A political territory in Syria bordering the Mediterranean sea, Alexandretta was founded in 333 BC by Alexander the Great as the key to the Syrian Gates (Belen Pass) and was originally located about 23 miles (37 km) south of the scene of his victory at the Battle of Issus. Alexander camped in the highlands around Esentepe and then ordered the city to be established and named Alexandria (Αλεξάνδρεια), one of many cities founded on his orders. Starting in the Middle Ages, Western pilgrims used the diminutive Romance form, Alexandretta. After the Muslim conquest of Syria in the first half of the seventh century, the city was named al-ʼIskandarūn (الإسكندرون), the Arabic rendering of “Alexandrou”; this was later written as İskenderūn (إسكندرون) in Ottoman Turkish.
Skipping forward, the Ottoman Empire collapsed at the end of World War I and the Sanjak of Alexandretta, formerly part of the Aleppo province, was occupied by French troops starting in 1918. The French-Turkish treaty of 20 October 1921 granted autonomy to the sanjak (a Turkish word meaning “district”) which stated that “Turkish inhabitants of this district shall enjoy facility for their cultural development. The Turkish language shall have official recognition.” In 1923 Alexandretta was attached to the State of Aleppo, and in 1925 it was directly attached to the League of Nations French Mandate of Syria and the Lebanon, still with special administrative status. Turkey under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk coined the name Hatay for the Sanjak of Alexandretta. It was given autonomy in November 1937, becoming “distinct but not separated” from the French mandate of Syria on the diplomatic level, linked to both France and Turkey for defense matters.
On April 14, 1938, a set of Syrian stamps of 1930-1936 were overprinted or surcharged for use in Alexandretta. These included nine general issue stamps, eight for airmail and six to collect postage due. Scott #7, pictured today, features a black overprint on a 4 piastre yellow orange stamp. Three additional general issue values were released on 2 September and the final set of five appeared on 10 November, overprinted with a black border to mark Atatürk’s death. This came after the 2 September 1938 proclamation of the Republic of Hatay which lasted for just one year under joint French and Turkish military supervision. The state was transformed de jure into the Hatay Province on 7 July 1939, and joined Turkey de facto on 23 July. The stamps of Alexandretta were superseded by those of Hatay when the first issued inscribed with that name were released in early 1939.