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date: 25 November 2020


  • Nicholas Purcell


The Mediterranean Sea, very deep and, over substantial areas, out of sight of land, little affected by tides, and less rich in marine life than many of the world's enclosed seas (but see fishing), provided the coherence which united the classical world. It was regarded as a unity (and distinct from the encircling Ocean) from the Archaic period; both Greeks and Romans named it as being distinctively theirs (the name Mediterranean is not found before *Iulius Solinus).This sea represents (and has done, in the shape of its predecessor the *Tethys, for some 200 million years) the complex and shifting abutment of the tectonic plates, fragmented at their edges, which make up the adjoining continents. This structural instability produces the characteristic tangled chains of high mountains interspersed with deep down-faulted basins, valleys, and plains, and an intricate coastal topography with numerous indentations, and very many *islands of every size (as well as volcanoes and frequent *earthquakes).

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