Tartus, town (1995 est. pop. 130,000), W Syria, a port on the Mediterranean Sea. Olive oil is pressed, and petroleum, phosphates, fish, and agricultural produce are shipped. The town is the terminus of an Iraqi oil pipeline. Tartus occupies the ancient site of Antaradus. In A.D. 346 it was rebuilt by Constantine and came to be known, for a time, as Constantia. The town was in Byzantine hands from 968 until 1099, when it was occupied by Crusaders, who also held the town from 1102 to 1291 and renamed it Tartosa. It became famous for the manufacture of camlets, heavy cloths made from camel or goat hair. In 1183 the Knights Templars moved there and fortified the harbor. Tartus is the site of the earliest chapel dedicated to Mary; a cathedral was built around the chapel in the 12th-13th cent.

Tartus (طرطوس, also transliterated Tartous) is a city in Syria, the capital of Tartus Governorate. The city was known as Antaradus in Latin or Antartus and Tortosa by the Crusaders. Tartus is 220 km northwest of Damascus and less than one hour drive south of Latakia.


Tartus is the second largest port city on the Syrian coast after Latakia and largest city in Tartus Governorate with an estimated population of 93,000 inhabitants as of 2007. The majority of the population is ethnic Levantine Arab. However, there are about 3,000 people of Greek origin who reside mainly in the town of Al Hamidiyah just south of Tartus.
Since the start of the Iraqi War, a few thousands Iraqi nationals now reside in Tartus.

Geography and climate

The city lies on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean sea bordered by the Alawite Mountains to the east. The island of Arwad, the only inhabited in Syria, is located a few kilometers off the shore of Tartus.

Tartus occupies mostal a flat area, surrounded to the east by hills composed mainly of limestone and, in certain places around the town of Souda, basalt.

The climate is Mediterranean, with short winter months and a moderate temperature from April to October. The hills to the east of the city create an alternative environment and climate. Tartus is known for its mild weather and high precipitation. Humidity in the summer can reach 80%.


Phoenician Antaradus

The History of Tartus goes back to the 2nd millennium BC when it was founded as a Phoenician colony of Aradus. The colony was known as Antaradus (from Latina Anti-Aradus, meaning "The town facing Arwad"). Not much remains of the Phoenician Antaradus, the mainland settlement that was linked to the more important and larger settlements of Aradus, off the shore of Tartus, and the nearby site of Amrit.

Greco-Roman and Byzantine

The city was favored by emperor Constantine for its devotion to the cult of the Virgin Mary. The first chapel to be dedicated to the Virgin is said to have been built here in the 3rd century.


Muslim armies conquered Tartus under the leadership of Ayyan bin al-Samet al-Ansary in 636.


In 1123 the Crusaders built the church of Our Lady of Tortosa upon this site. It now houses this altar and has received many pilgrims. The Cathedral itself was used as a mosque after the Muslim reconquest of the city, then as a barracks by the Ottomans. It was renovated under the French and is now the city museum, containing antiquities recovered from Amrit and many other sites in the region. Nur ad-Din retrieved Tartus from the Crusaders for a brief time before it was lost again. In 1152, Tortosa was handed to the Knights Templar, who used it as a military headquarters. They engaged in some major building projects, constructing a castle with a large chapel and an elaborate keep, surrounded by thick double concentric walls. The Templars' mission was to protect the city and surrounding lands, some of which had been occupied by Christian settlers, from Muslim attack. The city of Tortosa was recaptured by Saladin in 1188, and the main Templar headquarters relocated to Cyprus. However, in Tortosa, some Templars were able to retreat into the keep, which they continued to use as a base for the next 100 years. They steadily added to its fortifications until it also fell, in 1291. Tortosa was the last outpost of the Templars on the Syrian mainland, after which they retreated to a garrison on the nearby island of Arwad, which they kept for another decade.


Tartus is an important trade center in Syria and has one of the two main ports of the country on the Mediterranean. The city port is experiencing major expansion as a lot of Iraqi imports come through the port of Tartus to aid reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

Tartus is a popular destination for tourists. The city offers good sandy beaches and several resorts. The city enjoyed major investments in the last few years. The largest being Antaradus waterfront development.


