Skip to main content

Greater Syria


Pre-1914 name for present-day Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan.

Until World War I the name Syria generally referred to Greater or geographical Syria, which extends from the Taurus Mountains in the north to the Sinai in the south, and between the Mediterranean in the west and the desert in the east. The name was first given by the Greeks to the city of Tyrus (now Tyre)Sur in Arabicand then applied by them to the whole of the province.

The early Arabs referred to Greater Syria as Bilad al-Sham; in Arabic al-Sham means left or north. Bilad al-Sham is so called because it lies to the left of the holy Kaʿba in Mecca, and also because those who journey thither from the Hijaz bear to the left or north. Another explanation is that Syria has many beauty spotsfields and gardensheld to resemble the moles (shamat) on a beauty's face.

The term Syria, referring to greater or geographical Syria, began to be used again in the political and administrative literature of the nineteenth century. The Ottoman Empire then established a province of Syria, and more than one newspaper using the term Suriyya in its name was published at the time. In 1920, Greater Syria was partitioned by the Allies of World War I into present-day Syria, Greater Lebanon, Palestine, and Transjordan.

See also sinai peninsula; taurus mountains; tyre.


Hourani, Albert. Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 17981939. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Le Strange, Guy. Palestine under the Moslems: A Description of Syria and the Holy Land from a.d. 650 to 1500 (Translated from the Works of the Mediaeval Arab Geographers). New York: AMS Press, 1975.

abdul-karim rafeq

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Greater Syria." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . 19 Aug. 2019 <>.

"Greater Syria." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . (August 19, 2019).

"Greater Syria." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Retrieved August 19, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.