Skip to main content
Select Source:

Mediterranean Sea

Mediterranean Sea [Lat.,=in the midst of lands], the world's largest inland sea, c.965,000 sq mi (2,499,350 sq km), surrounded by Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Geography

The Mediterranean is c.2,400 mi (3,900 km) long with a maximum width of c.1,000 mi (1,600 km); its greatest depth is c.14,450 ft (4,400 m), off Cape Matapan, Greece. It connects with the Atlantic Ocean through the Strait of Gibraltar; with the Black Sea through the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosporus; and with the Red Sea through the Suez Canal. Its chief divisions are the Tyrrhenian, Adriatic, Ionian, and Aegean seas; its chief islands are Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Crete, Cyprus, Malta, Rhodes, the Dodecanese, the Cyclades, the Sporades, the Balearic Islands, and the Ionian Islands. Shallows (Adventure Bank) between Sicily and Cape Bon, Tunisia, divide the Mediterranean into two main basins.

The sea is of higher salinity than the Atlantic and has little variation in tides. The largest rivers that flow into it are the Po, Rhône, Ebro, and Nile. The shores are chiefly mountainous. Earthquakes and volcanic disturbances are frequent. The region around the sea has a warm, dry climate characterized by abundant sunshine. Strong local winds, such as the hot, dry sirocco from the south and the cold, dry mistral and bora from the north, blow across the sea. Fish (about 400 species), sponges, and corals are plentiful. In addition, oil and natural gas have been found in several sections of the sea. The overuse of the sea's natural and marine resources continues to be a problem.

History

Some of the most ancient civilizations (see Aegean civilization) flourished around the Mediterranean. It was opened as a highway for commerce by merchants trading from Phoenicia. Carthage, Greece, Sicily, and Rome were rivals for dominance of its shores and trade; under the Roman Empire it became virtually a Roman lake and was called Mare Nostrum [our sea]. Later, the Byzantine Empire and the Arabs dominated the Mediterranean. Between the 11th and 14th cent., Italian city trading states such as Genoa, Venice, and Barcelona dominated the region; they struggled with the Ottomans for naval supremacy, particularly in the E Mediterranean. Products of Asia passed to Europe over Mediterranean trade routes until the establishment of a route around the Cape of Good Hope (late 15th cent.).

With the opening of the Suez Canal (1869) the Mediterranean resumed its importance as a link on the route to the East. The development of the northern regions of Africa and of oil fields in the Middle East has increased its trade. Its importance as a trade link and as a route for attacks on Europe resulted in European rivalry for control of its coasts and islands and led to campaigns in the region during both world wars. Since World War II the Mediterranean region has been of strategic importance to both the United States and, until its dissolution, the Soviet Union. In 1995 countries bordering the Mediterranean signed a pact agreeing to protect it by eliminating toxic waste disposal there over a 10-year period.

Bibliography

See E. D. Bradford, Mediterranean, Portrait of a Sea (1971); J. E. Swain, The Struggle for the Control of the Mediterranean Prior to 1848 (1973); M. Miloradov, ed., Pollution of the Mediterranean Sea (1987); M. Grant, The Ancient Mediterranean (1988); D. Abulafia, The Mediterranean in History (2003); D. Abulafia, The Great Sea (2011).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Mediterranean Sea." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Mediterranean Sea." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mediterranean-sea

"Mediterranean Sea." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mediterranean-sea

Mediterranean Sea

MEDITERRANEAN SEA

sea between europe, africa, and asia.

The Mediterranean Sea is about 2,400 miles long, covers an area of about 965,000 square miles, and is ringed by a winding coastline of peninsulas and mountains. The sea opens to the Atlantic Ocean through the Strait of Gibraltar, to the Black Sea through the Dardanelles, and to the Red Sea through the Suez Canal.

Since antiquity, the Mediterranean has been an important waterway for trade and has fostered great civilizations on its shores. The sea's strategic significance declined after the sixteenth century as trade routes shifted to the Atlantic but increased again with the 1869 opening of the Suez Canal and its subsequent use for oil shipping. The 1995 Declaration of Barcelona marked the beginning of political and economic collaboration between the European Union and countries on all shores of the Mediterranean.