Tartus has a well developed road network and highways. The railway network connects Tartus to major cities in Syria, although only the Latakia-Tartus passenger connection is in service.

An international airport is fully operational at Al Basil, which is 80 kilometers north of Tartus. There is also a ferry boat link to the island of Arwad.

Russian Naval activity

The city hosts a Soviet-era naval supply and maintenance base, under a 1971 agreement with Syria, still staffed by Russian naval personnel. In particular, the Russian Navy's 5th Mediterranean Squadron has been using the base. It has been reported that Russia and Syria are conducting talks about permitting Russia to develop and enlarge the base in order to establish a stronger naval presence in the Mediterranean., and amidst the deteriorating Russia relations with the west in conjunction with the 2008 South Ossetia war‎ and the plans to deploy US missile defense shield in Poland, it has been asserted that President Assad has agreed to Tartus port’s conversion into a permanent Middle East base for Russia’s nuclear-armed warships. Moscow and Damascus additionally announced that it would be renovating the port, although there was no mention in the Syrian press. On september 19, ten Russian warships docked in Tartus. According to Lebanese-Syrian commentator Joseph Farah the flotilla which has been moved to Tartus consists of the Moskva cruiser and four nuclear missile submarines. According to Farah upgrades of the port facilities are already under way. Since 1992 the port has been in disrepair with only one of its three floating piers remaining operational,but the facilities now are being restored.

On Sept 22 2008, Russian Navy spokesman Igor Dygalo said the nuclear-powered Peter the Great cruiser accompanied by three other ships sailed from the Northern Fleet's base of Severomorsk on Monday. The ships will cover about 15,000 nautical miles to conduct joint maneuvers with the Venezuelan navy. Dygalo refused to comment on Monday's report in the daily Izvestia claiming that the ships were to make a stopover in the Syrian port of Tartus on their way to Venezuela. Russian officials said the Soviet-era base there was being renovated to serve as a foothold for a permanent Russian navy presence in the Mediterranean.

Main sights

The historic centre of Tartus consists of more recent buildings built on and inside the walls of the Crusader-era Templar fortress, whose moat still separates this old town from the modern city on its northern and eastern sides. Outside the fortress little historic remains can be seen, with the exception of the former cathedral of Notre-Dame of Tartus, from the 12th century. The church is now the seat of a museum. Former President Hafez Assad and his predominantly Islamic administration had promised to return the site to the Christians as a symbol of deep Christianity in Syria, however he died before this promise was executed. Assad's son, President Bashar Assad, has claimed to honor his father's promise.

Tartus and the surrounding area are rich in antiquities and archeological sites. Various important and well known sites are located within a 30-minute drive from Tartus.

Here is a list of some of the main attractions of the city:

  • The old city of Tartus.
  • Margat Castle, north of the city.
  • The historic Town of Safita.
  • Arwad island and castle.
  • The ancient cathedral of Our Lady of Tortosa, now used as the city museum.
  • Beit el-Baik Palace.
  • Hosn Suleiman Temple.
  • Mashta Al Helou resort.
  • " Drekish Town " Nature and History

Famous people

  • Dr. Abdulsalam Haykal (1978), businessman, activist, and commentator.
  • Assef Shawkat, Syrian general, and husband of Bashar al-Assad's sister, Bushra.
  • Dr. Halim Barakat, novelist, sociologist and retired research professor.
  • Jamal Suliman, actor.
  • George Wassouf, famous Arab popstar.
  • Ghassan Masoud, actor.
  • Giana Eid, actress.
  • Mohamed Abdul-Sattar Sayyed, minister of religious affairs.
  • Qussai Al-Khaoli, actor.
  • Rana Jammoul, actress.
  • Saadallah Wannous (1941-1997), playwright, and first Arab to deliver the International Theatre Day address.
  • Sheikh Saleh Al-Ali, a pre-independence Syrian revolutionary who fought against the French mandate.

Photo gallery


External links

News & Events

  • TartusThe First Complete website for Tartus news and services

Governmental Services

  • The First Complete Governmental Online Services


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