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The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the
Atlantic Ocean The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's five oceans, with an area of about . It covers approximately 20% of Earth's surface and about 29% of its water surface area. It is known to separate the "Old World" of Africa, Europe an ...
, surrounded by the
Mediterranean Basin In biogeography, the Mediterranean Basin (; also known as the Mediterranean Region or sometimes Mediterranea) is the region of lands around the Mediterranean Sea that have mostly a Mediterranean climate, with mild to cool, rainy winters and wa ...
and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Western and Southern Europe and
Anatolia Anatolia, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau, also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and the westernmost protrusion of the Asian continent. It constitutes the major part of modern-day Turkey. The reg ...
, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the
Levant The Levant () is an approximation, approximate historical geography, historical geographical term referring to a large area in the Eastern Mediterranean region of Western Asia. In its narrowest sense, which is in use today in archaeology an ...
. The Sea has played a central role in the
history of Western civilization Western culture, Western civilization traces its roots back to Europe and the Mediterranean. It is linked to ancient Greece, the Roman Empire and with Medieval Western Christendom which emerged from the Middle Ages to experience such transformat ...
. Geological evidence indicates that around 5.9 million years ago, the Mediterranean was cut off from the Atlantic and was partly or completely
desiccated Desiccation () is the state of extreme dryness, or the process of extreme drying. A desiccant is a hygroscopic (attracts and holds water) substance that induces or sustains such a state in its local vicinity in a moderately sealed container. ...
over a period of some 600,000 years during the
Messinian salinity crisis The Messinian salinity crisis (MSC), also referred to as the Messinian event, and in its latest stage as the Lago Mare event, was a geological event during which the Mediterranean Sea went into a cycle of partial or nearly complete desiccation (dry ...
before being refilled by the Zanclean flood about 5.3 million years ago. The Mediterranean Sea covers an area of about , representing 0.7% of the global
ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the body of salt water that covers approximately 70.8% of the surface of Earth and contains 97% of Earth's water. An ocean can also refer to any of the large bodies of water into which the worl ...
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 the
Iberian Peninsula The Iberian Peninsula (), ** * Aragonese language, Aragonese and Occitan language, Occitan: ''Peninsula Iberica'' ** ** * french: Péninsule Ibérique * mwl, Península Eibérica * eu, Iberiar penintsula also known as Iberia, is a pe ...
in
Europe Europe is a large peninsula conventionally considered a continent in its own right because of its great physical size and the weight of its history and traditions. Europe is also considered a Continent#Subcontinents, subcontinent of Eurasia ...
from
Morocco Morocco (),, ) officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is the westernmost country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and has land borders with Algeria to ...
in
Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth's total surface area ...
—is only wide. The Mediterranean Sea encompasses a vast number of islands, some of them being of volcanic origin. The two by far largest islands are Sicily and
Sardinia Sardinia ( ; it, Sardegna, label=Italian, Corsican and Tabarchino ; sc, Sardigna , sdc, Sardhigna; french: Sardaigne; sdn, Saldigna; ca, Sardenya, label=Algherese and Catalan) is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, aft ...
. The Mediterranean Sea has an average depth of and the deepest recorded point is ± in the Calypso Deep in the
Ionian Sea The Ionian Sea ( el, Ιόνιο Πέλαγος, ''Iónio Pélagos'' ; it, Mar Ionio ; al, Deti Jon ) is an elongated bay of the Mediterranean Sea. It is connected to the Adriatic Sea to the north, and is bounded by Southern Italy, including ...
. 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 Alexandretta The Gulf of Alexandretta or İskenderun ( tr, İskenderun Körfezi) is a gulf of the eastern Mediterranean or Levantine Sea. It lies beside the southern Turkish provinces of Adana and Hatay. Names The gulf is named for the nearby Turkish cit ...
, on the southeastern coast of Turkey, is about . The north–south length varies greatly between different shorelines and whether only straight routes are considered. Also including longitudal changes, the shortest shipping route between the multinational Gulf of Trieste and the Libyan coastline of
Gulf of Sidra The Gulf of Sidra ( ar, خليج السدرة, Khalij as-Sidra, also known as the Gulf of Sirte ( ar, خليج سرت, Khalij Surt, is a body of water in the Mediterranean Sea on the northern coast of Libya, named after the oil port of Sidra or ...
is about . The water temperatures are mild in winter and warm in summer and give name to the mediterranean climate type due to the majority of precipitation falling in the cooler months. Its southern and eastern coastlines are lined with hot deserts not far inland, but the immediate coastline on all sides of the Mediterranean tends to have strong maritime moderation. The sea was an important route for
merchant A merchant is a person who trades in commodities produced by other people, especially one who trades with foreign countries. Historically, a merchant is anyone who is involved in business or trade. Merchants have operated for as long as industry ...
s and travelers of ancient times, facilitating trade and cultural exchange between peoples of the region. The
history of the Mediterranean region The history of the Mediterranean region and of the cultures and people of the Mediterranean Basin is important for understanding the origin and development of the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Canaanite, Phoenician, Hebrew, Carthaginian, Minoan, Gree ...
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 France (), officially the French Republic ( ), is a country primarily located in Western Europe. It also comprises of overseas regions and territories in the Americas and the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Its metropolitan area e ...
,
Monaco Monaco (; ), officially the Principality of Monaco (french: Principauté de Monaco; Ligurian: ; oc, Principat de Mónegue), is a sovereign city-state and microstate on the French Riviera a few kilometres west of the Italian region of Liguria ...
,
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic, ) or the Republic of Italy, is a country in Southern Europe. It is located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, and its territory largely coincides with the Italy (geographical region) ...
, Slovenia,
Croatia , image_flag = Flag of Croatia.svg , image_coat = Coat of arms of Croatia.svg , anthem = " Lijepa naša domovino"("Our Beautiful Homeland") , image_map = , map_caption = , capi ...
, Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Montenegro ) , image_map = Europe-Montenegro.svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Podgorica , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , official_languages = M ...
,
Albania Albania ( ; sq, Shqipëri or ), or , also or . officially the Republic of Albania ( sq, Republika e Shqipërisë), is a country in Southeastern Europe. It is located on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas within the Mediterranean Sea and shares l ...
, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine,
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مصر , ), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia via a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. It is bordered by the Mediter ...
,
Libya Libya (; ar, ليبيا, Lībiyā), officially the State of Libya ( ar, دولة ليبيا, Dawlat Lībiyā), is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa. It is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan ...
,
Tunisia ) , image_map = Tunisia location (orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = Location of Tunisia in northern Africa , image_map2 = , capital = Tunis , largest_city = capital , ...
,
Algeria ) , image_map = Algeria (centered orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Algiers , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , relig ...
, and
Morocco Morocco (),, ) officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is the westernmost country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and has land borders with Algeria to ...
;
Malta Malta ( , , ), officially the Republic of Malta ( mt, Repubblika ta' Malta ), is an island country in the Mediterranean Sea. It consists of an archipelago, between Italy and Libya, and is often considered a part of Southern Europe. It lies ...
and
Cyprus Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island country located south of the Anatolian Peninsula in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Its continental position is disputed; while it is ge ...
are island countries in the sea. In addition, the disputed territory of North Cyprus, and some exclaves, notably
Gibraltar ) , anthem = "God Save the King" , song = " Gibraltar Anthem" , image_map = Gibraltar location in Europe.svg , map_alt = Location of Gibraltar in Europe , map_caption = United Kingdom shown in pale green , mapsize = , image_map2 = Gibr ...
and
Ceuta Ceuta (, , ; ar, سَبْتَة, Sabtah) is a Spanish autonomous city on the north coast of Africa. Bordered by Morocco, it lies along the boundary between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It is one of several Spanish territories ...
, have coastlines on the sea.
Alexandria Alexandria ( or ; ar, ٱلْإِسْكَنْدَرِيَّةُ ; grc-gre, Αλεξάνδρεια, Alexándria) is the second largest city in Egypt, and the largest city on the Mediterranean coast. Founded in by Alexander the Great, Alexandri ...
is the largest coastal settlement. The drainage basin encompasses a large number of other countries, the
Nile The Nile, , Bohairic , lg, Kiira , Nobiin: Áman Dawū is a major north-flowing river in northeastern Africa. It flows into the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile is the longest river in Africa and has historically been considered the longest rive ...
being the longest river ending in the Mediterranean Sea.


History


Ancient civilizations

Major ancient civilizations were located around the Mediterranean. The sea 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. The most notable Mediterranean civilizations in classical antiquity were the
Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece, a country in Southern Europe: *Greeks, an ethnic group. * Greek language, a branch of the Indo-European language family. **Proto-Greek language, the assumed last common ancesto ...
city state A city-state is an independent sovereign city which serves as the center of political, economic, and cultural life over its contiguous territory. They have existed in many parts of the world since the dawn of history, including cities such as ...
s,
Persians The Persians are an Iranian ethnic group who comprise over half of the population of Iran. They share a common cultural system and are native speakers of the Persian language as well as of the languages that are closely related to Persian. ...
and the
Phoenicians Phoenicia () was an ancient thalassocratic civilization originating in the Levant region of the eastern Mediterranean, primarily located in modern Lebanon. The territory of the Phoenician city-states extended and shrank throughout their history ...
, both of which extensively colonized the coastlines of the Mediterranean.
Darius I of Persia Darius I ( peo, 𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎺𐎢𐏁 ; grc-gre, Δαρεῖος ; – 486 BCE), commonly known as Darius the Great, was a Persian ruler who served as the third King of Kings of the Achaemenid Empire, reigning from 522 BCE until his d ...
, who conquered Ancient Egypt, built a canal linking the Mediterranean to the
Red Sea The Red Sea ( ar, البحر الأحمر - بحر القلزم, translit=Modern: al-Baḥr al-ʾAḥmar, Medieval: Baḥr al-Qulzum; or ; Coptic: ⲫⲓⲟⲙ ⲛ̀ϩⲁϩ ''Phiom Enhah'' or ⲫⲓⲟⲙ ⲛ̀ϣⲁⲣⲓ ''Phiom ǹšari''; ...
. Darius's canal was wide enough for two triremes to pass each other with oars extended, and required four days to traverse. Later, when Augustus founded the Roman Empire, the Romans referred to the Mediterranean as ''
Mare Nostrum ''Mare Nostrum'' (; Latin: "Our Sea") was a Roman name for the Mediterranean Sea. In Classical Latin, it would have been pronounced , and in Ecclesiastical Latin, it is pronounced . In the decades following the 1861 unification of Italy, Itali ...
'' ("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. In 2019, the archaeological team of experts from Underwater Research Center of the
Akdeniz University Akdeniz University ( tr, Akdeniz Üniversitesi) is a public research university established in Antalya, Turkey. It has been chosen as the second most beautiful university in Turkey, after Boğaziçi University, with its campus having a wide and ...
(UA) revealed a shipwreck dating back 3,600 years in the Mediterranean Sea in Turkey. 1.5 tons of copper
ingot An ingot is a piece of relatively pure material, usually metal, that is cast into a shape suitable for further processing. In steelmaking, it is the first step among semi-finished casting products. Ingots usually require a second procedure of sha ...
s 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 The Uluburun Shipwreck is a Late Bronze Age shipwreck dated to the late 14th century BC, discovered close to the east shore of Uluburun (Grand Cape), Turkey, in the Mediterranean Sea. The shipwreck was discovered in the summer of 1982 by Mehmed Ç ...
" dating back to 1400 BC.


