The Ancient Egyptians called the Mediterranean This term (literally “great green”) was the name given by the Ancient Egyptians to the semi-solid, semi-aquatic region characterized by papyrus forests to the north of the cultivated Nile delta, and, by extension, the sea beyond.
The Ancient Greeks called the Mediterranean simply ἡ θάλασσα (hē thálassa; “the Sea”) or sometimes ἡ μεγάλη θάλασσα (hē megálē thálassa; “the Great Sea”), ἡ ἡμετέρα θάλασσα (hē hēmetérā thálassa; “Our Sea”), or ἡ θάλασσα ἡ καθ’ἡμᾶς (hē thálassa hē kath’hēmâs; “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 this 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 μεσόγειος (mesógeios; “inland”), from μέσος (mésos, “in the middle”) and γήινος (gḗinos, “of the earth”), from γῆ (gê, “land, earth”). The original meaning may have been ‘the sea in the middle of the earth’, rather than ‘the sea enclosed by land’.
With its highly indented coastline and large number of islands, Greece has the longest Mediterranean coastline.