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TARSUS      


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The Tarsus County of Mersin is one of the major oldest and important settlements of the Anatolia with its historical, cultural, and economic aspects. Tarsus, the capital city of the Cilicia in the ancient times, was the place where St. Paulus born and the pilgrimage center for the Christians. The city has been an important cultural and scientific center for the philosophers grew up. The sources state that the city has the Tarsus name due to the god of the city, Sandon. On the other hand, the name Tarsus took place in the historical documents and in the mythology.

The excavations in the Gozlukule Tumulus displayed the first settlements to this region began in the Neolithic Age and continued uninterruptedly during the Islamic period. Tarsus became the capital city of the Cilicia, ruled by the Assyrians, and then captured by the Persians and Alexander the Great in turn. In 1st century BC, the Roman era began in the Cilicia. Taurus, being an agriculture and trade city with its fertile lands, continued to have central position in the Roman times, too. Called as Tarsos previously, the name became in the course of time Tarsus in Latin, as we call it today. Tarsus has changed hands many times between the Arabs and the Byzantine. In 965 the Byzantine, in 1082 the Seljuk, in 1097 the Crusaders, then the Cilicia Armenian Kingdoms founded after the Crusaders captured the region; the next owner of these lands was the Ramazanogullari, this changing hands ended up when Yavuz Sultan Selim, the Ottoman Emperor, made these lands his domain in 1516. During the Ottoman sovereignty, Tarsus was subjected to Adana, except that when Ibrahim Pasha, the son of the Kavalali Mahomet Ali Pasha who was the governor of the Egypt, ruled the city for a short time in the 19th century. Tarsus joined again to the Ottoman lands in 1839 and became a county of Mersin in 1933.

All the data agreed on that the Tarsus City was a cultural and scientific center during the history. A world wide library was founded under the reign of Antonius. The university of the ancient city is also famous. This libertarian and beautiful city has attracted attentions of many Muslim scientists who mentioned Tarsus in their books.

There are many historical assets in Tarsus and its neighborhood, and the oldest one among these assets is the Gozlukule Tumulus where the important data has been found about the city. As far as it’s concerned from the 22 meters high tumulus southeast to the county, there had been continuous settlement from the Neolithic Age to the Islamic period. Belonging to the Neolithic Age, the Chalcolithic Age, and the Bronze Age, tools, devices, and the furniture, obtained in the Gozlukule excavations are exhibited in the museums of Adana and Mersin. This area is also used as park today.

Donuktas, in the Tekke district is a Roman temple.

The Antique Road, part of the historical Tarsus City, was found by the Tarsus Municipality in the course of a work of construction. The road was established in the direction of east- west, and the remains belonged to various eras were discovered.

The only remaining of the ancient Tarsus City for the present day is the Cleopatra’ Gate (Sea Gate), which is south to the Gozlukule Park, at the entrance of Tarsus on the Mersin road. The Cleopatra’s Gate is a door on the city walls, and it was constructed with cut stone using the Horasan mortars. The famous queen of the Egypt, Cleopatra and her lover the Roman General Antonius met in Tarsus, and they passed through this gate with a magnificent ceremony. Today, the remaining of the gate with its horseshoe arches and its two stacked feet is in a very bad condition. The recently restored gate has lost its original characteristics.

The St. Paulus Well; born in Tarsus in the 3rd century, St. Paulus completed his primary education in Tarsus, his higher education in Jerusalem, after that he became the Apostle of the Jesus. There is a well in the middle of the house, in which it has been thought that St. Paulus was born and lived, in Tarsus. People believed that the well water is healing. The Christian pilgrims come into this house and drink this water, that’s why this place is accepted as sacred for the Christians, too.

Altindan Gecme (the Roman Bath) has left a huge brick arch for today. Belonging to the Roman era and situated by the New Waqf office building, the Old Bath has another name, the Sahmeran Bath. The building was restored in 1290 and in 1873. Sahmeran, accepted as the king of the snakes in the legends, has a man head and a snake body. Sahmeran fell in love with the daughter of the Tarsus king and it watched the princess from the dome of the bath while she was washing herself. It fell from the dome and the guards of the princess cut off the head of Sahmeran immediately. It has been said that the red stains on the walls of the bath had belonged to Sahmeran.

