The eastern part of Mersin province -
TARSUS, city of prophets
Tarsus is a large town in the Mersin province that is quite near the city of Adana. With its
long and colourful history, it has always been characterised by interesting times, both in the
past and nowadays.
In ancient times Tarsus was a port located on a fertile plane irrigated by the Berdan Stream
(known as Cydnus in ancient times). In those days the Tarsus River flowed through the town
and into the Rhegma Lagoon.
Ship traffic between Tarsus, which nowadays is located at a distance of 10 km. from the sea,
and the Mediterranean, sailed through the channels of the lagoon.
Witness to the love between Anthony and Cleopatra
The ancient city gate, known as Cleopatra’s Gate after the famous Egyptian queen, is located
on the wide boulevard that leads on towards Mersin.
A triumvirate was established in 44 B.C following the murder of Julius Caesar as a result of a
conspiracy. One of the three members of this triumvirate, Mark Anthony, travelled to
Anatolia in 41 B.C.
He met with Cleopatra, holder of the Egyptian throne, in Tarsus, with the aim of reaching an
agreement with her. He bequeathed a great part of Mountainous Kilikia to the queen, with
whom he was later to marry. According to Strabon, the part of Kilikia given to the queen was
rich with cedar forests, the lumber of which was particularly suited to shipbuilding.
The ancient gate is called Cleopatra’s Gate, because it is believed that Anthony received
The gates of the city walls built during Byzantine times were known as the Mountain Gate, the
Adana Gate and the Sea Gate.
This meeting had a profound influence on the course of world history and was also an event
much narrated in literature. Later it served as the inspiration for the subject matter of many
works of art. Plutarch, an historian of ancient times, compared Cleopatra to the love goddess
Aphrodite, and Anthony to Dionysius, the god of love and pleasure; he described this
meeting as a gift of these two deities, for the good of the world.
Yedi Uyurlar /Ashab-ı Kehf - The Seven Sleepers / Ashâb-ı Kehf
The Ashâb-ı Kehf or “Seven Sleepers” grotto in Tarsus is considered by many religions to be a
sacred place where seven young believers “slept”. In Anatolia there are also other places
where it is thought that the Seven Sleepers slept.
Who were they and why did they sleep?
The belief in the Seven Sleepers is widespread in Turkey. However the legends concerning
these seven young people do differ. The differences may also be due to changes that
inevitably would have happened as the story was being passed on from individual to
individual and from one generation to the next. The main theme common to all versions is
that these seven young people were resisting the repression of their religious beliefs. Theirs
was a non-violent resistance.
Around the year 250 the “official religion” of the Roman Empire was polytheistic and the
Romans were thus to be considered pagans. The spreading of Christianity throughout the
Roman Empire was not accepted by the powers-that-be and Christians were ruthlessly
These seven young people, who had converted to Christianity, sought refuge in a grotto to
escape the repression and here they fell into a deep sleep.
When the rulers heard that they had sought refuge in a grotto they had them walled in by
closing up the entrance.