Tarsus, located by the Berdan River, was an ancient city in Cilicia that has been continuously inhabited for centuries, making it one of the oldest urban centers in the world. Its strategic location as a trade hub has ensured its importance throughout history, pre-dating even Rome.

Tarsus has seen the rise and fall of many civilizations, including the Hittites, who flourished here around 1700-1200 BCE. It was later sacked by the Sea People and regained its status as a vital trade center under the Assyrians from 700-612 BCE. Alexander the Great also passed through Tarsus during his conquests from 333-323 BCE, until it eventually fell to Rome in 103 CE.


Tarsus is famous for some notable historical events. According to the Greek philosopher Plutarch, Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony met aboard her ship outside the city's port gate. Also, Alexander the Great fell ill after swimming in the Cydnus River in Tarsus. Moreover, Tarsus is renowned as the birthplace of Saint Paul, also known as Saul of Tarsus.

After 64 BCE, Tarsus became the capital of the district of Cilicia Campestris and retained that position even after being renamed Cilicia Prima and falling under Byzantine control. It continued to be a crucial center for commerce even after the Ottoman Empire took over.

Tarsus's historic city center boasts several noteworthy buildings, such as the Church Mosque (Kilise Cami) in the heart of the city. Built around 300 AD, it was initially a church, possibly dedicated to St. Paul. After serving as a church for over a millennium, it was transformed into a mosque in 1415 when the Turkish emir Ramazanoğlu conquered the city from the Byzantines.

The Cleopatra's Gate, dating back to the Roman era, is a relic of the ancient city's defensive walls. Another attraction is St. Paul's Well, an old stone well that draws many visitors to Tarsus. The few streets of historic homes near the well offer a glimpse into what the town looked like for much of its history during the last thousand years.

The Ashab-ı Kehf Cave or Seven Sleepers' Cave is a cave of religious significance located to the north of Tarsus.