TARSUS (tar’sŭs, Gr. Tarsos). A city of Cilicia, the capital of the province from a.d. 72. It was the birthplace and early residence of the apostle Paul, a fact that he himself notes with civic pride in Acts.21.39, echoing a line of Euripides applied to Athens, which the Tarsians appear to have appropriated. The city stood on the Cilician Plain, a little above sea level and some ten miles (seventeen km.) inland. The Cydnus River provided an exit to the sea, and in ancient times the river course was equipped with dock and harbor facilities. Tarsus was an ancient city, the seat of a provincial governor when Persia ruled, and, in the days of the Greek Syrian kings, the center of a lumbering and linen industry. During the first century before Christ the city was the home of a philosophical school, a university town, where the intellectual atmosphere was colored by Greek thought.

Tarsus stood, like Alexandria, at the confluence of East and West. The wisdom of the Greeks and the world order of Rome, mingled with the good and ill of Oriental mysticism, were deep in its consciousness. A keen-minded Jew, born and bred at Tarsus, would draw the best from more than one world. The Jews had been in Tarsus since Antiochus Epiphanes’ refoundation in 171 b.c., and Paul belonged to a minority that had held Roman citizenship probably since Pompey’s organization of the East (66-62).——EMB

TARSUS tăr səs (Τάρσος). Tarsus (modern Tersous) is situated in the Cilician plain on the River Cydnus, some ten m. inland. This is a common setting for centers of civilization along that coast, once plagued by pirates. A calculation based on the wide extent of its traces, suggests that Tarsus once had half a million population. The lower reaches of the river were navigable so that Tarsus functioned as a port with a skillfully constructed haven on a lake between the city and the sea. Dion Chrysostom, speaking at Tarsus in a.d. 110, spoke of the city’s pride in her river with a touch of irony, and was critical of the environment. The people of Tarsus, however, made this the chief ground of their pride. They had made their own environment, taming the river to their needs, and building “no mean city,” as Paul said, appropriating a phrase of Euripides applied by that great dramatist to his native Athens (Acts 21:39; Euripides Ion 8).

Land communications involved engineering just as creditable. Some thirty m. inland from Tarsus lay the great barrier of the Tarsus mountains, cut by a deep pass known as the Cilician Gates. Through this pass Tarsus had driven a major highway. The city lay, therefore, virtually upon the sea in a corner of the Mediterranean where cultures mingled; E met W while the hinterland was open to her traffic. By her own strength she had made herself a nodal point of communications.

Tarsus was founded toward the end of the second millennium b.c., but the beginnings are shrouded in obscurity. One Mopsus is named among the founders, and the name appears to be Gr. It is a fair guess that Ionian Greeks, whose dynamic colonies dotted the western shoreline of Asia Minor, came also to Cilicia and joined a primitive settlement on the Cydnus. In the Table of Nations in Genesis 10, Javan is certainly the Ionians, and Tarshish, listed close to it, may in this context refer to Tarsus. There can be no certainty, but such an identification by no means rules out other interpretations of the word Tarshish in other contexts of the OT. To such guesswork are all attempts to date or to describe the beginnings of Tarsus reduced.

Nor can a connected account of the city’s story be given, even when the Eastern Mediterranean moves into the era of recorded history. The theme can be picked up only at various points, and some endeavor made to interpret isolated detail. The Assyrian conqueror Shalmaneser III, whose sanguinary reign can be dated 859 to 824 b.c., the king who wrote of “Jehu, son of Omri” on the Black Obelisk now in the British Museum, made brief reference to Tarsus in the records of his conquests and aggression.

