- Tarsus (city)
subdivision_type = Country
map_caption =Location of Tarsus within Turkey.
official_name = Tarsus
image_caption = Berdan Reservoir
subdivision_name1 = Mediterranean
subdivision_name2 = Mersin
population_total = 348205
population_as_of = 2000
population_footnotes = [http://www.tarsus.bel.tr/tr/about/nufusBilgileri.jsp]
area_total_km2 = 2240
pushpin_map_caption =Location of Tarsus
latd = 36
latm = 55
latNS = N
longd = 34
longm = 54
longEW = E
postal_code = 33
blank_info = 33
area_code = (0090)+ 324
gwebsite = http://www.tarsus.gov.tr
Tarsus (Greek Ταρσός) is a
city, and a large district, in Mersin Province, Turkey, convert|15|km|mi|0|abbr=on from the city of Mersinand near (40 km) to the city of Adana.
With a history going back over 9,000 years Tarsus has long been an important stop for traders, a focal point of many civilisations including the
Ancient Romanswhen Tarsus was capital of the province of Cilicia, scene of the first meeting between Mark Antonyand Cleopatraand birthplace of Saint Paul.
Located on the mouth of the Tarsus Çay (
Cydnus), which empties into the Mediterranean Sea, Tarsus is a junction point of land and sea routes connecting the Cilician plain (today called Çukurova), central Anatoliaand the Mediterranean sea. The climate is typical of the Mediterraneanregion, summers very very hot, winters chilly and damp.
Tarsus has a long history of commerce and is still a commercial centre today, trading in the produce of the fertile Çukurova plain; also Tarsus is a thriving industrial centre refining and processing that produce same for export. Industries include agricultural machinery, spare parts, textiles, fruit-processing, brick building and ceramics.
Agriculture is an important source of income, half of the land area in the district is farmland (1,050 km²) and most of the remainder is forest and orchard. The farmland is mostly well-irrigated, fertilised and managed with the latest equipment.
The ancient name is Tarsos, (Greek: "polytonic|Ταρσός") possibly derived from a pagan god, "Tarku"; at other times the city was named "Tarsisi"; "Antiochia on the Cydnus" (Greek: "Αντιόχεια του Κύδνου",
Latin: "Antiochia ad Cydnum"); and "Juliopolis". [Տարսոն, Darson] in Armenian.
Foundation and prehistory
Excavation of the mound of "Gözlükule " reveals that the prehistorical development of Tarsus reaches back to the
Neolithic Periodand continues unbroken through Chalcolithicand Early Bronze Ages.
The settlement was located at the crossing of several important trade routes, linking
Anatoliato Syriaand beyond. As the ruins are covered by the modern city, it is not very well known archaeologically. The city may have been of Semiticorigin, and is mentioned as Tarsisi in the campaigns of Esarhaddon, as well as several times in the campaigns of Shalmaneser Iand Sennacherib. A Greek legend connects it with the memory of Sardanapalus (Ashurbanipal), still preserved in the Dunuk-Tach, called 'tomb of Sardanapalus', a monument of unknown origin. Stephanus of Byzantiumquotes Athenodorus of Tarsus as relating another
However, much of this legend of the foundation of Tarsus appeared in the Roman era and none is reliable; the geographer
Straborecords that Tarsus was founded by people from Argoswho were exploring this coast. Another legend states that the winged horse Pegasuswas lost and landed here hurting his foot and thus the city was named "tar-sos" ("the sole of the foot"). Other candidates for legendary founder of the city include the hero Perseus, Triptolemusson of the earth-goddess Demeter(doubtless because the countryside around Tarsus is excellent farmland). Later the coinage of Tarsus bore the image of Herculesdue to yet another tale in which the hero was held prisoner here by the local god, Sandon. Tarsos has been suggested as a possible identification of the biblical Tarshish, where the prophet Jonahwanted to flee, but Tartessosin Spain is a more likely identification for this. (See further [Jonah 1:3 and the entry for Jonah in the [http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=389&letter=J&search=jonah Jewish Encyclopedia] ] )
Early antiquity, Greece and Persia
In historical times, the city was first ruled by the
Hittites, followed by Assyria, and then the Persian Empire. Tarsus was the seat of a Persian satrapy from 400 BC onward. Indeed Xenophonrecords that in 401 BC, when Cyrus the Youngermarched against Babylon, the city was governed by King Syennesisin the name of the Persian monarch. Alexander the Greatpassed through with his armies in 333 BC and came near meeting his death here after a bath in the Cydnus. By this time Tarsus was already largely influenced by Greek language and culture, and as part of the Seleucid Empireit became more and more hellenized. Strabo praises the cultural level of Tarsus in this period with its philosophers, poets and linguists. The schools of Tarsus rivaled Athensand Alexandria. 2 Maccabees(4:30) records its revolt in about 171 BC against Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who had renamed the town Antiochia on the Cydnus. In his time the library of Tarsus held 200,000 books, including a huge collection of scientific works.
