Tarsus is an ancient town in Mersin that has seen a lot of wars, many civilizations and of course some of the most legendary love stories during its 6000 years old (known) history! It is also one of the towns that have kept their name untouched for centuries. The town's name comes from a pagan god, "Tarku from the Hittites". This spectacular town hosted some of the most important civilisations, such as the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire and many more. It is also an important pilgrim destination for Christians due to its impressive St. Paul Church. Tarsus doesn't only offer a grand history and religious places, but also amazing nature such as waterfalls, ancient mosques, caves dating back to the first days of humanity and of course delicious traditional food! Let's not forget about the legends ;). This city was a very important place for both antique and medieval times, since it hosted great people from history like Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Mark Antony and their unique romances! Prepare your inner Cupid and let's dive into this ancient love stories!
Picture © Credits to JudyDillon
Nowadays, Tarsus doesn't have a shoreline, but during the Roman Empire time it was an important city port, enclosed by a pair of concentric defense walls. On these walls there were three gates; a mountain gate to Toros Mountains, a port gate to the Mediterranean coastline -which is known as the Cleopatra's Gate-, and the Adana Gate to the neighbouring city of Adana. It is said that Cleopatra entered Tarsus via the port gate to meet the Roman General Mark Antony in 41 BC, to discuss about creating an alliance against Octavian.
There are a lot of Cleopatras in the history but the best known one is the Cleopatra VII. . We know that she could speak 7 languages, that she had a great education and that she has undoubtedly left a great mark in history. After becoming the queen of Egypt, she wanted to meet the Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar. According to the legend, she made herself wrapped in a carpet and sneaked in Caesar's palace. Julius Caesar was very impressed by her clever move and later on by her legendary beauty. Sooner or later, they had an affair and had a son named Caesarion. After a few years, Caesarion became the co-ruler of the Roman Empire.
This love affair didn't last long because of Caesar's early death. After his death, the Roman Empire was divided and dominated by two rulers; Caesar's niece and the Roman soldier Mark Antony. Cleopatra and Mark Antony met in 41 BC and they fell in love immediately. She and Antony had three children; Alexander Helios, Cleopatra Selene II, and Ptolemy Philadelphus. After getting divorced from Octavian's sister (Octavia Minor), Antony got officially married to Cleopatra.
Picture © Credits to ihsanGercelman
As mentioned above, Tarsus was a very important religious city throughout the ancient and medieval ages. Saint Paul was born in Tarsus as a Jew, but converted to Christianity after Jesus performed a miracle on him during his trip to Damascus; he was blind and he made him see again. If you read the Bible, you'll see that there are 14 letters written by him. He did a lot of missionary journeys and played an important role in christian history. A Greek Orthodox Church dedicated to St. Paul, was built in 1102 and it was repaired multiple times throughout the centuries. On the ceiling of the church, you can see the frescos of Jesus with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
During the Ottoman Period, a lot of bedestens were built, since in the Ottoman culture, sharing and supporting poor people was very important (bedestan, in the most basic definition, is the central building of the commercial part of the town). That's why during this period, Vakıfs ( source of revenue) were in charge of the mosques and other charitable institutions. Kırkkaşık Bedesteni was built as a vakıf, in order to support Tarsus Grand Mosque in 1579. This 600 square meters bedesten with its gorgeous five domes was repaired in 1960-1961. Today, you can visit it to buy souvenirs and traditional handmade stuff of ceramic, copper and silver. You can also buy gorgeous carpets, and try delicious traditional food while there.
Picture © Credits to isa_ozdere
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