The account must then pass over four centuries empty of significant detail. The year 401 b.c. can be pinpointed. Assyria and Babylon had left the stage of empire. Persia ruled a vast array of lands from the Aegean to the Indus. Tarsus was under a puppet king named Syennesis. The fact emerges from a famous and most significant book, the Anabasis of the Athenian soldier, adventurer, and literary man, Xenophon. One Cyrus, a satrap of the Aegean coast, had rebelled against the Great King. He recruited the famous Ten Thousand, a Gr. mercenary army, whose stubborn withdrawal from the Mesopotamian plain, through the Armenian mountains to Trebizond on the Black Sea, forms the well told story of Xenophon’s book. The author was one of the leaders of the great retreat. His first book describes the march through Asia Minor to the climax of the battle of Cynaxa. The column passed through the Cilician Gates and came to Tarsus where Syennesis ruled. It is likely that he was deposed after the crumbling of the revolt for failure to resist Cyrus’ advance, a hopeless task that he can hardly be blamed for avoiding.

Xenophon’s account of the Gr. exploit in marching out of the heart of the Pers. empire revealed to the young Alexander of Macedon, a half cent. later, the inherent weakness of the vast system. He applied the lesson and attacked Persia. Marching through Cilicia in 334 b.c., he found a Pers. governor in charge.

Coinage throws some light on this period. Greek notions and motives flood back into Tarsian coin designs after Alexander, but before the conquest the Oriental tone is dominant, suggesting that Gr. influence in Tarsus was at a low ebb. The strong Gr. presence, evidenced by the same art, reveals the firm integration of Tarsus and its province into the Seleucid Syrian regime, which followed the partition of Alexander’s empire. The Tarsus of Paul was visibly taking form and shape.

The region was ruled first as a province, for it was Seleucid policy to rule in provincial units after the pattern of the Pers. satrapies, and in the process, to discourage the habitual Gr. urge toward the autonomous city state. This policy was rudely interrupted by the inevitable clash with Rome. Under Antiochus the Great, Syria was moving westward in perennial ambition to recover the kingdoms that had broken free at the western end of the Asia Minor peninsula. Rome, simultaneously feeling for a stable eastern frontier, was moving in the opposite direction. Antiochus’ large designs extended to Greece itself, something of a vacuum of power on his westward frontiers. Rome had likewise felt the weakness of Greece as a buffer on her eastern flank. A confrontation could hardly be avoided, and it was to be expected that a victorious Rome would seek to stabilize her frontier as far as possible to the E. The peace treaty imposed on a humiliated Antiochus fixed Syria’s boundary on the Taurus mountains, and Cilicia became, in consequence, a border province. Readier agreement on the part of the Antioch government to grant Tarsus autonomy followed. How naturally it followed that a Tarsus should emerge that experienced and understood both worlds—E and W, Greek and Oriental, a Tarsus vividly aware of Rome, impregnated with Hellenic culture, but aware of the tides of thought and of religion in the lands of the E.

Paul was a natural product of this cultural environment. In writing to the sadly troubled Galatian church, the great apostle spoke of the purpose that had set him apart from birth for the difficult task of evangelizing the Gentile world. He obviously meant that Tarsus was no fortuitous birthplace for a man so called. Such a messenger had to be a Jew, imbued with the OT; he needed also to be a Gr., to interpret a nascent theology in the thought forms of Hellenic culture and to express what he had to teach in the subtle, rich language of the Greeks, the second tongue of all men from Italy to the Persian Gulf. Also, he had to be a Rom. citizen in the truest sense, understanding that mighty system, and conscious of the global opportunity it offered. No other man known to history from that time combined these qualities as did Paul of Tarsus. It is difficult to imagine any other place whose whole atmosphere and history could have so effectively produced them in one person. Paul was a Heb. trained under the notable Gamaliel. He could talk and think like a Gr. and quote his native Cilician poets to the intellectuals of Athens. He could write strong Gr. in closely argued documents. He was by birth a citizen of Rome.

The last sentence makes it necessary to return to the fragmented history of Tarsus. After the clash with Antiochus, which ended with the battle of Magnesia in 190 b.c., Rome was on the border of the Cilician region. In 171 b.c., Antiochus Epiphanes seems to have conceded a much wider autonomy to Tarsus. Unrest in that dynamic city, in which the Jewish minority seems to have played an important part, had forced the hand of the Antioch government (the curious story of the insurrection in Tarsus is told in 2 Macc 4:30-50). A major reorganization of the constitution followed. One provision was the establishment in the ward system of the city of a “tribe” of Jews with full citizenship. When Paul, writing to the Rom. church, spoke of his kinsmen, as he did four times in that letter, it was prob. to his fellow tribesmen of Tarsus that he thus referred.

