The Mediterranean Sea (35 degrees north, 18 degrees east) is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Europe, on the south by Africa, and on the east by Asia. It covers an approximate area of 2.5 million km² (965,000 mi²), but its connection to the Atlantic (the Strait of Gibraltar) is only 14 km (9 mi) wide. In oceanography, it is sometimes called the Eurafrican Mediterranean Sea or the European Mediterranean Sea, to distinguish it from mediterranean seas elsewhere. It is linked to the Atlantic Ocean (at the Strait of Gibraltar), Red Sea and Indian Ocean (by the Suez Canal), and the Black Sea (at the Dardanelles and Sea of Marmara). The Mediterranean Sea covers an area of 2,509,000 sq km (969,000 sq mi). It has an eastern to western extent of 3,900 km (2,400 mi) and a maximum width of 1,600 km (990 mi). Generally shallow, with an average depth of 1,500 m (4,900 ft), it reaches a maximum depth of 5,150 m (16,896 ft) off the southern coast of Greece; Major subdivisions include the Adriatic Sea, Aegean Sea, Balearic Sea, Tyrrhenian Sea, and Ionian Sea and Ligurian sea, its coastline extends 46,000 km/28,580 mi, running through 22 countries. It is highly polluted.
The Mediterranean Sea is of great political importance as a maritime outlet for the countries of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, via the Bosporus, Sea of Marmara Dardanelles, and Black Sea and for European and American access to the petroleum of Libya and Algeria and the Persian Gulf region, via the Suez Canal and overland pipelines
It was a superhighway of transport in ancient times, allowing for trade and cultural exchange between emergent peoples of the region – the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Semitic, Persian, Phoenician, Carthaginian, Greek and Roman cultures. The history of the Mediterranean of western
Known as the cradle of civilization, the Mediterranean was opened as a highway for commerce by merchants trading from Phoenicia. Over succeeding centuries Carthage, Greece, Sicily, and Rome were rivals competing for dominance of its shores and trade. It was later dominated by the Byzantine Empire and the Arabs; between the 11th and 14th centuries, Barcelona and the Italian city trading states, such as Venice and Genoa, dominated the Mediterranean. Control of its islands, coasts, and trade routes was vital during both World Wars, leading to important campaigns. Since World War II the region has been of great strategic importance to the USA and Western European countries (NATO).