That immense body of water separating Europe and Africa, with Asia to its east. While the Hebrews called it the Great Sea, today it is commonly called by its Latin-based name, Mediterranean, meaning “in the Middle of the Land,” for it is practically landlocked. This circumstance, plus the fact that hot winds off the Sahara Desert blow over it, results in a proportionately higher than usual evaporation rate and this, in turn, gives the water a higher specific gravity. That is why at the Strait of Gibraltar the lighter water of the Atlantic flows in near the surface and the heavier Mediterranean water empties out near the bottom. Ocean shipping may pass in and out of this “inland” sea only through narrow gateways—through the Strait of Gibraltar to the W, through the Dardanelles and Bosporus to the NE, and since the 19th century, through the Suez Canal to the SE.
It is not amiss today to call the Mediterranean the Great Sea, as ancient peoples did from the time of Moses onward, for it certainly measures up to all this name implies. (Nu 34:6, 7) Apart from its various arms that are also seas, the Mediterranean is about 3,700 km (2,300 mi) long, over 970 km (600 mi) wide at its greatest breadth, and it covers an area of about 2,510,000 sq km (969,100 sq mi). Its deepest point is about 5,100 m (16,700 ft).
The Italian and Greek peninsulas that jut down from the N create the Tyrrhenian, Ionian, Adriatic, and Aegean Seas, thus adding to the irregular shape and greatly increasing the length of the coastline. About middistance E and W, the sea narrows down to a width of about 150 km (90 mi) between Sicily and North Africa, and there the water is also comparatively shallow.
Ezekiel’s prophecy speaks of “very many” fish in the Great Sea. (Eze 47:10) Fine coral and an abundance of sponge are found in these waters, in addition to more than 400 varieties of fish.
Bible writers not only used the name “Great Sea” (Jos 1:4; 9:1, 2; 15:12, 47; 23:4; Eze 47:15, 19, 20; 48:28) but they also referred to it by other comprehensive terms. To them this body of water was “the western sea,” forming as it did the western boundary of their God-given land. (De 11:24; 34:1, 2) From the location of Jerusalem it was viewed as “the western sea” in contrast with “the eastern sea,” that is, the Dead Sea. (Joe 2:20; Zec 14:8) Or it was called “the sea of the Philistines” (Ex 23:31) or simply “the Sea.”—Nu 34:5.
From time immemorial, Phoenicians and other bold seafaring people traversed the Great Sea, discovered a number of its islands, and carried on trade between many of its port cities. The Bible mentions such islands as Arvad, Cauda, Chios, Cos, Crete, Cyprus, Malta, Patmos, Rhodes, Samos, and Samothrace. Also, some of the coastal cities and sites on these islands and along the continental shores of the eastern section of the Great Sea are listed in the Bible, namely: Acco (Ptolemais), Achzib, Adramyttium, Alexandria, Amphipolis, Ashkelon, Attalia, Cnidus, Dor, Fair Havens, Gebal, Lasea, Patara, Phoenix, Puteoli, Rhegium, Salamis, Salmone, and Syracuse.
Jesus Christ visited the seaport regions of Tyre and Sidon (Mr 7:24, 31); Peter was in Joppa and Caesarea (Ac 10:5, 6, 24); Paul was in Paphos, Troas, Neapolis, Cenchreae, Ephesus, Assos, Mitylene, and Miletus (Ac 13:13; 16:11; 18:18, 19; 20:14, 15). The Great Sea is noted for its fierce storms that have resulted in numerous shipwrecks and much loss of life. Among the more fortunate were those who survived with Paul.—Ac 27:14, 15, 39-44.