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 the east by the Levant.
The Sea has played a central role in the history of Western civilization.
Although the Mediterranean 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 some 600,000 years during the Messinian salinity crisis before being refilled by the Zanclean flood about 5.3 million years ago.
The Mediterranean Sea covers about 2,500,000 km2 (970,000 sq mi), representing 0.7% of the global ocean surface. Still, 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.
It is sometimes called the Eurafrican Mediterranean Sea, the European Mediterranean Sea or the African Mediterranean Sea to distinguish it from the Mediterranean seas elsewhere.
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 kilometers (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.
Around the Mediterranean Sea 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 addition, the Gaza Strip and the British Overseas Territories of Gibraltar and Akrotiri and Dhekelia have coastlines on the sea.
Names and etymology
The Ancient Egyptians called the Mediterranean Wadj-wr/Wadj-Wer/Wadj-Ur.
This term (literally “great green”) was the name given by the Ancient Egyptians to the semi-solid, semi-aquatic region characterized by papyrus forests to the north of the cultivated Nile delta and, by extension, the sea beyond.
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 used this in the 3rd century, but the earliest extant witness is in the 6th century, in Isidore of Seville.
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 (gê, “land, earth”).
Perhaps the original meaning was ‘the sea in the middle of the earth’ rather than ‘the sea enclosed by land.
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).
The Carthaginians called it the “Syrian Sea”.
In ancient Syrian texts, Phoenician epics, and the Hebrew Bible, it was primarily known as the “Great Sea”, HaYam HaGadol, (Numbers; Book of Joshua; Ezekiel) or simply as “The Sea” (1 King).
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’.
In Classic Persian texts was called Daryāy-e Šām (دریای شام) “The Western Sea” or “Syrian Sea”.
In Modern Arabic, it is known as al-Baḥr al-Mutawassiṭ (البحر المتوسط) ‘the 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”).
In Turkish, it is the Akdeniz ‘the White Sea’; in Ottoman, ﺁق دكيز, which sometimes means only the Aegean Sea.
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.
In Persian, the name was translated as Baḥr-i Safīd, also used in later Ottoman Turkish.
It is probably the origin of the colloquial Greek phrase Άσπρη Θάλασσα (Άspri Thálassa, lit. “White Sea”).
According to Johann Knobloch, in classical antiquity, cultures in the Levant used colors to refer to the cardinal points: black referred to the north (explaining the name the Black Sea), yellow or blue to east, red to the 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.
Some of the world’s greatest ancient civilizations that were the base of Western culture were located around the Mediterranean shores. Their proximity to the sea greatly influenced them.
It provided routes for trade, colonization, war, and food (from fishing and the gathering of other seafood) for numerous communities throughout the ages.
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.
Greece and the Phoenicians were two of the most notable Mediterranean civilizations during classical antiquity, both of which 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 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 with oars extended and required four days to traverse.
In 2019, the archaeological team of experts from the 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 were 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.
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.
However, it had the indirect effect of promoting trade across the Caspian Sea.
Grains from Egypt were re-routed to the East.
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 trade from Norway to the White Sea while 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 the trade of Asian goods in Venice.
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.
The Crusades led to the flourishing of trade between Europe and the outremer region.
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 trade relations with Muslim states by the Popes temporarily disrupted the trade with the Orient, it continued.
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.
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, symbolizes 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.
According to Robert Davis, from the 16th to 19th centuries, pirates captured 1 million to 1.25 million Europeans as slaves.
The development of oceanic shipping began to affect the entire Mediterranean.
Once, most trades between Western Europe and the East had passed through the region. Still, 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.
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.
Wars included Naval warfare in the Mediterranean during World War I and the Mediterranean theatre of World War II.
With the opening of the lockless Suez Canal in 1869, trade flow between Europe and Asia changed fundamentally.
Through the Mediterranean, the fastest route now leads to 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 Wars, as well as the Suez Crisis and the Cold War, led to a shift of trade routes to the northern European ports, which changed again towards the southern ports through European integration, the activation of the Silk Road and free world trade.
21st century and migrations
In 2013, the Maltese president described the Mediterranean Sea as a “cemetery” due to many migrants who drowned. After that, their boats capsized.
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 guidelines.
An Azerbaijani official described the sea as “a burial ground …
where people die”.
Following the 2013 Lampedusa migrant shipwreck, the Italian government strengthened the national system for patrolling the Mediterranean Sea by authorizing “Operation Mare Nostrum”, military and humanitarian mission to rescue the migrants and arrest the traffickers of immigrants.
More than one million migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea into Europe in 2015.
Italy was particularly affected by the European migrant crisis.
Since 2013, over 700,000 migrants have landed in Italy, mainly sub-Saharan Africans.
