The site, on the Ras Ziyarah peninsula, has been occupied for a long time. The Phoenicians had a city here named Ramitha, and to the Greeks it was Leuke Akte, then it was refounded and named Laodicea by Seleucus I Nicator, after his mother. It became an important port and an exporter of wine produced in the hills behind the city (Strabo 16. 2. 9.). An arch from the time of Septimius Severus has survived.
There are a number of popular beaches around Latakia, and the ruins of Ugarit, where some of the earliest alphabetic writings have been found, are just 16 km (10 mi) to the north.
Between September 22, 1930 and 1936, Latakia was the capital of the Sanjak of Latakia a nominally automonous state ruled by France under a League of Nations mandate. The state extended along the coast and into the mountains inland.