- region of ancient times at the E end of the Mediterranean
- country in the NW part of this region, south of Turkey: formerly a French mandate, it became an independent republic (1944-58); united with Egypt to form the United Arab Republic (1958-61); union dissolved (1961): 71,498 sq mi (185,180 sq km); cap. Damascus
A country of southwest Asia on the eastern Mediterranean coast. Ancient Syria also included Lebanon, most of present-day Israel and Jordan, and part of Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Settled c. 2100 BC by Amorites, the region was later conquered by Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. Islam was introduced in the seventh century by Muslim Arab conquerors. Syria was a province of the Ottoman Empire from 1516 until 1918, and the part comprising present-day Syria and Lebanon became a French League of Nations mandate in 1920. Separated from Lebanon by the French, Syria achieved full independence in 1946. In 1958 it merged with Egypt to form the United Arab Republic, which disintegrated in 1961. Damascus is the capital and the largest city.