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Aegean Sea, Gr. Aigaion Pelagos, Turkish Ege Denizi, arm of the Mediterranean Sea, c.400 mi (640 km) long and 200 mi (320 km) wide, off SE Europe between Greece and Turkey; Crete and Rhodes mark its southern limit. Irregular in shape, it is dotted with islands, most of which belong to Greece; they include Évvoia, the Sporades, the Cyclades, Sámos, Khíos, Lesbos, Thásos, and the Dodecanese. The Aegean Sea's greatest depths (more than 11,600 ft/3,540 m) are found E of Crete. The Dardanelles strait connects the Aegean Sea with the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea.
Sardines and sponges taken from the Aegean are economically important. There has been considerable tension between Greece and Turkey since the 1970s over oil deposits and mineral rights in the Aegean. The name Aegean has been variously derived from Aegae, a city of Évvoia; from Aegeus, father of Theseus, who drowned himself in the sea believing his son had been slain by the Minotaur; and from Aegea, an Amazon queen who drowned in it. The sea's ancient name, Archipelago, now applies to its islands and, generally, to any island group.
a semi-enclosed body of water in the basin of the Mediterranean Sea, bounded by the Balkan Peninsula, Asia Minor, and the island of Crete. The Aegean is linked with the Sea of Marmara and ultimately with the Black Sea by the Dardanelles in the northeast and with the Mediterranean by several straits between islands in the south. The sea has an area of approximately 179 sq km. It formed as a result of the submersion in the late Pliocene and Pleistocene of the land block known as Aegeides. The numerous islands are remnants of this land, and for this reason the Aegean was formerly called the Greek Archipelago.
The prevalent depths are 200–1,000 m, reaching a maximum of 2,529 m in the south. Currents in the western parts of the sea flow south, while those in the eastern part flow north. The velocity of the currents reaches 0.5–1 km/hr. The water temperature at the surface is 11°–15°C in winter and 22°–25°C in summer. At depths of more than 350 m the water temperature is 12°–13°C and remains constant throughout the year. The salinity of the sea is 37.0–39.0‰. Tides are semidiurnal and have ranges of 30–60 cm. The sea yields fish and sponges. The principal ports are Piraeus and Thessaloniki in Greece and Izmir in Turkey.