The Aegean Sea is an arm of the Mediterranean Sea. The Aegean is approximately 400 miles long and 200 miles wide, and is borA dered by Greece on the north and west, Asia Minor on the east, and the island of Crete on the south. The Aegean has long served as a crossroads between the peoples of Europe and Asia. In ancient times, two great civilizations—the Minoan and the Greek—developed on the islands in the Aegean Sea. For these early civilizations, the sea provided numerous opportunities for trade and for contact with other cultures.
There are various theories about the origin of the name Aegean. The name may have come from Aegeus, the father of the Greek hero Theseus, or from Aegea, a mythical Amazonian queen. Both characters, according to legend, drowned themselves in the sea. The ancient Greek city of Aegae may also be the source of the sea’s name.
The Aegean Sea is dotted with many islands. Their sheltered bays and natural harbors provided safe havens for traders and travelers in ancient times. However, pirates also found the islands useful as bases for attacking ships and coastal settlements.