Geography > Levant
The Levant (/ləˈvænt/; Arabic: المشرق /ʔal-maʃriq/) is an approximate historical geographical term referring to a large area in the eastern Mediterranean. In its widest historical sense, the Levant included all of the eastern Mediterranean with its islands, that is, it included all of the countries along the eastern Mediterranean shores, extending from Greece to Cyrenaica. The term Levant entered English in the late 15th century from French. It derives from the Italian Levante, meaning "rising", implying the rising of the sun in the east. As such, it is broadly equivalent to the Arabic term Mashriq, 'the land where the sun rises'. The western counterpart in Arabic is the Maghreb, and Ponente in Italian, meaning 'west, where the sun sets'.
In the 13th and 14th centuries, the term levante was used for Italian maritime commerce in the eastern Mediterranean, including Greece, Anatolia, Syria-Palestine, and Egypt, that is, the lands east of Venice. Eventually the term was restricted to the Muslim countries of Syria-Palestine and Egypt. In 1581 England set up the Levant Company to monopolize commerce with the Ottoman Empire.
The name Levant States was used to refer to the French mandate over Syria and Lebanon after World War I. This is probably the reason why the term Levant has come to be used synonymously with Syria-Palestine. Some scholars misunderstood the term thinking that it derives from the name of Lebanon. Today the term is typically used in conjunction with prehistoric or ancient historical references. It has the same meaning as Syria-Palestine or the region of Syria (Arabic: الشام /ʔaʃ-ʃaːm/), that is, it means an area bounded by the Taurus Mountains of Turkey in the North, the Mediterranean Sea in the west, and the north Arabian Desert and Mesopotamia in the east. It does not include Anatolia (the former Asia Minor, now Asian Turkey; although at times Cilicia may be included), the Caucasus Mountains, or any part of the Arabian Peninsula proper. The Sinai Peninsula (Asian Egypt) is sometimes included, though more considered an intermediate, peripheral or marginal area forming a land bridge between the Levant and northern African Egypt.[not verified in body]
The Levant has been described as the "crossroads of western Asia, the eastern Mediterranean and northeast Africa", and the "northwest of the Arabian plate".