Settlements > Issus



Issus (Ancient Greek: Ἱσσός or Ἱσσοί) is an ancient settlement on the strategic coastal plain straddling the small Pinarus river (a fast melt-water stream several metres wide) below the navigationally difficult inland mountains towering above to the east in the Turkish Province of Hatay, near the border with Syria. It can be identified with Kinet Höyük in the village of Yeṣilköy near Dörtyol in the Hatay province of Turkey. Excavations on the mound occurred between 1992 and 2012 by Bilkent University. It is most notable for being the place of no less than three decisive ancient or medieval battles each called in their own era the Battle of Issus:

The Battle of Issus (333 BC); Alexander the Great of Macedonia defeated Darius III of Persia. This battle is occasionally called the First Battle of Issus, but is more generally known simply as the Battle of Issus, owing to the importance of Alexander's victory over the First Persian Empire and its impact on subsequent history of the region, including all the successor polities.

The city of Issus, located in modern-day Turkey near the border with Syria, held strategic importance during the Achaemenid Persian Empire. Issus was situated at a critical junction between Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) and the Levant (modern-day Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine), making it a key point along trade routes connecting these regions. It was positioned near the mouth of the Pinarus River and the Gulf of Issus, providing access to maritime trade routes along the eastern Mediterranean.

Administrative Status:

Satrapy: Issus was likely part of the broader satrapy (province) of Cilicia, which was administered by a satrap (governor) appointed by the Achaemenid Persian king.

Military Outpost: Due to its strategic location, Issus may have hosted Persian military garrisons or fortifications to control the nearby trade routes and defend against potential threats.

Economic Significance:

Trade Hub: Issus served as a bustling commercial center, facilitating trade between Asia Minor, the Levant, and beyond. Its location at a crossroads made it a natural hub for the exchange of goods, commodities, and cultural influences.

Agricultural Production: The fertile plains surrounding Issus supported agriculture, including the cultivation of grains, fruits, and vegetables, which contributed to the city's economic prosperity.

Cultural and Social Life:

Ethnic Diversity: Issus would have been inhabited by a diverse population, including Persians, Greeks, Phoenicians, and other ethnic groups. This diversity enriched the city's cultural landscape and contributed to its cosmopolitan character.

Religious Centers: Like many cities in the Achaemenid Empire, Issus likely had temples, shrines, and religious sanctuaries dedicated to various deities worshipped by the local population.

Historical Significance:

Battle of Issus: Issus gained historical fame as the site of the Battle of Issus in 333 BCE, where Alexander the Great of Macedon decisively defeated the Persian king Darius III. This battle marked a significant turning point in Alexander's conquest of the Persian Empire.

Artistic Depictions: Issus and its surroundings were immortalized in ancient art, including representations of the Battle of Issus in mosaic and fresco paintings found in archaeological sites such as Pompeii.


Historical Legacy: The Battle of Issus and Issus' role as a key trading center left a lasting mark on the history of the ancient Near East, influencing subsequent events and developments in the region.

Modern Significance: Today, Issus and its surroundings continue to be of archaeological and historical interest, with ongoing research shedding light on the city's past and its significance in the ancient world.

In summary, Issus was a strategically located city that played a vital role in trade, commerce, and military affairs during the Achaemenid Persian Empire. Its historical significance, particularly as the site of a pivotal battle, continues to be remembered and studied to this day.

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