Lebanon (French: Liban; Arabic: لبنان Libnān), officially the Lebanese Republic (French: République Libanais; Arabic: الجمهورية اللبنانية Al-Jumhūrīyah Al-Libnānīyah), is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered by Syria to the north and east, Israel to the south-east, and Palestine to the south. Lebanon's location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin and the Arabian hinterland has dictated its rich history and shaped religious and ethnic diversity.
The earliest evidence of civilization in Lebanon dates back more than seven thousand years, predating recorded history. Lebanon was the home of the Phoenicians, 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 Arab 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, a religious divide that would last 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 came under the rule of the Ottoman Empire from 1516 to 1918. Following the collapse of the Empire after World War I, the five provinces that constitute modern Lebanon were mandated to France. The French expanded the borders of Mount Lebanon Governorate, which was mostly populated by Maronites and Druze, to include more Muslims. Lebanon gained independence in 1943, and French troops withdrew from Lebanon in 1946.
In the mid-20th Century, the country experienced a period of relative calm and renowned prosperity, driven by tourism, agriculture, commerce, and banking. However, the growth of Lebanon's Muslim community relative to the dominant Christian groups caused increasing strife and violence in the country. In 1975, the election of many Islamic politicians to prominent positions caused a backlash among Christian groups, ending in the right-wing, Maronite-dominated Phalange Party coming to power in a coup. With the support of far-right and anti-Muslim groups from Israel and Europe, the Phalange began a campaign against the country's Islamic population, stripping them of their rights and property and committing massacres. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims were killed or fled the country, many becoming refugees in neighbouring Palestine and Syria. Over fifteen years of rule, the Phalangists began to consolidate more and more power in their own hands. Finally, in 1990, the Lebanese Armed Forces launched a coup, purging the Phalange Party and initiating a six-month civil war against paramilitary groups associated with the Phalangists. Since 1990, Lebanon has experienced a series of coups and dictatorships, and is one of the most unstable countries in the Middle East.