The pollution of the sea remains a cause of concern for governments in the region, as reflected in the signing of two protocols for the protection of the Mediterranean Sea against pollution in 1980 and 1982. Land-based sources of pollution account for 80 percent of the total pollution. Participant countries in the convention for the protection of the Mediterranean Sea have made periodic commitments to reducing pollution, with mixed results.


Bibliography


Braudel, Fernand. The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, translated by Siân Reynolds. New York: Harper and Row, 1972.

Cerutti, Furio, and Ragionieri, Rodolfo, eds. Identities and Conflicts: The Mediterranean. New York: Palgrave, 2001.

McNeill, J. R. The Mountains of the Mediterranean World: An Environmental History. New York and Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

elizabeth thompson
updated by vanesa casanova-fernandez

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Mediterranean Sea." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Mediterranean Sea." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mediterranean-sea-0

"Mediterranean Sea." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mediterranean-sea-0

Mediterranean Sea

Mediterranean Sea Largest inland sea in the world, lying between Europe and Africa, and extending from the Strait of Gibraltar in the w to the coast of sw Asia in the e. The Mediterranean was once a trade route for Phoenicians and Greeks, later controlled by Rome and Byzantium. In the Middle Ages Venice and Genoa were the dominant maritime powers until the rise of the Ottoman Turks. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 made the Mediterranean one of the world's busiest shipping routes and the development of the Middle Eastern oilfields further increased its importance. The Mediterranean is connected to the Black Sea via the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara and the Bosporus, and to the Red Sea by the Suez Canal. It includes the Tyrrhenian, Adriatic, Ionian, and Aegean seas. It receives the waters of several major rivers, including the Nile, Rhône, Ebro, Tiber, and Po. There are c.400 species of fish in the Mediterranean, and tuna, sardines and anchovies are among those caught commercially. In recent years, pollution has become a major issue. Area: 2,509,972km (969,100sq mi).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Mediterranean Sea." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Mediterranean Sea." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mediterranean-sea-0

"Mediterranean Sea." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mediterranean-sea-0

Mediterranean water

Mediterranean water A water mass, formed in the arid eastern Mediterranean, which flows westward, sinking in the Algero-Ligurian and Alboran basins to a depth of approximately 500 m, owing to its high salinity (36.5–39.1 parts per thousand). This dense water flows into the Atlantic Ocean through the relatively shallow Straits of Gibraltar at a depth below 150 m, while above it lighter, Atlantic water flows eastward into the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean water in the Atlantic then sinks to about 1000 m, where it forms a clearly identifiable water mass.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Mediterranean water." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Mediterranean water." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mediterranean-water-0

"Mediterranean water." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mediterranean-water-0

Mediterranean water

Mediterranean water A water mass, formed in the arid eastern Mediterranean, flows westward, sinking in the Algero-Ligurian and Alboran basins to a depth of approximately 500 m due to its high salinity (36.5–39.1 parts per thousand). This dense water flows into the Atlantic Ocean through the relatively shallow Straits of Gibraltar at a depth below 150 m, while above it lighter, Atlantic water flows eastward into the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean water in the Atlantic then sinks to about 1000 m, where it forms a clearly identifiable water mass.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Mediterranean water." A Dictionary of Earth Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Mediterranean water." A Dictionary of Earth Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mediterranean-water

"Mediterranean water." A Dictionary of Earth Sciences. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mediterranean-water

Mediterranean

Med·i·ter·ra·ne·an / ˌmedətəˈrānēən/ • adj. of or characteristic of the Mediterranean Sea, the countries bordering it, or their inhabitants: a leisurely Mediterranean cruise our temperatures are Mediterranean. ∎  (of a person's complexion) relatively dark, as is common in some Mediterranean countries. • n. 1. the Mediterranean Sea or the countries bordering it. 2. a native of a country bordering on the Mediterranean.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Mediterranean." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Mediterranean." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mediterranean-0

