Set in the heart of the Çukurova (Cilician) Plain, Turkey’s fourth largest city Adana has a history that goes back as far as the 7th millennium BC. The numerous civilizations that occupied and dominated the land left layers of archaeological treasures, clues for the region’s complex past. While history buffs can enjoy exploring the ruins of ancient cities, nature-lovers find repose breathing the cool, clean air on the slopes and plateaus of the Taurus Mountains.
Adana is one of those rare cities that have remained important throughout history. Occupying a key strategic location on both the trading routes and military roads, Adana has been settled ceaselessly while the civilizations ruling the city have changed sporadically. Eighteen civilizations have ruled the city with each leaving their imprint, whether a building, monument or inscription, as if trying to make their dominion eternal over the region.
Each civilization that coveted and won the region can today be traced in the ruins they left behind. The mysteries of the civilizations that have played a role in the history of Adana are sometimes concealed in ancient cities and sometimes in earthen mounds that crop up on the plains around the cities. There are more than ten significant ancient settlements in the province that amply demonstrate the historical and cultural wealth to which modern Adana is heir.
The ancient city of Misis is located on the banks of the Ceyhan River on the highway between Adana and Ceyhan. The history of this ancient settlement, called Yakapınar today, goes back three millennia to the Hittite Period when the city was built on the primary military and trading roads. The nine-arch Misis Bridge across the Ceyhan River was built in the 4th century AD during the Roman Era and the Misis Mosaics Museum houses mosaics found in local excavations. Near the coastal town of Yumurtalık are the ruins of the ancient city of Ayas. The city includes ruins of Asclepeion. Other structures worth visiting in town are the Liman (Harbour) Castle, the Tower of Süleyman and Marco Polo’s pier Magarsus that was established on the land stretching from the sea cliffs to the present day village of Küçük Karataş. It was the religious centre of the ancient city of Mallos, which was one of the prime cities of ancient Cilicia, renowned for its temples, in particular, for the Temple of Athena where Alexander the Great once prayed. The ancient city of Anazarbus (Anavarza), included in the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List, became the capital of Cilicia in 408. It is an open-air museum, showcasing a superb triumphal arch, fortress, columns and two mosaic-paved pools. Şar was an important centre for the Hittites, with the most striking structure being the Ala Gate- part of a temple erected in the 2nd century AD during the Roman Era. Revealing the secret history of Adana, the excavations in present day neighbourhood of Tepebağ are in progress. Findings from the Tepebağ mound include ancient artefacts and fine examples of late Ottoman civilian architecture.