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Fausset's Bible Dictionary


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Acts 9:11; Acts 22:3; Acts 21:39. Paul's birthplace and early residence. Capital of Cilicia, in a plain on the river Cydnus at the foot of the passes northward over Mount Taurus into Cappadocia and Lycaonia. Through these passes a road led to Lystra and Iconium (Acts 14), another road by the Amanian and Syrian gates eastward to Antioch. Founded by Sennacherub of Assyria; the Greeks too took part in its colonisation (Strabo xiv. 673), Xenophon mentions it (Tarsoi in the Ariabasis). Julius Caesar rewarded Tarsus for fidelity, and Augustus made it a free city, i.e. governed by its own laws and magistrates and free from tribute, but without Roman citizenship, which Paul must have acquired in some other way. Ranked by Strabo above Athens and Alexandria for its school of literature and philosophy; Athenodorus, Augustus' tutor, the grammarians Artemidorus and Diodorus, and the tragedian Dionysides belonged to Tarsus.

Here Paul received providentially that training which adapted him for dealing with the polished Greeks on their own ground, quoting Aratus a Cilician poet, Epimenides a Cretan, and Menander the Athenian comedian. He resided in Tarsus at intervals after his conversion (Acts 9:30; Acts 11:25); after his first visit to Jerusalem and before his ministry with Barnabas at Antioch, and doubtless at the commencement of his second and third missionary journeys (Acts 15:41; Acts 18:23). G. Rawlinson thinks Tarshish in Genesis 10:4 can scarcely designate Tartessus, founded not until after Moses, but Tarsus in Cilicia; though said to be founded by Sennacherib, an old settlement doubtless preceded his colony. Thus, Tarshish in Genesis 10:4 will represent the Cilicians or the Greeks in Cilicia; it is associated with Kittim or Cyprus, which was near.

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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Tarsus'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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