Pompeysubjected it to Rome and Tarsus became capital of the Roman province of Cilicia("Caput Ciliciae"), the metropolis where the governor resided. To flatter Julius Caesar, it took the name Juliopolis; it was here that Cleopatraand Mark Antonymet, the scene of the celebrated feasts they gave during the construction of their fleet. In 66 BC, the inhabitants received Roman citizenship.
When the province of Cilicia was divided, Tarsus remained the civil and religious metropolis of Cilicia Prima, and was a grand city with palaces, marketplaces, roads and bridges, baths, fountains and waterworks, a gymnasium on the banks of the
Cydnus, a stadium and the church of St Paul. Tarsus was later eclipsed by nearby Adana, but remained important as a port and shipyard. Several Roman emperors were interred here: Marcus Claudius Tacitus, Maximinus, and Julian the Apostate.
Tarsus was the birthplace of Saint Paul (Acts 9:11; 21:39; 22:3), who returned here after his conversion (Acts 9:30). From here
Barnabasretrieved him to help with the work in Syrian Antioch (Acts 11:25). Already by this time a Christiancommunity probably existed, although the first recorded bishop, Helenus, dates only from the third century; he went several times to Antiochin connection with the dispute concerning Paul of Samosata. Later bishops of Tarsusincluded Lupus, present at the Council of Ancyrain 314; Theodorus, at the Council of Nicaea in 325; Helladius, condemned at the Council of Ephesus, and who appealed to the popein 433; above all the celebrated exegete Diodorus, teacher of Theodore of Mopsuestiaand consequently one of the fathers of Nestorianism. [Eusebius, "Hist. eccl.", VI, xlvi; VII, v). Le Quien ("Oriens christianus", II, 869-76] From the sixth centurythe metropolitan see of Tarsus had seven suffragan bishoprics; ["Echos d'Orient", X, 145] the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinoplearchdiocese is again mentioned in the tenth century( [op. cit., X, 98] ), and has existed down to the present day, part of the Patriarchate of Antioch.
Owing to the importance of Tarsus, many martyrs were put to death here, among them being: Saint Pelagia, Saint Boniface, Saint Marinus,
Saint Diomedus, Saint Quiricus and Saint Julitta.
At about the end of the
tenth century, the Armenians established a diocese of their rite, which still exists; Saint Nerses of Lambroun was its most distinguished representative in the twelfth century.
A cave in Tarsus is one of a number of places claiming to be the location of the legend of the
Seven Sleepers, common to Christianity and Islam.
Islam and beyond
The Tarsus region was annexed by the Forces of
Rashidun Caliphateunder the command of Khalid ibn Walidin the 637, retaining it until 965, when Nicephorus Phocasreturned it to the Byzantine Empirefor nearly a century. The area was lost to the Seljuk Turks, recaptured in 1097 during the Crusadesand then disputed between Latins, Greeks, and Armenians of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia(Kingdom of Lesser Armenia); these last became definitively masters until about 1360, when it was captured by the RamazanoğluTurks. Finally, the area was brought under the control of the Ottomans by Selim Iin 1517.
