Tarsus Tourist Attractions
South coast (Eastern Mediterranean)Situation and ImportanceThe city of Tarsus on the Tarsus Çayi stands in the hot Cilician Plain at the foot of the Taurus and is one of the few towns in the eastern Mediterranean which can trace its history back without interruption for 3000 years.Its importance in ancient times depended on its position at the southern end of the celebrated pass through the Taurus known as the Cilician Gate and on a lagoon beside the Mediterranean. Since then the lagoon has silted up and the coastline has moved away from the town destroying its maritime trade, while the main road from Ankara through the Cilician Gate to Syria passes some distance away. Tarsus is a commercial and market center (cotton exports) but it has no features of any special interest to tourists.HistoryExcavations on the Gözlü Kale have brought to light occupation levels extending from about 5000 B.C. into Roman times. The town walls were built in the third millennium B.C. Accounts by the Greek general and historian Xenophon (430-354 B.C.) indicate that Tarsus, then a flourishing city, was plundered by Cyrus' forces. During the Third Syrian War (246 B.C.) it was conquered by Egypt. In 64 B.C. it became a part of the Roman Empire and was made capital of the province of Cilicia. A ninth century B.C. statue is on display in Istanbul's Archeological Museum. The university and the school of philosophy in particular vied with the great schools of Athens and Alexandria. The Apostle Paul the son of a tentmaker was born in Tarsus during the last century B.C. but there was no appreciable Christian community there until the end of fourth century A.D..After the occupation of Syria by the Arabs, Cilicia became a frontier area and the decline of Tarsus began. About the middle of the 11th century the town was captured by the Seljuks, but in 1097 they were dislodged by the Crusaders who returned the town to the Byzantines. During the 13th and 14th century the Armenians who had been driven out of eastern Asia Minor by the Seljuks established a kingdom here. With the conquest of the town by the Ottomans in 1515 its political importance came to an end. Thereafter it lived on as a place of little consequence having lost its function not only as the chief town of the region and but also as a port.
Its great ancient buildings, in particular those from Tarsus' heyday in the early years of Christianity have been almost totally lost. The ancient city lies buried 6-7m/20-23ft below the alluvial plain of the Tarsus Çayi and little excavation has so far been carried out.A town gate from the Roman period is described as Cleopatra's Gate. Remains of a stoa and a Roman theater have been found southeast of the present town.
Tomb of Sardanapalus
Near Tarsus on the right bank of the Tarsus Çayi stands a massive structure 5-6m/16-20ft high known as Donuk Tas or the Tomb of Sardanapalus after the legendary founder of Tarsus. It is probably the substructure of a huge temple dating from the Imperial Roman period.
A narrow country road 65km/40mi long links Tarsus with the popular summer resort of Çamliyayla (1,200-1,300m/3,900-4,250ft). Even a hundred years ago this attractive town was inhabited only in the summer providing refuge from the sweltering heat. One 19th century traveler described it as a large village ("Namrun, consisting of a scattering of Swiss-style wood cabins). Çamliyayla (wooded pasture) is not just the center of the settlement beneath the Namrun castle (Lampron), but an expanse of land measuring 25sq.km/9sq.miles dotted with summer houses.