With a history going back 5,000 years Tarsus has long been an important stop for traders to the Orient, a focal point of many civilisations including the Ancient Romans when Tarsus was capital of the province of Cilicia, scene of the romance between Mark Anthony and Cleopatra and birthplace of Saint Paul.
Because of its critical and strategic location, invulnerable from the Tarus Mountains, from the north, and the Mediterranean, on the south, the city was a treasure for many peoples. After the Roman Empire Tarsus wasted away to a small city in the aftermath of hostilities between differing Christian and Muslim empires.
In about 170 BC Tarsus became a free city, leaving it open to Greek culture and Education. By the time of Christ, Tarsus was on a cultural parallel with great cities such as Athens and Alexandria, being a pedagogical center of the world.
Paul Speaks to the Crowd
37As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked the commander, "May I say something to you?"
"Do you speak Greek?" he replied. 38"Aren't you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the desert some time ago?"
39Paul answered, "I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people."
40Having received the commander's permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic:
1"Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense." 2When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet. -Paul of Tarsus (Acts 21:37-22:11)