HISTORY OF TARSUS


According to the knowledge available today the oldest inhabitants of Tarsus were the Luwi, the oldest settlement being found at Gözlü Kule situated in the southern part of today's city. The excavations made by Professor Hetty Goldman during 1933, revealed that the first settlement of Tarsus dates from Neolithic times; establishing that people lived on the rather large Tell for 7000 years. At the same time it has come to light that findings belonging to the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Ages demonstrates that the region of Anatolia was at that time moving to a strong position in commercial trade.The excavations reveal another valuable aspect, namely that the Tells stratification most important layers are those belonging to the Hittite Age. Inscriptions from the 16th century B.C reveal that the city was known as Tarsha. The texts suggest that the city was probably the center of what was known as the Kizzuwatna Kingdom. However, following that period, a large proportion of the city was destroyed due to immigration of a separate ethnic group followed by a period of no new migration.When we come to the 9th century, the dominance of the Assyrian Kingdom becomes apparent. The Assyhans named the Çukurova plain Que, önce again making Tarsus, which was then known as Tarzi, the capital of the region. The settlement of Phoenicians, Assyrians, Rhodes islanders, Cyprus islanders, and lonians resulted in a high point in commercial trade. According to ancient sources, the city is mentioned as being moved due to a rebellion that was subsequently violently put down by the Assyrian King Sennacherib. The sources reveal that the city was moved from the Tell further inland to the plain. The new city was built on either side of the Berdan River, to make it appear more like Babylon that had the river Euphrates flowing through it.From the 6th century, that is 612 until 333 B.C, another eastern people group known as the Persians enter the stage. The city known as Tarzi again became the capital of the independent kingdom of Syennesis, until the year 547 B.C, due to the occupation army of the Persians. However, the Çukurova became a satrapy in the early 4th century with the city remaining the capital for the satrap until the end of the Persian rule. It appears, that other Persian satraps from other destroyed cities in Anatolia were released at the border, moreover when Alexander speedily crossed through and rapidly took control of the Cilician Gates (at Gülek), he did not interfere with the freedom of the people of Tarsus. The invasions were effective because of the last Satrap Arsemes's misplaced faith in the strength of the Cilician Gate, consequently he was slow to respond to the danger. However, the city was not sacked, as was the normal practice of the time. It could be said that the powerful Tarsus of the Hellenistic Period was thus unwittingly helped along its way. However, up until recently not much was known of this period. Perhaps the ancient road uncovered by chance in 1993 sheds some new light on this dark epoch. The polygonal shaped basalt stones of the road, passes on to us a strong example of the wealth of the period. İt hints at a period of richness and visual pleasure. The excavations to the West Road clearly reveal finds belonging to what is known as the Antique Age. They clearly illustrate the importance of Tarsus during that period. Tarsus after the death of Alexander and during the reign of Seleukos, continued its role as an important metropolitan center. The cities name was changed to Kydnos Antiokeia for a short time during this period. Moreover, after the 2nd century B. C it once again declared its independence and one of the cities greatest periods of prosperity ensued. It is not certain as to when Tarsus first came under the rule and authority of the Roman Empire. In the year 63 B. C, the Roman General Pompeius established the provincial government system in the Anatolian areas and thereby Tarsus again became a leading city of the Cilician region. This state of affairs remained until Vespasian (A.D 69-79). As a consequence of this arrangement, the city once again experienced a position of greatness during the first century A.D. After Vespasian, the provincial capital was moved to Syria. However, Tarsus remained the regions largest metropolitan city. The city of today reveals many objects and works that date from the 1st century B.C onwards. These include the Ancient Road, Cleopatra's Gate (also known as Sea Gate, Silifke Gate, or Kancık Gate), the temple known locally as Donuktaş, and the Roman Baths also known locally as the Altından Geçme. With the steady collapse of the Roman Empire, beginning in the middle of the 3rd century, the city began a gradual demise. The loss of battle after battle in the region resulted in the city paying a high price in terms of influence. Much loss and damage was sustained from that time, this includes the first invasions of the Arab-Muslims in the middle of the 7th century. The cities splendor lasted possibly until as late as the Byzantine Period, after which some lived in prosperity and others in servitude. The Arab invasion marks the beginning of a disastrous time. The misery wrought by the Crusaders also resulted in an almost daily decline. A measure of calm was restored by the Ottomans, a development completed by the Karamanoğullan. From this period onwards Tarsus existed as a typical small Ottoman cosmopolitan town. Agriculture supported by a minimal amount of trade were the mainstay of its economy. Besides this, vve should not forget that the movement of lumber from the Taurus Mountains affected the material wealth of the region, thereby affecting the routine social order.
 

Date: Monday, November 21, 2011
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