Levant [Ital.,=east], collective name for the countries of the eastern shore of the Mediterranean from Egypt to, and including, Turkey. The divisions of the French mandate over Syria and Lebanon were called the Levant States, and the term is still sometimes applied to those two nations.

The Levant is a geographical term that denotes a large area in Western Asia, roughly bounded on the north by the Taurus Mountains, on the south by the Arabian Desert, and on the west by the Mediterranean Sea, while on the east it extends into Upper Mesopotamia; however, some definitions include nearly all of Mesopotamia. The term Levant is somewhat synonymous with the term Mashriq derived from the Arabic consonantal root sh-r-q (ش ر ق), relating to "the east" or "the sunrise". An imprecise term, Levant refers to an area of cultural habitation rather than to a specific geographic region.

The Levant forms the middle part of the Fertile Crescent, between the Nile Valley (Egypt) to the south-west, and Mesopotamia (Iraq) to the east. It consists of Syria, israel, Lebanon and Jordan.


The Levant measures about east to west and north to south. It has an area of approximately . Its lowest point is the surface of the Dead Sea, below sea level. Its highest point is the peak of Qurnat as Sawda', above sea level.


The term Levant, which first appeared in English in 1497, originally meant a wider sense of "Mediterranean lands east of Venetia". It derives from the Middle French levant, the participle of lever "to raise" — as in soleil levant "rising Sun" — from the Latin levare. It thus referred to the Eastern direction of the rising Sun from the perspective of those who first used it and has analogues in other European languages, notably morgenland -or a closely related word meaning morning land- in most Germanic languages. As such, it is broadly equivalent to the Arabic term Mashriq, "the land where the Sun rises".

It is similar to the Ancient Greek name Ανατολία (Anatolía) which means the "land of the rising Sun", or simply the East. It derives from ανατολή = “the rise, especially the sunrise”, resp. from ἀνατέλλω = to rise, esp. said of the Sun or Moon (ἀνά = up, above + τέλλω = to go, rise, come into existence). For the Greeks, Ανατολία (Anatolía) is a synonym of Μικρά Ασία (Mikrá Asía = Asia Minor), not of Levant.


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

When the United Kingdom took over Palestine in the aftermath of the First World War, some of the new rulers adapted the term pejoratively to refer to inhabitants of mixed Arab and European descent and to Europeans (usually French, Italian, or Greek) who had "gone native" and adopted local dress and customs.

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."

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 Israel and the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Jordan,and Syria.

Further uses

The name Levantine is additionally applied to people of Italian (especially Venetian and Genoese), French, or other Euro-Mediterranean origin who have lived in Turkey or the East Mediterranean coast (the Levant) since the period of the Crusades, the Byzantine period and the Ottoman period. The majority of them are descendants of traders from the maritime republics of the Mediterranean (such as the Republic of Venice, the Republic of Genoa and the Republic of Ragusa) or of the inhabitants of Crusader states (especially the French Levantines in Turkey and Lebanon). They continue to live in İstanbul (mostly in the districts of Galata, Beyoğlu and Nişantaşı) and İzmir (mostly in the districts of Bornova and Buca).


See also


  • 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 3981067428
  • Levantine Heritage Site. Includes many oral and scholarly histories, and genealogies for some Levantine Turkish families.

External links

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