Aegean Sea ( , Egeo Pelagos ; Turkish: Ege Denizi ) is an
elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the southern Balkan and Anatolian peninsulas, i.e., between
the mainlands of Greece and Turkey
respectively. In the north, it is connected to the Marmara Sea and Black
Sea by the Dardanelles and Bosporus.
Aegean Islands are within the sea and
some bound it on its southern periphery, including Crete and Rhodes.
consists of nine
provinces in southwestern Turkey, in part bordering on the Aegean
The sea was traditionally known as Archipelago
), the general
sense of which has since changed to refer to the Aegean Islands
and, generally, to any island group because the Aegean Sea is
remarkable for its large number of islands.
In ancient times there were various explanations for the name
. 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
, one of the archaic Hecatonchires
, or, especially among the
, the father of Theseus
, who drowned himself in the sea when he
thought his son had died.
etymology is a derivation from the Greek word – aiges =
metaphorical use of (aix) "goat"), hence "wavy sea", cf.
also (aigialos) "coast".
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 3000 years after that.
subsequent Bronze Age civilizations of
Greece and the Aegean Sea have given rise to the general
civilization. In ancient times the sea was the birthplace
of two ancient civilizations the Minoans of Crete and the
Mycenean Civilization of the
arose the city-states of Athens and Sparta among many
others that constituted the Athenian
Empire and Hellenic
Plato described the Greeks living round
the Aegean "like frogs around a pond". The Aegean Sea was
later invaded by the Persians and the
Romans, and inhabited by the Byzantine Empire, the Venetians, the Seljuk Turks, and
the Ottoman Empire.
was the site of the original democracies
and its seaways were the means of contact among several diverse
civilizations of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Economical and Political Setting
Many of the islands in the Aegean have safe harbours and bays, but
navigation through the sea was easier in ancient times than
traveling across the rough terrain of the mainland of Greece (and
to some extent the coastal areas of Anatolia). Many of the islands
, and marble
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) and Gökçeada (Imbros); 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
The Aegean Sea covers about in area, and measures about
longitudinally and latitudinally. The sea's maximum depth is , 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 Greek Aegean Islands can be simply divided into seven
- Northern Sporades,
- Saronic Islands (or Argo-Saronic Islands),
- Dodecanese (or Southern
The word archipelago
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.
and gulfs of the Aegean beginning and the South and moving
clockwise include on Crete, the Mirabelli, Almyros, Souda and Chania bays or gulfs, on the mainland the
Sea to the west, 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,
Çandarlı Gulf, İzmir Gulf,
Kuşadası Gulf, Gulf of
Hydrographic and Hydrochemical Setting
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 , then flows through the Dardanelles Strait and into the 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.
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
Analysis of the Aegean during 1991 and 1992 revealed 3 distinct
- Aegean Sea Surface Water – thick veneer, with
summer temperatures of 21–26 °C and winter temperatures
ranging from in the north to in the south.
- Aegean Sea Intermediate Water – Aegean Sea
Intermediate Water extends from 40–50 m to with temperatures
ranging from 11–18 °C.
- Aegean Sea Bottom Water – occurring at depths
below 500–1000 m with a very uniform temperature
(13–14 °C) and salinity (39.1–39.2%).
- Tjeerd H. van Andel and Judith C. Shackleton, Late
Paleolithic and Mesolithic Coastlines of Greece and the Aegean,
Journal of Field Archaeology, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Winter,
1982), pp. 445–454
- Tracey Cullen, Aegean Prehistory: A Review (American
Journal of Archaeology. Supplement, 1); Oliver Dickinson, The
Aegean Bronze Age (Cambridge World Archaeology).
- The familiar phrase giving rise to the title Prehistorians
Round the Pond: Reflections on Aegean Prehistory as a
Discipline, by John F. Cherry, Despina Margomenou, and Lauren
- Aksu, A. E., D. Yasar, et al. (1995). "LATE GLACIAL-HOLOCENE
PALEOCLIMATIC AND PALEOCEANOGRAPHIC EVOLUTION OF THE AEGEAN SEA –
MICROPALEONTOLOGICAL AND STABLE ISOTOPIC EVIDENCE." Marine
Micropaleontology 25(1): 1–28.
- Yagar, D., 1994. Late glacial-Holocene evolution of the Aegean
Sea. Ph.D. Thesis, Inst. Mar. Sci. Technol., Dokuz Eyltil Univ.,
329 pp. (Unpubl.)