The Levant denotes a vast geographical region situated in the Eastern Mediterranean. The area termed as the Levant does not have fixed boundaries and it changes over time. The countries which comprise the Levant are characterized by similar linguistic, cultural, and religious traits. These countries and regions are Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Turkey (Hatay Province), Israel, Jordan, and Palestine. A broader definition of the Levant roughly refers to the territory from Greece to Egypt.
The ancient history of the Levant includes what was occupied by the Akkadian Empire, Amorite kingdom, Hittite Kingdom, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Seleucids, Byzantines, and Arabs. The term "Levant" was first used by the French first appeared in the English language in the late 15th century to describe the French mandate of Syria. The term Levante was used by Italians while referring to maritime commerce in East Mediterranean. The Levant eventually came to refer to the Muslim nations of Egypt and Syria- Palestine. England established the Levant Company to trade with the Ottoman Empire in 1581. The French followed suit by establishing the Compagnie du Levant in 1670. The Levant States after the Second World War denoted the French mandate over Lebanon and Syria. In the contemporary era, the term Levant crops up in prehistoric and medieval references.
The word Levant was first used in English in 1497 to refer to the Mediterranean islands east of Italy. It comes from the French term for rising. The term has its origin in the Latin word levare which translates to ‘lift, raise.' The word levant means rising or east in other languages such as Hungarian, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Germanic, or Catalan. The Levant’s meaning has been subjected to changes over time. It is used to denote the native populations of the region while it initially referred to the European residents in the area. The Levant’s inclusion in English coincided with the period when English merchants ventured into the Mediterranean for commerce.
Politics, Culture, and Religion Of The Levant
The population of the Levant is estimated to be 44,550,926, most of whom are Arabs as well as Jews, Kurds, Armenians, Turkmens, and Assyrians. Different religions have been embraced in the region throughout history, often depending on the empire in power. Such religions include Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. In the modern day, Islam is the dominant religion, and most of the adherents are affiliated to Sunni, Shia, or Salafi branches. Jews in the Levant have suffered exclusion, and most of them have settled in Israel. Levantine Christian groups in the region include Maronite, Protestant, Oriental, Greek Orthodox, and Roman Catholic. Other Christian congregations are the Assyrian Church of the East, Armenian Apostolic Church, and the Chaldean Catholic Church. Some of the countries of the Levant have experienced political conflicts, most recently Iraq and Syria. The issue of radicalization has also brought tensions in some countries. A Sunni militia group referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant has made headlines the world over for its ideologies and violent assaults.
Languages Of The Levant Region
The primary language spoken by populations in the Levant region is Levantine Arabic or Mediterranean Arabic. Hebrew and Greek are the main languages in Israel and Cyprus. Other languages spoken in the area are Turkish, Armenian, Aramaic, and English/French.