Antiochus Epiphanes, who made this major concession to Jews of the Dispersion in Tarsus, was the notorious savage persecutor and oppressor of the Jews of Pal. This was because Palestinian Jewry was resistant toward the monarch’s passionate desire to Hellenize his realms. It was a quest for unity, not without its merits had it been pursued with deeper understanding and some tincture of mercy. In Tarsus, on the other hand, the Jews were tolerant toward Hellenism. Witness Paul’s use of metaphors from the Gr. games and the liberality of outlook that they suggest. The same Paul is evidence that a rigid Judaism could accompany such tolerance toward the Greeks. Such was the spirit of Tarsian Jewry, proud of their city, willingly integrated into its social system, but loyal to their ancient faith.

Rome first effectively penetrated the region in 104 b.c., and the next half cent. was one of lamentable strife and upheaval in Asia Minor, an era of tension ended only by the reorganization of the whole complex of nations at the eastern end of the Mediterranean by Pompey in 65 and 64 b.c. Under Pompey’s system, Cilicia became a Rom. area of command. Fourteen years later in 51 b.c., the great orator and statesman Cicero became governor of the province, and it is perhaps indicative of the trouble and anarchy that this once ordered corner of the Mediterranean had endured, that one of Cicero’s tasks was the pacification of bandit-ridden hill country in the province. In like manner, and as significantly, Pompey had received a special command in 63 b.c. to cleanse the eastern Mediterranean of pirates, so indigenous to this particular coast that they were often referred to as “Cilician pirates.” Resurgent orientalism led by Rome’s great opponent, the able king Mithridates of Pontus, had led to the anarchy and social breakdown that is evident from these events. Rome’s intervention and pacification were welcomed by civilized communities, and among such groups the Jews would figure prominently. The Jews of the Dispersion were an urban people, moving into the world of finance and commerce, which was to become the medieval characteristic of their race. Above all, they needed peace, and Pompey no doubt found in the Tarsian Jews a force making for tranquility and order. Rome was empiric in her organization. She chose and promoted those elements of authority and stability she found operative in regions that she penetrated. It was prob. from some situation at this time that the Rom. citizenship was conferred on a group of Jews at Tarsus, a group shrewd enough to read the signs, to feel the winds of coming change and profit by them. Once conferred, the Rom. privilege was transmitted by birth. Thus Paul became a Rom. citizen, a status that helped to form his outlook and that determined the pattern of his evangelism.

A brilliant period in the history of Tarsus followed. It became the Athens of the eastern Mediterranean, the ancient equivalent of a university city, the resort of men of learning, the home town of Athenodorus (74 b.c.-a.d. 7), the respected teacher of Augustus himself, the seat of a school of Stoic philosophers, a place of learning and disputation, the very climate in which a brilliant mind might grow up in the midst of stimulus and challenge and learn to think and to contend.

Like all boys of his race, the young Tarsian Jew also learned a trade (Acts 18:3). He wove the native goat’s hair of the province into a rough linen, often used as tent cloth, and known from its place of origin as “cilicium.” From references in Lat. lit. it would appear that cilicium was also used as sailcloth and leggings. Its manufacture was a prime industry of Tarsus, for it appears that the mass of its population were linen workers who were disenfranchised by the timocratic constitution, which demanded a charge of 500 drachmas for the privilege of citizenship. This property qualification, or “means test,” seems to have been an invention of Athenodorus, who after thirty years in Rome returned to Tarsus in 15 b.c. In true Platonic tradition, he sought by persuasion and philosophy to purge local politics. Failing, as philosophers in such situations have invariably done, Athenodorus used his vast influence with Augustus to banish the more corrupt of the city’s leaders. A timocratic constitution followed.

