Northern Mesopotamia was disputed territory, sometimes ruled by Rome, sometimes by Persia, sometimes by local dynasties. Sometimes it was even considered to be part of Syria, a term more commonly used, rather loosely, to designate the area bounded by the Taurus Mountains in the north, the Sinai desert in the south, the Arabian desert in the east, and the Mediterranean Sea in the west. The name Syria is of uncertain origin. Herodotus explains it as a shortened form of Assyria. Modern scholars have traced it to various local place names. It first appears in Greek and has no recognizable antecedents, either in its form or in its usage, in pre-Hellenistic texts. Well established in Roman and in Byzantine official usage, this Greek term virtually disappeared after the Arab conquest in the seventh century. It remained in occasional use in Europe, especially after the revival of classical learning, and with it of Graeco-Roman terminology, that followed the Renaissance. In the Arab, and more generally, the Muslim world, the region formerly called Syria was known as Shâm, a name also given to its major city, Damascus. The name Syria — in Arabic Sûriya - makes an occasional rare appearance in geographical writings, but was otherwise unknown until the latter part of the nineteenth century, when it reappeared under European influence. It was officially adopted as the name of a province — the vilayet of Damascus — by the Ottoman administration in 1865, and first became the official designation of a country with the establishment of the French Mandate after the First World War. Of the older, local names of the country that have come down to us, the most widely used was 'Aram', after the name of the Aramaean peoples who had settled both Syria and Mesopotamia. As Mesopotamia was known as 'Aram of the Two Rivers', so were southern and northern Syria known as 'Aram of Damascus' and 'Aram of Zoba' (i.e. Aleppo).