Middle Ages and empires

The
Western Roman Empire The Western Roman Empire comprised the western provinces of the Roman Empire at any time during which they were administered by a separate independent Imperial court; in particular, this term is used in historiography to describe the period fr ...
collapsed around 476 AD. 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 Islam (; ar, ۘالِإسلَام, , ) is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion centred primarily around the Quran, a religious text considered by Muslims to be the direct word of God (or ''Allah'') as it was revealed to Muhammad, the ma ...
, which soon swept across from the east; at its greatest extent, the Arabs, under the
Umayyads Umayyads may refer to: *Umayyad dynasty, a Muslim ruling family of the Caliphate (661–750) and in Spain (756–1031) * Umayyad Caliphate (661–750) :* Emirate of Córdoba (756–929) :*Caliphate of Córdoba The Caliphate of Córdoba ( ar, ...
, controlled most 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 Caspian Sea is the world's largest inland body of water, often described as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. An endorheic basin, it lies between Europe and Asia; east of the Caucasus, west of the broad steppe of Central Asia ...
. The export of grains from
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مصر , ), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia via a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. It is bordered by the Mediter ...
was re-routed towards the
Eastern world The Eastern world, also known as the East or historically the Orient, is an umbrella term for various cultures or social structures, nations and philosophical systems, which vary depending on the context. It most often includes at least pa ...
. Products from East Asian empires, like silk and spices, were carried from Egypt to ports like
Venice Venice ( ; it, Venezia ; vec, Venesia or ) is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto Regions of Italy, region. It is built on a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by over 400  ...
and
Constantinople la, Constantinopolis ota, قسطنطينيه , alternate_name = Byzantion (earlier Greek name), Nova Roma ("New Rome"), Miklagard/Miklagarth (Old Norse), Tsargrad ( Slavic), Qustantiniya (Arabic), Basileuousa ("Queen of Cities"), Megalopolis (" ...
by sailors and Jewish merchants. The Viking raids further disrupted the trade in western Europe and brought it to a halt. However, the
Norsemen The Norsemen (or Norse people) were a North Germanic ethnolinguistic group of the Early Middle Ages, during which they spoke the Old Norse language. The language belongs to the North Germanic branch of the Indo-European languages and is the pre ...
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. The
Fatimids The Fatimid Caliphate was an Ismaili Shi'a caliphate extant from the tenth to the twelfth centuries AD. Spanning a large area of North Africa, it ranged from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Red Sea in the east. The Fatimids, a dyna ...
maintained trade relations with the
Italian city-states The Italian city-states were numerous political and independent territorial entities that existed in the Italian Peninsula from the beginning of the Middle Ages until the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy, which took place in 1861. After th ...
like
Amalfi Amalfi (, , ) is a town and ''comune'' in the province of Salerno, in the region of Campania, Italy, on the Gulf of Salerno. It lies at the mouth of a deep ravine, at the foot of Monte Cerreto (1,315 metres, 4,314 feet), surrounded by dramatic c ...
and
Genoa Genoa ( ; it, Genova ; lij, Zêna ). is the capital of the Italian region of Liguria and the sixth-largest city in Italy. In 2015, 594,733 people lived within the city's administrative limits. As of the 2011 Italian census, the Province of G ...
before the Crusades, according to the
Cairo Geniza The Cairo Geniza, alternatively spelled Genizah, is a collection of some 400,000 Jewish manuscript fragments and Fatimid administrative documents that were kept in the ''genizah'' or storeroom of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Fustat or Old Cairo, Eg ...
documents. A document dated 996 mentions Amalfian merchants living in
Cairo Cairo ( ; ar, القاهرة, al-Qāhirah, ) is the capital of Egypt and its largest city, home to 10 million people. It is also part of the largest urban agglomeration in Africa, the Arab world and the Middle East: The Greater Cairo metr ...
. Another letter states that the Genoese had traded with
Alexandria Alexandria ( or ; ar, ٱلْإِسْكَنْدَرِيَّةُ ; grc-gre, Αλεξάνδρεια, Alexándria) is the second largest city in Egypt, and the largest city on the Mediterranean coast. Founded in by Alexander the Great, Alexandri ...
. The caliph al-Mustansir had allowed Amalfian merchants to reside in Jerusalem about 1060 in place of the Latin
hospice Hospice care is a type of health care that focuses on the palliation of a terminally ill patient's pain and symptoms and attending to their emotional and spiritual needs at the end of life. Hospice care prioritizes comfort and quality of life by ...
. The
Crusades The Crusades were a series of religious wars initiated, supported, and sometimes directed by the Latin Church in the medieval period. The best known of these Crusades are those to the Holy Land in the period between 1095 and 1291 that were in ...
led to flourishing of trade between Europe and the '' outremer'' region. Genoa, Venice and
Pisa Pisa ( , or ) is a city and ''comune'' in Tuscany, central Italy, straddling the Arno just before it empties into the Ligurian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa. Although Pisa is known worldwide for its leaning tower, the cit ...
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. 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 Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period in European history marking the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity and covering the 15th and 16th centuries, characterized by an effort to revive and surpass ideas ...
. Ottoman power based in Anatolia continued to grow, and in 1453 extinguished the Byzantine Empire with the
Conquest of Constantinople The Fall of Constantinople, also known as the Conquest of Constantinople, was the capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire by the Ottoman Empire. The city fell on 29 May 1453 as part of the culmination of a 53-day siege which had begu ...
. 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 The Battle of Preveza was a naval battle that took place on 28 September 1538 near Preveza in Ionian Sea in northwestern Greece between an Ottoman fleet and that of a Holy League assembled by Pope Paul III. It occurred in the same area in t ...
(1538). The
Battle of Djerba The Battle of Djerba ( tr, Cerbe) took place in May 1560 near the island of Djerba, Tunisia. The Ottomans under Piyale Pasha's command overwhelmed a large joint Christian Alliance fleet, composed chiefly of Spanish, Papal, Genoese, Maltese, a ...
(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 The Battle of Lepanto was a naval engagement that took place on 7 October 1571 when a fleet of the Holy League, a coalition of Catholic states (comprising Spain and its Italian territories, several independent Italian states, and the Soverei ...
(1571) checked the power of the Ottoman Navy. This was the last naval battle to be fought primarily between galleys. The
Barbary pirates The Barbary pirates, or Barbary corsairs or Ottoman corsairs, were Muslim pirates and privateers who operated from North Africa, based primarily in the ports of Salé, Rabat, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli. This area was known in Europe as t ...
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 of the trade between Western Europe and the East was passing 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. The sea remained strategically important. British mastery of
Gibraltar ) , anthem = "God Save the King" , song = " Gibraltar Anthem" , image_map = Gibraltar location in Europe.svg , map_alt = Location of Gibraltar in Europe , map_caption = United Kingdom shown in pale green , mapsize = , image_map2 = Gibr ...
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 Mediterranean theatre of World War II. With the opening of the lockless
Suez Canal The Suez Canal ( arz, قَنَاةُ ٱلسُّوَيْسِ, ') is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez and dividing Africa and Asia. The long canal is a popula ...
in 1869, 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 Trieste ( , ; sl, Trst ; german: Triest ) is a city and seaport in northeastern Italy. It is the capital city, and largest city, of the autonomous region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, one of two autonomous regions which are not subdivided into provi ...
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 The Suez Crisis, or the Second Arab–Israeli war, also called the Tripartite Aggression ( ar, العدوان الثلاثي, Al-ʿUdwān aṯ-Ṯulāṯiyy) in the Arab world and the Sinai War in Israel,Also known as the Suez War or 1956 Wa ...
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 The Silk Road () was a network of Eurasian trade routes active from the second century BCE until the mid-15th century. Spanning over 6,400 kilometers (4,000 miles), it played a central role in facilitating economic, cultural, political, and reli ...
and free world trade.


21st century and migrations

In 2013, the
Maltese Maltese may refer to: * Someone or something of, from, or related to Malta * Maltese alphabet * Maltese cuisine * Maltese culture * Maltese language, the Semitic language spoken by Maltese people * Maltese people, people from Malta or of Maltes ...
president described the Mediterranean Sea as a "cemetery" due to the large number of migrants who drowned there after their boats capsized.
European Parliament The European Parliament (EP) is one of the legislative bodies of the European Union and one of its seven institutions. Together with the Council of the European Union (known as the Council and informally as the Council of Ministers), it adopts ...
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. An Azerbaijani official described the sea as "a burial ground ... where people die". Following the 2013 Lampedusa migrant shipwreck, the
Italian government The government of Italy is in the form of a democratic republic, and was established by a constitution in 1948. It consists of legislative, executive, and judicial subdivisions, as well as a Head of State, or President. The Italian Constituti ...
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. Italy was particularly affected by the
European migrant crisis The 2015 European migrant crisis, also known internationally as the Syrian refugee crisis, was a period of significantly increased movement of refugees and migrants into Europe in 2015, when 1.3 million people came to the continent to request ...
. Since 2013, over 700,000 migrants have landed in Italy, mainly sub-Saharan Africans.