🏨 Hotels Near Mediterranean
|Marassi Beach Clubhouse||📍 XQG4+XHW, El Alamein, Matrouh Governorate, Egypt XQG4+XHW، العلمين، مطروح||El Alamein||–||marassi-egypt.com/|
|Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza||📍 1089 Nile Corniche, El Nil, Cairo Governorate 11519, Egypt 1089 كورنيش النيل، El Nil, محافظة القاهرة 11519||El Nil||📞 +20 2 27917000||fourseasons.com/caironp/|
|Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria at San Stefano, Egypt||📍 399 El-Gaish Rd, San Stefano, El Raml 1, Alexandria Governorate, Egypt 399 طريق الجيش، سان ستفانو، قسم أول الرمل، الإسكندرية||El Raml 1||📞 +20 3 5818000||fourseasons.com/alexandria/|
|Heliopolis Towers Hotel||📍 El Shaheed Sayed Zakaria, Sheraton Al Matar, El Nozha, Cairo Governorate 11736, Egypt شارع الشهيد سيد زكريا، شيراتون المطار، قسم النزهة، محافظة القاهرة 11736||El Nozha||📞 +20 2 22677740||hilton.com/en/hotels/caiwewa-heliopolis-towers-hotel/|
|Address Marassi Golf Resort||📍 Marassi, Alexandria – Marsa Matrouh Rd, Egypt Marassi, طريق الإسكندرية – مرسى مطروح||Alexandria||📞 +20 46 4681666||addresshotels.com/en/hotels/address-marassi-golf-resort/|
|Al Moudira Hotel||📍 46 El-Aziz Bellah, El-Zaytoun Sharkeya, Zeitoun, Cairo Governorate 11321, Egypt 46 العزيز بالله، الزيتون الشرقية، قسم الزيتون، محافظة القاهرة 11321||Cairo||📞 +20 95 2551440||moudira.com/|
|Al Alamein Hotel||📍 Marassi Village, Kilo129 Marsa Matrouh Road, City, Matrouh Governorate 51718, Egypt Marassi Village, Kilo129 Marsa Matrouh Road, City, مطروح 51718||Marsa Matrouh||📞 +20 46 4681600||alalameinhotel.com/|
|Port Said Hotel Misr Travel||📍 Atef elsadat – elgomhoria, شارع، Port Said Governorate 42511, Egypt Atef elsadat – elgomhoria, شارع، بور سعيد 42511||Port Said||📞 +20 66 3320890||portsaidmisrtravel.com/|
|Steigenberger Cecil Alexandria||📍 16, Saad Zagloul Square Raml Station Alexandria Egypt 16, Saad Zagloul Square Raml Station الإسكندرية، 21500, Egypt||Alexandria Governorate||📞 +20 3 4877173||steigenberger.com/|
|Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski Cairo||📍 To the Ring Rd, Second New Cairo, Cairo Governorate 11477, Egypt الى الطريق الدائري، ثانى القاهرة الجديدة، محافظة القاهرة 11477||Cairo||📞 +20 2 22495300||kempinski.com/en/cairo/royal-maxim-palace-kempinski-cairo/|
🎉 Tourist attractions Near Mediterranean
|Precinct of Amun-Re||📍 Karnak, Luxor, Luxor Governorate, Egypt الكرنك، قسم الأقصر، الأقصر||Luxor||Place of worship|
|Alexandria National Museum||📍 131 El-Shaheed Galal El-Desouky, Bab Sharqi WA Wabour Al Meyah, Bab Sharqi, Alexandria Governorate, Egypt 131 الشهيد جلال الدسوقي، باب شرقي ووابور المياه، قسم باب شرقي، الإسكندرية||Bab Sharqi||Museum|
|Sultan Al-Ashraf Qaytbay Mosque and Mausoleum||📍 El-Gamaleya, El Gamaliya, Cairo Governorate, Egypt الجمالية، قسم الجمالية، محافظة القاهرة||El Gamaliya||Mosque|
|El Montaza Bridge||📍 Malak Hefni, Al Mandarah Bahri, Montaza 2, Alexandria Governorate, Egypt ملك حفني، المندرة بحري، قسم ثان المنتزة، الإسكندرية||Montaza 2||Tourist attraction|
|Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa||📍 12 متفرع من ش، Ras at Tin, Alexandria Governorate, Egypt 12 متفرع من ش، رأس التين، الإسكندرية||Karmouz||Historical landmark|
|Citadel of Qaitbay||📍 As Sayalah Sharq, Qesm Al Gomrok, Alexandria Governorate, Egypt السيالة شرق، قسم الجمرك، الإسكندرية||Qesm Al Gomrok||Fortress|
|Montaza Palace||📍 Al Mandarah Bahri, Montaza 2, Alexandria Governorate, Egypt المندرة بحري، قسم ثان المنتزة، الإسكندرية||Montaza 2||Palace|
|Medinet Habu||📍 Al Bairat, Al Qarna, Luxor Governorate, Egypt البعيرات، القرنة، الأقصر||Al Qarna||Historical place|
|Valley of the Kings||📍 Luxor, Luxor Governorate, Egypt مركز الأقصر، الأقصر||Luxor||Archaeological site|
|Giza Necropolis||📍 Al Haram, Giza Governorate, Egypt الهرم، الجيزة||Al Haram||Archaeological site|