-  a brief history   Page 1  -










In order to better understand the Mediterranean, which literally means “the centre of the world”, it is useful to know some of its long and varied history.                                    


The Mediterranean was once a deep, dry valley, some five million years ago, dividing the three continents, Europe, Africa and Asia, until a cataclysmic broach was made in the retaining wall, which kept out the Atlantic Ocean in the West, towards present-day Gibraltar. A huge cascade of water began, flooding the whole Mediterranean basin, in a process that lasted many, many years, and a new sea was born.

 Analysing the geographical configuration of this new sea more closely, we find that it is rather formed from a number of seas: the Alboran, the gulf of Lione, the Tirrhennian Sea, the Ionian Sea, the Aegean Sea, the Adriatic Sea etc, each with its own characteristics. On the whole it is a very deep sea, from 3000 to 4000 metres deep, allowing several types of whales to thrive there, as well as sword-fish, tuna and dolphins, which are often encountered by modern yachts during their cruises.

 The Mediterranean is a relatively closed sea, with only a slight interchange of waters with the Atlantic at the Straits of Gibraltar and with the Black Sea at the Bosphorous Straits, at Istanbul. The Suez Canal at the far Eastern end, provides only an artificial, though navigable connection with the Red Sea. The African and the Asian shores are very arid and flat, while the European shores, though not subject to a heavy rainfall, are more mountainous and greener, with a more temperate climate.

Since the African Continent has been slowly pushing its way towards the European Continent, and this has been the cause of the uplift of the Alps, there is a fracture in the Earth’s crust, resulting in the volcanoes of Etna, Stromboli and Vesuvius in Italy and Santorino in Greece. It is also the cause of the not uncommon seismic activity in the area.

 The general climate is mild and temperate, in fact called “Mediterranean” and it is influenced by the hot and dry air coming from the Sahara in Summer, making for idyllic holidays and from the damper and colder air from the Atlantic Ocean in Winter.  This type of climate was in fact very suitable for the development of Man’s civilisation.

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         Copyright L. Camillo 2000