Geography

The Mediterranean Sea connects: * to the
Atlantic Ocean The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's five oceans, with an area of about . It covers approximately 20% of Earth's surface and about 29% of its water surface area. It is known to separate the "Old World" of Africa, Europe an ...
by the Strait of Gibraltar (known in
Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēros'') (born ) was a Greek poet who is credited as the author of the ''Iliad'' and the ''Odyssey'', two epic poems that are foundational works of ancient Greek literature. Homer is considered one of the ...
's writings as the "
Pillars of Hercules The Pillars of Hercules ( la, Columnae Herculis, grc, Ἡράκλειαι Στῆλαι, , ar, أعمدة هرقل, Aʿmidat Hiraql, es, Columnas de Hércules) was the phrase that was applied in Antiquity to the promontories that flank ...
") in the west * to the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, by the Straits of the
Dardanelles The Dardanelles (; tr, Çanakkale Boğazı, lit=Strait of Çanakkale, el, Δαρδανέλλια, translit=Dardanéllia), also known as the Strait of Gallipoli from the Gallipoli peninsula or from Classical Antiquity as the Hellespont (; ...
and the
Bosporus The Bosporus Strait (; grc, Βόσπορος ; tr, İstanbul Boğazı 'Istanbul strait', colloquially ''Boğaz'') or Bosphorus Strait is a natural strait and an internationally significant waterway located in Istanbul in northwestern T ...
respectively, in the east The long artificial
Suez Canal The Suez Canal ( arz, قَنَاةُ ٱلسُّوَيْسِ, ') is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez and dividing Africa and Asia. The long canal is a popula ...
in the southeast connects the Mediterranean Sea to the
Red Sea The Red Sea ( ar, البحر الأحمر - بحر القلزم, translit=Modern: al-Baḥr al-ʾAḥmar, Medieval: Baḥr al-Qulzum; or ; Coptic: ⲫⲓⲟⲙ ⲛ̀ϩⲁϩ ''Phiom Enhah'' or ⲫⲓⲟⲙ ⲛ̀ϣⲁⲣⲓ ''Phiom ǹšari''; ...
without ship lock, because the water level is essentially the same. The westernmost point of the Mediterranean is located at the transition from the
Alborán Sea The Alboran Sea (from Arabic , ''al-Baḥrān'') is the westernmost portion of the Mediterranean Sea, lying between the Iberian Peninsula and the north of Africa (Spain on the north and Morocco and Algeria on the south). The Strait of Gibraltar, w ...
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 The Gulf of Sidra ( ar, خليج السدرة, Khalij as-Sidra, also known as the Gulf of Sirte ( ar, خليج سرت, Khalij Surt, is a body of water in the Mediterranean Sea on the northern coast of Libya, named after the oil port of Sidra or ...
near the Libyan town of
El Agheila El Agheila ( ar, العقيلة, translit=al-ʿUqayla ) is a coastal city at the southern end of the Gulf of Sidra in far western Cyrenaica, Libya. In 1988 it was placed in Ajdabiya District; it was in that district until 1995. It was removed from ...
. Large islands in the Mediterranean include: *
Cyprus Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island country located south of the Anatolian Peninsula in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Its continental position is disputed; while it is ge ...
, Crete,
Euboea Evia (, ; el, Εύβοια ; grc, Εὔβοια ) or Euboia (, ) is the second-largest Greek island in area and population, after Crete. It is separated from Boeotia in mainland Greece by the narrow Euripus Strait (only at its narrowest p ...
,
Rhodes Rhodes (; el, Ρόδος , translit=Ródos ) is the largest and the historical capital of the Dodecanese islands of Greece. Administratively, the island forms a separate municipality within the Rhodes regional unit, which is part of the S ...
,
Lesbos Lesbos or Lesvos ( el, Λέσβος, Lésvos ) is a Greek island located in the northeastern Aegean Sea. It has an area of with approximately of coastline, making it the third largest island in Greece. It is separated from Asia Minor by the ...
,
Chios Chios (; el, Χίος, Chíos , traditionally known as Scio in English) is the fifth largest Greek island, situated in the northern Aegean Sea. The island is separated from Turkey by the Chios Strait. Chios is notable for its exports of masti ...
,
Kefalonia Kefalonia or Cephalonia ( el, Κεφαλονιά), formerly also known as Kefallinia or Kephallenia (), is the largest of the Ionian Islands in western Greece and the 6th largest island in Greece after Crete, Euboea, Lesbos, Rhodes and Chios. It ...
,
Corfu Corfu (, ) or Kerkyra ( el, Κέρκυρα, Kérkyra, , ; ; la, Corcyra.) is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea, of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the margin of the northwestern frontier of Greece. The i ...
, Limnos,
Samos Samos (, also ; el, Σάμος ) is a Greek island in the eastern Aegean Sea, south of Chios, north of Patmos and the Dodecanese, and off the coast of western Turkey, from which it is separated by the -wide Mycale Strait. It is also a separat ...
,
Naxos Naxos (; el, Νάξος, ) is a Greek island and the largest of the Cyclades. It was the centre of archaic Cycladic culture. The island is famous as a source of emery, a rock rich in corundum, which until modern times was one of the best ...
, and
Andros Andros ( el, Άνδρος, ) is the northernmost island of the Greek Cyclades archipelago, about southeast of Euboea, and about north of Tinos. It is nearly long, and its greatest breadth is . It is for the most part mountainous, with many fr ...
in the
Eastern Mediterranean Eastern Mediterranean is a loose definition of the eastern approximate half, or third, of the Mediterranean Sea, often defined as the countries around the Levantine Sea. It typically embraces all of that sea's coastal zones, referring to commu ...
* Sicily,
Cres Cres (; dlm, Crepsa, vec, Cherso, it, Cherso, la, Crepsa, Greek: Χέρσος, ''Chersos'') is an Adriatic island in Croatia. It is one of the northern islands in the Kvarner Gulf and can be reached via ferry from Rijeka, the island Krk ...
,
Krk Krk (; it, Veglia; ruo, Krk; dlm, label= Vegliot Dalmatian, Vikla; la, Curicta; grc-gre, Κύρικον, Kyrikon) is a Croatian island in the northern Adriatic Sea, located near Rijeka in the Bay of Kvarner and part of Primorje-Gorski Kot ...
,
Brač Brač is an island in the Adriatic Sea within Croatia, with an area of , making it the largest island in Dalmatia, and the third largest in the Adriatic. It is separated from the mainland by the Brač Channel, which is wide. The island's talle ...
, Hvar, Pag (island), Pag, Korčula, and Malta Island, Malta in the central Mediterranean *
Sardinia Sardinia ( ; it, Sardegna, label=Italian, Corsican and Tabarchino ; sc, Sardigna , sdc, Sardhigna; french: Sardaigne; sdn, Saldigna; ca, Sardenya, label=Algherese and Catalan) is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, aft ...
, Corsica, and the Balearic Islands: Ibiza, Majorca, and Menorca in the Western Mediterranean The Alps, 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, orange (fruit), oranges, tangerines, carobs and cork (material), cork. Although the Mediterranean is sometimes considered a part of the Atlantic Ocean , it is usually referred to as a separate body of water.


Marginal seas

The Mediterranean Sea includes 15 marginal seas: * List of seas#Marginal seas, List of seas * :Marginal seas of the Mediterranean, Marginal seas of the Mediterranean * :Gulfs of the Mediterranean, Gulfs of the Mediterranean * :Straits of the Mediterranean Sea, Straits of the Mediterranean Sea * :Channels of the Mediterranean Sea, Channels of the Mediterranean Sea 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. Note 2: Thracian Sea and Myrtoan Sea are seas that are part of the Aegean Sea. Note 3: The Black Sea is not considered part of it.


Extent

The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Mediterranean Sea as follows: Stretching from the Strait of Gibraltar in the west to the entrances to the
Dardanelles The Dardanelles (; tr, Çanakkale Boğazı, lit=Strait of Çanakkale, el, Δαρδανέλλια, translit=Dardanéllia), also known as the Strait of Gallipoli from the Gallipoli peninsula or from Classical Antiquity as the Hellespont (; ...
and the
Suez Canal The Suez Canal ( arz, قَنَاةُ ٱلسُّوَيْسِ, ') is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez and dividing Africa and Asia. The long canal is a popula ...
in the east, the Mediterranean Sea is bounded by the coasts of Europe, Africa, and Asia and is divided into two deep basins: * Western Basin: ** On the west: A line joining the extremities of Cape Trafalgar (Spain) and Cape Spartel (Africa) ** On the northeast: The west coast of Italy. In the Strait of Messina, a line joining the north extreme of Cape Paci (15°42′E) with Cape Peloro, the east extreme of the Island of Sicily. The north coast of Sicily ** On the east: A line joining Cape Lilibeo the western point of Sicily (), through the Adventure Bank to Cape Bon (Tunisia) * Eastern Basin: ** On the west: The northeastern and eastern limits of the Western Basin ** On the northeast: A line joining Kumkale, Çanakkale, Kum Kale (26°11′E) and Cape Helles, the western entrance to the Dardanelles ** On the southeast: The entrance to the
Suez Canal The Suez Canal ( arz, قَنَاةُ ٱلسُّوَيْسِ, ') is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez and dividing Africa and Asia. The long canal is a popula ...
** On the east: The coasts of Lebanon, Syria, and Israel


Hydrography

The drainage basin of the Mediterranean Sea is particularly heterogeneous and extends much further than the Mediterranean region. Its size has been estimated between and , depending on whether non-active parts (deserts) are included or not. The longest river ending in the Mediterranean Sea is the
Nile The Nile, , Bohairic , lg, Kiira , Nobiin: Áman Dawū is a major north-flowing river in northeastern Africa. It flows into the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile is the longest river in Africa and has historically been considered the longest rive ...
, which takes its sources in equatorial Africa. The basin of the Nile constitutes about two-thirds of the Mediterranean drainage basin and encompasses areas as high as the Ruwenzori Mountains. Among other important rivers in Africa, are the Moulouya River, Moulouya and the Chelif River, Chelif, both on the north side of the Atlas Mountains. In Asia, are the Ceyhan River, Ceyhan and Seyhan River, Seyhan, both on the south side of the Taurus Mountains. In Europe, the largest basins are those of the Rhône, Ebro, Po (river), Po, and Maritsa. The basin of the Rhône is the largest and extends up as far north as the Jura Mountains, encompassing areas even on the north side of the Alps. The basins of the Ebro, Po, and Maritsa, are respectively south of the Pyrenees, Alps, and Balkan Mountains, which are the major ranges bordering Southern Europe. Total annual precipitation is significantly higher on the European part of the Mediterranean basin, especially near the Alps (the 'water tower of Europe') and other high mountain ranges. As a consequence, the Discharge (hydrology), river discharges of the Rhône and Po are similar to that of the Nile, despite the latter having a much larger basin. These are the only three rivers with an average discharge of over . Among large natural fresh bodies of water are Lake Victoria (Nile basin), Lake Geneva (Rhône), and the Italian Lakes (Po). While the Mediterranean watershed is bordered by other river basins in Europe, it is essentially bordered by endorheic basins or deserts elsewhere. The following countries are in the Mediterranean drainage basin while ''not'' having a coastline on the Mediterranean Sea: *In Europe, through various rivers: Andorra, Bulgaria, Kosovo, North Macedonia, San Marino, Serbia, and Switzerland. *In Africa, through the Nile: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo, Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.


