23 April 2012

Tarsus: St. Paul's Well, Daniel's Cave and Cleopatra's Gate

Take a sip of water from St. Paul's Well, a Roman era stone well, built on the site of St. Paul's birthplace. See the cave where the prophet Daniel faced the lions and stand under the arch where a young Cleopatra first met Mark Anthony.

Entrance Fees: 5 TL for Roman Road and 5 TL for St. Paul's Well
Getting There:  About 1 hour from Incirlik.  Outdoor Rec has rents GPS and has trips to this location.  
Cleopatra’s Gate N 36° 54' 47.28"   E034° 53' 31.43"
Roman Road  N 36° 55' 3.33"  E034° 53' 34.21"
St. Paul's Well  N 36°55’30” E034°53’51”
Waterfall N 36°55’59”  E034°53’55”   
Physical Difficulty: Easy.  Flat stone streets and sidewalks.  Stroller friendly.

According to the website, karalahana.com, "Tarsus is one of Anatolia’s major gateways to the Mediterranean. As Turkey’s largest township, it exceeds many provinces in terms of both population and area. Smack dab between Adana and Mersin, Tarsus lies equidistant from both. And when its friendly people are added to the legends, historic sites and palate-busting flavors, you are going to want to get lost in this city in order to find yourself. 

Tarsus, whose name has come down to our day unchanged for thousands of years, is a perfect open air museum. Excavations conducted in the first half of the 20th century at Gözlükule Mound take the city’s history back to 8,000 B.C. Vestiges of the civilizations that thrived in the city, which was called Taşra by the Hittites and Tarzi by the Assyrians, are still visible today. In short, history whispers on every side here as you walk down a street of everyday life and observe the columns of an historic mosque or hamam. Hosting a university and a library of 200,000 volumes in Antiquity, the city became a center of learning and philosophy that trained the famous philosophers of the Stoic school. Situated on the road that joined Anatolia to Jerusalem in the Roman era, it became Eastern Anatolia’s largest port city. Only a 150-meter section is still open of the ancient way that is thought to have extended for five kilometers.

Six years after the powerful Roman Emperor Julius Caesar came to Tarsus on holiday in 47 B.C., another very important visitor arrived from Egypt. When the gold gilded ship with silver oars and sails of purple satin arrived carrying Queen Cleopatra, her lover, the Roman commander Mark Antony, was ready to meet her in this city famous for its strong walls. The arched, stone Cleopatra Gate at the entrance to Tarsus, where the Egyptian queen is rumored to have set foot inside the city under a clear blue sky, preserves the memory of that happy reunion.

The name of Tarsus is remembered as much in the holy books of the monotheistic religions as it is in the ancient texts. Tarsus, where those religions met and intersected, is a very important city for the Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions alike."

St. Paul's Well

The following excerpt describes the important role St. Paul played in establishing the Christian religion.  Quoted from Dr. Jeffery and Angie Goh, from their website, The Ephphatha Coffee-Corner Ministry.

"The former Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple once said, “A man’s spirit is not known by his opinion, but by his action and general conduct.” To the Philippians, Paul wrote: “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me” [1:21-22].

Through hard and tedious labour, but clearly Spirit-inspired work, St. Paul gave the Church a priceless heritage. Thirteen of the twenty-one New Testament Epistles are traditionally attributed to him. Imagine how impoverished Christianity would be without them. Written well before the four Gospels, his letters present us with insights into the first Christian communities. And yet, in the twenty-first century, they continue to resonate clearly as insightful descriptions of what it means to live as disciples of the Lord Jesus and as a faith community – transparent and accountable! It is him who gives us the indispensable theological concept of many parts yet one Body in Christ (1 Cor 12; Romans 12). It is him who continues to inspire us with a powerful definition of the virtue of agape (1 Cor 13). And it is him who gives us the first written description of the Last Supper (1 Cor 11) and challenges us on the proper celebration of the Eucharist. On myriad issues of the life and mission of the followers of Christ and the churches the apostles left behind, Paul’s spirit lingers on, prompting, probing, challenging, and haunting our conscience – to be ignored only if we would be rebels, rather than obedient servants, of the Word.

