The first historical record of Tarsus is its rebuilding by the Assyrian king Sennacherib (705-681 BC). Thereafter, Achaemenid and Seleucid rule alternated with periods of autonomy. In 67 BC Tarsus was absorbed into the new Roman province of Cilicia. A university was established that became known for its flourishing school of Greek philosophy. The famous first meeting between Mark Antony and Cleopatra took place there in 41 BC.
During the Roman and early Byzantine periods, Tarsus was one of the leading cities of the Eastern Empire, with an economy based on agriculture and an important linen industry. Modern Tarsus continues to be a prosperous agricultural and cotton-milling center. Pop. (1985) 146,502.
PAUL OF TARSUS
One of the most outstanding pioneers of the newly established Church was Paul f Tarsus, born of Jewish parents, a Pharisee as for the Law, a staunch and faultless follower of the paternal traditions to which he was introduced by Gamaliel, one of the most famous Rabbis in Jerusalem at that time, he persecuted with no respite those whom he considered a threat for the Jewish religion. On the way to Damascus, with letters from the High Priest to arrest and imprison men and women who professed this new faith, he was struck by a heavenly light, and falling to the ground, he heard a voice telling him: "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" A short dialogue followed, and Saul was himself converted to the faith in Christ he had so far persecuted. From now on, Saul, the persecutor, henceforth called Paul, become one of the greatest preachers of the Good News, the Apostle of the gentiles.
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