General Information

Situated in the fertile Cukurova plain, Tarsus is a small Turkish town situated in the Mersin province of Turkey, on the Mediterranean coast. In the ancient times, however, Tarsus was a religious and scientific center.

The city was first founded by the Hittites in the early bronze ages, although there is surmounting evidence of settlements dating to the neolithic period. The settlement was an important crossing of several trade routes, linking Anatolia to Syria, with most importantly being one of the ends to the famous Silk Road. The city was populated by Greek colonists in early antiquity.

Culture and History

It is fabled that Alexander the Great nearly died while bathing in the Cydnus. The city gained further importance during the Roman period, by becoming the capital of the Roman province of Cilicia. The importance was to such an extent that the citizens of Tarsus were given Roman citizenship in 66 BC, and was even renamed Juliopolis for a short time to flatter Julius Caesar. Tarsus is also remarkable for being the city where Marcus Antonius met Cleopatra.

Tarsus is also notable for being the birthplace of Saul of Tarsus, who later became Paul the apostle. He even returned to Tarsus after his conversion to Christianity. Today, only remains of his home remain. Owing to the importance of the city, many martyrs, most notably Saint Pelagia and Saint Bonafice, were put to death in Tarsus.