Historical Overview

Six Millennia ago the Kessab region was part of the ancient civilization that spread from the Syrian basin up to the valley of the Orontes River.

The famous Phoenician City state of Ugarit located on the shores of the Mediterranean, not far from Kessab was linked with Asia Minor, Cilicia and Northern Mesopotamia through The region of Duzaghaj of Kessab.
During the Seleucid- Hellenic period the Kessab region was at the center of the triad comprised of Antioch, Seleucia and Laodicea. The Laodicea- Seleucia sea road passed through the Kaladouran Bay whereas the Laodicea- Antioch land road passed through the Duzaghaj valley.

The Cassius Mountain at this time was believed to have been the sanctuary of the god Zeus. During the reign of Tigranes the Great and later the Roman era, Laodicea, Antioch and Seleucia flourished greatly and have had a positive affect on the development of the Kessab region.
We have no written sources about the primitive history of the Kessab region. The first record we have is from the historical documents of the Crusaders when Duke Belmond the First gives the region of Kasbisi to the family of Peter the Hermit. Casbisi , Cassembella or Cassabella are the names from which we have derived the name “Kessab”.

Many experts trace the origins of the Armenian alphabet to the era of Tigranes the Great or even earlier. Kessab is viewed by some as a region developed during the Cilician Armenian period. However it actually remained outside the borders of the kingdom. Research conducted on the peculiarities of the Kessab dialect and the dialects of the region of Suweidiye (Seleucia) shows that the populace of Kessab and the surrounding region are the remainders of migrants that came from the region of Antioch.
During the Memluk period and more specifically the first period of the Ottoman Rule (13th-14th centuries) the region of Antioch was emptied of its Armenian, Greek and Syriac inhabitants, due to intense persecution. In an attempt to avoid persecution, the Armenians of the flat lands of Antioch took refuge in more mountainous regions, such as Kessab and Mousa Dag.

The development of Kessab and its surrounding villages extends from the 16th century up into the 19th century. According to tradition the first area to be inhabited by Armenians during the 16th century is Eskuren/nerkikegh (meaning “old village”) “The first inhabitants of Eskuren/nerkikegh trace their roots from diverse and numerous areas, including: Aramo, Arfali, Hajen, Zeitun, Kurd Dag, and Antioch.

The villagers who first settled in Eskuren/nerkikegh later moved uphill and settled in the area now called Kessab.
Soon Kessab turned into the center both of old and newly- arrived migrants. The inhabitants of Kessab later became land owners in the surrounding areas and by the beginning of the 19th century; new villages began to merge in the regions surrounding Kessab.

The Kessab region was placed under the jurisdiction of the Governor of Antioch who was directly appointed by the Ottoman Sultan until the middle of the 19th Century. The region of Antioch was made a part of the Vilayet (province) of Aleppo.

The region of Kessab had two parts that were under the jurisdiction of two provinces. Namely, the Baghjaghas and Chattalek areas were part of the Latakia region which was located within the Damascus province (villayet). The remainder of the villages were part of the Ordu or Mount Accraa (Cassius) region which was located within the province (villayet) of Aleppo.

In 1922 the French Authorities changed the organizational structure of the Kessab region. In an attempt to defuse the tension amongst the minorities that inhabited the region, the French authorities separated the Ordu region from Kessab. An Armenian is put in place as a ruler of this area and a regiment of soldiers is put under his command.

The mid 19th century gave rise to a newly formed merchant class. This class of people gained control of large areas of land by taking the land from villagers who could not repay their debts.
As a result the merchant class forced many of the land owners to work in their lands by paying them a day’s wages.

Until 1840 Kessab was considered the center of the surrounding villages and the villages were simply viewed as the extension of Kessab and its suburbs. However this situation has changed that each village has separated from the former center of Kessab and now each village has its own mayors, churches schools and Unions.

During the 1850s Kessab turned into a mission field; namely by the arrival of Evangelical and Catholic missionaries. As a result, Catholic and Evangelical Communities merged, which had both positive and negative effects on the community in general.
For example divisions and problems arose amongst the different communities as a result of the separation of the community into Apostolic, Catholic and Evangelical religious affiliations.

However, the positive effect was that there was a great emphasis on education by Evangelical missionaries. Records show that until the 19th century there was only one Armenian apostolic school in Kessab. The evangelical missions worked with great momentum to increase the level and availability of education by 1880, the evangelical schools were at the elementary level, and by 1908 they had achieved secondary level of school education.

Armenian political parties are evident in Kessab by the year 1890. In 1893 Aghasi visited Kessab a few times and organized the region. He later formed the Kessab division of the Henchagian party .The Armenian Revolutionary Federation party entered kessab several years later. The ARF party is brought into kessab in 1906 by some Kessab youth who were studying at the American University of Beirut and Ainteb College.
In 1910 the Kessab Educational Counsel is formed within the aim of bringing education out of denominational influence and establishing it on a national basis. The need for such a move is evident from the statistics showing that in 1910 the Kessab region had a population of 6000, but had more than 20 schools as a result of the denominational divisions.


The status of the population in kessab

The calamity of 1909

The deportation in 1915

The return of the deported Armenians

Connecting kessab to Syria

Kessab today