The Mediterranean Sea is a sea almost entirely encircled by land and connected to the Atlantic Ocean.

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It includes an area of approximately 2.5 million square kilometers (970 thousand sq mi), but its connection to the Atlantic Sea through the Strait of Gibraltar is only 14 kilometers (9 miles) wide.

The Mediterranean Sea Compared to North America

The Mediterranean Sea has an average depth of 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles), and the deepest registered point is 5,3 kilometer (3,3 miles) in the Calypso Deep positioned in the Hellenic Trench (Ionian Sea).

Bathymetry of the Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean Sea was the central superhighway of transportation for traders and explorers of ancient times, facilitating business and cultural interchange connecting peoples incorporating three continents: Southern Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa.

The map of distribution and expansion of olive trees over the Mediterranean Basin

An ancient Semitic speaking civilization, the Phoenicians would come to develop the first instances of thalassocracy, colonization and city-states. Originating from the area we today call Lebanon in the Levant, the Phoenicians relied heavily on maritime trade. Made possible by the famous Lebanese cedar tree timber. As a crossroad between the Egyptians, Hittites and Mesopotamians they used their mastery of sail to introduce many diverse goods into the ancient Mediterranean. Wares such as wine, glass and chased metalwork.

The Phoenician influences on the Mediterranean (Source: Cattette)

Their perhaps greatest legacy would be their influence on Rome. Due to their impact on the Greeks and Etruscans which the Roman culture was deeply based upon.

Trade routes and principal products in each region of Roman Empire

The Roman Empire controlled the sea for many centuries.

Comprehensive map of the Roman Empire at its height in 211 AD

The history of the Mediterranean region is essential for explaining the roots and evolution of many contemporary societies.

Food of the Mediterranean. Source: Tasteatlas.

Today 21 countries surrounding the Mediterranean sea, 285 cities of more than 100,000 inhabitants located in the Mediterranean region, 18 of which have a population of more than one million. All Mediterranean cities represent more than 126 million residents.

Larges coastal urban areas bordering the Mediterranean ranked by overall population

Geological data shows that about 5.9 million years ago, the Mediterranean was separated off from the Atlantic ocean and was drained over some 0.6 million years before being refilled by the Zanclean flood about 5.3 million years ago.

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One hundred years ago, there was a plan for dams construction (‘The Atlantropa project’), which would have led to the lowering of the sea-level of the Mediterranean Sea by 200 meters (660 ft), opening up vast new areas for settlements.