Levant Explained

The Levant (, Arabic: بلاد الشام ) or Arabic: المشرق العربي ) is a geographic and cultural term referring to the region of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt".[1] The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Cyprus, Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the historic area of Greater Syria; precise definitions have varied. The Levant has been described as the "crossroads of western Asia, the eastern Mediterranean and northeast Africa".

Etymology

In earlier periods, the Levant encompassed all the "Mediterranean lands east of Italy".The term Levant, which first appeared in English in 1497, originally meant the East in general. It is borrowed from the French levant 'rising', that is, the point where the sun rises.[2] Similar etymologies are found in Ancient Greek Ἀνατολή (cf. Anatolia), Germanic Morgenland and in the Hungarian Kelet which literally means the place of rising. Most notably, "Orient" and its Latin source oriens meaning "east", is literally "rising", deriving from Latin orior "rise".

"Capitulations"

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).

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. The term became common in archaeology at that time, as many important early excavations were made then, such as Mari and Ugarit. Since these sites could not be classified as Mesopotamian, North African, or Arabian, they came to be referred to as "Levantine."

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 or contemporary events, peoples, states or parts of states in the same region, namely Cyprus, Iraq, Israel, the Palestinian territories, 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,[3] the UCLA Near Eastern Languages and Cultures department,[4] and the UCL Institute of Archaeology,[5] 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.[6] [7]

People

The largest religious and ethnic group in the Levant is Sunni Muslim Arabs, but there are also many other groups. Until the mid-20th century, there were Jews all across the Levant; now most are in Israel. There are many Christian Arabs, belonging to the Antiochian Orthodox (Greek/Eastern Orthodox), Eastern Catholic, and Oriental Orthodox churches. There are Assyrians, belonging to the Assyrian Church of the East (autonomous) and the Chaldean Catholic Church (Catholic). There are largely Sunni Muslim Kurds. There are Shia Muslims (Alawite, Twelvers, and Ismailis) and Druze. There are Armenians, mostly belonging to the Armenian Apostolic Church. There are a few Arab and Armenian Protestant Christians. There are also Latin Catholics, called Levantines or Franco-Levantines.

See also

Overlapping Regional Designations

Sub-Regional Designations

Other

References

Notes and References

  1. Harris, William W. The Levant: a Fractured Mosaic
  2. [Oxford English Dictionary]
  3. Web site: Sandra Rosendahl. Council for British Research in the Levant homepage. Cbrl.org.uk. 2006-11-28. 2010-07-05.
  4. http://www.nelc.ucla.edu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=70&Itemid=98 Biblical and Levantine studies
  5. http://www.ucl.ac.uk/archaeology/events/conferences/ancient-levant-2008/AncLevFINAL.doc. The Ancient Levant
  6. Dever, William G. "Syro-Palestinian and Biblical Archaeology", pp. 1244-1253.
  7. Sharon, Ilan "Biblical archaeology" in "Encyclopedia of Archaeology Elsevier.