In the Middle Ages Tarsus was renowned throughout the Middle East; a number of Arab writers praised it as a beautiful and well-defended city, its walls being in two layers with five gates and earthworks outside, surrounded by rich farmland, watered by the river and the lake. By 1671 the traveller
Evliya Çelebirecords "a city on the plain, an hour from the sea, surrounded by strong walls two-storeys high, moated on all sides, with three distinct neighbourhoods inside the walls".
Despite its excellent defences, Tarsus was captured from the Ottomans in 1832 by the
Mamluksof Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt, son of Muhammad Ali, and for 8 years remained in the hands of the Egyptians, who began growing cotton on the surrounding plain. Upon the return of the Ottomans this cotton drove a substantial growth in the economy of the area, due to increased world demand for the crop during shortages caused by the U.S. Civil War. A new road was built to the port in Mersinand the city of Tarsus grew and thrived. Still today many large houses in the city stand as reminders of the wealth generated during this period. However after being a port for 3,000 years, by the end of the 19th century neglect resulted in Tarsus no longer having access to the sea, and the delta became a swamp. At this point Tarsus was a typical Ottoman city with communities of Muslim Turks, Christian Greeks and Armenians. At the founding of the Turkish Republicin the 1920s the swamp was drained and the River Berdan was dammed to build Turkey's first hydro-electric power station. Irrigation, roadworks and a railway brought the economy of Tarsus back to life, with new factories, particularly producing textiles.
Life in Tarsus today
Tarsus has slightly more in the way of culture (cinema, theatre, museums) than most Turkish country towns, but in many ways still has a small town feel; people walk in the road rather than on the pavements. Predictably, the people of the mountain forests in the hinterland have an even quieter rural existence.
The local cuisine includes:
hummus; şalgam(pickled turnips); tantuni(a sandwich of grilled meats; the tiny pizzas called "fındık lahmacun"; and cezerye(a confection made out of carrots).
Places of interest
Tarsus has a great many ancient sites of interest, with many in need of restoration and research. The best known include:
* Cleopatra Gate - to the west of the city, the only ancient city gate still standing, where Anthony and Cleopatra entered the city in 41 BC, though the "restoration" of this structure has involved covering much of it over with shiny new stone (see [http://www.abu.nb.ca/Courses/Pauline/TarsusGate2.jpg] for a picture of the gate before the work was done).
* The Roman bridge of Justinian over the Berdan River. Still in good condition.
* Tarsus Museum - contains lots of ancient coins and a severed mummified arm.
Sites of religious interest and pilgr
* The church and well of St Paul.
* The tomb of the
Seven Sleepers, busy place of pilgrimage for Muslims today.
* The mosque said to be the burial place of the
From the Turkish era:
* The old baths; the dark brown spots on the white marble walls are said to be the bloodstains of
Shah Meran, the legendary Snake King who was killed in an ambush in the baths.
Tarsus American College; founded in the Ottoman period, still active today.
Nusret(Nusrat)" the minelayerused to defend the straits before the Battle of Gallipoliis being restored in Tarsus; it is to be part of a memorial park to those lost in the fighting.
Places of natural beauty include:
* Tarsus Waterfall; since the construction of the Berdan dam the water of the Tarsus river has been distributed in canals for irrigation, with the result that the waterfall can now be seen only in seasons of very heavy rainfall.
Chrysippus, Stoic philosopher
Paul the Apostle( Saul of Tarsus), Christian apostle, saint and missionary, was born here and returned for a period later in life.
* Tarsus is one of a number of cities that claims to be the burial place of
Bilal ibn Rabah, first muezzin, or caller to prayer, in Islam.
Al-Ma'mundied near Tarsus.
Oral Çalışlarwas born in Tarsus.
* Saint Nerses of Lambroun, Armenian Catholicos
Tarsus Idman Yurduis the local football team.
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