The Cilician port city of Aegea or Aegeae is mentioned in Pausanias, v.21.11. On its coinage, it is called Aigai like the archaic capital of Macedon. It was located on the Gulf of Issus (modern Gulf of İskenderun). The city was mentioned in Tacitus' Annals XIII:8: War between Armenia/Rome and Iberia/Parthia. At Aegeae Apollonius of Tyana made his early studies in the 1st century CE, when the city was at its cultural height. The city of Aegea was the site of the martyrdom of Thallelaios during the reign of Numerian (283-284 CE). The Orthodox Church celebrates his feast on May 20. In Aegea, probably their natal city, Saints Cosmas and Damian performed their legendary cures in the early 4th century.
Ayas became an important harbour city of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia in the second half of the 13th, when with the fall of Acre and the silting up of the harbor of Tarsus, it became the center of trade between the West and the East, benefitting from its good roads east. Marco Polo disembarked here to begin his trip to China in 1271.
The naval Battle of Ayas (also known as Battle of Laiazzo) was fought near the city in 1294 and resulted in a victory of the Genoese fleet over the Venetians. Some scholars believe that Marco Polo was taken prisoner on that occasion.
Ayas passed between the Mamluks and the Armenians several times in the 13th and 14th centuries, and was definitively taken by the Mamluks in 1347. Under the Ottomans, it was a kaza in the eyalet of Adana.