Coastal countries

The following countries have a coastline on the Mediterranean Sea: * Northern shore (from west to east): Spain,
France France (), officially the French Republic ( ), is a country primarily located in Western Europe. It also comprises of overseas regions and territories in the Americas and the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Its metropolitan area e ...
,
Monaco Monaco (; ), officially the Principality of Monaco (french: Principauté de Monaco; Ligurian: ; oc, Principat de Mónegue), is a sovereign city-state and microstate on the French Riviera a few kilometres west of the Italian region of Liguria ...
,
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic, ) or the Republic of Italy, is a country in Southern Europe. It is located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, and its territory largely coincides with the Italy (geographical region) ...
, Slovenia,
Croatia , image_flag = Flag of Croatia.svg , image_coat = Coat of arms of Croatia.svg , anthem = " Lijepa naša domovino"("Our Beautiful Homeland") , image_map = , map_caption = , capi ...
, Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Montenegro ) , image_map = Europe-Montenegro.svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Podgorica , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , official_languages = M ...
,
Albania Albania ( ; sq, Shqipëri or ), or , also or . officially the Republic of Albania ( sq, Republika e Shqipërisë), is a country in Southeastern Europe. It is located on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas within the Mediterranean Sea and shares l ...
, Greece, Turkey. * Eastern shore (from north to south): Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine,
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مصر , ), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia via a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. It is bordered by the Mediter ...
. * Southern shore (from west to east):
Morocco Morocco (),, ) officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is the westernmost country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and has land borders with Algeria to ...
,
Algeria ) , image_map = Algeria (centered orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Algiers , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , relig ...
,
Tunisia ) , image_map = Tunisia location (orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = Location of Tunisia in northern Africa , image_map2 = , capital = Tunis , largest_city = capital , ...
,
Libya Libya (; ar, ليبيا, Lībiyā), officially the State of Libya ( ar, دولة ليبيا, Dawlat Lībiyā), is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa. It is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan ...
,
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مصر , ), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia via a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. It is bordered by the Mediter ...
. * Island nations:
Malta Malta ( , , ), officially the Republic of Malta ( mt, Repubblika ta' Malta ), is an island country in the Mediterranean Sea. It consists of an archipelago, between Italy and Libya, and is often considered a part of Southern Europe. It lies ...
,
Cyprus Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island country located south of the Anatolian Peninsula in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Its continental position is disputed; while it is ge ...
. Several other territories also border the Mediterranean Sea (from west to east): * the British overseas territory of
Gibraltar ) , anthem = "God Save the King" , song = " Gibraltar Anthem" , image_map = Gibraltar location in Europe.svg , map_alt = Location of Gibraltar in Europe , map_caption = United Kingdom shown in pale green , mapsize = , image_map2 = Gibr ...
* the Spanish autonomous cities of
Ceuta Ceuta (, , ; ar, سَبْتَة, Sabtah) is a Spanish autonomous city on the north coast of Africa. Bordered by Morocco, it lies along the boundary between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It is one of several Spanish territories ...
and Melilla and plazas de soberanía, nearby islands * the Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus * the Palestinian Gaza Strip


Exclusive economic zone

Exclusive economic zones in Mediterranean Sea:


Coastline length

The Coastline length is about 46,000 km.


Coastal cities

Major cities (municipalities), with populations larger than 200,000 people, bordering the Mediterranean Sea include: * Algeria: Algiers, Annaba, Oran * Egypt:
Alexandria Alexandria ( or ; ar, ٱلْإِسْكَنْدَرِيَّةُ ; grc-gre, Αλεξάνδρεια, Alexándria) is the second largest city in Egypt, and the largest city on the Mediterranean coast. Founded in by Alexander the Great, Alexandri ...
, Damietta, Port Said * France: Marseille, Toulon, Nice * Greece: Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, Heraklion * Israel: Ashdod, Haifa, Netanya, Rishon LeZion, Tel Aviv * Italy: Bari, Catania, Genoa, Messina, Naples, Palermo, Rome, Taranto,
Trieste Trieste ( , ; sl, Trst ; german: Triest ) is a city and seaport in northeastern Italy. It is the capital city, and largest city, of the autonomous region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, one of two autonomous regions which are not subdivided into provi ...
, Venice * Lebanon: Beirut, Tripoli, Lebanon, Tripoli * Libya: Benghazi, Misrata, Tripoli, Libya, Tripoli, Zawiya, Libya, Zawiya, Zliten * Malta: Valletta * Morocco: Tétouan, Tangier * Palestine: Gaza City * Spain: Alicante, Almería, Badalona, Barcelona, Cartagena, Spain, Cartagena, Málaga, Palma de Mallorca, Valencia. * Syria: Latakia, Tartus * Tunisia: Sfax, Sousse, Tunis * Turkey: Alanya, Antalya, Çanakkale, İskenderun, İzmir, Mersin


Subdivisions

The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) divides the Mediterranean into a number of smaller waterbodies, each with their own designation (from west to east): * the Strait of Gibraltar * the Alboran Sea, between Spain and
Morocco Morocco (),, ) officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is the westernmost country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and has land borders with Algeria to ...
* the Balearic Sea, between mainland Spain and its Balearic Islands * the Ligurian Sea between Corsica and Liguria (Italy) * the Tyrrhenian Sea enclosed by
Sardinia Sardinia ( ; it, Sardegna, label=Italian, Corsican and Tabarchino ; sc, Sardigna , sdc, Sardhigna; french: Sardaigne; sdn, Saldigna; ca, Sardenya, label=Algherese and Catalan) is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, aft ...
, Italian peninsula and Sicily * the
Ionian Sea The Ionian Sea ( el, Ιόνιο Πέλαγος, ''Iónio Pélagos'' ; it, Mar Ionio ; al, Deti Jon ) is an elongated bay of the Mediterranean Sea. It is connected to the Adriatic Sea to the north, and is bounded by Southern Italy, including ...
between Italy,
Albania Albania ( ; sq, Shqipëri or ), or , also or . officially the Republic of Albania ( sq, Republika e Shqipërisë), is a country in Southeastern Europe. It is located on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas within the Mediterranean Sea and shares l ...
and Greece * the Adriatic Sea between Italy, Slovenia,
Croatia , image_flag = Flag of Croatia.svg , image_coat = Coat of arms of Croatia.svg , anthem = " Lijepa naša domovino"("Our Beautiful Homeland") , image_map = , map_caption = , capi ...
, Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Montenegro ) , image_map = Europe-Montenegro.svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Podgorica , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , official_languages = M ...
and
Albania Albania ( ; sq, Shqipëri or ), or , also or . officially the Republic of Albania ( sq, Republika e Shqipërisë), is a country in Southeastern Europe. It is located on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas within the Mediterranean Sea and shares l ...
* the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey


Other seas

Some other seas whose names have been in common use from the ancient times, or in the present: * the Sea of Sardinia, between
Sardinia Sardinia ( ; it, Sardegna, label=Italian, Corsican and Tabarchino ; sc, Sardigna , sdc, Sardhigna; french: Sardaigne; sdn, Saldigna; ca, Sardenya, label=Algherese and Catalan) is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, aft ...
and Balearic Islands, as a part of the Balearic Sea * the Sea of Sicily between Sicily and
Tunisia ) , image_map = Tunisia location (orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = Location of Tunisia in northern Africa , image_map2 = , capital = Tunis , largest_city = capital , ...
* the Libyan Sea between
Libya Libya (; ar, ليبيا, Lībiyā), officially the State of Libya ( ar, دولة ليبيا, Dawlat Lībiyā), is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa. It is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan ...
and Crete * In the Aegean Sea, ** the Thracian Sea in its north ** the Myrtoan Sea between the Cyclades and the Peloponnese ** the Sea of Crete north of Crete ** the Icarian Sea between Kos and
Chios Chios (; el, Χίος, Chíos , traditionally known as Scio in English) is the fifth largest Greek island, situated in the northern Aegean Sea. The island is separated from Turkey by the Chios Strait. Chios is notable for its exports of masti ...
* the Cilician Sea between Turkey and
Cyprus Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island country located south of the Anatolian Peninsula in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Its continental position is disputed; while it is ge ...
* the Levantine Sea at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Many of these smaller seas feature in local myth and folklore and derive their names from such associations.


