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Aegean Sea
Αιγαίο Πέλαγος
A satellite image of the Aegean Sea.
""Aegean Sea map bathymetry-fr.jpg
A "Topographical and "bathymetric map of the Aegean Sea.
Location "Mediterranean Sea
Coordinates 39°N 25°E / 39°N 25°E / 39; 25"Coordinates: 39°N 25°E / 39°N 25°E / 39; 25
"Type "Sea
"Primary outflows "Mediterranean Sea
"Basin countries "Greece, "Turkey[1]
Max. length 700 km (430 mi)
Max. width 400 km (250 mi)
Surface area 214,000 km2 (83,000 sq mi)
"Islands "150+
A map of the Aegean Sea
The extent of the Aegean Sea on a map of the "Mediterranean Sea.

The Aegean Sea ("/ɪˈən/; "Greek: Αιγαίο Πέλαγος "[eˈʝeo ˈpelaɣos] (""About this sound listen); "Turkish: Ege Denizi Turkish pronunciation: "[eɟe denizi])["stress?] is an elongated embayment of the "Mediterranean Sea located between the "Greek and "Anatolian "peninsulas, i.e., between the mainlands of "Greece and "Turkey. In the north, the Aegean is connected to the "Marmara Sea and "Black Sea by the "Dardanelles and "Bosphorus. The "Aegean Islands are within the sea and some bound it on its southern periphery, including "Crete and "Rhodes.

The sea was traditionally known as "the Archipelago (in "Greek, Αρχιπέλαγος, meaning "chief sea"), but in English the meaning of Archipelago has changed to refer to the Aegean Islands and, generally, to any island group.



In ancient times, there were various explanations for the name Aegean. It was said to have been named after the Greek town of "Aegae, or after "Aegea, a queen of the "Amazons who died in the sea, or Aigaion, the "sea goat", another name of "Briareus, one of the archaic "Hecatonchires, or, especially among the Athenians, "Aegeus, the father of "Theseus, who drowned himself in the sea when he thought his son had died.

A possible etymology is a derivation from the Greek word αἶγες – aiges = "waves" ("Hesychius of Alexandria; metaphorical use of αἴξ (aix) "goat"), hence "wavy sea", cf. also αἰγιαλός (aigialos = aiges (waves) + hals (sea)),[2] hence meaning "sea-shore".

The "Venetians, who ruled many Greek islands in the "High and "Late Middle Ages, popularized the name Archipelago ("Greek for "main sea" or "chief sea"), a name that held on in many European countries until the early modern period.

In some South Slavic languages the Aegean is often called White Sea (Belo more/Бело море in Serbo-Croatian and Macedonian; Бяло море Byalo more in Bulgarian).[3]


The Aegean Sea covers about 214,000 square kilometres (83,000 sq mi) in area, and measures about 610 kilometres (380 mi) longitudinally and 300 kilometres (190 mi) latitudinally. The sea's maximum depth is 3,543 metres (11,624 ft), east of Crete. The "Aegean Islands are found within its waters, with the following islands delimiting the sea on the south (generally from west to east): "Kythera, "Antikythera, "Crete, "Kasos, "Karpathos and "Rhodes.

The Aegean Islands, which almost all belong to Greece, can be divided into seven groups:

  1. "Northeastern Aegean Islands ("Thracian Sea[4])
  2. "East Aegean Islands (Euboea)
  3. Northern "Sporades
  4. "Cyclades
  5. "Saronic Islands (or Argo-Saronic Islands)
  6. "Dodecanese (or Southern Sporades), with the exclusion of "Kastellorizo
  7. "Crete

The word "archipelago was originally applied specifically to the Aegean Sea and its islands. Many of the Aegean Islands, or chains of islands, are actually extensions of the mountains on the mainland. One chain extends across the sea to "Chios, another extends across "Euboea to "Samos, and a third extends across the "Peloponnese and Crete to Rhodes, dividing the Aegean from the Mediterranean.

The bays and gulfs of the Aegean beginning at the South and moving clockwise include on Crete, the "Mirabello, Almyros, "Souda and "Chania bays or gulfs, on the mainland the "Myrtoan Sea to the west with the "Argolic Gulf, the "Saronic Gulf northwestward, the "Petalies Gulf which connects with the "South Euboic Sea, the "Pagasetic Gulf which connects with the "North Euboic Sea, the "Thermian Gulf northwestward, the "Chalkidiki Peninsula including the Cassandra and the Singitic Gulfs, northward the "Strymonian Gulf and the Gulf of Kavala and the rest are in "Turkey; "Saros Gulf, "Edremit Gulf, Dikili Gulf, "Gulf of Çandarlı, "Gulf of İzmir, "Gulf of Kuşadası, "Gulf of Gökova, "Güllük Gulf.


