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Levant

LEVANT

LEVANT. The Levant covers the eastern Mediterranean, its islands, including Crete, Cyprus, Rhodes, Chios, and Lesbos, and the lands it borders: modern-day Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and Egypt. Around 1300, the region was under the control of a variety of different rulers, the Turco-Circassian Mamluk dynasty in Egypt and Syria, various Turkish states in western Anatolia, and the Byzantines. The Genoese controlled Chios and Lesbos and had established themselves on the Anatolian mainland and in Constantinople, while Venice controlled Crete, Negroponte, Naxos, Andros, Mykonos, Karpathos, and Santorini. The Hospitallers ruled Rhodes and, at the beginning of the fourteenth century, built a castle on the Anatolian coast at Bodrum.

From about the mid-fifteenth century, the Ottomans became increasingly dominant. They defeated the Venetians in war from 1463 to 1479 and, in the following century, destroyed the Mamluks, capturing Syria (1516) and Egypt (1517), took Rhodes from the Hospitallers (1522), and conquered Cyprus (1571). While Ottoman control of the Levant weakened thereafter, such weakness was relative, for in 1669 the Ottomans took Crete from the Venetians. As Genoese and Venetian importance declined in the area, that of France, Britain, and Holland increased. Later, Russia also became increasingly active in the region. In 1770 the Russian navy wiped out the Ottoman fleet at Cesme.

TRADE

In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Western traders, in particular those from Genoa and Venice, imported goods such as textiles, soap, cloth, wine, and war materials into the Levant and exported commodities such as slaves, grain, alum, cotton, and spices. Apart from being a producer of commodities itself, the Levant was also a central point for the transit trade in luxury items from the East.

With the Portuguese activities in the Red Sea and the opening up of the sea route to the East, the Levant suffered some decline, particularly as a region for the transit trade in luxury items such as spices, which had formed an important part of Egypt's trade. However, the area continued to be of major commercial importance into the eighteenth century and beyond.

From the late sixteenth century, the English became increasingly important in the commerce of the Levant. English trade, consisting largely of the import of woolen cloth, was to a great extent under the control of the English Levant Company in London, which was granted its first charter in 1581. Dominant through the seventeenth century, English trade went into a temporary decline in the eighteenth century, when the Marseilles merchants became the dominant European traders. The French had established close diplomatic relations with the Ottomans from the early sixteenth century. From 1661, their trade was subject to very firm royal control. The Dutch also came to play a commercial role in the Levant. The interests of these western merchants were represented by their various consuls and ambassadors, and these countries conducted much of their trade through Ottoman middlemen, who liased among the western merchants, the Ottoman authorities, and the local producers. Such middlemen tended often to be Greeks, Armenians, or Jews.

RELIGION

Throughout this period the Levant represented a world of religious plurality in which Christianity (including Greek Orthodox, Maronite, Suryani, Armenian, Catholic, and Protestant), Judaism, and Islam coexisted, and in which Muslims, Jews, and Christians very much shared a common cultural heritage. From the beginning of the seventeenth century, Catholic missionaries began to proselytize among the various eastern-rite churches. Such efforts were often successful and there were many conversions, particulary among the Suryani. The eastern churches were much concerned by the threat such missionary activity posed to their communities, and Christian authorities in Aleppo, for example, appealed to the Ottoman sultan to protect them against this religious encroachment. The Ottoman government responded, backing the local religious establishment against the interloper, less in the interests of religion than from a desire for internal stability, and they issued decrees forbidding the Christian population from changing sects.

In the eighteenth century, religion came to be used as a political lever by the great powers, each seeking to protect the interests of a particular religious community within the Ottoman Empire in an attempt to gain influence over internal Ottoman political affairs. Russia claimed to represent the interests of the Othodox community, using a clause in the Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca, concluded between Catherine the Great (ruled 17621796) and the Ottoman Empire in 1774, to justify their right to intervene in favor of the Orthodox subjects of the sultan. The French claimed to represent the Catholics, and the British concerned themselves with the Protestants.