Other features

In addition to the seas, a number of gulfs and straits are recognised: * the Saint George Bay in Beirut, Lebanon * the Ras Ibn Hani cape in Latakia, Syria * the Ras al-Bassit cape in northern Syria. * the Minet el-Beida ("White Harbour") bay near ancient Ugarit, Syria * the Strait of Gibraltar, connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Spain from
Morocco Morocco (),, ) officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is the westernmost country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and has land borders with Algeria to ...
* the Bay of Algeciras, at the southern end of the
Iberian Peninsula The Iberian Peninsula (), ** * Aragonese language, Aragonese and Occitan language, Occitan: ''Peninsula Iberica'' ** ** * french: Péninsule Ibérique * mwl, Península Eibérica * eu, Iberiar penintsula also known as Iberia, is a pe ...
* the Gulf of Corinth, an enclosed sea between the Ionian Sea and the Corinth Canal * the Pagasetic Gulf, the gulf of Volos, south of the Thermaic Gulf, formed by the Mount Pelion peninsula * the Saronic Gulf, the gulf of Athens, between the Corinth Canal and the Mirtoan Sea * the Thermaic Gulf, the gulf of Thessaloniki, located in the northern Greek region of Macedonia (Greece), Macedonia * the Kvarner Gulf,
Croatia , image_flag = Flag of Croatia.svg , image_coat = Coat of arms of Croatia.svg , anthem = " Lijepa naša domovino"("Our Beautiful Homeland") , image_map = , map_caption = , capi ...
* the Gulf of Almeria, southeast of Spain * the Gulf of Lion, south of France * the Gulf of Valencia, east of Spain * the Strait of Messina, between Sicily and Calabrian peninsula * the Gulf of Genoa, northwestern Italy * the Gulf of Venice, northeastern Italy * the Gulf of Trieste, northeastern Italy * the Gulf of Taranto, southern Italy * the Gulf of Saint Euphemia, southern Italy, with the international airport nearby * the Gulf of Salerno, southwestern Italy * the Gulf of Gaeta, southwestern Italy * the Gulf of Squillace, southern Italy * the Strait of Otranto, between Italy and
Albania Albania ( ; sq, Shqipëri or ), or , also or . officially the Republic of Albania ( sq, Republika e Shqipërisë), is a country in Southeastern Europe. It is located on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas within the Mediterranean Sea and shares l ...
* the Gulf of Haifa, northern Israel * the
Gulf of Sidra The Gulf of Sidra ( ar, خليج السدرة, Khalij as-Sidra, also known as the Gulf of Sirte ( ar, خليج سرت, Khalij Surt, is a body of water in the Mediterranean Sea on the northern coast of Libya, named after the oil port of Sidra or ...
, between Tripolitania (western Libya) and Cyrenaica (eastern Libya) * the Strait of Sicily, between Sicily and
Tunisia ) , image_map = Tunisia location (orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = Location of Tunisia in northern Africa , image_map2 = , capital = Tunis , largest_city = capital , ...
* the Corsica Channel, between Corsica and Italy * the Strait of Bonifacio, between
Sardinia Sardinia ( ; it, Sardegna, label=Italian, Corsican and Tabarchino ; sc, Sardigna , sdc, Sardhigna; french: Sardaigne; sdn, Saldigna; ca, Sardenya, label=Algherese and Catalan) is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, aft ...
and Corsica * the Gulf of Antalya, between west and east shores of Antalya (Turkey) * the Gulf of İskenderun, between İskenderun and Adana (Turkey) * the Gulf of İzmir, in İzmir (Turkey) * the Gulf of Fethiye, in Fethiye (Turkey) * the Gulf of Kuşadası, in İzmir (Turkey) * the Bay of Kotor, in south-western
Montenegro ) , image_map = Europe-Montenegro.svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Podgorica , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , official_languages = M ...
and south-eastern
Croatia , image_flag = Flag of Croatia.svg , image_coat = Coat of arms of Croatia.svg , anthem = " Lijepa naša domovino"("Our Beautiful Homeland") , image_map = , map_caption = , capi ...
* the Malta Channel, between Sicily and Malta * the Gozo Channel, between Malta Island and Gozo


Largest islands

The Mediterranean Sea encompasses about 10,000 islands and islets, of which about 250 are permanently inhabited. In the table below are listed the ten largest by size.


Climate

Much of the Mediterranean coast enjoys a Mediterranean climate#Hot-summer Mediterranean climate, hot-summer Mediterranean climate. However, most of its southeastern coast has a Desert climate#Hot desert climates, hot desert climate, and much of Spain's eastern (Mediterranean) coast has a Semi-arid climate#Cold semi-arid climates, cold semi-arid climate, while most of Italy's northern (Adriatic) coast has a humid subtropical climate. Although they are rare, Mediterranean tropical-like cyclone, tropical cyclones occasionally form in the Mediterranean Sea, typically in September–November.


Sea temperature


Oceanography

Being nearly landlocked affects conditions in the Mediterranean Sea: for instance, tides are very limited as a result of the narrow connection with the Atlantic Ocean. The Mediterranean is characterised and immediately recognised by its deep blue colour. Evaporation greatly exceeds precipitation (meteorology), precipitation and river runoff in the Mediterranean, a fact that is central to the water circulation within the basin. Evaporation is especially high in its eastern half, causing the water level to decrease and salinity to increase eastward. The average salinity in the basin is 38 Salinity, PSU at 5 m depth. The temperature of the water in the deepest part of the Mediterranean Sea is . The net water influx from the Atlantic Ocean is ca. 70,000 m³/s or . Without this Atlantic water, the sea level of the Mediterranean Sea would fall at a rate of about 1 m per year. In oceanography, it is sometimes called the ''Eurafrican Mediterranean Sea'', the ''European Mediterranean Sea'' or the ''African Mediterranean Sea'' to distinguish it from mediterranean sea (oceanography), mediterranean seas elsewhere.


General circulation

Water circulation in the Mediterranean can be attributed to the surface waters entering from the Atlantic through the Strait of Gibraltar (and also low salinity water entering the Mediterranean from the Black Sea through the Bosphorus). The cool and relatively low-salinity Atlantic water circulates eastwards along the North African coasts. A part of the surface water does not pass the Strait of Sicily, but deviates towards Corsica before exiting the Mediterranean. The surface waters entering the eastern Mediterranean basin circulate along the Libyan and Israeli coasts. Upon reaching the Levantine Sea, the surface waters having warmed and increased its salinity from its initial Atlantic state, is now denser and sinks to form the Levantine Intermediate Waters (LIW). Most of the water found anywhere between 50 and 600 m deep in the Mediterranean originates from the LIW. LIW are formed along the coasts of Turkey and circulate westwards along the Greek and South Italian coasts. LIW are the only waters passing the Sicily Strait westwards. After the Strait of Sicily, the LIW waters circulate along the Italian, French and Spanish coasts before exiting the Mediterranean through the depths of the Strait of Gibraltar. Deep water in the Mediterranean originates from three main areas: the Adriatic Sea, from which most of the deep water in the eastern Mediterranean originates, the Aegean Sea, and the Gulf of Lion. Deep water formation in the Mediterranean is triggered by strong winter convection fueled by intense cold winds like the Bora (wind), Bora. When new deep water is formed, the older waters mix with the overlaying intermediate waters and eventually exit the Mediterranean. The Water cycle#Residence times, residence time of water in the Mediterranean is approximately 100 years, making the Mediterranean especially sensitive to climate change.


Other events affecting water circulation

Being a semi-enclosed basin, the Mediterranean experiences transitory events that can affect the water circulation on short time scales. In the mid-1990s, the Aegean Sea became the main area for deep water formation in the eastern Mediterranean after particularly cold winter conditions. This transitory switch in the origin of deep waters in the eastern Mediterranean was termed Eastern Mediterranean Transient (EMT) and had major consequences on water circulation of the Mediterranean. Another example of a transient event affecting the Mediterranean circulation is the periodic inversion of the North Ionian Gyre, which is an Anticyclonic rotation, anticyclonic ocean gyre observed in the northern part of the
Ionian Sea The Ionian Sea ( el, Ιόνιο Πέλαγος, ''Iónio Pélagos'' ; it, Mar Ionio ; al, Deti Jon ) is an elongated bay of the Mediterranean Sea. It is connected to the Adriatic Sea to the north, and is bounded by Southern Italy, including ...
, off the Greek coast. The transition from anticyclonic to cyclonic rotation of this gyre changes the origin of the waters fueling it; when the circulation is anticyclonic (most common), the waters of the gyre originate from the Adriatic Sea. When the circulation is cyclonic, the waters originate from the Levantine Sea. These waters have different physical and chemical characteristics, and the periodic inversion of the North Ionian Gyre (called Bimodal Oscillating System or BiOS) changes the Mediterranean circulation and biogeochemistry around the Adriatic and Levantine regions.


Climate change

Because of the short residence time of waters, the Mediterranean Sea is considered a hot-spot for climate change effects.Giorgi, F. (2006). Climate change hot-spots. Geophysical Research Letters, 33(8) :L08707. 15 Deep water temperatures have increased by between 1959 and 1989. According to climate projections, the Mediterranean Sea could become warmer. The decrease in precipitation over the region could lead to more evaporation ultimately increasing the Mediterranean Sea salinity. Because of the changes in temperature and salinity, the Mediterranean Sea may become more stratified by the end of the 21st century, with notable consequences on water circulation and biogeochemistry. The stratification and warming have already led to the eastern Mediterranean to become a net source of CO2 to the atmosphere notably during summer. This strong summer degassing, combined with the prolonged and pronounced stratification results in the formation of aragonite crystals abiotically in the water column. The cumulative warming at the surface of the Mediterranean has a significant impact on the ecological system. Extreme warming has led to biodiversity loss and presents an existential threat to some habitats while making conditions more hospitable to invasive tropical species.


