Gaziantep is located in the Southeast Anatolia Region, adjacent to the Mediterranean Region of Turkey. To the east lies Şanlıurfa, to the northeast Adıyaman, to the northwest Kahramanmaraş, to the west Osmaniye, to the southwest Hatay, and to the south Kilis and the border with neighbouring Syria.
The altitude of the province averages 850 m above sea level, with a range of 250 m to 1,250 m. The city lies on the line where the continental and Mediterranean climates meet. The southern part of the region is governed by a Mediterranean climate, characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Mountains cover 52%, plains cover 27% of the region.
Gaziantep is bordered on one side by the mountains of Sof, Sam and Dülükbaba, offshoots of the Southeast Taurus Mountains which descend to the Euphrates Valley, and to the west, the mountains of Ganibaba and Sarıkaya. Elsewhere, the plains of İslahiye, Barak, Araban, Yavuzeli and Oğuzeli create undulating tracts of land. The main waterways of the region are the Euphrates, which separates Gaziantep from Şanlıurfa to the east, the Afrin, Nizip, and Merziman brooks, and the Karasu and Alleben streams. The Gaziantep region has become a veritable lake district with Birecik and Karkamış Barrage lakes, Zülfikar and Burç ponds in the centre of the province, and Çakmak, Nogaylar, Balıkalan and Gözlühöyük ponds in the district of Nurdağı.
Gaziantep, considered one of the oldest cities in the world, is surrounded by ancient settlements and historical structures dating from prehistoric times up until the present day. Remains of dwellings from the Palaeolithic, Neolithic, and Chalcolithic periods and Bronze Age can be found in this region, but most historical structures are from the Hittite, Roman and Ottoman periods. The Median, Assyrian, Persian, Macedonian, Byzantine and Arab-Islamic civilizations also contributed in turn to the region’s history. Today it is possible to see clearly the traces of each era. As a result of research in the region, the archaeological remains of 120 prehistoric settlements have been located. Excavations at ancient settlements such as Tilmenhöyük, Sakçagözü-Coba Höyük, Gedikli-Karahöyük, Tilbeşar Höyük, and Dülük have revealed valuable prehistoric artefacts. Excavations at Yesemek, Zincirli Höyük and Karkamış have created a centre for important findings from the Late Hittite period.
Tilmenhöyük was a settlement area from the Chalcolithic period until the Iron Age; artefacts dating back 7,000 years have been found at Tilbeşar Höyük; and Coba Höyük, near Sakçagözü, have revealed important information about farming 6,000 years ago.
During the time of the Hittite Empire, Gaziantep and its environs became a place of significant importance. The region lay at the centre of the North Syrian road network, linking the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia, and as such became an area of tension between the Assyrians, Babylonians and Hittites. From the 16th century BC, the region was governed under the Hittite kingdom, and during the 13th century BC, the Late Hittite period, cities were established in the vicinity of Zincirli and Sakçagözü. During this period, Yesemek was an important centre for sculpture production, distributing sculptures throughout the kingdom. Karkamış was a significant centre for the cult of the mother goddess Kubaba, influencing the whole of Anatolia and the subsequent Greek and Roman civilizations.
Following the Hittites, the region passed into the hands of the Assyrians, Aramaeans, and then, in 613-612 BC, to the Medes. The area was ruled by the Persians and was later taken by the Macedonian King Alexander the Great during his Asian Campaign. After the death of Alexander the Great, the region came under the rule of the Seleucid kingdom but from 64 BC it became part of the Roman Empire. Although Roman remains can be found throughout the region, the most extensive data has been gathered from the ruins of the ancient cities of Zeugma and Doliche. The 2nd and 3rd century mosaics revealed during excavations at Zeugma provide important information regarding Roman city life. The Maenad mosaic, known as the Gypsy Girl, found at Zeugma has become a symbol of the region’s Roman heritage. Items are added to the wealth of findings at Zeugma on a daily basis. Whilst these findings have earned the city the renown of housing the world’s largest mosaic museum, the ancient city of Zeugma also represents Gaziantep on the World Cultural Heritage temporary list.
From the start of the 7th century AD, the city of Gaziantep changed hands frequently between the Muslim Arabs and Byzantines. It was ruled by the Umayyads, Abbasids, Seljuks, Mamluks and Ottomans and was part of the Crusades and the Mongol invasion. Under Byzantine rule, during the caliphate of Umar, the Islamic army took possession of the region and in the year 639, the people of the area accepted the Islamic faith. In 1071, after the Battle of Manzikert, a Turkish state linked to the Seljuk Empire was established in the region. However, the city fell in 1270 during the Mongol invasion and it came under the control of the Dulkadir Dynasty and the Mamluks. After Yavuz Sultan Selim’s stand against the Mamluks in 1516 at the Battle of Mercidabık, the entire area became part of the Ottoman Empire. During this period numerous mosques, madrasas, hans and hamams were built in the developing city. After the signing of the Mudros Armistice on 30 October 1918, Gaziantep, as an administrative district of the province of Aleppo, was first seized by the British in Aleppo, and later, when the British withdrew from the city on 29 October 1919, it was taken over by the French. The people of Antep made history by fighting a heroic battle against the occupying forces for 11 months, a battle in which thousands of men, under the leadership of Şahinbey, died for their country. This unrivalled defence earned the city the title “Gazilik” (war veteran), declared on 8 February 1921, and Gaziantep became a symbol of the fighting spirit of the people.