Lebanon (/ (
Arabic: لبنان Lubnān;
French: Liban), officially known as the Lebanese Republic
[nb 2] (
Arabic: الجمهورية اللبنانية al-Jumhūrīyah al-Lubnānīyah;
French: République libanaise), is a
sovereign state in
Western Asia. It is bordered by
Syria to the north and east and
Israel to the south, while
Cyprus is west across the
Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon's location at the crossroads of the
Mediterranean Basin and the
its rich history and shaped
a cultural identity of
 At just 10,452 km2 (4,036 sq. mi.), it is the
smallest recognized country on the entire mainland
evidence of civilization in Lebanon dates back more than seven thousand years, predating
 Lebanon was the home of the
Phoenicians and their kingdoms, a maritime culture that flourished for over a thousand years (
c. 1550–539 BC). In 64 BC, the region came under the rule of the
Roman Empire, and eventually became one of the Empire's leading centers of
Christianity. In the
Mount Lebanon range a monastic tradition known as the
Maronite Church was established. As the
Muslims conquered the region, the
Maronites held onto their religion and
identity. However, a new religious group, the
Druze, established themselves in Mount Lebanon as well, generating a religious divide that has lasted for centuries. During the
Crusades, the Maronites re-established contact with the
Roman Catholic Church and asserted their communion with Rome. The ties they established with the Latins have influenced the region into the modern era.
The region eventually was ruled by the
Ottoman Empire from 1516 to 1918. Following the collapse of the empire after
World War I, the five provinces that constitute modern Lebanon came under the
French Mandate of Lebanon. The
French expanded the borders of the
Mount Lebanon Governorate, which was mostly populated by Maronites and Druze, to include more Muslims. Lebanon gained independence in 1943, establishing
confessionalism, a unique,
Consociationalism-type of political system with a power-sharing mechanism based on religious communities.
Bechara El Khoury, President of Lebanon during the independence,
Riad El-Solh, first
Lebanese prime minister and
Emir Majid Arslan II, first
Lebanese minister of defence, are considered the founders of the modern Republic of Lebanon and are national heroes for having led the country's independence. Foreign troops withdrew completely from Lebanon on 31 December 1946.
 Lebanon has been a member of the
Organisation internationale de la francophonie since 1973.
Despite its small size,
 the country has developed a well-known
culture and has been highly influential in the Arab world. Before the
Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990), the country experienced a period of relative calm and renowned prosperity, driven by tourism, agriculture, commerce, and banking.
 Because of its financial power and diversity in its heyday, Lebanon was referred to as the "Switzerland of the East" during the 1960s,
 and its capital,
Beirut, attracted so many tourists that it was known as "the
Paris of the Middle East".
 At the end of the war, there were extensive efforts to revive the economy and rebuild national infrastructure.
 In spite of these troubles, Lebanon has the highest
Human Development Index and
GDP per capita in the Arab world, to the exclusion of the
oil-rich economies of the Persian Gulf.