The founding of the Tarsian church was prob. due to Paul. Many of the trials, perils, and adventures listed by him in the biographical passage of 2 Corinthians 11:24-27 took place in Cilicia—its city, hinterland and neighboring seas.


W. M. Ramsay, The Cities of Saint Paul (1908); E. M. Blaiklock, The Cities of the New Testament (1965).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(Tarsos, ethnic Tarseus) :

1. Situation

2. Foundation Legends

3. Tarsus under Oriental Power

4. Tarsus under Greek Sway

5. Tarsus in the Roman Empire

6. The University

7. The Tarsian Constitution 8. Paul of Tarsus

9. Later History


1. Situation:

The chief city of Cilicia, the southeastern portion of Asia Minor. It lay on both banks of the river Cydnus, in the midst of a fertile alluvial plain, some 10 miles from the seacoast. About 6 miles below the city the river broadened out into a considerable lake called Rhegma (Strabo xiv.672), which afforded a safe anchorage and was in great part fringed with quays and dockyards. The river itself, which flowed southward from the Taurus Mountains with a clear and swift stream, was navigable to light craft, and Cleopatra, when she visited Antony at Tarsus in 38 BC, was able to sail in her richly decorated barge into the very heart of the city (Plut. Ant. 26). The silting-up of the river’s mouth seems to have resulted in frequent floods, against which the emperor Justinian (527-65 AD) attempted to provide by cutting a new channel, starting a short distance North of the city, to divert the surplus water into a watercourse which lay to the East of Tarsus. Gradually, however, the original bed was allowed to become choked, and now the Cydnus flows wholly through Justinian’s channel and passes to the East of the modern town. Two miles North of Tarsus the plain gives way to low, undulating hills, which extend to the foothills of Taurus, the great mountain chain lying some 30 miles North of the city, which divides Cilicia from Lycaonia and Cappadocia. The actual frontier-line seems to have varied at different periods, but the natural boundary lies at the Cilician Gates, a narrow gorge which Tarsian enterprise and engineering skill had widened so as to make it a wagon road, the chief highway of communication and trade between Cilicia and the interior of Asia Minor and one of the most decisive factors in Anatolian history. Eastward from Tarsus ran an important road crossing the Sarus at Adana and the Pyramus at Mopsuestia; there it divided, one branch running southeastward by way of Issus to Antioch on the Orontes, while another turned slightly northward to Castabala, and thence ran due East to the passage of the Euphrates at Zeugma. Thus the fertility of its soil, the safety and convenience of its harbor and the command of the main line of communication between Anatolia and Syria or Mesopotamia combined to promote the greatness of Tarsus, though its position was neither a healthful or a strong one and the town had no acropolis.

2. Foundation Legends:

Of the foundation of the city various traditions were current in antiquity, and it is impossible to arrive any certain conclusion, for such foundation legends often reflected the sympathies and wishes of a city’s later population rather than the historic facts of its origin. At Anchiale, about 12 miles Southeast of Tarsus, was a monument commonly known as the tomb of Sardanapalus, king of Assyria, bearing an inscription "in Assyrian letters" stating that that monarch "built Anchiale and Tarsus in a single day" (Strabo xiv. 672; Arrian Anab. ii.5). The statement of Alexander Polyhistor, preserved by Eusebius (Chron. i, p. 27, ed Schoene), that Sennacherib, king of Nineveh (705-681 BC), rounded the city, also ascribes to it an Assyrian origin.

On the other hand, the Greeks had their own traditions, claiming Tarsus as a Greek or semi-Gr foundation. Strabo says that it owed its rise to the Argives who with Triptolemus wandered in search of Io (xiv.673), while others spoke of Heracles or Perseus as the founder. It must be admitted that these tales, taken by themselves, give us little aid.

