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Tarsis ( Hebrew תַרְשִׁישׁ Tarshish ) is mentioned as a name and place in several places in the Bible . According to Genesis (1. Book of Mose) 10.4 EU Tarshish is the son of Jawan , brother of Elisha , the Kittaean and the Rodanite and a great-grandson of Noah . Tarsis was identified with Tarsus in Cilicia , but also with Tartessos in Spain.

Localization and first trade contacts

The equation with Tarsus in Cilicia , documented in antiquity , can be explained by the fact that the actual location of the place had been forgotten and is based on the similar sound of the names. The mention of a country “Tarsisi” (KUR tar-si-si ) in an inscription by the Assyrian king Assurhaddon speaks for the localization on the western edge of the Mediterranean : “All kings who live in the middle of the sea, of Cyprus (Iadanana) and Greece (Iaman ) to Tarsisi, submitted to my feet ”. The geographical indications are undoubtedly intended to describe the entire breadth of the Mediterranean.

Since Cyprus and Greece are in the eastern Mediterranean, “Tarsisi” was to be found in the western Mediterranean as the most distant place. The place is even across the Strait of Gibraltar , beyond the western end of the western Mediterranean; on the other hand, both “Tartessos” and “Tarsis” can be traced back to an old Iberian trs / trt . The first trade contacts with Tarsis are via the Phoenicians from the 8th century BC. Occupied. Archaeological investigations show that the earliest trade relations between Andalusia , especially the region around today's Huelva , with the eastern Mediterranean region began around 900 BC. Existed and in the 8th and 7th centuries BC. Were intensified.

Giovanni Garbini , on the other hand, sticks to Tarsus in Cilicia, which would fit the northern location given in the Bible.

Mentions in the Old Testament

"Tarsis" is not only documented as a name and geographical designation, but was also described as a designation for a precious stone in Exodus 28.20 EU and Ex 39.13  EU as part of the high priest's breastplate. Since the place Tarsis is often associated with trade or noble tribute offerings, the place name will probably have been transferred to a gemstone originating from or traded there.

The identification with Tartessus can also be linked with the biblical message from 1 Kings 10: 21f EU , according to which the Tarsis fleet brought Solomon's valuable goods - gold, silver, ivory, monkeys and peacocks or guinea fowl (standard translation) - once every three years should have. The second book of the Chronicle also shows in 2 Chr 20.36  EU Tarsis as a place that can be reached by ship across the water. However, Tarshish was unknown as a trading partner and region in the eastern Mediterranean during Solomon's reign. The legendary assignment of the Tarsis ships to Solomon could meanwhile be an anachronistic addition to the conditions of the 8th and 7th centuries BC. Be proven. The mentions of ivory and monkeys probably refer to ancient Egyptian trade lists that refer to expeditions to Punt . As part of the Phoenician trade, the transport of that cargo may of course have been carried out on the Tarsis ships in conjunction with gold deliveries. In this context, Phoenician transhipment stations in Egypt on the Red Sea are documented during the same period .

In the Book of Esther (1.13-14 EU ) it is mentioned that King Artaxerxes I “spoke with the sages who are familiar with history; for he used to bring his affairs to the circle of lawyers who had access to him, namely Karschena, Schetar, Admata, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, Memuchan, the seven princes of Persia and Media . They had free access to the king and took first place in the kingdom. ”He then expelled Queen Vashti. There were significant gold deposits in the media that were already being exploited in Iran's early history.

In Psalm 72.10  EU states that the "kings of Tarshish and of the islands" the ideal (Messianic) king bring gifts. Here it is meant , as in the Assurhaddon inscription, that the king also receives tribute from the countries furthest across the sea.

From Isaiah 60.9  EU and Jeremiah 10.9 EU it emerges that silver and gold were imported from Tarsis, which speaks for the identification with the ancient gold country Tartessus. The Tarsis trade of Solomon mentioned in 1 Kings 10: 21f EU names other treasures, including ivory that came from Africa or Syria. However, this does not speak against the identification with Tartessos, which could also have served as a transshipment point for valuable goods of other origins.

In Ez 27.12  EU and 27.25 EU it says: “Tarschisch bought from you because of the abundance of your goods; They gave silver, iron, tin and lead for your goods. "And" The ships of Tarschisch served you as caravans for your goods. "

The Book of Jonah also assumes that Tarsis is a distant place . God commissioned Jonah to deliver a judgment to the people of the Assyrian city ​​of Nineveh . Jonah refused and tried to flee from Jaffa by ship to Tarsis ( Jonah 1.3  EU ). If one takes the identification with Tartessus as a basis, Jonas escape attempt means that he wanted to flee in the opposite direction, not to the east (Nineveh), but to the west (Tarsis / Tartessus); and that he wanted to flee to the end of the then known world.

Other interpretations

Manfred Görg has a special opinion , who opposes equating Tarsis with a real place. Rather, the name comes from the Egyptian words for "border"; To derive “area” and “valuable” and translate it with “distant land full of treasures” or “treasure island”. According to this, it is not a question of a concrete, but rather a mythical or ideal quantity. Although this opinion has found its way into a common biblical dictionary, it can only be considered a minority vote.


  • Bernd Ulrich Schipper : Israel and Egypt in the royal era. The cultural contacts from Solomon until the fall of Jerusalem. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1999, ISBN 3-525-53728-X .
  • E. Lipinski: tarschisch. In: Theological dictionary of the Old Testament. Vol. 8, Stuttgart 1995, Col. 778-781. (represents the essential biblical and extra-biblical documentation material).
  • Manfred Görg: Ophir, Tarschisch and Atlantis. Some thoughts on symbolic geography. In: Biblical Notes 15, 1981, pp. 76-86.
  • Manfred Görg: Tarschisch. In: New Bible Lexicon. Vol. 3, Düsseldorf [u. a.] 2001, col. 785.
  • For further references cf. Ulrich Hübner : Palestine, Syria and the Silk Road. In: ders. U. a. (Ed.): The Silk Road. Trade and cultural exchange in a Eurasian network of routes, Asia and Africa. Vol. 3, Hamburg 2001, p. 79 note 13.

Web links


  1. Flavius ​​Josephus : Jüdische Antiquities , I.6, § 1
  2. Quoted from: R. Borger: The inscriptions of Asarhaddons King of Assyria (= Archive for Orient Research Supplement 9). Graz 1956, p. 86.
  3. Fernando González de Canales Cerisola: Del Occidente Mítico Griego a Tarsis-Tarteso - Fuentes escritas y documentación arqueológica , Madrid 2005 - ISBN 9788497423441 ; F. González de Canales, L. Serrano, J. Llompart: El Emporio Fenicio-Precolonial de Huelva, approx. 900–770 aC , Madrid 2005 - ISBN 9788497423458 .
  4. Bernd Ulrich Schipper: Israel and Egypt in the time of the kings . P. 59.
  5. G. Garbini: I Fenici. Naples 1980