MEDITERRANEAN SEA, a large and important inland sea, bounded on the N. by Europe, on the E. by Asia, on the S. by Africa, and communicating at its W. extremity by the Straits of Gibraltar with the N. Atlantic Ocean, and at its N. E. extremity, by the Dardanelles and Bosporus, with the Black or Euxine Sea; extending from lat. 30° to nearly 46° N., and from lon. 5° 54' W. to 36° 8' E.; greatest length, 2,300 miles; greatest breadth, from Venice to the Bay of Sidra, 1,200 miles; area, est. 690,000 square miles. It is of an oblong, but irregular shape, especially on the N., where the large peninsulas of Italy and Greece pro ject S. The coast of the Mediterranean is as remarkable for the difference of altitude as for variety of outline. In the N., with the exception of Italy, it is bold and rugged. On the E. and S. the coun try presents a low uninteresting flat, with rocky reefs and shoals projecting 5 to 7 miles from the shore, and which render the navigation near these shores both difficult and dangerous; and in this respect the S. side presents a striking contrast to the N., where, generally speaking, deep soundings may be had close to the shore; while in parts, par ticularly between Nice and Genoa and near Gibraltar, no soundings can be found under 1,000 fathoms and upward.
The temperature averages from 72° to 76°, or 31/2° F. higher than that of the Atlantic Ocean. The principal rivers which flow into the Mediterranean are the Ebro, Rhone, Po, and Nile. The Mediterranean was long considered tide less, but this is untrue, as in the Adri atic, as well as between that sea and the coast of Africa, the tide rises from 5 to 7 feet. The prevalent winds vary during the spring between S. E. and S. W.; at other times from N. W. to N. E. The most formidable of these winds is the si rocco, or solano, which is very destruc tive. Water spouts are of frequent oc currence, especially along the coast of Asia Minor. Several springs of fresh water rise in different parts of the Medi terranean; the largest being in the port of Tarento, near the mouth of the Gale sus, where the fresh water ascends with such impetuosity and in such a volume that it may be taken up at the surface without the least impregnation of salt.