"Mediterranean." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mediterranean-0

mediterranean

mediterranean (of water) land-locked XVI; (of land) midland, inland XVII. f. L. mediterrāneus inland, in late L. applied to the Mediterranean Sea, Mare Mediterraneum, in which the orig. notion may have been ‘in the middle of the earth’ rather than ‘enclosed by land’; f. medius MID + terra land, earth.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"mediterranean." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"mediterranean." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mediterranean-1

"mediterranean." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mediterranean-1

Mediterranean

Mediterraneanantipodean, Crimean, Judaean, Korean •Albion •Gambian, Zambian •lesbian •Arabian, Bessarabian, Fabian, gabion, Sabian, Swabian •amphibian, Libyan, Namibian •Sorbian •Danubian, Nubian •Colombian • Serbian • Nietzschean •Chadian, Trinidadian •Andean, Kandyan •guardian •Acadian, Akkadian, Arcadian, Barbadian, Canadian, circadian, Grenadian, Hadean, Orcadian, Palladian, radian, steradian •Archimedean, comedian, epicedian, median, tragedian •ascidian, Derridean, Dravidian, enchiridion, Euclidean, Floridian, Gideon, Lydian, meridian, Numidian, obsidian, Pisidian, quotidian, viridian •Amerindian, Indian •accordion, Edwardian •Cambodian, collodion, custodian, melodeon, nickelodeon, Odeon •Freudian • Bermudian • Burundian •Burgundian •Falstaffian, Halafian •Christadelphian, Delphian, Philadelphian •nymphean • ruffian • Brobdingnagian •Carolingian • Swedenborgian •logion, Muskogean •Jungian •magian, Pelagian •collegian •callipygian, Cantabrigian, Phrygian, Stygian •Merovingian • philologian • Fujian •Czechoslovakian • Pickwickian •Algonquian • Chomskian •Kentuckian •battalion, galleon, medallion, rapscallion, scallion •Anglian, ganglion •Heraklion •Dalian, Malian, Somalian •Chellean, Machiavellian, Orwellian, Sabellian, Trevelyan, triskelion •Wesleyan •alien, Australian, bacchanalian, Castalian, Deucalion, episcopalian, Hegelian, madrigalian, mammalian, Pygmalion, Salian, saturnalian, sesquipedalian, tatterdemalion, Thessalian, Westphalian •anthelion, Aristotelian, Aurelian, carnelian, chameleon, Karelian, Mendelian, Mephistophelian, Pelion, Sahelian •Abbevillian, Azilian, Brazilian, caecilian, Castilian, Chilean, Churchillian, civilian, cotillion, crocodilian, epyllion, Gillian, Lilian, Maximilian, Pamphylian, pavilion, postilion, Quintilian, reptilian, Sicilian, Tamilian, vaudevillian, vermilion, Virgilian •Aeolian, Anatolian, Eolian, Jolyon, Mongolian, napoleon, simoleon •Acheulian, Boolean, cerulean, Friulian, Julian, Julien •bullion •mullion, scullion, Tertullian •Liverpudlian •Bahamian, Bamian, Damian, Mesopotamian, Samian •anthemion, Bohemian •Endymion, prosimian, Simeon, simian •isthmian • antinomian •Permian, vermian •Oceanian •Albanian, Azanian, Iranian, Jordanian, Lithuanian, Mauritanian, Mediterranean, Panamanian, Pennsylvanian, Pomeranian, Romanian, Ruritanian, Sassanian, subterranean, Tasmanian, Transylvanian, Tripolitanian, Turanian, Ukrainian, Vulcanian •Armenian, Athenian, Fenian, Magdalenian, Mycenaean (US Mycenean), Slovenian, Tyrrhenian •Argentinian, Arminian, Augustinian, Carthaginian, Darwinian, dominion, Guinean, Justinian, Ninian, Palestinian, Sardinian, Virginian •epilimnion, hypolimnion •Bosnian •Bornean, Californian, Capricornian •Aberdonian, Amazonian, Apollonian, Babylonian, Baconian, Bostonian, Caledonian, Catalonian, Chalcedonian, Ciceronian, Devonian, draconian, Estonian, Etonian, gorgonian, Ionian, Johnsonian, Laconian, Macedonian, Miltonian, Newtonian, Oregonian, Oxonian, Patagonian, Plutonian, Tennysonian, Tobagonian, Washingtonian •Cameroonian, communion, Mancunian, Neptunian, Réunion, union •Hibernian, Saturnian •Campion, champion, Grampian, rampion, tampion •thespian • Mississippian • Olympian •Crispian •Scorpian, scorpion •cornucopian, dystopian, Ethiopian, Salopian, subtopian, Utopian •Guadeloupian •Carian, carrion, clarion, Marian •Calabrian, Cantabrian •Cambrian • Bactrian •Lancastrian, Zoroastrian •Alexandrian • Maharashtrian •equestrian, pedestrian •agrarian, antiquarian, apiarian, Aquarian, Arian, Aryan, authoritarian, barbarian, Bavarian, Bulgarian, Caesarean (US Cesarean), centenarian, communitarian, contrarian, Darien, disciplinarian, egalitarian, equalitarian, establishmentarian, fruitarian, Gibraltarian, grammarian, Hanoverian, humanitarian, Hungarian, latitudinarian, libertarian, librarian, majoritarian, millenarian, necessarian, necessitarian, nonagenarian, octogenarian, ovarian, Parian, parliamentarian, planarian, predestinarian, prelapsarian, proletarian, quadragenarian, quinquagenarian, quodlibetarian, Rastafarian, riparian, rosarian, Rotarian, sabbatarian, Sagittarian, sanitarian, Sauveterrian, sectarian, seminarian, septuagenarian, sexagenarian, topiarian, totalitarian, Trinitarian, ubiquitarian, Unitarian, utilitarian, valetudinarian, vegetarian, veterinarian, vulgarian •Adrian, Hadrian •Assyrian, Illyrian, Syrian, Tyrian •morion • Austrian •Dorian, Ecuadorean, historian, Hyperborean, Nestorian, oratorian, praetorian (US pretorian), salutatorian, Salvadorean, Singaporean, stentorian, Taurean, valedictorian, Victorian •Ugrian • Zarathustrian •Cumbrian, Northumbrian, Umbrian •Algerian, Cancerian, Chaucerian, Cimmerian, criterion, Hesperian, Hitlerian, Hyperion, Iberian, Liberian, Nigerian, Presbyterian, Shakespearean, Siberian, Spenserian, Sumerian, valerian, Wagnerian, Zairean •Arthurian, Ben-Gurion, centurion, durian, holothurian, Khachaturian, Ligurian, Missourian, Silurian, tellurian •Circassian, Parnassian •halcyon • Capsian • Hessian •Albigensian, Waldensian •Dacian • Keatsian •Cilician, Galician, Lycian, Mysian, Odyssean •Leibnizian • Piscean • Ossian •Gaussian • Joycean • Andalusian •Mercian • Appalachian • Decian •Ordovician, Priscian •Lucian •himation, Montserratian •Atlantean, Dantean, Kantian •bastion, Erastian, Sebastian •Mozartian • Brechtian • Thyestean •Fortean • Faustian • protean •Djiboutian •fustian, Procrustean •Gilbertian, Goethean, nemertean •pantheon •Hogarthian, Parthian •Lethean, Promethean •Pythian • Corinthian • Scythian •Lothian, Midlothian •Latvian • Yugoslavian •avian, Batavian, Flavian, Moldavian, Moravian, Octavian, Scandinavian, Shavian •Bolivian, Maldivian, oblivion, Vivian •Chekhovian, Harrovian, Jovian, Pavlovian •alluvion, antediluvian, diluvian, Peruvian •Servian • Malawian • Zimbabwean •Abkhazian • Dickensian •Caucasian, Malaysian, Rabelaisian •Keynesian •Belizean, Cartesian, Indonesian, Milesian, Salesian, Silesian •Elysian, Frisian, Parisian, Tunisian •Holmesian •Carthusian, Malthusian, Venusian

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Mediterranean." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Mediterranean." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mediterranean

"Mediterranean." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved December 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mediterranean