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Southern Europe

Southern Europe


Southern Europe is the southern region of the European continent. Most definitions of Southern Europe, also known as Mediterranean Europe, include Italy, Malta, Corsica, Greece, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Slovenia, Spain, East Thrace of European Turkey, Cyprus and Northern Cyprus. Portugal, Andorra, Vatican City, San Marino, Serbia, Kosovo and North Macedonia are also often included despite not having a coast in the Mediterranean.[2] Some definitions may also include mainland Southern France and Monaco, which are otherwise considered parts of Western Europe, and Bulgaria, which is otherwise considered part of Southeast Europe.

Different methods can be used to define Southern Europe, including its political, economic, and cultural attributes. Southern Europe can also be defined by its natural features — its geography, climate, and flora. Politically, seven of the Southern European states form the EU Med group.


Geographically, Southern Europe is the southern half of the landmass of Europe. This definition is relative, although largely based in history, culture, climate, and flora which is shared across the region. It includes southwestern Europe: the Iberian Peninsula (Andorra, Portugal and Spain), including the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. Then Italy and the micro-states of San Marino and the Vatican City. Southeastern Europe includes Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, East Thrace (part of European Turkey), Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia[3][4][5]. The Major islands in the region are Sardinia, Sicily, Crete, the Balearic islands and the Island countries of Cyprus, Northern Cyprus and Malta.


Southern Europe's most emblematic climate is that of the Mediterranean climate, which has become a typically known characteristic of the area, which is due to the large subtropical semi-permanent centre of high atmospheric pressure found, not in the Mediterranean itself, but in the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores High. The Mediterranean climate covers Portugal, Southern and Eastern Spain, Southern France, Monaco, Italy, Greece, coastal Croatia, Albania, as well as the Mediterranean islands. Those areas of Mediterranean climate present similar vegetations and landscapes throughout, including dry hills, small plains, pine forests and olive trees.

Cooler climates can be found in certain parts of Southern European countries, for example within the mountain ranges of Spain and Italy. Additionally, the north coast of Spain experiences a wetter Atlantic climate.


Mediterranean agriculture in coastal and peri-coastal regions

Mediterranean agriculture in coastal and peri-coastal regions

The European floristic regions

The European floristic regions

Southern Europe's flora is that of the Mediterranean Region, one of the phytochoria recognized by Armen Takhtajan. The Mediterranean and Submediterranean climate regions in Europe are found in much of Southern Europe, mainly in Southern Portugal, most of Spain, the southern coast of France, Italy, the Croatian coast, much of Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Serbia, Albania, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Greece, and the Mediterranean islands.[6]


(2016 est.)
Population density
(per km²)
Andorra46877,281179.8Andorra la Vella
Bosnia and Herzegovina51,1293,516,81669Sarajevo
Gibraltar* (UK)
North Macedonia25,7132,081,20680.1Skopje
Northern Cyprus3,355326,00093Lefkoşa
San Marino6133,203501City of San Marino
Turkey (East Thrace)23,76410,620,739446.9Ankara
Vatican City0.448011877Vatican City

Largest urban areas

RankUrban AreaStatePopulation[10]Density
(per km²)
1İstanbul (European part)Turkey8,963,4312,620


Early history

In 500 BC, Rome was a small city-state on the Italian Peninsula. By 200 BC, Rome had conquered Italy, and over the following two centuries it conquered Greece and Hispania (Spain and Portugal), the North African coast, much of the Middle East, Gaul (France), and Britannia (England and Wales).

In 500 BC, Rome was a small city-state on the Italian Peninsula. By 200 BC, Rome had conquered Italy, and over the following two centuries it conquered Greece and Hispania (Spain and Portugal), the North African coast, much of the Middle East, Gaul (France), and Britannia (England and Wales).

The Phoenicians originally expanded from Canaan ports, by the 8th century dominating trade in the Mediterranean. Carthage was founded in 814 BC, and the Carthaginians by 700 BC had firmly established strongholds in Sicily, Italy and Sardinia, which created conflicts of interest with Etruria. Its colonies later reached the Western Mediterranean, such as Cádiz in Spain and most notably Carthage in North Africa, and even the Atlantic Ocean. The civilisation spread across the Mediterranean between 1500 BC and 300 BC.[11]

The period known as classical antiquity began with the rise of the city-states of Ancient Greece. Greek influence reached its zenith under the expansive empire of Alexander the Great, spreading throughout Asia. The Roman Empire came to dominate the entire Mediterranean Basin in a vast empire based on Roman law and Roman legions. It promoted trade, tolerance, and Greek culture. By 300 AD the Roman Empire was divided into the Western Roman Empire based in Rome, and the Eastern Roman Empire based in Constantinople. The attacks of the Goths led to the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD, a date which traditionally marks the end of the classical period and the start of the Middle Ages. During the Middle Ages, the Eastern Roman Empire survived, though modern historians refer to this state as the Byzantine Empire. In Western Europe, Germanic peoples moved into positions of power in the remnants of the former Western Roman Empire and established kingdoms and empires of their own.