Biogeochemistry

In spite of its great biodiversity, concentrations of chlorophyll and nutrients in the Mediterranean Sea are very low, making it one of the most oligotrophic ocean regions in the world. The Mediterranean Sea is commonly referred to as an LNLC (Low-Nutrient, Low-Chlorophyll) area. The Mediterranean Sea fits the definition of a desert in which its nutrient contents are low, making it difficult for plants and animals to develop. There are steep gradients in nutrient concentrations, chlorophyll concentrations and primary productivity in the Mediterranean. Nutrient concentrations in the western part of the basin are about double the concentrations in the eastern basin. The Alboran Sea, close to the Strait of Gibraltar, has a daily primary productivity of about 0.25 g C (grams of carbon) m−2 day−1 whereas the eastern basin has an average daily productivity of 0.16 g C m−2 day−1. For this reason, the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea is termed "ultraoligotrophic". The productive areas of the Mediterranean Sea are few and small. High (i.e. more than 0.5 grams of chlorophyll a, Chlorophyll ''a'' per cubic meter) productivity occurs in coastal areas, close to the river mouths which are the primary suppliers of dissolved nutrients. The Gulf of Lion has a relatively high productivity because it is an area of high vertical mixing, bringing nutrients to the surface waters that can be used by phytoplankton to produce Chlorophyll ''a''.Bosc, E., Bricaud, A., and Antoine, D. (2004). Seasonal and interannual variability in algal biomass and primary production in the Mediterranean Sea, as derived from 4 years of SeaWiFS observations : MEDITERRANEAN SEA BIOMASS AND PRODUCTION. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 18(1). Primary productivity in the Mediterranean is also marked by an intense seasonal variability. In winter, the strong winds and precipitation over the basin generate Convective mixing, vertical mixing, bringing nutrients from the deep waters to the surface, where phytoplankton can convert it into Biomass (ecology), biomass. However, in winter, light may be the limiting factor for primary productivity. Between March and April, spring offers the ideal trade-off between light intensity and nutrient concentrations in surface for a spring bloom to occur. In summer, high atmospheric temperatures lead to the warming of the surface waters. The resulting density difference virtually isolates the surface waters from the rest of the water column and nutrient exchanges are limited. As a consequence, primary productivity is very low between June and October. Oceanographic expeditions uncovered a characteristic feature of the Mediterranean Sea biogeochemistry: most of the chlorophyll production does not occur on the surface, but in sub-surface waters between 80 and 200 meters deep. Another key characteristic of the Mediterranean is its high nitrogen-to-phosphorus ratio (N:P). Alfred C. Redfield, Redfield demonstrated that most of the world's oceans have an average N:P ratio around 16. However, the Mediterranean Sea has an average N:P between 24 and 29, which translates a widespread phosphorus limitation. Because of its low productivity, plankton assemblages in the Mediterranean Sea are dominated by small organisms such as picophytoplankton and bacteria.


Geology

The geology, geologic history of the Mediterranean Sea is complex. Underlain by oceanic crust, the sea basin was once thought to be a tectonic remnant of the ancient Tethys Ocean; it is now known to be a structurally younger basin, called the Neotethys, which was first formed by the convergence of the African plate, African and Eurasian plates during the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic. Because it is a near-landlocked body of water in a normally dry climate, the Mediterranean is subject to intensive evaporation and the precipitation of evaporites. The
Messinian salinity crisis The Messinian salinity crisis (MSC), also referred to as the Messinian event, and in its latest stage as the Lago Mare event, was a geological event during which the Mediterranean Sea went into a cycle of partial or nearly complete desiccation (dry ...
started about six million years ago (mya) when the Mediterranean became landlocked, and then essentially dried up. There are salt deposits accumulated on the bottom of the basin of more than a million cubic kilometres—in some places more than three kilometres thick. Scientists estimate that the sea was last filled about 5.3 million years ago (mya) in less than two years by the Zanclean flood. Water poured in from the Atlantic Ocean through a newly breached gateway now called the Strait of Gibraltar at an estimated rate of about three orders of magnitude (one thousand times) larger than the current flow of the Amazon River. The Mediterranean Sea has an average depth of and the deepest recorded point is in the Calypso Deep in the
Ionian Sea The Ionian Sea ( el, Ιόνιο Πέλαγος, ''Iónio Pélagos'' ; it, Mar Ionio ; al, Deti Jon ) is an elongated bay of the Mediterranean Sea. It is connected to the Adriatic Sea to the north, and is bounded by Southern Italy, including ...
. The coastline extends for . A shallow submarine ridge (the Strait of Sicily) between the island of Sicily and the coast of
Tunisia ) , image_map = Tunisia location (orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = Location of Tunisia in northern Africa , image_map2 = , capital = Tunis , largest_city = capital , ...
divides the sea in two main subregions: the Western Mediterranean, with an area of about 850,000 km2 (330,000 mi2); and the Eastern Mediterranean, of about 1.65 million km2 (640,000 mi2). Coastal areas have submarine karst springs or s, which discharge pressurised groundwater into the water from below the surface; the discharge water is usually fresh, and sometimes may be thermal.


Tectonics and paleoenvironmental analysis

The Mediterranean basin and sea system were established by the ancient African-Arabian continent colliding with the Eurasian continent. As Africa-Arabia drifted northward, it closed over the ancient Tethys Ocean which had earlier separated the two supercontinents Laurasia and Gondwana. At about that time in the middle Jurassic period (roughly 170 million years ago ) a much smaller sea basin, dubbed the Neotethys, was formed shortly before the Tethys Ocean closed at its western (Arabian) end. The broad line of collisions pushed up a very long system of mountains from the Pyrenees in Spain to the Zagros Mountains in Iran in an episode of mountain-building tectonics known as the Alpine orogeny. The Neotethys grew larger during the episodes of collisions (and associated foldings and subductions) that occurred during the Oligocene and Miocene epochs (34 to 5.33 mya); see animation: Supercontinent, Africa-Arabia colliding with Eurasia. Accordingly, the Mediterranean Oceanic basin, basin consists of several stretched Tectonics, tectonic plates in subduction which are the foundation of the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. Various zones of subduction contain the highest oceanic ridges, east of the
Ionian Sea The Ionian Sea ( el, Ιόνιο Πέλαγος, ''Iónio Pélagos'' ; it, Mar Ionio ; al, Deti Jon ) is an elongated bay of the Mediterranean Sea. It is connected to the Adriatic Sea to the north, and is bounded by Southern Italy, including ...
and south of the Aegean Sea, Aegean. The Central Indian Ridge runs east of the Mediterranean Sea south-east across the in-between of
Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth's total surface area ...
and the Arabian Peninsula into the Indian Ocean.


Messinian salinity crisis

During Mesozoic and Cenozoic times, as the northwest corner of Africa converged on Iberia, it lifted the Betic-Rif mountain belts across southern Iberia and northwest Africa. There the development of the intramontane Betic and Rif basins created two roughly parallel marine gateways between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Dubbed the Betic corridor, Betic and Rifian corridors, they gradually closed during the middle and late Miocene: perhaps several times. In the late Miocene the closure of the Betic Corridor triggered the so-called "
Messinian salinity crisis The Messinian salinity crisis (MSC), also referred to as the Messinian event, and in its latest stage as the Lago Mare event, was a geological event during which the Mediterranean Sea went into a cycle of partial or nearly complete desiccation (dry ...
" (MSC), characterized by the deposition of a thick evaporitic sequence - with salt deposits up to 2 km thick in the Levantine sea - and by a massive drop in water level in much of the Basin. This event was for long the subject of acute scientific controversy, now much appeased, regarding its sequence, geographic range, processes leading to evaporite facies and salt deposits. The start of the MSC was recently estimated astronomically at 5.96 mya, and it persisted for some 630,000 years until about 5.3 mya; see Animation: Messinian salinity crisis, at right. After the initial drawdown and re-flooding, there followed more episodes—the total number is debated—of sea drawdowns and re-floodings for the duration of the MSC. It ended when the Atlantic Ocean last re-flooded the basin—creating the Strait of Gibraltar and causing the Zanclean flood—at the end of the Miocene (5.33 mya). Some research has suggested that a desiccation-flooding-desiccation cycle may have repeated several times, which could explain several events of large amounts of salt deposition. Recent studies, however, show that repeated desiccation and re-flooding is unlikely from a geodynamic point of view.


Desiccation and exchanges of flora and fauna

The present-day Atlantic gateway, the Strait of Gibraltar, originated in the early Pliocene via the Zanclean Flood. As mentioned, there were two earlier gateways: the Betic Corridor across southern Spain and the Rifian Corridor across northern Morocco. The Betic closed about 6 mya, causing the Messinian salinity crisis (MSC); the Rifian or possibly both gateways closed during the earlier Tortonian times, causing a "Tortonian salinity crisis" (from 11.6 to 7.2 mya), long before the MSC and lasting much longer. Both "crises" resulted in broad connections between the mainlands of Africa and Europe, which allowed migrations of flora and fauna—especially large mammals including primates—between the two continents. The Vallesian, Vallesian crisis indicates a typical extinction and replacement of mammal species in Europe during Tortonian times following climatic upheaval and overland migrations of new species: see Animation: Messinian salinity crisis (and mammal migrations), at right. The almost complete enclosure of the Mediterranean basin has enabled the oceanic gateways to dominate seawater circulation and the environmental evolution of the sea and basin. Circulation patterns are also affected by several other factors—including climate, bathymetry, and water chemistry and temperature—which are interactive and can induce precipitation of evaporites. Deposits of evaporites accumulated earlier in the nearby Geology of the Western Carpathians#Foredeep, Carpathian foredeep during the Middle Miocene, and the adjacent Red Sea Basin (during the Late Miocene), and in the whole Mediterranean basin (during the MSC and the Messinian age). Many diatomites are found underneath the evaporite deposits, suggesting a connection between their formations. Today, evaporation of surface seawater (output) is more than the supply (input) of fresh water by precipitation and coastal drainage systems, causing the salinity of the Mediterranean to be much higher than that of the Atlantic—so much so that the saltier Mediterranean waters sink below the waters incoming from the Atlantic, causing a two-layer flow across the Strait of Gibraltar: that is, an outflow Strait of Gibraltar#Inflow and outflow, ''submarine current'' of warm saline Mediterranean water, counterbalanced by an inflow surface current of less saline cold oceanic water from the Atlantic. In the 1920s, Herman Sörgel proposed the building of a hydroelectric dam (the Atlantropa project) across the Straits, using the inflow current to provide a large amount of hydroelectric energy. The underlying energy grid was also intended to support a political union between Europe and, at least, the Maghreb part of Africa (compare Eurafrique, Eurafrika for the later impact and Desertec for a later project with some parallels in the planned grid).


Shift to a "Mediterranean climate"

The end of the Miocene also marked a change in the climate of the Mediterranean basin. Fossil evidence from that period reveals that the larger basin had a humid subtropical climate with rainfall in the summer supporting laurel forests. The shift to a "Mediterranean climate" occurred largely within the last three million years (the late Pliocene epoch) as summer rainfall decreased. The subtropical laurel forests retreated; and even as they persisted on the islands of Macaronesia off the Atlantic coast of Iberia and North Africa, the present Mediterranean vegetation evolved, dominated by coniferous trees and sclerophyllous trees and shrubs with small, hard, waxy leaves that prevent moisture loss in the dry summers. Much of these forests and shrublands have been altered beyond recognition by thousands of years of human habitation. There are now very few relatively intact natural areas in what was once a heavily wooded region.


