Updated: February 14, 2023Published: November 19, 2022
What could you tell me if I asked you three facts about the Mediterranean Sea? Write them down or remember them to see if they coincide with the ones we will see later!
The Mediterranean Sea keeps very interesting and curious facts that not everyone knows and constitute a fundamental part of our history.
We could call it the sea of a thousand names, as it has received different names over the years. In this post, I will show you the deepest point of the Mediterranean Sea, how many countries are bathed by its waters, if it is a cold water sea and if there are sharks in its waters, among many other things.
Are you ready to discover all the secrets hidden in our beloved sea? Let’s not waste time, and let’s get to it!
Table of Contents▼▶
1. The Mediterranean Sea and its many names
Many people have considered the Mediterranean Sea theirs throughout history, which is why you will find different names.
There are probably many names that we do not know. Still, over the years, we have been collecting some of them, as they appeared written on papyrus, stones, manuscripts, and printed. Thanks to this, we can know some of the names our ancestors called our beloved Mediterranean Sea. So let’s discover them!
In Babylon, the Mediterranean Sea was known as the “Upper Sea.”
Apparently, this name appeared on an ancient tablet where King Nebuchadnezzar also appeared.
Known as the “Great Green,” “Great Sea,” or “Great Loop” by the Egyptians.
The Jews called it the “Great Sea” (Yam Gadol).
“White Sea” (Akdeniz) or “Western Sea” was the name given to it by the Turks. By white sea, they did not refer to the color of the sea but to its geographical position.
The Greek people of Classical Antiquity called the Mediterranean Sea “Mesogeios Thalassa,” which meant “Sea between lands.”
The Romans in their imperial era called it “Mare Nostrum,” which means “our sea.” Although it was also known as “Mar Medi Terraneum,” which meant “sea in the middle of the lands,” coming from the Greek expression. It was also commonly called “Mare Internum.”
In the Bible, you will recognize it as the “Great Sea” or “The Sea.” Although at other times, it was called the “Western Sea” due to its location on the west coast of the Holy Land.
The Mediterranean Sea was also known as the “Philistines Sea.”
In ancient Arabic literature, it was called the “Roman Sea” or “Byzantine Sea.” However, the Arabs now call it al-Baḥr al-Mutawāsiṭ, which means “Intermediate Sea” or “White Intermediate Sea.”
The Germanic people called it “Mittelmeer.”
It also received other somewhat more modern names such as “surrounded sea,” “faithful sea,” or “friendly sea.”
If you want to complete your knowledge about the Mediterranean Sea and have a more visual idea about the evolution of its name, click on the following article:
The first thing you should know is that the Mediterranean Sea is located between three continents, bordering Europe to the north, Africa to the south, and Asia to the east.
The west part of the Mediterranean Sea is connected to the Atlantic Ocean through the Strait of Gibraltar. The southeast is connected to the Red Sea through the Suez Canal. In contrast, the northeast part is linked to the Black Sea through the Dardanelles Strait, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosphorus Strait.
3. The surprising depth of the Mediterranean Sea
The average depth of the Mediterranean Sea is 1,500 meters (4,920 ft). However, the deepest point ever recorded is 5,627 meters (about 3.27 miles) and is located in the Calypso Deep in the Ionian Sea.
Let’s compare the Mediterranean Sea with the world’s shallowest and deepest sea to give you more perspective.
The Azov Sea is located between Ukraine and Russia and is connected to the Black Sea by the Kerch Strait. It has a depth of 14 meters, which makes it the shallowest sea in the world!
However, the deepest ocean point is located in the Mariana Trench (Challenger Deep), almost 11 kilometers below sea level! A real madness! If we compare it with Mount Everest, which measures 8,849 meters, Challenger Deep will surpass it with more than 2 kilometers difference.
4. With how many countries does the Mediterranean Sea border?
The coastline of the Mediterranean Sea has a length of 46,000 km (28,600 miles).
Its extensive coastline borders 22 countries on 3 continents: 11 in Europe, 5 in Asia, and 5 in Africa.
European countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, France, Malta, Italy, Greece, Monaco, Montenegro, Slovenia, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
Asian countries: Israel, Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey.
African countries: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia.
You should know that Cyprus and Turkey are Eurasian countries, meaning they belong to the European and Asian continents.
If you want to discover some of the most beautiful regions of the Spanish East Coast, check out this post!
5. Is the Mediterranean Sea the largest sea in the world?
The Mediterranean Sea represents 1% of the surface area of the oceans, it is one of the largest in the world with 2,510,000 km2, but it isn’t the largest. Still, it would be among the five largest seas in the world, occupying the fourth position.
Here’s a table with the 5 largest seas in the world and their surface in Km²:
1. Arabian Sea
2. South China Sea
3. Caribbean Sea
4. Mediterranean Sea
5. Bering Sea
6. The spectacular biodiversity of the Mediterranean Sea
Although the Mediterranean Sea only occupies 1% of the oceanic surface of the planet, it’s one of the most biodiverse seas in the world. In fact, it would occupy the fourth position after the waters of Australia, Japan, and China.
