Tarsus (Turkey)

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Coat of arms of Tarsus
Tarsus (Turkey) (Turkey)
Red pog.svg
Basic data
Province (il) : Mersin
Coordinates : 36 ° 55 '  N , 34 ° 54'  E Coordinates: 36 ° 55 '0 "  N , 34 ° 53' 44"  E
Residents : 323,961 (2014)
Telephone code : (+90) 324
Postal code : 33 xxx
License plate : 33
Structure and administration (as of 2019)
Mayor : Haluk Bozdağı ( CHP )
Tarsus county
Residents : 323,961 (2014)
Surface: 2,019 km²
Population density : 160 inhabitants per km²
Kaymakam : Bekir Atmaca
Website (Kaymakam):

Tarsus is a Turkish city ​​and district in the Mersin Province .

Tarsus is located about 30 km northeast of the provincial capital Mersin , at the meeting point of the Mersin-Adana motorway with the European route 90 coming from the north through the Cilician Gate . Since a municipal reform in 2014, the district town has been identical to the district in terms of area and population.

Tarsus has been known since ancient times as the birthplace of the Apostle Paul .


The port city of Tarsus on the Gulf of İskenderun , which had trade relations with Phenicia and Egypt , was about two to three kilometers from the Mediterranean Sea and was accessible via the navigable river Kydnos (today's name Berdan Çayı ). The port is now silted up and the city is about 16 km from the sea.

The oldest settlement layer dates from the 4th millennium BC. If the equation Tarša / Tarsus ( Šuppiluliuma -Sunaššuraš contract) is correct, the city belonged temporarily to the principality of Kizzuwatna . Under the Hittites it developed into an important center of Cilicia . Around 1200 BC BC Tarsus was destroyed by the sea ​​peoples , then at least partially colonized by the Greek, as numerous Mycenaean finds show. Tarsus is first clearly attested in writing in Assyrian texts that describe the conquest by Sennacherib . Shortly afterwards, Tarsus became the Assyrian provincial capital. According to Dion Chrysostomos (Orationes xxxiii, 40), Tarsus is a Phoenician foundation with the name Taraz. Flavius ​​Josephus (Jewish Antiquities I.6, § 1) equated the city with the biblical Tarsis (Gen. 10, 4). An inscription in Anchiale , however, claimed at the time of Alexander that Tarsus was founded by Sardanapal .

After the Assyrian era, the city came under the rule of Babylon , Persia and finally Alexander the Great . Under the Seleucids , the city received 171 BC. The name Antioch on Kydnos, under Roman influence (from 66 BC) it was renamed to Juliopolis (after 47 BC), in memory of Gaius Iulius Caesar , to whom she was loyal during the civil war .

Bronze coin from Tarsus, 1st – 2nd centuries. Century BC BC, Tychekopf
Pyr des Sandan in pyramid shape, inside Sandan on lion

Tarsus gained historical fame through the meeting of Cleopatra with Mark Antony in 41 BC. Under the Sassanids , Tarsus was temporarily conquered in 259, then came under the sphere of influence of Palmyra and the Roman vassal Odaenathus . It was recaptured by Aurelian in a campaign against Zenobia and eventually came under Byzantine sovereignty through the division of the empire . Emperor Julian was buried in Tarsus in 363. The Persians conquered the city in 614. The Arabs held Tarsus until 965 when Nikephorus Phocas conquered it for Byzantium. It was the seat of the governor of Cilicia. After the Battle of Manzikert , Tarsus was part of the area that Abul Gharib ruled. The Crusaders temporarily captured it in 1097. Tarsus then became part of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia . Eventually the city fell to the Mamluks in 1355 , then to the Ottomans .


A strong religious syncretism developed in Tarsus . Deities like Šanta , Ba'al and Zeus merged into the city god Sandan . In addition to the Mithras cult , Judaism also had a fixed position in Tarsus. William Ramsay suggested that the Jews of Tarsus, since the city was re-founded in 171 BC. Under Antiochus IV. Epiphanes, were settled purposefully and had a privileged position as well as the citizenship. However, this is questioned in recent research.

The city also became the seat of an archbishop. During the Crusades , this was the seat of the Latin Archdiocese of Tarsus, which was founded in 1098. But the diocese went under, but today it is a titular diocese of the Catholic Church .

Armenian St. Paul Church from Tarsus 1900

See also:


The Roman "Cleopatra Gate" ( Cleopatra Kapısı ) is located on a green traffic island in the main street (Mersin Caddesi ). It is supposed to commemorate the meeting of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, but was built about five centuries later. The inscription on a memorial stone opposite goes back to the emperor Severus Alexander , who gave the city, which until now only had the status of a “civitas libera”, the Roman town charter. In the east of the city center there are still sparse remains from classical antiquity , including the suggestion of a theater round built into the Gözlükule hill and the substructure of a large Roman temple called Donuk Taş . In the archaeological department of the museum are terracotta - sarcophagi dating from the fourth century BC, coins, busts and torsos from the third to the first century BC and Ottoman grave steles issued.

Portal of the Ulu Camii

During the Christian period, especially the Armenian minority , several churches were built in Tarsus, which were converted into mosques after the conquest by the Mamelukes. These include the Old Mosque (Eski Camii), a formerly Gothic cathedral from the 12th century, and the three-aisled Great Mosque (Ulu Camii), whose construction time is contradicting information. It shows Syrian influence , especially on the portal with its white and black marble bands . In the 19th century it was given an unusual clock tower. The mosque also has a medrese and a doorway . The former St. Paul's Church is of great importance to Christians, but the Turkish government prohibits reopening for church services. The birthplace of the apostle is said to have stood at the Saint Pauls Fountain (Sempol kuyusu), an ancient draw well, but this is not documented. At the north-eastern exit of the town there are still remains of the Justinian Bridge (Justinianus Köprüsü) from the middle of the sixth century. It was once used by trade to the Cilician Gate .

About 40 kilometers north of the city is the small Armenian castle Gülek Kalesi , which guarded the Cilician gate in the Middle Ages.


Town twinning


  • H. Böhlig: The intellectual culture of Tarsos . 1913
  • A. Ores: Cilicia until the end of Persian rule . 1940
  • Marianne Mehling: Knaur's cultural guide: Turkey . Droemer Knaur Munich / Zurich 1987, pp. 479-482, ISBN 3-426-26293-2 .

Web links

Commons : Tarsus  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Turkish Institute for Statistics ( Memento from December 6, 2015 on WebCite ), accessed December 6, 2015
  2. ^ Réne Lebrun: L'Anatolie et le monde phénicien du X e au IV e siècle av. J.-C. In: E. Lipiński, Studia Phenicia 5, Phenicia and the East Mediterranean in the First Millennium B C. Louvain 1987, pp. 23-33
  3. Attilio Mastrocinque: The Mysteries of Mithras: A Different Account . Mohr Siebeck, 2017, ISBN 978-3-16-155112-3 , pp. 229 .
  4. ^ William Mitchell Ramsay : The Cities of St. Paul. Their Influence on his Life and Thought. London 1907, p. 169ff.
  5. Wolfgang Stegemann : Disputeable exegeses. Social-historical, cultural anthropological and ideology-critical reading of New Testament texts . Kohlhammer Verlag, 2015, ISBN 978-3-17-029645-9 , pp. 33 .
  6. Peter Plank: Church Colonialism . In: World and Environment of the Bible . 29 (The Crusades). Catholic Bible Work, 2003, ISSN  1431-2379 , The Meeting of Eastern and Western Churches during the Crusades, p. 30 .