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The Orient (from sol oriens , " rising sun "), later also called the Orient , is originally one of the four Roman regions of the world . On the Roman axis between north ( midnight ) and south ( noon ) lies the Orient, the region of the world in the east, opposite the Occident ( Occident , from sol occidens , "setting sun") with the regions in the west.

Change of meaning

The term Orient is subject to historical changes and was (and is still today) shaped by different discourses. Geographical, political, linguistic and cultural considerations play a role in the attempt to make more precise statements about the term Orient.

Originally the term "Orient" or "Morgenland" functioned as a directional indication (see sunrise), whereby the reference location could vary depending on the speaker's location. The word “Orient” in the Old Testament stood for the areas east of Israel and Judah. With the shift of the cultural centers in the consciousness of Western Christianity to Central and Western Europe, the "Orient" also shifted westward. As a result, in the European High Middle Ages the areas of the Eastern Churches (parts of Eastern Europe, Southeastern Europe, the Balkans ) were "in the Orient".

The term was taken up again in the context of the regions of the world defined by the Romans (Latin: plagae mundi ). The name plaga orientalis meant one of four regions of the world. In Greek today the Orient is called anatoli (ανατολή, see Anatolia ) and in Italian and Spanish levante (present participle to levare “to rise”). The geographical term Levante refers to the countries bordering the eastern Mediterranean.

The meaning of the term changed over the course of history. The Orient never existed as a cohesive empire or as a state. During modern times it became the name for a fixed geographical and cultural area in the German-speaking area. In the 19th century the term “Orient” finally acquired an enormous spectrum of meanings. At that time the term referred to the entire Asian world, i.e. the Arab countries, Iran , India , China and Japan . In addition, the countries of Southeast Europe, which at that time belonged to the Ottoman Empire , and the Balkans were also counted as part of the Orient. In addition to these areas lying to the east from a Central and Western European perspective, the term “Orient” also actually encompassed areas lying south from this perspective. In the 19th century almost all of the African continent was counted as part of the Orient. In addition, even Spain , southern Italy, Crete and Cyprus were sometimes considered to be oriental.

Today's usage tends to relate the term to the Middle East and the Arab - Islamic world - including Turkey , Iran, Afghanistan and North Africa , but without the Islamic states of South and Southeast Asia (see MENA region , Greater Middle East ). In geopolitical considerations, the Islamic countries between Morocco and Afghanistan are often grouped together as the Middle East . The study area is partly expanded to include countries from southern Central Asia .

"Orient" in other languages

In English, the term Orient is still used today to refer to the South Asian countries India and Pakistan , East Asian countries such as China and Japan, and the Southeast Asian countries Indonesia , Thailand and the Philippines . Accordingly, these countries sometimes also define themselves as oriental , as can be seen on the Shanghai television tower, the Oriental Pearl Tower .

Cultural aspect

In addition to the geographical- political aspect, the Orient also has a religious-cultural aspect. The area known as the Orient today includes all Islamic countries, which is why "Orient and Islam [...] were often thought together".

The oriental world inspired many poets and writers, see Goethe's West-Eastern Divan , Hesse's novel Morgenlandfahrt , Hauff's The Story of Little Muck and Karl May's so-called Orient cycle . They provided stereotypes about the Orient for many generations . The literature mentioned is based on a romantic transfiguration of the Orient, as it could only emerge after 1683, when, with the withdrawal of the Ottoman troops at the end of the Second Turkish Siege of Vienna, the risk of a conquest by the East was estimated to be lower for Europe. The Orient from Egypt to China became a dream world in the 18th and 19th centuries, which was imaginatively depicted in the paintings of the orientalists . Domes and arches of Ottoman and Moorish sacred and palace buildings were found in a completely different context in the orientalizing architecture of major European cities.

Within a discourse held in the 19th and 20th centuries, the term “Orient” or “East” also meant India characterized as spiritually in contrast to a “West” perceived as materialistic.

A single feature that is suitable for determining and delimiting the different concepts of the Orient cannot be found. Instead, similarities and lines of relationship within the phenomena that are part of the Orient become recognizable, which Andrea Polaschegg describes with Ludwig Wittgenstein's theory of family resemblance . The term Orient therefore encompasses a loosely connected construct with blurred boundaries.

Since the 1970s, the concept of a separation between Orient and Occident has received severe criticism ( debate on orientalism ). Based on Edward Said's theses , which are still influential today , it was stated that the Western image of the Orient is full of unconscious prejudices and distortions that do not do justice to reality. The concept of Occident and Orient is not as old as it is claimed, but rather it did not arise until the 18th century.

See also


  • Abbas Amin: Egyptomania and Orientalism: Egypt in German travel literature (1175–1663). With a chronological directory of the travelogues (383–1845) . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2013 (= Studies on German Literature, Vol. 202) e- ISBN 978-3-11-029923-6 ISBN 978-3-11-029893-2 .
  • Manfred Escher: The geographical design of the term Orient in the 20th century. In: Burkhard Schnepel, Gunnar Brands, Henne Schönig (eds.): Orient - Orientalistics - Orientalism: History and topicality of a debate. Transcript, Bielefeld 2011, pp. 123-149
  • Andrea Polaschegg : The other orientalism. Rules of German-Oriental Imagination in. 19th century. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, p. 63 f. (Part II, 2: Where is the Orient? )
  • Alfred Schlicht: The Arabs and Europe. 2000 years of shared history. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-17-019906-4
  • Gereon Sievernich, Hendrik Budde (ed.): Europe and the Orient 800–1900. (An exhibition of the 4th Festival of World Cultures Horizons '89 in the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, May 28 – August 27, 1989) Bertelsmann Lexikon Verlag, Gütersloh / Munich 1989, ISBN 978-3-570-05076-7
  • Michael Sommer : The Roman Orient. Between the Mediterranean and the Tigris. Konrad Theiss, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-8062-1999-0 .
  • Reinhard Stewig : The Orient as a geosystem . Leske + Budrich. Opladen 1977, ISBN 978-3-8100-0213-6 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Orient  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Orient  - Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. http://kulturshaker.de/orientalismus-das-morgenland-als-projektion/
  2. Hardy Ostry, Gerrit F. Schlomach: Front and Middle Orient bloodiest region of the world. Brief political report. Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, January 31, 2006, country map p. 2
  3. ↑ The Near East and Middle East. University of Hamburg
  4. http://kulturshaker.de/orientalismus-das-morgenland-als-projektion/
  5. http://kulturshaker.de/orientalismus-das-morgenland-als-projektion/
  6. Andrea Polaschegg, 2005, p. 97 f.