The Aegean Sea contains more than three thousand islands and is considered the home of the earliest European civilization (formerly the Mycenean-Minoan, now called the Aegean), from about 3000 to 1100 b.c.e. Crete is the largest island, lying almost equidistant from both Greece and Turkey, at the southern end of the Aegean, with the Ionian Sea to its west. Since the Aegean is the only breach in the mountainous belt to the north of the Mediterranean, it has been extremely important as a trading area and trade route; control of this sea has been the cause of wars since early Near Eastern civilization clashed with early European.
In 1820, all the shores and islands of the Aegean belonged to the Ottoman Empire, but the western shore and practically all the islands have since gradually gone to Greece, a cause of Turkish resentment. Two islands, İmroz (Greek, Im bros) and Bozca (Greek, Tenedos), are still Turkish. Greece claims the Aegean as a territorial sea, which Turkey disputes, in hopes of sharing benthic minerals. Petroleum was discovered on the sea bottom east of Thasos in 1970, which has sharpened the dispute.
John R. Clark