Name / Description

Mediterranean Sea





Length (miles)


Depth (feet)


Size (sq. miles)


Part of / Flows into


Additional Notes

Just under 1,000,000 square miles, the Mediterranean Sea is surrounded by Southern Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa. It connects with the Atlantic Ocean through the Strait of Gibraltar; with the Black Sea through the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosporus; and with the Red Sea through the Suez Canal. Its chief divisions are the Tyrrhenian (nwest Italy), Adriatic, Ionian, and Aegean seas; its chief isls. are Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Crete, Cyprus, Malta, Rhodes, the Dodecanese, the Cyclades, the Sporades, the Balearic Isls., and the Ionian Isls. Divided by shallows (Adventure Bank) bet. Sicily and Cape Bon, Tunisia, into 2 main basins. It is of higher salinity than the Atlantic and has little variation in tides.

The largest rivers that flow into it are the Po, Rh�ne, Ebro, and Nile. The shores are chiefly mountainous. Earthquakes and volcanic disturbances are frequent. The region around the sea has a warm, dry climate characterized by abundant sunshine. Strong local winds, such as the hot, dry sirocco from the S and the cold, dry mistral and bora from the N, blow across the sea.

Fish (about 400 species), sponges, and corals are plentiful. In addition, oil and natural gas have been found in several sects. The overuse of the sea's natural and marine resources continues to be a problem. Some of the world's oldest civilizations flourished around the Mediterranean. It was opened as a highway for commerce by merchants trading from Phoenicia . Carthage, Greece, Sicily, and Rome were rivals for dominance of its shores and trade; under the Roman Empire it virtually became a lake and was called Mare Nostrum [Lat.=our sea]. Later, the Byzantine Empire and the Arabs dominated the Mediterranean. Bet. the 11th and 14th cents., Barcelona and Ital. city trading states such as Genoa and Venice dominated the region; they struggled with the Ottomans for naval supremacy, particularly in the E Mediterranean. Prods. of Asia passed to Europe over Mediterranean trade routes until the establishment of a route around the Cape of Good Hope (late 15th cent.). With the opening of the Suez Canal (1869) the Mediterranean resumed its importance as a link on the route to the East. The development of the N regions of Afr. and of oil fields in the Middle East has increased its trade. Its importance as a trade link and as a route for attacks on Europe resulted in Eur. rivalry for control of its coasts and isls. and led to campaigns in the region during both World Wars. Since World War II the Mediterranean region has been of strategic importance to U.S., Western Eur. countries, and, until its dissolution, the USSR.

Related Images


Related Source

Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, The
Corrupting Sea, The: A Study of Mediterranean History (2000)

Related Glossary

Mare Nostrum