Names and etymology
With its highly indented coastline and large number of islands, Greece has the longest Mediterranean coastline.
The Ancient Greeks called the Mediterranean simply η θάλασσα 'the Sea' or sometimes η μεγάλη θάλασσα 'the Great Sea', η ημέτερα θάλασσα 'Our Sea', or η θάλασσα η καθ'εμάς 'the sea around us'. The Romans called it Mare Magnum 'Great Sea' or Mare Internum 'Internal Sea' and, starting with the Roman Empire, Mare Nostrum 'Our Sea'. The term Mare Mediterrāneum appears later: Solinus apparently used it in the 3rd century, but the earliest extant witness to it is in the 6th century, in Isidore of Seville. It means 'in the middle of land, inland' in Latin, a compound of medius 'middle', terra 'land, earth' and -āneus 'having the nature of'. The Latin word is a calque of Greek μεσόγαιος 'inland', from μέσος 'in the middle' and γήϊος 'of the earth' (from γῆ 'land, earth'). The original meaning may have been 'the sea in the middle of the earth', rather than 'the sea enclosed by land'.
The Carthaginians called it the "Syrian Sea". In ancient Syrian texts, Phoenician epics and in the Hebrew Bible, it was primarily known as the "Great Sea" (הַיָּם הַגָּדוֹל, HaYam HaGadol, Numbers 34:6,7; Joshua 1:4, 9:1, 15:47; Ezekiel 47:10,15,20) or simply as "The Sea" (1 Kings 5:9; compare 1 Macc. 14:34, 15:11); however, it has also been called the "Hinder Sea" (הַיָּם הָאַחֲרוֹן) because of its location on the west coast of Greater Syria or the Holy Land (and therefore behind a person facing the east), which is sometimes translated as "Western Sea", (Deut. 11:24; Joel 2:20). Another name was the "Sea of the Philistines" (יָם פְּלִשְׁתִּים, Exod. 23:31), from the people inhabiting a large portion of its shores near the Israelites. In Modern Hebrew, it is called HaYam HaTikhon (הַיָּם הַתִּיכוֹן) 'the Middle Sea'.
In Modern Arabic, it is known as al-Baḥr [al-Abyaḍ] al-Mutawassiṭ (البحر [الأبيض] المتوسط) 'the [White] Middle Sea'. In Islamic and older Arabic literature, it was Baḥr al-Rūm(ī) (بحر الروم or بحر الرومي}) 'the Sea of the Romans' or 'the Roman Sea'. At first, that name referred to only the Eastern Mediterranean, but it was later extended to the whole Mediterranean. Other Arabic names were Baḥr al-šām(ī) (يبحر الشرومام) 'the Sea of Syria' and Baḥr al-Maghrib (بحرالمغرب) 'the Sea of the West'.
In Turkish, it is the Akdeniz 'the White Sea'; in Ottoman, ﺁق دكيز, which sometimes means only the Aegean Sea. The origin of the name is not clear, as it is not known in earlier Greek, Byzantine or Islamic sources. It may be to contrast with the Black Sea. In Persian, the name was translated as Baḥr-i Safīd, which was also used in later Ottoman Turkish. It is probably the origin of the colloquial Greek Άσπρη Θάλασσα.