1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aegean Sea

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AEGEAN SEA, a part of the Mediterranean Sea, being the archipelago between Greece on the west and Asia Minor on the east, bounded N. by European Turkey, and connected by the Dardanelles with the Sea of Marmora, and so with the Black Sea. The name Archipelago (q.v.) was formerly applied specifically to this sea. The origin of the namo Aegean is uncertain. Various derivations are given by the ancient grammarians—one from the town of Aegae; another from Aegea, a queen of the Amazons who perished in this sea; and a third from Aegeus, the father of Theseus, who, supposing his son dead, drowned himself in it. The following are the chief islands:—Thasos, in the extreme north, off the Macedonian coast; Samothrace, fronting the Gulf of Saros; Imbros and Lemnos, in prolongation of the peninsula of Gallipoli (Thracian Chersonese); Euboea, the largest of all, lying close along the east coast of Greece; the Northern Sporades, including Sciathos, Scopelos and Halonesos, running out from the southern extremity of the Thessalian coast, and Scyros, with its satellites, north-east of Euboea; Lesbos and Chios; Samos and Nikaria; Cos, with Calymnos to the north; all off Asia Minor, with the many other islands of the Sporades; and, finally, the great group of the Cyclades, of which the largest are Andros and Tenos, Naxos and Paros. Many of the Aegean islands, or chains of islands, are actually prolongations of promontories of the mainland. Two main chains extend right across the sea—the one through Scyros and Psara (between which shallow banks intervene) to Chios and the hammer-shaped promontory east of it; and the other running from the southeastern promontory of Euboea and continuing the axis of that island, in a southward curve through Andros, Tenos, Myconos, Nikaria and Samos. A third curve, from the south-easternmost promontory of the Peloponnese through Cerigo, Ctete, Carpathos and Rhodes, marks off the outer deeps of the open Mediterranean from the shallow seas of the archipelago, but the Cretan Sea, in which depths occur over 1000 fathoms, intervenes, north of the line, between it and the Aegean proper. The Aegotu itself is naturally divided by the island-chains and the ridges from which they rise into a series of basins or troughs, the deepest of which is that in the north, extending from the coast of Thessaly fo the Gulf of Saros, and demarcated southward by the Northern Sporades, Lemnos, Imbros and the peninsula of Gallipoli. The greater part of this trough is over 600 fathoms deep. The profusion of islands and their usually bold elevation give beauty and picturesqueness to the sea, but its navigation is difficult and dangerous, notwithstanding the large number of safe and commodious gulfs and bays. Many of the islands are of volcanic formation; and a well-defined volcanic chain bounds the Cretan Sea on the north, including Milo and Kimolos, Santorin (Thera) and Therasia, and extends to Nisyros. Others, such as Paros, are mainly composed of marble, and iron ore occurs in some. The larger islands have some fertile and well-watered valleys and plains. The chief productions are wheat, wine, oil, mastic, figs, raisins, honey, wax, cotton and silk. The people are employed in fishing for coral and sponges, as well as for bream, mullet and other fish. The men are hardy, well built and handsome; and the women are noted for their beauty, the ancient Greek type being well preserved. The Cyclades and Northern Sporades, with Euboea and small islands under the Greek shore, belong to Greece; the other islands to Turkey.