A map of the Mediterranean Sea made in 1595 by Abraham Ortelius, a Dutch cartographer.
(Courtesy of Cartographic
Examples of vessels used by the Romans and Egyptians in the Mediterranean.
Egyptian ships of this type date back to 3000-4000 BC and are taken from
drawings on tombs. Roman ships date from about 50-100AD.
people who lived around the Mediterranean Sea began exploring this
nearly landlocked sea several thousand years ago. Sailors from Egypt,
Phoenicia and Crete mapped the regional coastlines to establish some
of the earliest trading routes. Early Mediterranean civilizations,
including the Greeks, have passed down many myths that include gods
and goddesses who ruled over nature, such as Poseiden with his triton.
Many Mediterranean legends, such as Jason and the Argonauts, also
involved adventures on large and dangerous seas.
Many of our earliest maps of the oceans and coastlines come from this region.
These early mapmakers, or cartographers, were probably Mediterranean traders
who made the maps to help them get back and forth to different cities on the
About 2,900 years ago, the Greeks began to venture outside the Mediterranean,
past the Straits of Gibraltar at the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. This
narrow channel separates Europe from Africa, and the Mediterranean from the Atlantic
Ocean. Just outside of the Straits of Gibraltar, early Greek sailors noticed
a strong current running from north to south. Because the sailors had only seen
currents in rivers, they thought this great body of water on the other side of
the Straits was a very big river. The Greek word for river was okeano, which
is the root of our word for ocean.