AEGEAN SEA ISLANDS
The Aegean Sea is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the Greek and Anatolian peninsulas. The sea extends in an area of some 215,000 square kilometres. In the north, the Aegean is connected to the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea by the straits of the Dardanelles and Bosphorus. The Aegean Islands are scattered on its southern periphery, including Crete and Rhodes. The sea reaches a maximum depth of 3,544 meters, to the east of Crete.
The Aegean Islands can be divided into several island groups, including the Dodecanese, the Cyclades, the Sporades, the Saronic islands and the North Aegean Islands, as well as Crete and its surrounding islands. The Dodecanese, located to the southeast, includes the islands of Rhodes, Kos, and Patmos; the islands of Mykonos, Santorini, Delos and Naxos are within the Cyclades to the south of the sea. Lesbos, Chios and Samos are part of the North Aegean Islands. Euboea, the second largest island in Greece, is located in the Aegean, despite being administered as part of Central Greece. Nine out of twelve of the Administrative regions of Greece border the sea.
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The Aegean Sea has been historically important, especially in regards to the civilization of Ancient Greece, who inhabited the area around the coast of the Aegean and the Aegean islands. The Aegean islands facilitated contact between the people of the area and between Europe and Asia. Along with the Greeks, Thracians lived among the northern coast. The Romans conquered the area under the Roman Empire, and later the Byzantine Empire held it against advances by the First Bulgarian Empire. The Fourth Crusade weakened Byzantine control of the area, and it was eventually conquered by the Ottoman Empire, with the exception of Crete, which was a Venetian colony until 1669.
The Greek War of Independence allowed a Greek state on the coast of the Aegean from 1829 onwards. The Ottoman Empire held a presence over the sea for over 500 years until it was replaced by modern Turkey. The sea was traditionally known as the Archipelago but in English the meaning of archipelago has changed to refer to the Aegean Islands and, generally, to any island group.
The Greek name Aegean is linked to the mythological figure Aegeus, father of Theseus, and a mythical king and founder-hero of Athens. Aegeus had told Theseus to put up white sails when returning from Crete if he was successful in killing the Minotaur. Theseus returned a victor, but he forgot these instructions, and Aegeus subsequently drowned himself in the sea thinking that his son had died having failed his mission.