The period known as the Crusades, a series of religiously motivated military expeditions originally intended to bring the Levant back into Christian rule, began. Several Crusader states were founded in the eastern Mediterranean. These were all short-lived. The Crusaders would have a profound impact on many parts of Europe. Their sack of Constantinople in 1204 brought an abrupt end to the Byzantine Empire. Though it would later be re-established, it would never recover its former glory. The Crusaders would establish trade routes that would develop into the Silk Road and open the way for the merchant republics of Genoa and Venice to become major economic powers. The Reconquista, a related movement, worked to reconquer Iberia for Christendom. The late Middle Ages represented a period of upheaval in Europe. The epidemic known as the Black Death and an associated famine caused demographic catastrophe in Europe as the population plummeted. Dynastic struggles and wars of conquest kept many of the states of Europe at war for much of the period. In the Balkans, the Ottoman Empire, a Turkish state originating in Anatolia, encroached steadily on former Byzantine lands, culminating in the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Post-Middle Ages

Spanish/Portuguese colonies

Spanish/Portuguese colonies

Beginning roughly in the 12th century in Florence, and later spreading through Europe with the development of the printing press, a Renaissance of knowledge challenged traditional doctrines in science and theology, with the Arabic texts and thought[12] bringing about rediscovery of classical Greek and Roman knowledge. The Catholic reconquest of Portugal and Spain led to a series of oceanic explorations resulting in the Age of Discovery that established direct links with Africa, the Americas, and Asia. During this period, Iberian forces engaged in a worldwide struggle with Islamic societies; the battlefronts in this Ibero-Islamic World War stretched from the Mediterranean into the Indian Ocean, finally involving the islands of Southeast Asia.[13] Eventually this ecumenical conflict ended when new players—England, Holland and France—replaced Spain and Portugal as the main agents of European imperialism in the mid-17th century.

European overseas expansion led to the rise of colonial empires, producing the Columbian Exchange.[14] The combination of resource inflows from the New World and the Industrial Revolution of Great Britain, allowed a new economy based on manufacturing instead of subsistence agriculture.[15] The period between 1815 and 1871 saw a large number of revolutionary attempts and independence wars. Balkan nations began to regain independence from the Ottoman Empire. Italy unified into a nation state. The capture of Rome in 1870 ended the Papal temporal power.

20th century

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 was precipitated by the rise of nationalism in Southeastern Europe as the Great Powers took up sides. The Allies defeated the Central Powers in 1918. During the Paris Peace Conference the Big Four imposed their terms in a series of treaties, especially the Treaty of Versailles. The Nazi regime under Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, and along with Mussolini's Italy sought to gain control of the continent by the Second World War. Following the Allied victory in the Second World War, Europe was divided by the Iron Curtain. The countries in Southeastern Europe were dominated by the Soviet Union and became communist states. The major non-communist Southern European countries joined a US-led military alliance (NATO) and formed the European Economic Community amongst themselves. The countries in the Soviet sphere of influence joined the military alliance known as the Warsaw Pact and the economic bloc called Comecon. Yugoslavia was neutral. The common attribute of the eastern countries is that all of them have experiences about socialism, but nevertheless, the beginning of the 1990s was just roughly the same. For some of them becoming independent was the major challenge, while others needed to face with poverty and deep dictatorship also Economically, parallel with the political changes, and the democratic transition, – as a rule of law states – the previous command economies were transformed via the legislation into market economies, and set up or renewed the major macroeconomic factors: budgetary rules, national audit, national currency, central bank. Generally, they shortly encountered the following problems: high inflation, high unemployment, low economic growth and high government debt. By 2000 these economies were stabilized, and sooner or later between 2004 and 2013 some of them joined the European Union, and Slovenia introduced the euro.[16]

Italy became a major industrialized country again, due to its post-war economic miracle. The European Union (EU) involved the division of powers, with taxation, health, and education handled by the nation states, while the EU had charge of market rules, competition, legal standards and environmentalism. The Soviet economic and political system collapsed, leading to the end of communism in the satellite countries in 1989, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union itself in 1991. As a consequence, Europe's integration deepened, the continent became depolarised, and the European Union expanded to subsequently include many of the formerly communist European countries – Romania and Bulgaria (2007) and Croatia (2013).


The following table shows the languages in Southern Europe that are spoken by at least five million people in the region:

LanguageSpeakers[1]Principal Southern European
country / countries
San Marino
Vatican City
Northern Cyprus

Romance languages

The most widely spoken family of languages in Southern Europe are the Romance languages, the heirs of Latin, which have spread from the Italian peninsula, and are emblematic of Southwestern Europe. (See the Latin Arch.) By far the most common Romance languages in Southern Europe are Italian (spoken by over 50 million people in Italy, Malta, San Marino, and the Vatican) and Spanish, which is spoken by over 40 million people in Spain, Andorra and Gibraltar. Other common Romance languages include Portuguese (spoken in Portugal and Andorra), Catalan (spoken in eastern Spain, Andorra, Southwestern France, and the Sardinian town of Alghero in Italy), Galician (spoken in northwestern Spain) and Occitan, which is spoken in the Val d'Aran in Catalonia, in the Occitan Valleys in Italy and in southern France.

