Latakia or Latakiyah (اللاذقية Al-Ladhiqiyah, Λαοδικεία, transliterated as Laodicea, Laodikeia or Laodiceia, Lazkiye; Laodicea ad Mare) is the principal port city of Syria, capital of the Latakia Governorate. Its population is 554,000.
The site, on the peninsula, has been occupied for a long time. The Phoenicians had a city here named Ramitha, and to the Greeks it was known as Leukê Aktê 'white coast'. It was re-founded and named Laodicea by Seleucus I Nicator, after his mother. It was one of the four cities of the Syrian tetrapolis. It was furnished with an aqueduct by Herod the Great (Joseph. Bel. Jud. i. 21. § 11), a large fragment of which is still to be seen. Strabo mentions that Dolabella, when he fled to Laodicea before Cassius, distressed it greatly, and that, being besieged there until his death, he destroyed many parts of the city with him (43 CE). (Dict. of Biog. Vol. I. p. 1059.)
An arch from the time of Septimius Severus has survived. There seems to have been a sizable Jewish population at Laodicea in the first century (Joseph. Ant. xiv. 10 § 20). The heretic Apollinarius was bishop of Laodicea in the 4th century. The city minted coins from an early date.
It was devastated by earthquakes in 494 and 555, and captured by the Arabs of the Muslim caliphate in 638. It was taken by the Byzantine Empire in 969 and then by the Seljuks in 1084. In 1097, it was captured by Crusaders and made part of the Principality of Antioch. The Byzantines held it again from 1098 and 1100 and then Saladin took it in 1188. It was captured by the Crusader County of Tripoli in 1260 and by Qalawun in 1287. From the 16th century to World War I, it was part of the Ottoman Empire.
In the Ottoman period, the region of Latakia became predominantly Alawi. The city itself, however, contained significant numbers of Sunni and Christian inhabitants. The landlords in the countryside tended to be Sunni while the peasants were mostly Alawi. Like the Druzes who also had a special status before the end of WWI, the Alawis had a strained relationship with the Ottoman overlords. In fact, they were not even given the status of millet, although they enjoyed relative autonomy (Rabinovich, 694).
Between September 22, 1930 and 1936, Latakia was the capital of the Sanjak of Latakia, a nominally autonomous state ruled by France under a League of Nations mandate, the French Mandate of Syria. The state extended along the coast and into the mountains inland. As it did for Alaouites earlier, between 1931 and 1933 France overprinted postage stamps of Syria with "LATTAQUIE", and the Arabic version of the name underneath.
The Franco-Syrian treaty of 1936 called for the incorporation of the Alawi and Druze states into Syria. Although the French Parlement never ratified the treaty, it was implemented until 1939 when the French High-Commissioner suspended the treaty and reinstated the autonomy of the Alawi and Druze regions. After the 1943 elections, the two areas were integrated into the state of Syria.
The modern city still exhibits faint traces of its former importance, notwithstanding the frequent earthquakes with which it has been visited. The marina is built upon foundations of ancient columns, and there are in the town, an old gateway and other antiquities, as also sarcophagi and sepulchral caves in the neighbourhood. This gateway is a remarkable triumphal arch, at the southeast corner of the town, almost entire: it is built with four entrances, like the Forum Jani at Rome. It is conjectured that this arch was built in honour of Lucius Verus, or of Septimius Severus. (Description of the East, vol. ii. p. 197.) Fragments of Greek and Latin inscriptions, are dispersed all over the ruins, but entirely defaced.
Notable points of interest in the nearby include the massive Saladin's Castle and the ruins of Ugarit, where some of the earliest alphabetic writings have been found. There are also several popular beaches.