Back-arc extension in the Aegean, which was driven by slab rollback since 45 Ma, is described here for the first time in two stages. From Middle Eocene to Middle Miocene, deformation was localized leading to (i) the exhumation of high-pressure metamorphic rocks to crustal depths, (ii) the exhumation of high-temperature metamorphic rocks in core complexes, and (iii) the deposition of sedimentary basins. Since Middle Miocene, extension distributed over the whole Aegean domain controlled the deposition of onshore and offshore Neogene sedimentary basins. We reconstructed this two-stage evolution in 3D and four steps at Aegean scale by using available ages of metamorphic and sedimentary processes, geometry, and kinematics of ductile deformation, paleomagnetic data, and available tomographic models. The restoration model shows that the rate of trench retreat was around 0.6 cm/year during the first 30 My and then accelerated up to 3.2 cm/year during the last 15 My. The sharp transition observed in the mode of extension, localized versus distributed, in Middle Miocene correlates with the acceleration of trench retreat and is likely a consequence of the Hellenic slab tearing documented by mantle tomography. The development of large dextral northeast–southwest strike-slip faults, since Middle Miocene, is illustrated by the 450 km long fault zone, offshore from Myrthes to Ikaria and onshore from Izmir to Balikeshir, in Western Anatolia. Therefore, the interaction between the Hellenic trench retreat and the westward displacement of Anatolia started in Middle Miocene, almost 10 Ma before the propagation of the North Anatolian Fault in the North Aegean.

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