Paleoclimate

Because of its latitude and its landlocked position, the Mediterranean is especially sensitive to astronomically induced climatic variations, which are well documented in its sedimentary record. Since the Mediterranean is subject to the deposition of eolian dust from the Sahara during dry periods, whereas riverine detritus (geology), detrital input prevails during wet ones, the Mediterranean marine sapropel-bearing sequences provide high-resolution climatic information. These data have been employed in reconstructing astronomically calibrated time scales for the last 9 Ma of the Earth's history, helping to constrain the time of past geomagnetic reversals. Furthermore, the exceptional accuracy of these paleoclimatic records has improved our knowledge of the Earth's orbital variations in the past.


Biodiversity

Unlike the vast multidirectional ocean currents in open
ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the body of salt water that covers approximately 70.8% of the surface of Earth and contains 97% of Earth's water. An ocean can also refer to any of the large bodies of water into which the worl ...
s within their respective oceanic zones; Marine ecosystem, biodiversity in the Mediterranean Sea is that of a stable one due to the subtle but strong locked nature of Ocean current, currents which affects favourably, even the smallest macroscopic type of Hydrothermal vent, volcanic life form. The stable marine ecosystem of the Mediterranean Sea and Sea surface temperature, sea temperature provides a nourishing environment for Marine biology, life in the deep sea to flourish while assuring a balanced aquatic ecosystem excluded from any external Deep sea, deep Ocean, oceanic factors. It is estimated that there are more than 17,000 Marine life, marine species in the Mediterranean Sea with generally higher marine biodiversity in Coast, coastal areas, Continental shelf, continental shelves, and decreases with depth. As a result of the drying of the sea during the
Messinian salinity crisis The Messinian salinity crisis (MSC), also referred to as the Messinian event, and in its latest stage as the Lago Mare event, was a geological event during which the Mediterranean Sea went into a cycle of partial or nearly complete desiccation (dry ...
, the marine biota of the Mediterranean are derived primarily from the Atlantic Ocean. The North Atlantic is considerably colder and more nutrient-rich than the Mediterranean, and the marine life of the Mediterranean has had to adapt to its differing conditions in the five million years since the basin was reflooded. The Alboran Sea is a transition zone between the two seas, containing a mix of Mediterranean and Atlantic species. The Alboran Sea has the largest population of bottlenose dolphins in the Western Mediterranean, is home to the last population of harbour porpoises in the Mediterranean, and is the most important feeding grounds for loggerhead sea turtles in Europe. The Alboran Sea also hosts important commercial fisheries, including sardines and swordfish. The Mediterranean monk seals live in the Aegean Sea in Greece. In 2003, the World Wildlife Fund raised concerns about the widespread drift net fishing endangering populations of dolphins, turtles, and other marine animals such as the Galathea strigosa, spiny squat lobster. There was a resident population of orcas in the Mediterranean until the 1980s, when they went extinct, probably due to long-term PCB exposure. There are still annual sightings of orca vagrants.


Environmental issues

For 4,000 years, human activity has transformed most parts of Mediterranean Europe, and the "humanisation of the landscape" overlapped with the appearance of the present Mediterranean climate. The image of a simplistic, environmental determinist notion of a Mediterranean paradise on Earth in antiquity, which was destroyed by later civilisations, dates back to at least the 18th century and was for centuries fashionable in archaeological and historical circles. Based on a broad variety of methods, e.g. historical documents, analysis of trade relations, floodplain sediments, pollen, tree-ring and further archaeometric analyses and population studies, Alfred Thomas Grove's and Oliver Rackham's work on "The Nature of Mediterranean Europe" challenges this common wisdom of a Mediterranean Europe as a "Lost Eden", a formerly fertile and forested region, that had been progressively degraded and desertified by human mismanagement. The belief stems more from the failure of the recent landscape to measure up to the imaginary past of the classics as idealised by artists, poets and scientists of the early modern Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment. The historical evolution of climate, vegetation and landscape in southern Europe from prehistoric times to the present is much more complex and underwent various changes. For example, some of the deforestation had already taken place before the Roman age. While in the Roman age large enterprises such as the Latifundium, latifundia took effective care of forests and agriculture, the largest depopulation effects came with the end of the empire. Some assume that the major deforestation took place in modern times—the later usage patterns were also quite different e.g. in southern and northern Italy. Also, the climate has usually been unstable and there is evidence of various ancient and modern "Little Ice Ages", and plant cover accommodated to various extremes and became resilient to various patterns of human activity. Human activity was therefore not the cause of climate change but followed it. The wide ecological diversity typical of Mediterranean Europe is predominantly based on human behaviour, as it is and has been closely related to human usage patterns. The diversity range was enhanced by the widespread exchange and interaction of the longstanding and highly diverse local agriculture, intense transport and trade relations, and the interaction with settlements, pasture and other land use. The greatest human-induced changes, however, came after World War II, in line with the "1950s syndrome" as rural populations throughout the region abandoned traditional subsistence economies. Grove and Rackham suggest that the locals left the traditional agricultural patterns and instead became scenery-setting agents for tourism. This resulted in more uniform, large-scale formations. Among further current important threats to Mediterranean landscapes are overdevelopment of coastal areas, abandonment of mountains and, as mentioned, the loss of variety via the reduction of traditional agricultural occupations.The Nature of Mediterranean Europe: An Ecological History, by Alfred Thomas Grove, Oliver Rackham, Yale University Press, 2003
review at Yale university pressNature of Mediterranean Europe: An Ecological History (review)
, Brian M. Fagan, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Volume 32, Number 3, Winter 2002, pp. 454–455


Natural hazards

The region has a variety of geological hazards which have closely interacted with human activity and land use patterns. Among others, in the eastern Mediterranean, the Thera eruption, dated to the 17th or 16th century BC, caused a large tsunami that some experts hypothesise devastated the Minoan civilization, Minoan civilisation on the nearby island of Crete, further leading some to believe that this may have been the catastrophe that inspired the Atlantis legend. Mount Vesuvius is the only active volcano on the European mainland, while others, Mount Etna and Stromboli, are on neighbouring islands. The region around Vesuvius including the Phlegraean Fields Caldera west of Naples are quite active and constitute the most densely populated volcanic region in the world where an eruptive event may occur within decades. Vesuvius itself is regarded as quite dangerous due to a tendency towards explosive (Plinian eruption, Plinian) eruptions. It is best known for its Eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, eruption in AD 79 that led to the burying and destruction of the Ancient Rome, Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The large experience of member states and regional authorities has led to exchange on the international level with the cooperation of NGOs, states, regional and municipality authorities and private persons. The Greek–Turkish earthquake diplomacy is a quite positive example of natural hazards leading to improved relations between traditional rivals in the region after earthquakes in İzmir and Athens in 1999. The European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) was set up to respond to major natural disasters and express European solidarity to disaster-stricken regions within all of Europe. The largest amount of funding requests in the EU relates to forest fires, followed by floods and earthquakes. Forest fires, whether man-made or natural, are a frequent and dangerous hazard in the Mediterranean region. Tsunamis are also an often underestimated hazard in the region. For example, the 1908 Messina earthquake and tsunami took more than 123,000 lives in Sicily and Calabria and were among the most deadly natural disasters in modern Europe.


Invasive species

The opening of the
Suez Canal The Suez Canal ( arz, قَنَاةُ ٱلسُّوَيْسِ, ') is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez and dividing Africa and Asia. The long canal is a popula ...
in 1869 created the first salt-water passage between the Mediterranean and the
Red Sea The Red Sea ( ar, البحر الأحمر - بحر القلزم, translit=Modern: al-Baḥr al-ʾAḥmar, Medieval: Baḥr al-Qulzum; or ; Coptic: ⲫⲓⲟⲙ ⲛ̀ϩⲁϩ ''Phiom Enhah'' or ⲫⲓⲟⲙ ⲛ̀ϣⲁⲣⲓ ''Phiom ǹšari''; ...
. The Red Sea is higher than the
Eastern Mediterranean Eastern Mediterranean is a loose definition of the eastern approximate half, or third, of the Mediterranean Sea, often defined as the countries around the Levantine Sea. It typically embraces all of that sea's coastal zones, referring to commu ...
, so the canal functions as a tidal strait that pours Red Sea water into the Mediterranean. The Bitter Lakes, which are hyper-saline natural lakes that form part of the canal, blocked the migration of Red Sea species into the Mediterranean for many decades, but as the salinity of the lakes gradually equalised with that of the Red Sea, the barrier to migration was removed, and plants and animals from the Red Sea have begun to colonise the Eastern Mediterranean. The Red Sea is generally saltier and more nutrient-poor than the Atlantic, so the Red Sea species have advantages over Atlantic species in the salty and nutrient-poor Eastern Mediterranean. Accordingly, Red Sea species invade the Mediterranean biota, and not vice versa; this phenomenon is known as the Lessepsian migration (after Ferdinand de Lesseps, the French engineer) or Erythrean ("red") invasion. The construction of the Aswan High Dam across the
Nile The Nile, , Bohairic , lg, Kiira , Nobiin: Áman Dawū is a major north-flowing river in northeastern Africa. It flows into the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile is the longest river in Africa and has historically been considered the longest rive ...
River in the 1960s reduced the inflow of freshwater and nutrient-rich silt from the Nile into the Eastern Mediterranean, making conditions there even more like the Red Sea and worsening the impact of the invasive species. Invasive species have become a major component of the Mediterranean ecosystem and have serious impacts on the Mediterranean ecology, endangering many local and endemism, endemic Mediterranean species. A first look at some groups of exotic species shows that more than 70% of the non-indigenous Decapoda, decapods and about 63% of the exotic fishes occurring in the Mediterranean are of Indo-Pacific origin, introduced species, introduced into the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal. This makes the Canal the first pathway of arrival of Introduced species, alien species into the Mediterranean. The impacts of some Lessepsian species have proven to be considerable, mainly in the Levantine basin of the Mediterranean, where they are replacing native species and becoming a familiar sight. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature definition, as well as Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and Ramsar Convention terminologies, they are alien species, as they are non-native (non-indigenous) to the Mediterranean Sea, and they are outside their normal area of distribution which is the Indo-Pacific region. When these species succeed in establishing populations in the Mediterranean Sea, compete with and begin to replace native species they are "Alien Invasive Species", as they are an agent of change and a threat to the native biodiversity. In the context of CBD, "introduction" refers to the movement by human agency, indirect or direct, of an alien species outside of its natural range (past or present). The Suez Canal, being an artificial (man-made) canal, is a human agency. Lessepsian migrants are therefore "introduced" species (indirect, and unintentional). Whatever wording is chosen, they represent a threat to the native Mediterranean biodiversity, because they are non-indigenous to this sea. In recent years, the Egyptian government's announcement of its intentions to deepen and widen the canal have raised concerns from marine biologists, fearing that such an act will only worsen the invasion of Red Sea species into the Mediterranean, and lead to even more species passing through the canal.


