Payas, İskenderun, Turkey

Known as Baias in Seleucid times (320s BC), Payas, 24 kilometers (15 miles) north of İskenderun in the Dörtyol district of Hatay province (map), is a very old city with a mostly-modern aspect.

You may see signs with the town’s modern Turkish name of Yakacık.

A at the Battle of Issus on these plains in November 333 BC, Alexander the Great defeated the 100,000-strong army of Darius of Persia with fewer than 35,000 troops.

The big employer in Payas is the large iron and steel factory on the south side of the town. Trucks and trains bring ore and coal and take away finished steel. An oil pipeline also comes through here.

But right on the north side of the factory next to the Mediterranean shore are several ancient buildings worth a look.

Baias

A few traces of ruined columns mark what was the ancient city—not much to see.

Payas Fortress

The Payas Kalesi is thought to have been first built by the Genoese and used during the times of the Crusades (1100-1200s). Restored and strengthened by İbrahim Khanzade during the reign of Sultan Süleyman II, when Sokollu Mehmet Pasha was Grand Vezir, itwas restored in the 19th century and is still in fairly good condition because of its fine workmanship.

Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Complex

Dating from the 1500s and named for the Grand Vezir, this complex incuding a mosque and caravansaray exhibits a surprising Crusader-style Norman Romanesque architecture. I suspect it was restored from, or at least influenced by, the Crusader buildings in the region.

Crusader Church, Payas, Turkey

The caravansaray looks a lot like a Norman church…

If you’re driving between İskenderun or Antakya and the north (Adana or Osmaniye), it’s worth the short detour west from the highway to have a look at these interesting ancient structures.

—by Tom Brosnahan


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