Map of the Mediterranean Sea
|Primary inflows||Atlantic Ocean, Sea of Marmara, Nile, Ebro, Rhône, Chelif, Po|
|Surface area||2,500,000 km2 (970,000 sq mi)|
|Average depth||1,500 m (4,900 ft)|
|Max. depth||5,267 m (17,280 ft)|
|Water volume||3,750,000 km3 (900,000 cu mi)|
|Residence time||80–100 years|
|Settlements||Alexandria, Algiers, Athens, Barcelona, Beirut, Carthage, Dubrovnik, Istanbul, İzmir, Rome, Split, Tangier, Tel Aviv, Tripoli, Tunis (full list)|
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa and on the east by the Levant. Although the sea is sometimes considered a part of the Atlantic Ocean, it is usually referred to as a separate body of water. Geological evidence indicates that around 5.9 million years ago, the Mediterranean was cut off from the Atlantic and was partly or completely desiccated over a period of some 600,000 years (the Messinian salinity crisis) before being refilled by the Zanclean flood about 5.3 million years ago.
It covers an area of about 2,500,000 km2 (970,000 sq mi), representing 0.7% of the global ocean 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 Spain in Europe from Morocco in Africa—is only 14 km (9 mi) wide. In oceanography, it is sometimes called the Eurafrican Mediterranean Sea or the European Mediterranean Sea to distinguish it from mediterranean seas elsewhere.
The Mediterranean Sea has an average depth of 1,500 m (4,900 ft) and the deepest recorded point is 5,267 m (17,280 ft) in the Calypso Deep in the Ionian Sea. It lies between latitudes 30° and 46° N and longitudes 6° W and 36° E. Its west–east length, from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Gulf of Iskenderun, on the southeastern coast of Turkey, is about 4,000 kilometres (2,500 mi).
The sea was an important route for merchants and travellers of ancient times, facilitating trade and cultural exchange between peoples of the region. The history of the Mediterranean region is crucial to understanding the origins and development of many modern societies. The sea was owned by the Roman Empire for many centuries, as the Romans controlled entry.
The countries surrounding the Mediterranean in clockwise order are Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco; Malta and Cyprus are island countries in the sea. In addition, the Gaza Strip and the British Overseas Territories of Gibraltar and Akrotiri and Dhekelia have coastlines on the sea.
The Ancient Egyptians called the Mediterranean Wadj-wr/Wadj-Wer/Wadj-Ur.
The Ancient Greeks called the Mediterranean simply ἡ θάλασσα (hē thálassa; "the Sea") or sometimes ἡ μεγάλη θάλασσα (hē megálē thálassa; "the Great Sea"), ἡ ἡμέτερα θάλασσα (hē hēmétera thálassa; "Our Sea"), or ἡ θάλασσα ἡ καθ'ἡμᾶς (hē thálassa hē kath’hēmâs; "the sea around us").
The Romans called it Mare Magnum ("Great Sea") or Mare Internum ("Internal Sea") and, starting with the Roman Empire, Mare Nostrum ("Our Sea"). The term Mare Mediterrāneum appears later: Solinus apparently used it in the 3rd century, but the earliest extant witness to it is in the 6th century, in Isidore of Seville. It means 'in the middle of land, inland' in Latin, a compound of medius ("middle"), terra ("land, earth"), and -āneus ("having the nature of").
The Latin word is a calque of Greek μεσόγειος (mesógeios; "inland"), from μέσος (mésos, "in the middle") and γήινος (gḗinos, "of the earth"), from γῆ (gê, "land, earth"). The original meaning may have been 'the sea in the middle of the earth', rather than 'the sea enclosed by land'.