If we have to single out one manifestation of the spirit of St Paul that most impresses us, it is the indomitable spirit for all seasons and all circumstances that came in the wake of his conversion. Lists of apostolic woes – beatings and imprisonments, shipwrecks and hunger, hardship and disappointment, opposition and rejection, and dangers from false friends …. [see, for example, 2 Cor 11:4-5, 26-29] – seen against a backdrop of his immense work, fighting the good fight to the very end, finishing the race, keeping the faith (2 Tim 4:7) …, point our attention to one thing. That is, because his conversion was real, as Barnabas has intimately understood, Paul’s spirit enabled him to adjust to any and every circumstance, however adverse, while he pressed on with what Christ has called him to do. The singularity of his sense of vocation, regardless of power, position and profit – the three P’s the rest of the world as well as the church might hold dear, but which he considered as “garbage” in view of his conversion to Christ – is what has captured our quiet, but deep, admiration.

Reflections on St Paul are, from our perspective, most fecund when we are able to feel deeply the groundedness of all his messages. Then, we are better able to appreciate the real humanity of this towering figure from the early inception of the Jesus-movement, without whom Christianity would simply not be the same, and to renew our wonderment of how he lived and worked in the magic of divine grace."  Copyright © Dr. Jeffrey & Angie Goh, June, 2011. All rights reserved.

Cleopatra's Gate

According to the Turkish Ministry of Culture & Tourism website, "The gate of the antique city is located on the wide boulevard at the entrance of Tarsus when you arrive from the direction of Mersin. The gate is named after the famous Egyptian Queen Cleopatra. Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was one of the notables of the time to visit Tarsus. But he was killed at a much-reenacted assassination in Rome in 44 B.C. Following his demise, a triumvirate took over. One of the three rulers was Marcus Antonius who arrived in Anatolia in 41 B.C. His purpose was to secure the control of Eastern Mediterranean and Anatolia before he launched his expedition on the Parthians. 

He met with Cleopatra in Tarsus to make a pact with Egypt. He gave a great slice of land from mountainous Cilicia to the Egyptian queen with whom he was to marry later. Historical sources are in disagreement as to the exact definition of land given to Cleopatra. Strabon writes that Marcus Antonius gave Cleopatra slopes of mountains full of cedar trees suitable for building ships. During this time Marcus Antonius reorganized the political administration of the entire are and granted Tarsus “civitas libera” status which exempted its inhabitants from paying taxes.
Because it is widely believed that the gate, which still stands almost intact, is the spot where Marcus Antonius welcomed Queen Cleopatra, it is called even today after the name of the Egypt’s famous queen. The gates on city walls built during the Byzantine Period are called Mountain Gate, Adana Gate and Sea Gate. Ottoman traveler Evliya Chelebi refers to the Cleopatra Gate as the Quay Gate. It seems that the Cleopatra gate was also called the Sea Gate.

The meeting of Cleopatra with Marcus Antonius was a much-celebrated historic event written about by many historians and inspired many literary personalities. For a long time coming together of these two historic personalities provided the subject matter of many works of art. Greek historian and essayist Plutarchos, who lived about a century after the famous meeting, likens Cleopatra to Goddess of Love Aphrodite and Marcus Antonius to Dyonisus, the God of Wine. According to him the meeting represented the coming together of two deities for the good of the world.

Octavianus Augustus who became the sole ruler of Rome in 31 B.C. did not alter the privileged status of Tarsus either. Probably, his teacher Stoicist Athenodoros who was from Tarsus, played a decisive role in keeping the privileges of his birthplace.

The inscription on the gate was originally on the walls of Yeni Hamam, a public bath. It was placed on the gate in 1982. It is in fact, not an original piece belonging to the gate. It is the pedestal of a statue.

The inscription comes from a period between 222 A.D. and 235 A.D. It refers to Tarsus as 'the leader of Cilicia, Isaura and Lycaonia, the greatest, the most beautiful and the foremost capital.' Because of the inscription, the pedestal is called, 'The Honorary Epitaph.' "


1 comment:

  1. This place is a great place to learn about Paul.