gibraltar on the west and to the Sea of Marmara and Black Sea, by the Dardanelles and the Bosporus respectively, on the east. The Sea of Marmara is often considered a part of the Mediterranean Sea, whereas the Black Sea is generally not. The man-made Suez Canal in the south-east connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea.
The Mediterranean climate is generally one of wet winters and hot, dry summers. Special crops of the region are olives, grapes, oranges, tangerines, and cork. The region has a long history of civilization.
Large islands in the Mediterranean include:
- Cyprus, Crete, Euboea, Rhodes, Lesbos, Chios, Kefalonia and Corfu in the eastern Mediterranean
- Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily, and Malta in the central Mediterranean
- Ibiza, Majorca and Minorca (the Balearic Islands) in the western Mediterranean
Modern states (21) bordering the Mediterranean Sea are:
- Europe (from west to east): Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, the island state of Malta, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, and the island of Cyprus.
- Asia (from north to south): Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel.
- Africa (from east to west): Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
The Mediterranean Sea is sub-divided into a number of smaller seas /some names may be come from the ancient legends/, each with their own designation (from west to east):
- the Alboran Sea, between Spain and Morocco,
- the Catalan Sea, between the Iberian peninsula and the Balearic Islands,
- the Ligurian Sea between Corsica and Liguria (Italy),
- the Tyrrhenian Sea enclosed by Sardinia, Italian peninsula and Sicily,
- the Adriatic Sea between the Italian peninsula and the Croatian (Dalmatian) coast,
- the Ionian Sea between Italy and Greece,
- the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey, with
- the Libyan Sea south of Crete, between the island and Libya
- the Sea of Marmara between the Aegean and Black Seas.
- the Gulf of Corinth, an enclosed sea between the Ionian Sea and the Corinth Canal
- the Saronic Gulf, the gulf of Athens, between the Corinth Canal and the Mirtoon Sea
- the Thermaic Gulf, the gulf of Thessaloniki, located in the northern Greek region of Macedonia
- the Gulf of Lyon, south of France
- the Strait of Messina, between Sicily and the toe of Italy
- the Gulf of Taranto, southern Italy,
- the Gulf of Haifa, between Haifa and Akko, Israel
- the Gulf of Sidra, between Tunisia and Cyrenaica (eastern Libya)
- the Strait of Sicily, between Sicily and Tunisia
- the Corsica Channel, between Corsica and Italy
- the Strait of Bonifacio, between Sardinia and Corsica
- the Gulf of Iskenderun, between Iskenderun and Adana(Turkey).
- the Gulf of Antalya, between west and east shores of Antalya(Turkey).
The geology of the Mediterranean is complex, involving the break-up and then collision of the African and Eurasian plates, and the Messinian Salinity Crisis in the late Miocene when the Mediterranean dried up.
The Mediterranean Sea has an average depth of 1,500 m and the deepest recorded point is 5267 meters (about 3.27 miles) in the Calypso Deep in the Ionian Sea. The coastline extends for 46,000 km. A shallow submarine ridge (the Strait of Sicily) between the island of Sicily and the coast of Tunisia divides the sea in two main subregions (which in turn are divided into subdivisions), the Western Mediterranean and the Eastern Mediterranean. The Western Mediterranean covers an area of about 0.85 million km² and the Eastern Mediterranean about 1.65 million km².
In the last few centuries, mankind has done much to alter Mediterranean geology. Structures have been built all along the coastlines, exacerbating and rerouting erosional patterns. Many pollution-producing boats travel the sea that unbalance the natural chemical ratios of the region. Beaches have been mismanaged, and the overuse of the sea's natural and marine resources continues to be a problem. This misuse speeds along and/or confounds natural processes. The actual geography has also been altered by the building of dams and canals.
The Mediterranean was once thought to be the remnant of the Tethys Ocean. It is now known to be a structurally younger ocean basin known as Neotethys. Neotethys formed during the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic rifting of the African and Eurasian plates.