The Roman Road 15 km off Tarsus, near to the Saglikli Village, is a perfect place to see the landscape of Tarsus. The width of the road can reach at 3 meters but the remaining part of the road is approximately 3 km.

The Justinianus Bridge (the Bac Bridge), built by the Roman Emperor Justinianus, is on the Tarsus River and has three spans.

The Bilali Habesi Mosque; it was built while the Arabic armies conquered Tarsus. It’s accepted as a sacred place because the muezzin of the Prophet Muhammad Bilali Habesi gave the call to prayer and performed the namaz here.

The Mehmet Felah Shrine; bearing the date of 1342, it was built in the name of the son of Harzemli Felah, Nurettin, because he rescued Tarsus from the Armenian invasion and meanwhile died a martyr.

The Kubat Pasha Madrasah is used as the Tarsus Museum and it was established by Kubat Pasha in 1557. Cut stones were used in the construction. The entrance gate is on the west of the building and it is excessive outwards. In view of the porch is the main porch, besides the madrasah has a small mosque on its south and student rooms around the courtyard. Today, archeological and ethnographical works and coins are exhibited in the building, which has restored in 1966. In addition to these, a marble sarcophagus and stone works, most of which belong to the ancient times, are displayed in the courtyard.

Ulu Mosque; it was constructed over the remains of the St. Pier Church in 1579. Built with the cut stone, the mosque has a rectangular plan. It’s entered to the mosque from a northern monumental and corolla gate, which was adorned with black and white marbles. Having 16 domes, and carried by the columns, the courtyard has an arcade and a shrine in its eastern section. White Bazaar (Kirk Kasik) was built east to the Ulu Mosque in the year of 1579. Restored in 1954, the bazaar has in the middle of it a dome, carried by the sharp arches, and which is luminous and the building has five domes from outside.

The Old Mosque- St. Paulus Church; the anterior existing St. Paulus Cathedral was converted to a mosque Ahmet Bey the ruler of the Ramazanoglu in 1415. It has thick and high walls in the Roman style; and in the inner space thick columns and deep windows.

Makam-i Serif Mosque and the Prophet Daniel Tomb; was constructed in the year of 1857, and it consists of two sections, namely the old mosque and the new one. There is the tomb of the prophet Daniel to he east of the mosque.

The Orthodox Greek Church; built in 1850, the church is a stone building made with cut stones and its style is Neo-gothic. Constructed by the Greek religious community, the church has the images of angels on the ceiling of the apsis section and of apostles on the ceiling of the middle section.

Eshab-i Kehf (Seven Sleepers) Grotto; is 10 km northwest to Tarsus and 1 km east to the Dedeler Village. Due to the belief that (Moslem) saints lived in it, the cave is a sacred place both for the Christians and the Muslims. Before the Christianity was accepted as the official religion, due to the coercion of the Roman Emperor, seven young people escaped and sheltered to this cave; they slept for 309 years and then they turned to life. All these constitute the legendary story of this cave. That’s why; the other name of this cave is Seven Sleepers. It is climbed down into the four- cornered grotto, carved in the rocks, with a stair. Next to the cave, there is a mosque and a very high minaret built by the Sultan Abdulaziz in 1873.

(In the Anatolia, there are caves visited under the name of Eshab-i Kehf in Kahramanmaras, Afsin, and Tarsus of Mersin; and a cave called Seven Sleepers in Seljuk of Izmir)

The Clock Tower; was built by Riza Bey, the governor of the provincial district at that time, in 1890.

The stones of the Tarsus Castle were deconstructed to use in another buildings under the reign of the Ibrahim Pasha of the Egypt, who invaded Tarsus in 19th century, as a result, the castle was destructed.

The Tarsus Waterfall; is on the Tarsus River and 3 km north to the county. The river fell down from 3- 5 meters high. The place, which was a necropolis in the Roman era, remained under water when the Byzantines changed the river bad. When the water withdraws in the summer, the necropolis can be seen.

The Tarsus Houses; most of them date back to the 19th century, were built totally with the limestone and wood which are traditional materials for building in the region.