The Aegean Sea is the body of water that surrounds most of Greece‘s western and northern coasts. It is an arm of the Mediterranean Sea.
The name comes from Aegean, a mythological figure in Greek mythology and a region in ancient Greece just northwest of Thessaly, inhabited by people known as Aigaioi “(Aegyei).” The ancient Greeks named this body of water after their mythological cousin Aesacus (Aesakos), who drowned when trying to cross it on his way back from Phthia to Greece. A considerable amount of good-quality fossils has been found in the area, and it is therefore of great importance to scientists.
- The Aegean Sea is connected to the Mediterranean Sea by the Aegean Canal. The Canal goes through Lake Kavkaz and Lake Biros and then through a tunnel into Vlora Bay on the Adriatic Sea. The waterway can be used by ships up to Panamax Class (maximum load: 56,000 metric tons). At its north end near Ulcinj, Montenegro, two branches split off from the main canal—one goes toward Thessaloniki, Greece, and one toward Alexandroupoli, Greece.
- The Aegean Sea’s average depth is between. The maximum depth, which is reached at, is much greater than that of the adjacent Mediterranean Sea, which only reaches about.
- The seafloor mostly consists of the Halicarnassus Plateau. This plateau was formed by tectonic extension during the Miocene period. The western coasts are formed by granitic rocks, whereas the idyllic coast has large sand deposits. The infrequent earthquakes in this area are related to activity in the Eastern Mediterranean (Tethys) tectonic plate, caused by the collision with Anatolia (Asia Minor) and Africa.
- The climate in the Aegean Sea is mainly the Mediterranean. Rainfall is significantly greater than in the other parts of Greece, at about per year. Winds have a dominant direction from the northeast to the southwest. The area’s climate is also influenced by the surrounding seas and mountains and other smaller bodies of water surrounding it.
- The northern part of the sea has many islands and rocky coastal formations, but further south, there are wider zones with sandy beaches, especially around Rhodes and Cyprus. Most coastal cities are located on these two island groups or close to them (e.g., Izmir). The strait of the Dardanelles is one of the shipping routes connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Black Sea.
- The first large-scale excavations of the Aegean coast began in 1899 at Kum Kale, which has yielded an extraordinary number of finds from sites across western Anatolia and some from Crete, Egypt, and Germany. R.G. Baldridge has carried out the most extensive survey between 1963–68 at eight sites on Rhodes, Karpathos, and Kos islands. The Aigina regional unit was created around 1999 with its administrative center in Aigio (Aegean National Park).