The Mediterranean Sea has more than 17,000 marine species and many ecosystems.
The Strait of Gibraltar and the Alboran Sea are some of the areas where many species of high ecological importance can be found.
More than 2,000 million birds migrate every year to other countries and have to cross the Mediterranean.
7. The Mediterranean Sea and its invasive species
According to Euronews, invasive species are becoming a global problem. In recent years the number of non-native species in European waters has increased considerably to 1,300. In the Mediterranean Sea, we can find 69% of these species (only 10% are considered invasive).
According to one of National Geographic’s biologists and explorers, the Mediterranean Sea has the highest rate of invasive species. Did you know that?
Invasive alien species can be introduced naturally, accidentally, or intentionally. But when they are introduced into an environment that is not their own, they significantly affect biodiversity and even the economy and health.
Although not all introduced species are indeed invasive. Many of them do not manage to adapt to the environment and do not reproduce or disperse, so they do not pose a threat.
8. How many islands are there in the Mediterranean Sea?
The Mediterranean Sea has about 8,750 islands in total, which are distributed along all its coasts.
To get an idea of how big they are and the surface they occupy, take a look at this table I have created with the 10 largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea:
9. The shocking salinity level of the Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea that contains a strong salinity. It’s one of the seas with the highest saltiness, with 38 grams of salt per liter. This is due to the fact that the sea loses three times more water by evaporation than the freshwater it receives from all the rivers that flow into it.
Did you know that the Mediterranean Sea dried up almost completely?
This happened about six million years ago when the Mediterranean evaporated almost entirely and became a giant salt marsh with a few scattered water reservoirs.
This historical moment was called the Messinian Salt Crisis, where the Mediterranean Sea accumulated 10% of the salt in the global ocean! Is it not shocking to you? This was due to a “dynamic equilibrium” between a tectonic uplift that blocked the entrance of Atlantic water and erosion.
If you want to find out more about the reasons why the Mediterranean Sea is so salty and see a comparison with other seas and oceans, you should read this post:
The water temperature of the Mediterranean Sea varies according to the time of the year. It ranges from 21° to 30°C in summer and 10° to 15°C in winter.
Take a look at the following table, where I show you the 12 months of the year with their minimum and maximum temperatures:
Lowest Temperature (ºC)
Highest Temperature (ºC)
11. The Mediterranean Sea known as the sea of several seas
Did you know that the Mediterranean Sea contains other seas? In total, 13 minor seas make up the Mediterranean Sea.
For you to understand it better, we are going to divide it into parts:
In the Western part of the Mediterranean Sea, we find the Alboran Sea, the Mar Menor, the Balearic Sea, the Sardinian Sea, and the Gulf of Lion. In the Central Mediterranean, we see the Ligurian Sea, the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Sardinian Channel, the Ionian Sea, the Sicilian Channel or Strait of Sicily, and the Adriatic Sea. And in the remaining part, known as the Eastern Mediterranean, we can find the Aegean Sea, the Sea of Myrtles, the Sea of Thrace, the Sea of Crete, the Sea of Cilicia, and the Levantine Sea.
12. Are there sharks in the Mediterranean Sea?
The Mediterranean Sea has sharks; in fact, there are about 47 known species, although most are harmless.
What is the largest shark in the Mediterranean?
The basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) would be the largest and second-largest shark in the world after the whale shark.
What is the most aggressive shark in the Mediterranean?
Believe it or not, the white shark is usually found in the Mediterranean, as it is one of the areas where they go to raise their young. Its large size and ferocity place it in one of the first positions on the list of the most dangerous sharks.
BUT, if you want to know everything about the sharks living in the Mediterranean, you can’t miss the following post!
According to the National Geographic Institute, more than 4,000 earthquakes can be registered in a year!
The entire southern Iberian Peninsula, northern Morocco, and the Alboran Sea are located in a seismic zone where the African and Eurasian plates come into contact. This is what causes earthquakes and increases the risk of tsunamis.
Did you know that the largest earthquake in the Mediterranean Sea reached 8.6 on the Richter scale?
The earthquake on the island of Crete was the largest earthquake ever recorded in the Mediterranean Sea and took place in 365 AD.
Did you know all this about the Mediterranean Sea?
The truth is that I didn’t, and everything I have found has surprised me a lot! I’m sure that if you ask someone about any of these facts, they have no idea about more than half of them!
If you know of any other curiosities about the Mediterranean Sea, don’t forget to share them with us!
Inigo Navarro is a seasoned travel writer with a deep understanding of Spain's cities, culture, people and language. Born and raised in Spain, he has spent years exploring the country and is currently one of the most-read Travel Bloggers about Spain. Inigo is also an experienced digital marketer, a father to 4 beautiful children and a huge Real Madrid Fan. ¡Hala Madrid!