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Ancient Occident of the Roman Empire

"Occident" is a term for the West, traditionally comprising anything that belongs to the Western world. It is the antonym of Orient, the Eastern world. In English, it has largely fallen into disuse. The term "occidental" is often used to describe objects from the Occident but can be considered an outdated term by some. The term originated with geographical divisions mirroring the cultural divide between the Greek East and the Latin West, and the political divide between the Western and Eastern Roman Empires.


The term "Occident" derives from the Latin word occidens meaning "west" (lit. setting < occido fall/set). The use of the word for "setting" to refer to the west (where the sun sets) has analogs from many languages: compare the terms "Arevmutk" in Armenian: արեւմուտք (Armenian Arevmutk means "West" or "Sunset"), "Ponant" (< French ponant "setting"), "Zapad" Russian: Запад (< Russian zakat Russian: закат "sunset"). In Arabic, the Maghreb "maḡrib" Arabic: مَغْرِب (< Arabic ḡarb غَرْب‎ "to go down, to set") literally means "the sunset", "the west". Historically, the Maghreb was the southern part of the Western Roman Empire. In IsiZulu, the term "Ntshonalanga" for 'west' means 'where the sun sets' and analogously the term 'Mpumalanga' means 'where the sun rises'.

Another word for Occident in German is Abendland (rarely: "Okzident"), now mainly poetic, which literally translates as "evening land". The antonym "Morgenland" is also mainly poetic, and refers to Asia.

The opposite term "Orient" derives from the Latin word oriens, meaning "east" (lit. "rising" < orior " rise").

History of the term[edit]

The adjectival term "Occidental" has been used to mean cultures, peoples, countries, European rugs, and goods from the Occident. "Occidental" means generally "western". It is a traditional designation (especially when capitalized) for anything belonging to the Occident or "West" (for Europe), and especially of its Western culture. It indicated the western direction in historical astronomy, often abbreviated "Occ".[1]

In more local uses, "occidental" is also used for western parts of countries, especially in Romance languages. Examples include the "oriental" and "occidental" provinces of Mindoro and Negros in the Philippines, and the French département of Pyrénées-Orientales.

In Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of its Enemies (2004), Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit said that nationalist and nativist resistance to the West replicates Eastern-world responses against the socioeconomic forces of modernization, which originated in Western culture, among utopian radicals and conservative nationalists who viewed capitalism, liberalism, and secularism as forces destructive of their societies and cultures.[2] While the early responses to the West were a genuine encounter between alien cultures, many of the later manifestations of Occidentalism betray the influence of Western ideas upon Eastern intellectuals, such as the supremacy of the nation-state, the Romantic rejection of rationality, and the spiritual impoverishment of the citizenry of liberal democracies.

Buruma and Margalit trace that resistance to German Romanticism and to the debates, between the Westernizers and the Slavophiles in 19th century Russia, and show that like arguments appear in the ideologies of Zionism, Maoism, Islamism, and Imperial Japanese nationalism. Nonetheless, Alastair Bonnett rejects the analyses of Buruma and Margalit as Eurocentric, and said that the field of Occidentalism emerged from the interconnection of Eastern and Western intellectual traditions.[3][4][5]


  1. ^ Hooke, Robert. 1666. Drawing of Saturn in Philosophical Transactions (Royal Society publication) Volume 1
  2. ^ Hari, Johann (2004-08-15). "Occidentalism by Ian Buruma & Avishai Margalit". The Independent. Retrieved 2013-01-29.[dead link]
  3. ^ Shlapentokh, Dmitry (July 2, 2005). "Changing perceptions". Asia Times. Archived from the original on January 5, 2019. Retrieved 2013-01-29.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  4. ^ Martin Jacques (2004-09-04). "Review: Occidentalism by Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-01-29.
  5. ^ "Occidentalism by Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit". The New York Review of Books. 2002-01-17. Retrieved 2013-01-29.

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