Other languages

The Hellenic languages or Greek language are widely spoken in Greece and in the Republic of Cyprus. Additionally, other varieties of Greek are spoken in small communities in parts of other European countries.

English is used as a second language in parts of Southern Europe. As a primary language, however, English has only a small presence in Southern Europe, only in Gibraltar (alongside Spanish) and Malta (secondary to Maltese). English is also widely spoken in Cyprus.

There are other language groupings in Southern Europe. Albanian is spoken in Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and parts of Italy (particularly by the Arbëreshë people in Southern Italy) and Greece, and Serbo-Croatian is spoken in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro. Slovenian is spoken in Slovenia, Italy (in Friuli-Venezia Giulia) and Croatia (in Istria) and Macedonian is spoken in North Macedonia. Maltese is a Semitic language that is the official language of Malta, descended from Siculo-Arabic, but written in the Latin script with heavy Latin and Italian influences. The Basque language is spoken in the Basque Country, a region in northern Spain and southwestern France.


The following table shows the busiest airports in Southern Europe in 2016.

RankCountryAirportCityPassengers (2015)Passengers (2016)Change
1Turkeyİstanbul Atatürk Airportİstanbul61,322,729[26]60,119,215[26]Decrease02.0%
2SpainAdolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas AirportMadrid46,824,838[27]50,420,583[27]Increase07.7%
3SpainBarcelona El Prat AirportBarcelona39,711,237[27]44,154,693[27]Increase11.2%
4TurkeySabiha Gökçen AirportIstanbul28,285,578[28]29,651,543[28]Increase04.8%
5SpainPalma de Mallorca AirportPalma de Mallorca23,745,023[27]26,253,882[27]Increase10.6%
6PortugalLisbon Portela AirportLisbon20,090,418[29]22,449,289[30]Increase11.7%
7GreeceAthens International AirportAthens18,087,377[31]20,017,530[31]Increase10.7%
8ItalyMalpensa AirportMilan18,582,043[32]19,420,690[32]Increase04.5%
9SpainMálaga AirportMálaga14,404,206[27]16,672,776[27]Increase15.7%
10SpainAlicante AirportAlicante10,575,288[27]12,344,945[27]Increase16.7%


The religious distribution in 1054

The religious distribution in 1054[33]

The predominant religion in Southern Europe is Christianity. Christianity spread throughout Southern Europe during the Roman Empire, and Christianity was adopted as the official religion of the Roman Empire in the year 380 AD. Due to the historical break of the Church into the western half based in Rome and the eastern half based in Constantinople, different denominations of Christianity are prominent in different parts of Europe. Christians in the western half of Southern Europe — e.g., Portugal, Spain, Italy — are generally Roman Catholic. Christians in the eastern half of Southern Europe — e.g., Greece, North Macedonia — are generally Eastern Orthodox. Islam is widely practiced in Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo and Turkey and Northern Cyprus. Muslims are a significant minority in several countries of Southern Europe- e.g., Greece, Italy, Spain.[34] Judaism was practiced widely throughout the European continent within the Roman Empire from the 2nd century. Throughout the Middle Ages, Jews were accused of ritual murder, faced pogroms and legal discrimination.

Other classifications

European Travel Commission classification

European Travel Commission divides the European region on the basis of Tourism Decision Metrics (TDM) model. Countries which belong to the Southern/Mediterranean Europe in this classification are:[35]

See also


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Citation Linkwww.bbc.com"New five-euro note has goddess". 27 October 2017 – via www.bbc.com.
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Citation Linkbooks.google.comLibrary of Congress. Cataloging Policy and Support Office, Library of Congress Subject Headings
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Citation Linkde.wikipedia.orgWolfgang Frey and Rainer Lösch; Lehrbuch der Geobotanik. Pflanze und Vegetation in Raum und Zeit. Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, München 2004
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Citation Linkesa.un.org"World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision". ESA.UN.org (custom data acquired via website). United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgFigures include Northern Cyprus.
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgFigures do not include Kosovo.
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Citation Linkesa.un.org"United Nations: World Urbanization Prospects". Archived from the original on 2007-03-10. Retrieved 2011-10-06. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgTruxillo, Charles A. By the Sword and the Cross: The Historical Evolution of the Catholic World Monarchy in Spain and the New World, 1492-1825.
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Citation Linkwww.britannica.comRichard J. Mayne. "history of Europe:: The Middle Ages". Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18 April 2009.
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Citation Linkwww.historyguide.orgSteven Kreis (11 October 2006). "The Origins of the Industrial Revolution in England". Historyguide.org. Retrieved 31 January 2010.
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Citation Linkwww.dialogcampus.huVértesy, László (2018). "Macroeconomic Legal Trends in the EU11 Countries" (PDF). Public Governance, Administration and Finances Law Review. Vol. 3. No. 1. 2018.
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