Tarsus, birthplace of St. Paul
Tarsus, the birthplace of St. Paul, lies in the southeastern part of Turkey in the province of Cilicia. It was the ancient capital of the area. It is claimed to be a 9,000 year old city and has been fought over and changed by Hittites, Greeks, Romans and other civilizations for all that time. Today, there are a few remains of the Roman era around the time of St. Paul, and many pilgrims and visitors come to see where the famous apostle lived.
At the time St. Paul was living in Tarsus there were many schools of philosophy in the city and it was believed that St. Paul was influenced by them. It is said that he went to a school of rhetoric and honed his skill and style of speaking. Because of his Roman citizenship and educational background he was able to communicate effectively to many groups at the time.
In Tarsus today, there are ruins of some Roman structures. There is a very good excavated sample of a roman road that went through town to the agora.
These structures are many feet below the present city, so there is much more that could be excavated.
There is also some remains of the Jewish Quarter that existed at the time of St. Paul. The city has made it into a park called St. Paul’s Park.
There is a St. Paul Church Museum that was a church built in the 1800’s, but there are no more Christian Churches still standing. The church museum is now a sight where some icon on the ceiling have been restored.
Tarsus has an impressive history and would have been an interesting place at the time of St. Paul. Today, the city is full of commerce and open to tourism and very friendly. The city fathers are very proud of the fact that St. Paul when challenged in the Roman courts said, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city.” Tarsus is still an interesting city worth visiting for it has kept is reverence for it’s history and holds it dearly.
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