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The Levant


The Levant

For Latin Catholics in the Ottoman Empire, see Levantines (Latin Christians). For other uses, see Levant (disambiguation) and Names of the Levant.
  Countries and regions located at the Levant region. (Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Cyprus and Hatay)

  Countries and regions sometimes included in the Levant region. (Iraq and Sinai)

  Entire territory of countries whose regions are included in the Levant region. (Turkey and Egypt)
Countries and regions  Syria
Population 47,129,325 [1]
Languages Levantine Arabic, Aramaic, Armenian, Circassian, Greek, Hebrew, Kurdish, Ladino, Turkish.
Time Zones UTC+02:00 (EET) (Turkey and Cyprus) to UTC+03:00 (Iraq)

The Levant (/ləˈvænt/, Arabic: الشام أو سوريا التاريخية al-Shaam or Historical Syria; Hebrew: כְּנָעַן Kənáʿan; Persian: شام Shumm), also known as the Eastern Mediterranean, is a geographic and cultural region consisting of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt".[2] The Levant today consists of Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Israel, and part of southern Turkey, the (Aleppo Vilayet).

Precise definitions have varied over time, and the term originally had a broader and less well-defined usage.[3] The Levant has been described as the "crossroads of western Asia, the eastern Mediterranean and northeast Africa".[4]


The term Levant, which first appeared in English in 1497, originally meant the East in general or "Mediterranean lands east of Italy".[5] It is borrowed from the French levant 'rising', that is, the point where the sun rises,[6] ultimately from Latin levare 'lift, raise'. Similar etymologies are found in Greek Ἀνατολή (Anatolē, cf. Anatolia), in Germanic Morgenland (which means, literally, "morning land"), in Italian (as in "Riviera di Levante", the portion of the Liguria coast east of Genoa), in the Hungarian Kelet, Spanish "Levante" and Catalan "Llevant" (the place of rising). Most notably, "Orient" and its Latin source oriens meaning "east", is literally "rising", deriving from Latin orior "rise".

Early European usage

The term became current in English in the 16th century, along with the first English merchant adventurers in the region; English ships appeared in the Mediterranean in the 1570s, and the English merchant company signed its agreement ("capitulations") with the Grand Turk in 1579 (Braudel). The English Levant Company was founded in 1581 to trade with the Ottoman Empire, and in 1670 the French Compagnie du Levant was founded for the same purpose. At this time, the Far East was known as the "Upper Levant".[3]

In 19th-century travel writing, the term incorporated eastern regions under then current or recent governance of the Ottoman empire, such as Greece. In 19th-century archaeology, it referred to overlapping cultures in this region during and after prehistoric times, intending to reference the place instead of any one culture.

Since World War I

The French Mandates of Syria and Lebanon, from 1920 to 1946, were called the Levant states.

Since World War II

Today "Levant" is typically used by archaeologists and historians with reference to the prehistory and the ancient and medieval history of the region, as when discussing the Crusades. The term is also occasionally employed to refer to modern events, peoples, states or parts of states in the same region, namely Cyprus, Iraq, Israel, Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria (compare with Near East, Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean and Western Asia). Several researchers include the island of Cyprus in Levantine studies, including the Council for British Research in the Levant,[7] the UCLA Near Eastern Languages and Cultures department,[8] and the UCL Institute of Archaeology,[4] the last of which has dated the connection between Cyprus and mainland Levant to the early Iron Age. Currently, a dialect of Levantine Arabic, Cypriot Maronite Arabic, is the most-spoken minority language in Cyprus. Archaeologists seeking a neutral orientation that is neither biblical nor national have utilized terms such as Syro-Palestinian archaeology and archaeology of the southern Levant.[9][10]


The largest religious group are the Muslims and the largest ethnic group are the Arabs, but there are also many other groups. Until the establishment of Israel in 1948, Jews lived throughout the southern Levant[11]; since then, excepting those living in Israel proper, only a few hundred remain.[12] There are many Christian Levantine groups belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch (Orthodox Christianity), Maronites belonging to the Eastern Catholic and Oriental Orthodoxy churches. There are Assyrian peoples belonging to the Assyrian Church of the East (autonomous) and the Chaldean Catholic Church (Catholic). There are Sunni Muslim and Yazidi Kurds. There are Shia Muslims (Alawites, Twelvers, Nizari and Druze Ismailis). There are Armenians, mostly belonging to the Armenian Apostolic Church. There are a few Arab and Armenian Protestant Christians. There are Latin Catholics called Levantines or Franco-Levantines. There are also Adyghes, Turks, Samaritans, and Nawars.


The populations of the Levant[13][14][15][16] share not only the geographic position, but cuisine, some customs, and a very long history. The Levant Muslims, Christians, Circassians and Christian Maronite Cypriots populations speak Levantine Arabic also known as Mediterranean. In Israel Hebrew, English and Russian are spoken by the Jews who also observe laws, traditions and customs of Judaism. Greek and Armenian communities have retained their own languages and customs based usually on their religion mainly. Greeks constitute the majority of the population on the island of Cyprus and form groups in Lebanon, Syria and Israel, with majority of Greeks in Cyprus and Israel being Greek Orthodox Christians, whereas Lebanon and Syria have Greek Muslim populations.

See also

Overlapping regional designations

Sub-regional designations




  • Braudel, Fernand, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Phillip II
  • Julia Chatzipanagioti: Griechenland, Zypern, Balkan und Levante. Eine kommentierte Bibliographie der Reiseliteratur des 18. Jahrhunderts. 2 Vol. Eutin 2006. ISBN 3-9810674-2-8
  • Levantine Heritage site. Includes many oral and scholarly histories, and genealogies for some Levantine Turkish families.
  • Philip Mansel, Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean, London, John Murray, 11 November 2010, hardback, 480 pages, ISBN 978-0-7195-6707-0, New Haven, Yale University Press, 24 May 2011, hardback, 470 pages, ISBN 978-0-300-17264-5
  • Cohelo, Paulo The Alchemist (Levant as wind originating from the Levant)

External links

  • France and the Levant
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