From early on, the Holy Land attracted a growing number of pilgrims, both Christian and Muslim, visiting Jerusalem, Mecca, and Medina. Protection of the pilgrimage routes and of the Holy Cities formed an important part of the Ottoman sultan's image. While the sheer number of pilgrims could create problems for the authorities, temporarily swelling the population and placing additional strain on the resources of the cities, they also brought additional revenue. For example, in Jerusalem, the Christian pilgrims paid a tax to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Relations between the Christian pilgrims were not always harmonious, reflecting the bitter hostility between the Greek and Latin churches for control of the holy places. In 1755 the Franciscans were driven out of the Holy Sepulchre by the Greek Orthodox. Despite energetic protests from France, the Ottoman authorities supported the Greek Orthodox in this dispute.

This religious plurality was also reflected in the great ethnic mix of the Levant, which was made up of a great assortment of ethnicities. While the islands had populations of Greeks and Latins, as well as Ottoman Muslims, the great trading cities such as Aleppo were populated by a variety of different ethnic groups, for example, Greeks, Armenians, Turks, Latins, Arabs, and Kurds.

The Levant was thus a mixed world, religiously, ethnically, and linguistically, which gave rise to a vibrant cosmopolitan commercial Levantine culture. Although there were trade wars and political upheavals, and divisions between different groups and religions, the overriding feature of this world was one of fluidity and accommodation, not hard-and-fast divisions and impermeable boundaries.

See also Mediterranean Basin ; Ottoman Empire .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Brummett, Palmira. Ottoman Seapower and Levantine Diplomacy in the Age of Discovery. Albany, N.Y., 1994. Interesting presentation of the Ottomans as a naval power.

Goffman, Daniel. Izmir and the Levantine World, 15501650. Seattle, 1990. Detailed study.

Greene, Molly. A Shared World: Christians and Muslims in the Early Modern Mediterranean. Princeton, 2000. Crete in transition from Venetian to Ottoman rule.

Hamilton, Alastair, Alexander H. de Groot, and Maurits H. van den Boogert, eds. Friends and Rivals in the East: Studies in Anglo-Dutch Relations in the Levant from the Seventeenth to the Early Nineteenth Century. Leiden, 2000. A collection of articles on military, diplomatic, and commercial relations.

Kate Fleet

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Levant

Levant (ləvănt´) [Ital.,=east], collective name for the countries of the eastern shore of the Mediterranean from Egypt to, and including, Turkey. The divisions of the French mandate over Syria and Lebanon were called the Levant States, and the term is still sometimes applied to those two nations.

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"Levant." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Levant." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/levant

Levant

Levant †the East; eastern part of the Mediterranean. XV. — F. levant, sb. use (‘point where the sun rises’) of prp. of lever rise (see LEVY).
So Levantine XVII.

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"Levant." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Levant." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved October 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/levant-2

levant

levant abscond, bolt; esp. of a debtor. XVIII. perh. f. levant in sl. phr. come the l., run or throw a l., make a bet with the intention of absconding if it is lost, ult. based on Levant, as in the F. phr. faire voile en Levant ‘to be stolne, filched, or purloyned away’ (Cotgr.). But cf. Sp. levantarse con algo seize something.

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levant

le·vant / ləˈvant/ • v. [intr.] Brit., archaic run away, typically leaving unpaid debts.

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"levant." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"levant." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved October 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/levant-1

levant

levantant, Brabant, Brandt, brant, cant, enceinte, extant, gallant, Kant, levant, pant, pointe, pointes, rant, scant •confidant • commandant • hierophant •Rembrandt • Amirante •gallivant •aren't, aslant, aunt, can't, chant, courante, détente, enchant, entente, grant, implant, Nantes, plant, shan't, slant, supplant, transplant, underplant •plainchant • ashplant • eggplant •house plant • restaurant •debutant, debutante •absent, accent, anent, ascent, assent, augment, bent, cement, cent, circumvent, consent, content, dent, event, extent, ferment, foment, forewent, forwent, frequent, gent, Ghent, Gwent, lament, leant, lent, meant, misrepresent, misspent, outwent, pent, percent, pigment, rent, scent, segment, sent, spent, stent, Stoke-on-Trent, Tashkent, tent, torment, Trent, underspent, underwent, vent, went •orient • comment • portent •malcontent

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