The Port of Tartous lies on Syria's western shores on the Mediterranean Sea about 42 nautical miles (about 80 kilometers by land) south of the Port of Lattakia. The Port of Tartous is the capital of the Tartus Governorate and one of the country's two major ports.
Today, the Port of Tartous is undergoing major expansions, as imports destined for Iraq's reconstruction arrive here. Offering beautiful sandy beaches and many resorts, the Port of Tartous is also a popular tourist destination. In 2008, about 118 thousand people lived in the Port of Tartous.
An ancient city, the Phoenicians founded the colony of Aradus and the city of Antradus at the site of the present Port of Tartous in the 2nd Millennium BC. More important Phoenician settlements included the nearby Amrit.
Byzantine Emperor Constantine valued the Port of Tartous for its devotion to the Virgin Mary, and the first chapel dedicated to her was constructed in the 3rd Century. Under Muslim leader Ayyan bin al-Samet al-Ansary, Islamic armies took the Port of Tartous in 636 AD.
In 1123, Crusaders erected the church of Our Lady of Tortosa which received many pilgrims in the Port of Tartous. In 1152, the Knights Templar began using the Port of Tartous as a military headquarters, and they constructed many new buildings in the city. A castle contained a large chapel and a keep surrounded by thick walls.
Saladin recaptured the Port of Tartous in 1188, and the Templars retreated to Cyprus. Still, some of the Templars withdrew to the keep and stayed there for one hundred years. The continued to fortify the keep until it finally fell in 1291. The keep at the Port of Tartous was the Templars last stronghold in Syria. In 1291, the Christians were expelled from the city, and it became part of the Mamluk Empire.
After the Port of Tartous was re-conquered by the Muslims, it was converted to a mosque. Later, the Ottoman Turks used it as barracks. Today, it is the Port of Tartous' museum, containing many artifacts from Amrit and other archaeological sites in the area.
In 1516, the Ottoman Turks conquered most of modern Syria and Lebanon, including the Port of Tartous. With Ottoman conquest came the beginning of a long economic decline for the Port of Tartous that continued into the 20th Century.
After World War I, the Port of Tartous and Syria came under the control of the French. This colonial status lasted until Syria gained independence in 1945.
Today, the Port of Tartous is a busy fishing and commercial port at the center of a productive agricultural region.