Southern European Countries

Fifteen countries of Southern Europe.
Fifteen countries of Southern Europe.

Southern Europe, also known as Mediterranean Europe, comprises fifteen countries, and has a total population of more than 150 million people. Some of the major countries in the region include Spain, Italy, and Greece. 

Countries/territories of Southern Europe are

The region was also home to two of the most influential civilizations: ancient Greece and Rome. Ancient Greece was one of the most scientifically and culturally advanced societies in history. Its alphabet is the ancestor of all modern European alphabets. On the other hand, ancient Rome had a significant impact on Western ideas of military, government, and laws. Its laws and court systems have served as the foundation of modern Western justice systems.

Largest Countries In Southern Europe By Area And Population

The three largest countries in Southern Europe by area are Spain (505,370 sq. km), Italy (301,340 sq. km), and Greece (131,957 sq. km). The three smallest countries in the region by area are Vatican City (0.44 sq. km), San Marino (61 sq. km), and Malta (316 sq. km).

The three most populous countries of Southern Europe are Italy (60,297,400), Spain (47,076,780), and Greece (10,716,320). The three least populous countries of the region are Vatican City (825), San Marino (33,860), and Andorra (77,140).

Peninsulas Of Southern Europe

Three of Europe’s five main peninsulas are in southern Europe: Iberian, Italian, and Balkan and house the Southern European countries.

The Iberian Peninsula Countries - Spain, Portugal, Andorra

Iberian Peninsula map
Iberian Peninsula Map with the three countries of Spain, Portugal, and Andorra.

The Iberian Peninsula is found in the southwest corner of Europe and is home to Spain, Portugal, and Andorra. Spain occupies about 85% of the peninsula, with a total area of 505,370 sq. km. Andorra is one of Europe’s smallest states. Portugal has a total area of 92,090 square km and a population of more than 10 million people. 

In 206 BCE, the Romans conquered the Carthaginians and colonized the Iberian Peninsula for more than 600 years. Thus, Roman influence is prevalent throughout the area. An example of this is the languages spoken in the region. Castilian, Portuguese, Catalan, and Galician derived from Latin that the Romans brought over during their conquest. 

In addition to the languages, the Romans introduced Christianity to the peninsula. Today, Roman Catholicism is the most prevalent religion in Spain and Portugal, with about 68% of Spaniards and 81% of Portuguese people identifying as Catholic. 

The Italian Peninsula Countries - Italy, San Marino, Vatican City

Italian Peninsula map
Italian Peninsula Map showing the three countries of Italy, San Marino, and Vatican City.

The Italian Peninsula juts out into the Adriatic Sea, Tyrrhenian Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea. Italy makes up the bulk of the peninsula, but it also includes the independent states of San Marino and the Vatican City. San Marino was founded in 301 AD and is considered the oldest republic in the world. Vatican City is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. The independent city-state is the smallest country globally, with a total area of 0.17 square miles.

According to legend, brothers Romulus and Remus founded the city of Rome in 753 BCE. Ancient Rome would produce one of the most powerful empires in its time, which would collapse in the 4th century AD. Some of the most influential figures in history, such as Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony, and Augustus, lived during this time.

Italy was also the birthplace of the Renaissance, which saw advances in art, science, literature, philosophy, and exploration. The Renaissance originated in Florence and eventually spread throughout western and northern Europe. Many experts say this period was the most important in human development since the fall of ancient Rome. 

The Balkan Peninsula - Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia

Balkan Peninsula Map
Balkan Peninsula Map showing the 9 countries.

The Balkan Peninsula is the easternmost of Europe’s southern peninsulas. It is composed of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia. Some descriptions of the Balkans also include Greece and Turkey. However, not all countries of the region are included in Southern Europe and the list varies with source.

The Byzantine Empire controlled the peninsula before the Ottoman Turks took over in the 14th and 15th centuries. 

In the early 20th century, the peninsula was divided between Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Yugoslavia. In 1992, Yugoslavia separated into Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, North Macedonia, Slovenia, and Serbia and Montenegro (which has now split into two independent countries). The Balkan Peninsula is full of diverse religions and ethnic groups and is a melting pot of European and Asian civilizations.

Perhaps one of the most important ancient civilizations in the peninsula was ancient Greece. Greece flourished during its Classical Period, a golden age that began around 480 BCE and lasted 200 years. During this time, ancient Greece made considerable advancements in Western philosophy, literature, mathematics, history, and drama. It is the birthplace of democracy and the Olympic Games. Ancient Greece is widely considered the cradle of Western civilization.

A Culturally Rich Region

Southern Europe is an area full of diverse cultures and rich histories. Each country, though sharing some cultural traits, varies significantly from its neighbor. Something all these countries share is a strong connection to the bodies of water that surround them, as a peninsula is surrounded on all three sides! 

Which Countries Make Up Southern Europe?

Southern European CountryArea (in sq. km)Population
Bosnia & Herzegovina51,1973,301,000
Vatican City0.44825
San Marino6133,860
North Macedonia25,7132,083,460

More in World Facts