3. Tarsus under Oriental Power:

Ramsay believes that Tarsus existed from time immemorial as a native Cilician settlement, to which was added, at some early date unknown to us, a body of Ionians, which migrated from the western coast of Asia Minor under the auspices and direction of the oracle of Clarian Apollo near Colophon. The earliest historical record of the town is found on the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser, about 850 BC, where it figures among the places captured by that king. It is thus proved that Tarsus already existed at that remote date. For many centuries it remained an oriental rather than a Hellenic city, and its history is almost a blank. After the fall of the Assyrian empire, Cilicia may have regained its independence, at least partially, but it subsequently became a province of the Persian empire, paying to the Great King an annual tribute of 260 white horses and 500 talents of silver (Herodotus iii.90) and contributing considerable fleets, when required, to the Persian navy. From time to time we hear of rulers named Syennesis, who appear to have been vassal princes in a greater or less degree of dependence upon the oriental empires. Two clear glimpses of the city are afforded us, thanks to the passage through it of Hellenic troops engaged upon eastern expeditions. Xenophon (Anab. i.2, 21 ff) tells how, in 40l BC, Cyrus the Younger entered Cilicia on his famous march against his brother Artaxerxes, and how some of his Greek mercenaries plundered Tarsus, which is described as a great and prosperous city, in which was the palace of King Syennesis. The king made an agreement with Cyrus, who, after a delay of 20 days, caused by the refusal of his troops to march farther, set out from Tarsus for the Euphrates. Again, in 333 BC, Alexander the Great passed through the Cilician Gates on his way to Issus, where he met and routed the Persian army under Darius III. Arsames, the satrap of Cilicia, failed to post a sufficient force at the pass, the garrison fled without resistance and Alexander thus entered the province without striking a blow. The Persians thereupon set fire to Tarsus, but the timely arrival of the Macedonian advance guard under Parmenio saved the city from destruction. A bath in the cold waters of the Cydnus which Alexander took while heated with his rapid advance brought on a fever which all but cost him his life (Arrian Anab. ii.4; Q. Curtius Hist. Alex. iii.4 f) For two centuries Tarsus had been the capital of a Persian satrapy, subject to oriental rather than to Hellenic influence, though there was probably a Hellenic element in its population, and its trade brought it into touch with the Greeks. The Cilician coins struck at Tarsus confirm this view. Down to Alexander’s conquest, they ordinarily bear Aramaic legends, and many of them show the effigy of Baal Tarz, the Lord of Tarsus; yet, these coins are clearly influenced by Greek types and workmanship.

4. Tarsus under Greek Sway:

Alexander’s overthrow of the Persian power brought about a strong Hellenic reaction in Southeastern Asia Minor and must have strengthened the Greek element in Tarsus, but more than a century and a half were to elapse before the city attained that civic autonomy which was the ideal and the boast of the Greek polis. After Alexander’s death in 323 BC his vast empire was soon dismembered by the rivalries and wars of his powerful generals. Cilicia ultimately fell under the rule of the Seleucid kings of Syria, whose capital was Antioch on the Orontes. Though Greeks, they inherited certain features of the old Persian policy and methods of rule; Cilicia was probably governed by a satrap, and there was no development within it of free city life. Early in the 2nd century, however, came a change. Antiochus III, defeated by the Romans in the battle of Magnesia (190 BC), was forced to evacuate most of his possessions in Asia Minor. Cilicia thus became a frontier province and gained greatly in importance. The outcome was the reorganization of Tarsus as an autonomous city with a coinage of its own, which took place under Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164), probably in 171 BC. It is at this time that Tarsus is first mentioned in the Bible, unless we are to accept the disputed identification with TARSHISH (which see). In 2 Macc 4:30 f we read that, about 171 "it came to pass that they of Tarsus and Mallus made insurrection, because they were to be given as a present to Antiochis, the king’s concubine. The king therefore came to Cilicia in all haste to settle matters." That this settlement took the form of a compromise and the grant to Tarsus of at least a municipal independence we may infer from the fact that Tarsus struck its own coins from this reign onward. At first they bear the name of Antioch on the Cydnus, but from the death of Antiochus this new appellation falls into disuse and the old name reasserts itself. But it is almost certain that, in accordance with Seleucid policy, this reorganization was accompanied by the enlargement of the citizen body, the new citizens in this case consisting probably of Jews and Argive Greeks. From this time Tarsus is a city of Hellenic constitution, and its coins no longer bear Aramaic but Greek legends. Yet it must be remembered that there was still a large, perhaps a preponderating, native and oriental element in the population, while the coin types in many cases point to the continued popularity of non-Hellenic cults.