Arrival of new tropical Atlantic species

In recent decades, the arrival of exotic species from the tropical Atlantic has become noticeable. Whether this reflects an expansion of the natural area of these species that now enter the Mediterranean through the Gibraltar strait, because of a warming trend of the water caused by global warming; or an extension of the maritime traffic; or is simply the result of a more intense scientific investigation, is still an open question. While not as intense as the "Lessepsian" movement, the process may be of scientific interest and may, therefore, warrant increased levels of monitoring.


Sea-level rise

By 2100 the overall level of the Mediterranean could rise between as a result of the effects of global warming, effects of climate change. This could have adverse effects on populations across the Mediterranean: * Rising sea levels will submerge parts of
Malta Malta ( , , ), officially the Republic of Malta ( mt, Repubblika ta' Malta ), is an island country in the Mediterranean Sea. It consists of an archipelago, between Italy and Libya, and is often considered a part of Southern Europe. It lies ...
. Rising sea levels will also mean rising salt water levels in Malta's groundwater supply and reduce the availability of drinking water. * A rise in sea level would flood of the Nile Delta, displacing over 500,000 Egyptians. *
Cyprus Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island country located south of the Anatolian Peninsula in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Its continental position is disputed; while it is ge ...
wetlands are also in danger of being destroyed by the rising temperatures and sea levels. Coastal ecosystems also appear to be threatened by sea level rise, especially enclosed seas such as the Baltic Sea, Baltic, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. These seas have only small and primarily east–west movement Habitat corridor, corridors, which may restrict northward displacement of organisms in these areas. Sea level rise for the next century (2100) could be between and and temperature shifts of a mere 0.05–0.1 °C in the deep sea are sufficient to induce significant changes in species richness and functional diversity.


Pollution

Marine pollution, Pollution in this region has been extremely high in recent years. The United Nations Environment Programme has estimated that of sewage, of mineral oil, of mercury, of lead and of phosphates are dumped into the Mediterranean each year. The Barcelona Convention aims to 'reduce pollution in the Mediterranean Sea and protect and improve the marine environment in the area, thereby contributing to its sustainable development.' Many marine species have been almost wiped out because of the sea's pollution. One of them is the Mediterranean monk seal which is considered to be among the world's most endangered marine mammals. The Mediterranean is also plagued by marine debris. A 1994 study of the seabed using trawl nets around the coasts of Spain, France and Italy reported a particularly high mean concentration of debris; an average of 1,935 items per km2.


Plastic pollution

Plastic debris accounted for 76% of debris in a 1994 study, of which 94% was plastic bags.


Bottom trawling


Shipping

Some of the world's busiest shipping routes are in the Mediterranean Sea. In particular, the Maritime Silk Road from Asia and Africa leads through the Suez Canal directly into the Mediterranean Sea to its deep-water ports in Piraeus,
Trieste Trieste ( , ; sl, Trst ; german: Triest ) is a city and seaport in northeastern Italy. It is the capital city, and largest city, of the autonomous region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, one of two autonomous regions which are not subdivided into provi ...
, Genoa, Marseilles and Barcelona. It is estimated that approximately 220,000 merchant vessels of more than 100 gross tonnage, tonnes cross the Mediterranean Sea each year—about one-third of the world's total merchant shipping. These ships often carry hazardous cargo, which if lost would result in severe damage to the marine environment. The discharge of chemical tank washings and oily wastes also represent a significant source of marine pollution. The Mediterranean Sea constitutes 0.7% of the global water surface and yet receives 17% of global marine oil pollution. It is estimated that every year between and of crude oil are deliberately released into the sea from shipping activities. Approximately of oil are transported annually in the Mediterranean Sea (more than 20% of the world total), with around 250–300 oil tankers crossing the sea every day. An important destination is the Port of Trieste, the starting point of the Transalpine Pipeline, which covers 40% of Germany's oil demand (100% of the federal states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg), 90% of Austria and 50% of the Czech Republic. Accidental oil spills happen frequently with an average of 10 spills per year. A major oil spill could occur at any time in any part of the Mediterranean.


Tourism

The coast of the Mediterranean has been used for tourism since ancient times, as the Roman villa buildings on the Amalfi Coast or in Barcola show. From the end of the 19th century, in particular, the beaches became places of longing for many Europeans and travellers. From then on, and especially after World War II, mass tourism to the Mediterranean began with all its advantages and disadvantages. While initially, the journey was by train and later by bus or car, today the plane is increasingly used. Tourism is today one of the most important sources of income for many Mediterranean countries, despite the man-made geopolitical conflicts in the region. The countries have tried to extinguish rising man-made chaotic zones that might affect the region's economies and societies in neighbouring coastal countries, and shipping routes. Naval and rescue components in the Mediterranean Sea are considered to be among the best due to the rapid cooperation between various List of fleets, naval fleets. Unlike the vast open oceans, the sea's closed position facilitates effective naval and rescue missions, considered the safest and regardless of any man-made or natural disaster. Tourism is a source of income for small coastal communities, including islands, independent of urban centres. However, tourism has also played a major role in the environmental degradation, degradation of the coastal and marine environment. Rapid development has been encouraged by Mediterranean governments to support the large numbers of tourists visiting the region, but this has caused serious disturbance to marine habitats by erosion and #Pollution, pollution in many places along the Mediterranean coasts. Tourism often concentrates in areas of high natural wealth, causing a serious threat to the habitats of endangered species such as sea turtles and monk seals. Reductions in natural wealth may reduce the incentive for tourists to visit.


Overfishing

Fish stock levels in the Mediterranean Sea are alarmingly low. The European Environment Agency says that more than 65% of all fish stocks in the region are outside safe biological limits and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, that some of the most important fisheries—such as albacore and Atlantic bluefin tuna, bluefin tuna, hake, marlin, swordfish, red mullet and sea bream—are threatened. There are clear indications that catch size and quality have declined, often dramatically, and in many areas, larger and longer-lived species have disappeared entirely from commercial catches. Large open-water fish like tuna have been a shared fisheries resource for thousands of years but the stocks are now dangerously low. In 1999, Greenpeace published a report revealing that the amount of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean had decreased by over 80% in the previous 20 years and government scientists warn that without immediate action the stock will collapse.


Marine heatwaves

A study showed that Effects of climate change on oceans, climate change-related exceptional marine heatwaves in the Mediterranean Sea during 2015–2019 resulted in widespread mass sealife die-offs in five consecutive years.


Gallery

File:Coast of Alexandria, A view From Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt.jpg, Coast of
Alexandria Alexandria ( or ; ar, ٱلْإِسْكَنْدَرِيَّةُ ; grc-gre, Αλεξάνδρεια, Alexándria) is the second largest city in Egypt, and the largest city on the Mediterranean coast. Founded in by Alexander the Great, Alexandri ...
, view From Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt File:Hammametgolf.jpg, Beach of Hammamet, Tunisia, Hammamet, Tunisia File:Plage-de-la-courtade.jpg, The beach of la Courtade in the Îles d'Hyères, France File:Chia beach, Sardinia, Italy.jpg,
Sardinia Sardinia ( ; it, Sardegna, label=Italian, Corsican and Tabarchino ; sc, Sardigna , sdc, Sardhigna; french: Sardaigne; sdn, Saldigna; ca, Sardenya, label=Algherese and Catalan) is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, aft ...
's south coast, Italy File:Malta - Birzebbuga - Triq il-Bajja s-Sabiha + Pretty Bay + Gnien Mons. Guzeppi Minuti 03 ies.jpg, Pretty Bay in Birżebbuġa, Malta File:Piran Stadtpanorama.jpg, Panoramic view of Piran, Slovenia File:Cavtat Croatia 2008-10-07.JPG, Panoramic view of Cavtat, Croatia File:Neum02451.JPG, View of Neum, Bosnia and Herzegovina File:svetistefan1756.JPG, A view of Sveti Stefan, Montenegro File:Ksamill-1.jpg, Ksamil Islands, Albania File:Panagiotis wreck.jpg, Navagio, Greece File:Blue_Lagoon_-_2014.10_-_panoramio.jpg, Ölüdeniz, Turkish Riviera, Turquoise Coast, Turkey File:Petra tou romiou beach.jpg, Paphos, Cyprus File:Burjeslam.jpg, Burj Islam Beach, Latakia, Syria File:BeirutRaouche1.jpg, A view of Raouché off the coast of Beirut, Lebanon File:Bat Galim neighborhood and Haifa Bay.jpg, A view of Haifa, Israel File:ForbysIbizaTown 02.jpg, Old city of Ibiza Town, Spain File:Les Aiguades.jpg, Les Aiguades near Béjaïa, Algeria File:EL Jebha1.jpg, El Jebha, a port town in Morocco File:Gibraltar-Europa-Point-LH-from-the-sea.jpg, Europa Point, Gibraltar File:Monaco City 001.jpg, Panoramic view of La Condamine, Monaco File:شاطئ دير البلح horizon adjusted.jpg, Sunset at the Deir al-Balah beach, Gaza Strip


See also

* * * , the site of the Mediterranean cultures * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Names of the Mediterranean Sea * – Early cartographer of the Mediterranean * * – also known as the Japanese Mediterranean Sea * *


Notes


References


External links


Mediterranean Sea Microorganisms: 180+ images of Foraminifera

Eastern Mediterranean Sea Long Term Ecological Research Station
{{Authority control Mediterranean Sea, European seas Geography of Central Europe Geography of North Africa Geography of Southern Europe Geography of Western Asia Geography of Western Europe Marginal seas of the Atlantic Ocean Marine ecoregions Natural history of Europe Articles containing video clips Seas of Albania Seas of Africa Seas of Asia Seas of France Seas of Greece Seas of Italy Seas of Spain Seas of Turkey