The Aegean islands are the peaks of an ancient land called Aegeis that sunk under the sea millions of years ago and, as a result, they are scattered today in the three-continent crossroad. The Aegean is the sea, the volcanic activity, the life motion, the communication network, the cultural interaction between people.
The historical, social and economic conditions of the insular landscape of the Aegean led to the formation of a particular identity defined by the transcendence of its maritime borders.
The dual role of the sea that both connects and separates people fostered trading, communications and innovation. The limited but valuable wealth-producing resources and the dynamic insular communities played an important role in the formation of the insular identity. Ever since Antiquity, the Aegean Sea fostered the interaction among various communities and social groups, many of which had come in contact with each other very early on. The plethora of archaeological findings that include works of art, raw materials, settlements, shipwrecks, cemeteries, as well as evidence of intellectual products, ideas exchange and cultural knowledge confirms the utilization of these ancient communication routes.
The Aegean Sea with its turbulent palaeogeography and history is mainly characterized by the long-term presence and perpetual creativity of its people. These timeless factors gradually created a distinct “experiential Aegean identity” expressed through symbols, cognitive processes, lifestyle and perception. As a result, a peculiar culture and a particular cultural identity were formed in the Aegean favored by this insular environment.
The insularity, the minimum availability of natural resources, the small populations, the isolation, the history and, last but not least, the unique and fragile natural and cultural environment are all part of the Aegean identity. This particular identity exists both on biological and cultural level.
The cultural identity of the Aegean is defined by the quality of its natural and cultural resources, its inexhaustible natural and cultural capital and the strong cultural impact the area has had over the centuries.
A variety of cultural and social phenomena have appeared within this insular area from the Paleolithic era to the present days. One would think that the Aegean is an “imaginary place”, a place of ancient and contemporary poets, sailors and travelers.
The Aegean developed its own spirit away from the endless valleys of the Nile and Euphrates, acquired human speech and poetic meter, sang to Homer, talked to Elytis, told stories to the sculptors of the ancient marbles and got the blessing of the Sun.
The Aegean is a small place with many stories.