5. Tarsus in the Roman Empire:

About 104 BC part of Cilicia became a Hem province, and after the Mithridatic Wars, during which Tarsus fell temporarily into the hands of Tigranes of Armenia, Pompey the Great reorganized the eastern portion of the Hem Empire (64-63 BC), and Tarsus became the capital of a new and enlarged province, administered by Hem governors who usually held office for a single year. Thus we find Cicero in command of Cilicia from the summer of 51 BC to the summer of the following year, and though he expressly mentions Tarsus only rarely in his extant letters of this period (e.g. Ad Art. v.20,3; Ad Faro. ii.17,1), yet there is reason to believe that he resided there during part of his year of office. Julius Caesar passed through the city in 47 BC on his march from Egypt to Pontus, and was enthusiastically received. In his honor the name Tarsus was changed to Juliopolis, but this proved no more lasting than Antioch on the Cydnus had been. Cassius temporarily overawed it and imposed on it a crushing fine, but, after the overthrow of the republican cause at Philippi and the assignment of the East to Antony’s administration, Tarsus received the position of an independent and duty-free state (civitas libera et immunis) and became for some time Antony’s place of residence. This privileged status was confirmed by Augustus after the victory of Actium had made him sole master of the Roman Empire (31 BC). It did not by itself bestow Roman citizenship on the Tarsinas, but doubtless there were many natives of the city to whom Pompey, Caesar, Antony and Augustus granted that honor for themselves and, as a consequence, for their descendants.

6. The University:

It is under the rule of Augustus that our knowledge of Tarsus first becomes fairly full and precise, Strabo, writing about 19 AD, tells us (xiv.673 ff) of the enthusiasm of its inhabitants for learning, and especially for philosophy. In this respect, he says, Tarsus surpasses Athens and Alexandria and every other university town. It was characterized by the fact that the student body was composed almost entirely of natives, who, after finishing their course, usually went abroad to complete their education and in most cases did not return home, whereas in most universities the students were to a large extent foreigners, and the natives showed no great love of learning. Alexandria, however, formed an exception, attracting a large number of foreign students and also sending out many of its younger citizens to other centers. In fact, adds Strabo, Rome is full of Tarsians and Alexandrians. Among the famous men who learned or taught at Tarsus, we hear of the Stoics Antipater, Archedemus, Nestor, Athenodorus surnamed Cordylion, the friend and companion of the younger Marcus Cato, and his more famous namesake (called Canaanites after the village of his birth), who was the tutor and confidant of Augustus, and who subsequently reformed the Tarsian constitution. Other philosophers of Tarsus were Nestor, a representative of the Academy, and tutor of Marcellus, Augustus’ nephew and destined successor, and of Tiberius, Plutiades and Diogenes; the latter was also famous as an improvisatore, and indeed the Tarsians in general were famed for their ease and fluency in impromptu speaking. Artemidorus and Diodorus the grammarians and Dionysides the tragic poet, a member of the group of seven writers known as "the Pleiad," complete Strabo’s list of eminent Tarsians. A less attractive view of the life in Tarsus is given by Philostratus in his biography of Apollonius of Tyana, who went there to study in the early part of Tiberius’ reign (14-37 AD). So disgusted was he by the insolence of the citizens, their love of pleasure and their extravagance in dress, that he shook the dust of Tarsus off his feet and went to Aegae to pursue his studies in a more congenial atmosphere (Vit. Apollon. i.7). But Strabo’s testimony is that of a contemporary and an accurate historian and must outweigh that of Philostratus, whose work is largely tinged with romance and belongs to the early years of the 3rd century AD.

