Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sailors call it the Med

The term Mediterranean derives from the Latin mediterraneus, "inland" (medius, "middle" + terra, "land, earth"). To the ancient Romans, the Mediterranean was the center of the earth as they knew it.

The Mediterranean Sea has been known by a number of alternative names throughout human history.

Mare Nostrum (Latin, "Our Sea") by the Romans (Sallust, Jug. 17). Greeks name it Mesogeios (Μεσόγειος), meaning "inland, interior" (μεσο, "middle" + γαιος, "land, earth").

In the Old Testament, on the west coast of the Holy Land, and therefore behind a person facing the east, it is called the "Hinder Sea", sometimes translated as "Western Sea", (Deut. 11:24; Joel 2:20), and also the "Sea of the Philistines" (Exod. 22:81), because that people occupied a large portion of its shores near the Israelites.

Mostly, however, it was the "Great Sea" , or simply "The Sea". In Hebrew, it is called HaYam HaTikhon (הַיָּם הַתִּיכוֹן), "the middle sea", a literal adaptation of the German equivalent Mittelmeer.

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