|Countries and regions|| Cyprus
|Languages||Levantine Arabic, Hebrew language, Aramaic, Armenian, Circassian, Greek, Kurdish, Ladino, Turkish|
|Time Zones||UTC+02:00 (EET) (Turkey and Cyprus)|
The Levant (Arabic: الشَّام) is an approximate historical geographical term referring to a large area in Southwest Asia bounded by the Taurus Mountains of Anatolia in the North, the Mediterranean Sea in the west, and the north Arabian Desert and Mesopotamia in the east. The Levant does not include Anatolia (although at times Cilicia may be included), the Caucasus Mountains, or any part of the Arabian Peninsula proper. The Sinai Peninsula is sometimes included, though more considered an intermediate, peripheral or marginal area forming a land bridge between the Levant and northern Egypt.
The term Levant (variously interpreted as deriving from the Latin levare 'to rise', or the related French levant, also 'rising'), refers to the direction of the rising sun, from the perspective of Greek and Roman peoples. As such, it is broadly equivalent to the Arabic term Mashriq, 'the land where the sun rises'. Any similarity to "Lebanon" is merely coincidental (though Lebanon does form an important part of the region). It is typically used in conjunction with prehistoric or ancient and medieval historical references, by archaeologists and historians, as when discussing the Crusades.
Precise definitions have varied over time, and the term originally had a broader and less well-defined usage. The Levant has been described as the "crossroads of western Asia, the eastern Mediterranean and northeast Africa", and the "northwest of the Arabian plate".
Other names for the Levant include [the region of] Syria, Sham, and the Eastern Mediterranean. Historically, the region was known by a variety of names, of which the first recorded to apply to the whole region was Canaan.
The term Levant, which appeared in English in 1497, originally meant the East in general or "Mediterranean lands east of Italy". It is borrowed from the French levant 'rising', referring to the rising of the sun in the east, or the point where the sun rises. The phrase is ultimately from the Latin word levare, meaning 'lift, raise'. Similar etymologies are found in Greek Ἀνατολή (Anatolē, cf. Anatolia), in Germanic Morgenland (literally, "morning land"), in Italian (as in "Riviera di Levante", the portion of the Liguria coast east of Genoa), in Hungarian Kelet, in Spanish and Catalan Levante and Llevant, ("the place of rising"), and in Hebrew (mizrah). Most notably, "Orient" and its Latin source oriens meaning "east", is literally "rising", deriving from Latin orior "rise".
The notion of the Levant has undergone a dynamic process of historical evolution in usage, meaning, and understanding. While the term "Levantine" originally referred to the European residents of the eastern Mediterranean region, it later came to refer to regional "native" and "minority" groups.
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".
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. The French mandates of Syria and Lebanon (1920–1946) were called the Levant states.
Geography and modern-day use of the term
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, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey are sometimes considered as Levant countries (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, the UCLA Near Eastern Languages and Cultures department, Journal of Levantine Studies and the UCL Institute of Archaeology, the last of which has dated the connection between Cyprus and mainland Levant to the early Iron Age. Archaeologists seeking a neutral orientation that is neither biblical nor national have used terms such as Syro-Palestinian archaeology and archaeology of the southern Levant.
While the usage of the term "Levant" in academia has been relegated to the fields of archeology and literature, there is a recent attempt to reclaim the notion of the Levant as a category of analysis in political and social sciences. Two academic journals were recently launched: Journal of Levantine Studies, published by The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and The Levantine Review, published by Boston College.
People, religion and culture
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The populations of the Levant share not only the geographic position, but cuisine, some customs, and a very long history. The largest religious group in the Levant are the Muslims and the largest cultural-linguistic group are primarily Arab due to Arabization of the region over the centuries, but there are also many other groups.
Until the creation of the modern State of Israel in 1948, Jews lived throughout the southern Levant alongside Muslims and Christians; since then, almost all have been expelled from their homes and sought refuge in Israel.
There are many Levantine Christian groups such as Greek and Oriental Orthodox, Maronite, Roman Catholic, and Protestant. Armenians mostly belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church. There are Levantines or Franco-Levantines who are mostly Roman Catholic. There are also Circassians, Turks, Samaritans, and Nawars. There are Assyrian peoples belonging to the Assyrian Church of the East (autonomous) and the Chaldean Catholic Church (Catholic).
Most Levantine populations speak Levantine Arabic, also known as Mediterranean Arabic (شامي). In Israel, the primary language is Hebrew, while Arabic is also an official language. In Cyprus, the primary languages are Greek and Turkish, although a dialect of Levantine Arabic, Cypriot Maronite Arabic, is the most-spoken minority language. Some communities and populations speak Greek, Armenian, Circassian, French, English or other languages in addition to Levantine Arabic.
A dance native to the Levant is known as the Dabke, a folk dance of possible Canaanite or Phoenician origin. It is marked by synchronized jumping, stamping, and movement, similar to tap dancing. One version is performed by men, another by women.
Overlapping regional designations
- French post offices in the Ottoman Empire ("Levant" stamps)
- History of the Levant
- Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Referred to in current events as ISIL or ISIS)
- Levantines (Latin Christians), Catholic Europeans in the Levant
- Levantine Sea
- Population found by adding all the countries' populations (Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Hatay Province)
- The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome, Volume 1, p247, "Levant"
- The Ancient Levant, UCL Institute of Archaeology, May 2008
- Egyptian Journal of Geology - Volume 42, Issue 1 - Page 263, 1998
- Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary. "Levant". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 2012-07-27.
- Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition
- "Journal of Levantine Studies". The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
- Sandra Rosendahl (2006-11-28). "Council for British Research in the Levant homepage". Cbrl.org.uk. Retrieved 2010-07-05.
- Biblical and Levantine studies, UCLA
- "About JLS". Journal of Levantine Studies.
- Dever, William G. "Syro-Palestinian and Biblical Archaeology", pp. 1244-1253.
- Sharon, Ilan "Biblical archaeology" in Encyclopedia of Archaeology Elsevier.
- "Eastern Mediterranean Political Map - National Geographic Store". Shop.nationalgeographic.com. Retrieved 2011-10-17.
- "Ancient Ashkelon - National Geographic Magazine". Ngm.nationalgeographic.com. 2002-10-17. Retrieved 2011-10-17.
- "The state of Israel: Internal influence driving change". BBC News. 2011-11-06.
- Orfalea, Gregory The Arab Americans: A History. Olive Branch Press. Northampton, MA, 2006. Page 249
- Kaschl, Elke (2003). Dance and Authenticity in Israel and Palestine: Performing the Nation. BRILL.
- The Arab World, Volume 8. Arab Information Center. 1962.
- 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