The "International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Aegean Sea as follows:[5]

On the South. A line running from Cape Aspro (28°16'E) in "Asia Minor, to Cum Burnù (Capo della Sabbia) the Northeast extreme of the Island of "Rhodes, through the island to Cape "Prasonisi, the Southwest point thereof, on to Vrontos Point (35°33'N) in Skarpanto ["Karpathos], through this island to Castello Point, the South extreme thereof, across to Cape Plaka (East extremity of Crete), through Crete to Agria Grabusa, the Northwest extreme thereof, thence to Cape Apolitares in "Antikithera Island, through the island to Psira Rock (off the Northwest point) and across to Cape Trakhili in "Kithera Island, through Kithera to the Northwest point (Cape Karavugia) and thence to Cape Santa Maria (36°28′N 22°57′E / 36.467°N 22.950°E / 36.467; 22.950) in the "Morea.

In the "Dardanelles. A line joining Kum Kale (26°11'E) and "Cape Helles.

A panoramic view of the "Santorini caldera, taken from "Oia.


A traditional street in Lefkes, "Paros-"Greece.

Aegean surface water circulates in a counter-clockwise "gyre, with "hypersaline Mediterranean water moving northward along the west coast of "Turkey, before being displaced by less dense "Black Sea outflow. The dense "Mediterranean water sinks below the Black Sea inflow to a depth of 23–30 metres (75–98 ft), then flows through the "Dardanelles Strait and into the "Sea of Marmara at velocities of 5–15 cm/s. The Black Sea outflow moves westward along the northern Aegean Sea, then flows southwards along the east coast of Greece.[6]

The physical oceanography of the Aegean Sea is controlled mainly by the regional climate, the fresh water discharge from major rivers draining southeastern Europe, and the seasonal variations in the Black Sea surface water outflow through the "Dardanelles Strait.

Analysis[7] of the Aegean during 1991 and 1992 revealed 3 distinct water masses:


Ancient History[edit]

A 1528 map of the Aegean Sea by "Ottoman "Turkish "geographer "Piri Reis.

The current coastline dates back to about 4000 BC. Before that time, at the peak of the "last ice age (c. 16,000 BC) sea levels everywhere "were 130 metres lower, and there were large well-watered coastal plains instead of much of the northern Aegean. When they were first occupied, the present-day islands including "Milos with its important "obsidian production were probably still connected to the mainland. The present coastal arrangement appeared c. 7000 BC, with post-ice age sea levels continuing to rise for another 3,000 years after that.[8]

The subsequent "Bronze Age civilizations of "Greece and the Aegean Sea have given rise to the general term "Aegean civilization. In ancient times, the sea was the birthplace of two ancient civilizations – the "Minoans of Crete and the "Myceneans of the "Peloponnese.[9]

Later arose the city-states of "Athens and "Sparta among many others that constituted the "Athenian Empire and "Hellenic Civilization. "Plato described the Greeks living round the Aegean "like frogs around a pond".[10] The Aegean Sea was later invaded by the "Persians and the "Romans, and inhabited by the "Eastern Romans (Byzantine-Greeks), the "Bulgarians, the "Venetians, the "Genoese, the "Seljuq Turks, and the "Ottomans. The Aegean was the site of the original "democracies, and its seaways were the means of contact among several diverse civilizations of the Eastern Mediterranean.["citation needed]

Economy and politics[edit]

Many of the islands in the Aegean have safe harbours and bays. In ancient times, navigation through the sea was easier than travelling across the rough terrain of the Greek mainland (and to some extent the coastal areas of Anatolia). Many of the islands are "volcanic, and "marble and "iron are mined on other islands. The larger islands have some fertile valleys and plains.

Of the main islands in the Aegean Sea, two belong to "Turkey – "Bozcaada ("Tenedos "Τένεδος) and "Gökçeada ("Imbros Ίμβρος); the rest belong to "Greece. Between the two countries, there are "political disputes over several aspects of political control over the Aegean space, including the size of territorial waters, air control and the "delimitation of economic rights to the "continental shelf.

See also[edit]


  2. ^ Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, s.v. "αἰγιαλός"
  3. ^ Zbornik Matice srpske za društvene nauke: (1961), Volumes 28-31, p.74 (in Serbian)
  4. ^ "Aegean Sea | Mediterranean Sea". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-10-18. 
  5. ^ "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition" (PDF). International Hydrographic Organization. 1953. Retrieved 15 February 2016. 
  7. ^ Yagar, D., 1994. Late glacial-Holocene evolution of the Aegean Sea. Ph.D. Thesis, Inst. Mar. Sci. Technol., Dokuz Eyltil Univ., 329 pp. (Unpubl.)
  8. ^ Tjeerd H. van Andel; Judith C. Shackleton (Winter 1982). Late Paleolithic and Mesolithic Coastlines of Greece and the Aegean. 9,. Journal of Field Archaeology. pp. 445–454. 
  9. ^ Tracey Cullen, Aegean Prehistory: A Review (American Journal of Archaeology. Supplement, 1); Oliver Dickinson, The Aegean Bronze Age (Cambridge World Archaeology).
  10. ^ John F. Cherry; Despina Margomenou; Lauren E. Talalay. The familiar phrase giving rise to the title Prehistorians Round the Pond: Reflections on Aegean Prehistory as a Discipline. 

External links[edit]

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