One of the largest and most dynamic cities in Turkey and situated thirty kilometres (nineteen miles) inland, Adana is the gateway to the Cilician plain, now known as the Çukurova plain, the large stretch of flat and fertile land which lies to the south-east of the Taurus Mountains. This is possibly the most productive area in this part of the world.
From Adana, crossing the Çukurova going west, the road from Tarsus enters the foothills of the Taurus Mountains. The temperature decreases with every foot of ascent; the road reaches an altitude of nearly 4000 feet. It goes through the famous Cilician or Çukurova Gates, the rocky pass through which armies have coursed since the dawn of history, and continues to the Anatolian plain.
The north of the city is surrounded by the Seyhan reservoir, which was built in 1957. The lake is used to produce electricity, and to provide the irrigation water to the lower part of Çukurova plain, agricultural production area located in the south parth of the city. Two irrigation canals in the city flow to the plain passing through the city center from east to west. Also there is another canal for irrigating the Yüreğir plain to the southeast of the city.
The name of the city is believed to have come from a legend that Adanus and Sarus, two sons of Uranus, came to a place near the Seyhan River where they built Adana.
Alternatively, it is believed that Adad (Tesup), the name of the Hittite Thunder God that lived in the forest was given to the region. The Hittites ideas, names and writings haved been found in the area so this is a strong possibility. The theory goes that since the Thunder God brought so much rain and this rain in turn brought such great abundance in this particular region, this god was loved and respected by its inhabitants and, in his honor, the region was called the 'Uru Adaniyya'; in other words 'The Region of Ada'.
Adana's name has had many different versions over the centuries: Adanos, Ta Adana, Uru Adaniya, Erdene, Edene, Ezene, Batana, Atana, Azana.
The history of Adana is intrinsically linked to the history of Tarsus; they seem often to be the same city, moving as the neighbouring Seyhan River changed its position and the name changed over the course of centuries. Adana was of little importance in ancient history while Tarsus was the metropolis of the area. Also, Ayas (today Yumurtalik), and Kozan (formerly Sis) have been population and administrative centers, especially during the time of the Kingdom of Lesser Armenia.
The history of Adana goes back 3000 years; finds in the region reveal human occupation of the area during the Paleolithic Age.
Tepebag Tumulus, where archeologists found a stone wall and a city center, was built in the Neolithic Age; it is considered to be the oldest city of the Cilicia region.
Then the city was directly and indirectly the subject of many epic poems and legends over the course of many millennia. Adana is mentioned by name in a Sumerian epic, the Epic of Gilgamesh.
According to the Hittite inscription of Kava, found in Hattusa (Boğazkale), Kitvanza Kingdom was the first kingdom that ruled Adana, under the protection of the Hittites in 1335 BC. In that time the name of the city was Uru Adaniyya and the inhabitants were called Danuna.
After the rule of the Hittites, circa 1191-1189 B.C, invasions from the west caused many small kingdoms to take control of the plain, as follows: Kue Assyrians, 9th century BC; Cilician Kingdom, Persians, 6th century BC; Alexander the Great in 333 BC; Seleucids; and the pirates of Cilicia and Roman statesman Pompey the Great.
During the era of Pompey, the city was used as a prison for the pirates of Cilicia. For several centuries thereafter it was a waystation on a Roman military road leading to the East. After the split of the Roman Empire, the area became part of the Byzantine Empire and was probably developed during the time of Julian. With the building of large bridges, roads, government buildings, and irrigation and plantation, Adana and Cilicia became the most developed and important trade centers of the region.
In the 7th century, after Roman rule, the Abbasids ruled Adana. According to an Arab historian of the era, the name of the city was derived from Ezene, the prophet Yazene's grandson.
The Byzantines regained control of the area in the beginning of the 10th century, after the Abbasids lost power. Other kingdoms that ruled the city were the Armenian Kingdom and the inhabitants of Selonica.
After the victory of Alp Arslan in the Battle of Manzikert, large numbers of Turks arrived in the region and they called the region 'Çukurova' instead of 'Cilicia'. Of these Turkish armies the Seljuks repeatedly fought the Mamluks for control of the area. When the Seljuks captured Adana, they brought Karamanids to Çukurova to keep the border safe. However, the Seljuk dominance of Adana ended with the coming of the Crusaders in 1097. After which it was part of the kingdom of Cilician Armenia for nearly 300 years. The Mamluks re-captured the city in 1360 from Gosdantin III, allowing many Turkmen families to settle in it. The Ramazanoğlu family, one of the Turkmen families brought by the Mamluks, ruled Adana until the Ottomans captured the city.
From the end of the Renaissance to the modern era (1517-1918), the Ottoman Empire ruled the area.
England, France and Russia entered into a political struggle with the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. In order to undermine and destroy the Ottoman rule, they helped the Egyptian Governor Mehmet Ali Pasha in his rebellion against the Ottomans. The province was returned to Ottoman sovereignty quite quickly, but resulted in the establishment of Adana as a province in its own right.
In 1909 Adana was the site of what is termed the Adana massacre. Turkish scholars and some others refer to the event as the Adana rebellion based on a thesis of its underlying causes.
After World War I, the Ottoman government lost control of the city to Allied forces. During the Turkish War of Independence, Adana was strategically important. Mustafa Kemal came to the city on October 31, 1918 and stayed there for eleven days. As a result, he decided to fight against the Allies and the idea of what he called Kuvayi Milliye was born. Turkish nationalists grouped together and fought until February 5, 1921.