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For other uses of the terms Levant, Levante or Levantine, see Levant (disambiguation).

The Levant is an imprecise geographical term historically referring to a large area in the Middle East south of the Taurus Mountains, bounded by the Mediterranean Sea on the west, and by the northern Arabian Desert and Upper Mesopotamia to the east. The Levant does not include the Caucasus Mountains, any part of the Arabian Peninsula proper, or Anatolia — although at times Cilicia may be included. The Sinai Peninsula may also be included, but may be excluded as a marginal area forming a land bridge between the Levant and northern Egypt. At times Levantine cultures and peoples dominated the region between the Sinai and the Nile river, but that region is usually excluded from the geographical Levant. For what the Levant has been called by natives and others over time, see Names of the Levant.

See also: Levanter

[edit] Etymology

The term Levant is first attested in English in 1497, (This can't be true. Levant and Outremer were interchangeable during the time of the Crusades, which began in 1095) originally used in the wider sense of "Mediterranean lands east of Italy." 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. As such, it is broadly equivalent to the Arabic term Mashriq, "the land where the sun rises."

An alternative, though unlikely, etymology suggests that the term stems from Lebanon — noting that Spanish translators of Arabic would use the letters b and v interchangeably as a consequence of their Spanish pronunciations. Thus, the Levant would refer to the areas surrounding Lebanon, itself deriving from the Aramaic word for white in reference to the snow-capped Lebanese mountains.

Image:Modern Levant.PNG
The modern 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.

The name Levantine is applied to people of Italian (especially Venetian and Genoese), French, or other Mediterranean origin who live in Turkey since the Ottoman period. The majority of these people 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). They continue to live in İstanbul (mostly in the districts of Beyoğlu and Nişantaşı) and İzmir (mostly in the districts of Bornova and Buca).

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 at Ebla, 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 most 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. But the term is still employed occasionally to refer to modern or contemporary events, peoples, states, or parts of states in the same region, namely Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories.

It is also commonly used to refer to the regions of Valencia and Murcia in southeastern Spain.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  • Braudel, Fernand, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Phillip II

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