The Port of Mersin is a relatively new town on the Mediterranean Sea in southeast Turkey where the cities date back thousands of years. It is about 25 kilometers southwest of the city of Tarsus and about 90 nautical miles northwest of the Port of Lattakia in Syria. In 2000, almost 538 thousand people called the Port of Mersin home.
The Port of Mersin is the base for the city's economy. The Mersin Free Zone, the first of its kind in Turkey, is adjacent to the port. The artificial harbor at the Port of Mersin exports minerals and agricultural products from southeast Anatolia and the Cilician Plain. The city is the location for one of the biggest oil refineries in Turkey. The city is linked by rail to the Istanbul-Baghdad railway and by ferry to the island of Cyprus.
The Port of Mersin was built by the Roman Empire, but people inhabited the region long before that. The ruins of an unknown ancient settlement stand near the city, and the remains of the Roman harbor of Soli-Pompeiopolis are to the immediate west. Three kilometers north of today's Port of Mersin is a mount called Yumuk Tepesi where archaeologists have found evidence of a Neolithic settlement where a fortified village stood as early as 3600 BC but was abandoned after Pompeiopolis was built.
As part of the Roman Empire, the Port of Mersin was the port for Tarsus, the capital of the Cilicia Province. The Romans called it Zephyrium and later renamed it to Hadrianopolis to honor the Roman Emperor Hadrian.
When Rome split into western and eastern empires, the Port of Mersin became part of the Byzantine Empire, and it lost much of its appeal to the Byzantine center of Constantinople. An early city in the Christian community, it become a bishopric for the church. It is still a titular see for the Roman Catholic Church, although the bishopric has been vacant since 1966.
With the fall of the Byzantine Empire, the Port of Mersin, like the rest of Anatolia, had many masters. Invaders moved through like waves: Arabs, Egyptian Tulunids, Seljuk Turks, Mongols, Crusaders, Armenians, Mamluks, and Anatolian Beyliks. When it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1473, the Port of Mersin finally came under stable rule.
During the Civil War in the United States, the Cilician region started importing large volumes of cotton to meet the demand created by the shortage in US southern cotton. The railroad came to the Port of Mersin to bring cotton for export, and the city grew into an important trade center.
By the early 20th Century, the city had about 18 thousand residents, most of them non-Muslim. At that time, the Port of Mersin was about 44% Greek, 11% Roman Catholic, 1% Armenian, and almost 40% Muslim.
British and French troops occupied the Port of Mersin in 1918 at the end of World War I under the Treaty of Sevres. The Turkish army liberated the Port of Mersin in 1920, and after the Republic of Turkey was established in 1923, Mersin became a province. In 1933, Icel province was created with the merger of the former Mersin and Icel provinces.
Through the 1970s, the Port of Mersin remained a picturesque provincial center with seaside orchards and clean empty beaches. Today, it is a busy modern city quickly spreading out along the coastline. It is home to the second tallest skyscraper in Turkey, and the Port of Mersin contains large luxurious hotels, expensive sea- and hillside real estate, an opera house, and many modern urban features.
The Port of Mersin has added walkways and parks lined with statues and palm trees to its shoreline. The city center in the Port of Mersin is a maze of narrow streets lined with shops and cafes. The fish market in the old quarter is filled with stalls selling the traditional tantuni. The city also takes advantage of ample sunshine: solar panels are on top of most buildings in the Port of Mersin. Turkey is planning to build its first nuclear power plant in the Port of Mersin.