7. The Tarsian Constitution:

Strabo also tells us something of an important constitutional reform carried out in Tarsus under the Emperor Augustus, probably about 15-10 BC. Athenodorus Canaanites, the Stoic, returned to his city as an old man, after some 30 years spent at Rome, armed with authority from the emperor to reform abuses in its civic life. He found the constitution a democracy, swayed and preyed upon by a corrupt clique headed by a certain Boethus, "bad poet and bad citizen," who owed his position partly to his ready and persuasive tongue, partly to the favor of Antony, whom he had pleased by a poem composed to celebrate the victory of Philippi. Athenodorus sought at first to mend matters by argument and persuasion, but, finding Boethus and his party obdurate, he at length exercised his extraordinary powers, banished the offenders and remodeled the constitution, probably in a timocratic mold, restricting the full citizenship to those possessed of a considerable property qualification. On his death, his place as head of the state was taken for a while by the academic philosopher Nestor (Strabo xiv.674 f). Next to Strabo’s account our most valuable source of information regarding Tarsus is to be found in the two orations of Dio Chrysostom addressed to the Tarsians about 110 AD (Orat. xxxiii, xxxiv; see Jour. Hell. Studies, XXIV, 58 ff). Though admitting that the city was an Argive colony, he emphasized its non-Hellenic character, and, while criticizing much in its institutions and manners, found but a single feature to commend, the strictness with which the Tarsian women were veiled whenever they appeared in public.

8. Paul of Tarsus:

9. Later History:

This is not the place to discuss in detail the later history of Tarsus, many passages of which are obscure and difficult. It remained a focus of imperial loyalty, as is indicated by the names Hadriane, Commodiane, Severiane and others, which appear, isolated or conjoined, upon its coins, together with the title of metropolis and such epithets as "first," "greatest," "fairest." Indeed it was chiefly in the matter of such distinctions that it carried on a keen, and sometimes bitter, rivalry, first with Mallus and Adana, its neighbors in the western plain, and later with Anazarbus, the chief town of Eastern Cilicia. But Tarsus remained the capital of the district, which during the 1st century of the empire was united with Syria in a single imperial province, and when Cilicia was made a separate province Tarsus, as a matter of course, became its metropolis and the center of the provincial Caesar-worship, and, at a later date, the capital of "the three eparchiae,"Cilicia, Isauria and Lycaonia. Toward the close of the 4th century Cilicia was divided into two, and Tarsus became the capital of Cilicia Prima only. Soon after the middle of the 7th century it was captured by the Arabs, and for the next three centuries was occupied by them as their northwestern capital and base of operations against the Anatolian plateau and the Byzantine empire. In 965 it was recaptured, together with the rest of Cilicia, by the emperor Nicephorus Phocas, but toward the close of the following century it fell into the hands of the Turks and afterward of the Crusaders. It was subsequently ruled by Armenian princes as part of the kingdom of Lesser Armenia, and then by the Memluk sultans of Egypt, from whom it was finally wrested by the Ottoman Turks early in the 16th century. The modern town, which still bears the ancient name in the slightly modified form Tersous, has a very mixed population, numbering about 25,000, and considerable trade, but suffers from its unhealthful situation and the proximity of large marshy tracts. Few traces of its ancient greatness survive, the most considerable of them being the vast substructure of a Greco-Roman temple, known locally as the tomb of Sardanapalus (R. Koldewey in C. Robert, Aus der Anomia, 178 ff).


The best account of Tarsus will be found in W. M. Ramsay, The Cities of Paul (London, 1907), 85-244; the same writer’s articles on "Cilicia, Tarsus and the Great Taurus Pass" in the Geographical Journal, 1903, 357 ff, and on "Tarsus" in HDB should also be consulted, as well as H. Bohlig, Die Geisteskultur yon Tarsos im augusteischen Zeitalter (Gottingen, 1913). For inscriptions see LeBas-Waddington, Voyage archeologique, III, numbers 1476 ff; Inscr. Graec. ad res Roman. pertinetes, III, 876 ff. For coins, B. V. Head, Historia Numorum2, 729 ff; G. F. Hill, British Museum Catalogue of Coins: Lycaonia, Isauria and Cilicia, lxxvi ff, 162 ff.