Tarsus, Mersin

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Tarsus Town Hall
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Coordinates: 36°55′00″N34°53′44″E / 36.91667°N 34.89556°E / 36.91667; 34.89556 Coordinates: 36°55′00″N34°53′44″E / 36.91667°N 34.89556°E / 36.91667; 34.89556
Country Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey
Province Mersin
  MayorŞevket Can (MHP)
   Kaymakam Mehmet Gödekmerdan
  District2,019.43 km2 (779.71 sq mi)
23 m (75 ft)
(2012) [2]
  District density160/km2 (410/sq mi)
Website www.tarsus.bel.tr

Tarsus ( /ˈtɑːrsəs/ ; Hittite: Tarsa; Greek : ΤαρσόςTarsós; Armenian : ՏարսոնTarson; Hebrew : תרשישṬarśīś; Arabic : طَرَسُوسṬarsūs) is a historic city in south-central Turkey, 20 km (12 miles) inland from the Mediterranean. It is part of the Adana-Mersin metropolitan area, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in Turkey with a population of 3 million people. Tarsus forms an administrative district in the eastern part of the Mersin Province and lies in the core of Çukurova region.

Hittite language an extinct Bronze Age Indo-European language

Hittite, also known as Nesite and Neshite, is an Indo-European-language that was spoken by the Hittites, a people of Bronze Age Anatolia who created an empire, centred on Hattusa, as well as parts of the northern Levant and Upper Mesopotamia. The language, long extinct now, is attested in cuneiform, in records dating from the 16th to the 13th centuries BC, with isolated Hittite loanwords and numerous personal names appearing in an Old Assyrian context from as early as the 20th century BC.

Ancient Greek Version of the Greek language used from roughly the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE

The Ancient Greek language includes the forms of Greek used in Ancient Greece and the ancient world from around the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE. It is often roughly divided into the Archaic period, Classical period, and Hellenistic period. It is antedated in the second millennium BCE by Mycenaean Greek and succeeded by medieval Greek.

Hebrew language Semitic language native to Israel

Hebrew is a Northwest Semitic language native to Israel; the modern version of which is spoken by over 9 million people worldwide. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites and their ancestors, although the language was not referred to by the name Hebrew in the Tanakh. The earliest examples of written Paleo-Hebrew date from the 10th century BCE. Hebrew belongs to the West Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Hebrew is the only living Canaanite language left, and the only truly successful example of a revived dead language.


With a history going back over 6,000 years, Tarsus has long been an important stop for traders and a focal point of many civilisations. During the Roman Empire, Tarsus was the capital of the province of Cilicia. It was the scene of the first meeting between Mark Antony and Cleopatra, and the birthplace of Paul the Apostle.

Roman Empire period of Imperial Rome following the Roman Republic (27 BC–395 AD)

The Roman Empire was the post-Roman Republic period of the ancient Roman civilization. It had a government headed by emperors and large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, North Africa, and West Asia. From the constitutional reforms of Augustus to the crisis of the third century, the Empire was a principate ruled from the city of Rome. The Roman Empire was then divided between a Western Roman Empire, based in Milan and later Ravenna, and an Eastern Roman Empire, based in Nicomedia and later Constantinople, and it was ruled by multiple emperors.

Cilicia (Roman province) Roman province

Cilicia was an early Roman province, located on what is today the southern (Mediterranean) coast of Turkey. Cilicia was annexed to the Roman Republic in 64 BC by Pompey, as a consequence of his military presence in the east, after pursuing victory in the Third Mithridatic War. It was subdivided by Diocletian in around 297, and it remained under Roman rule for several centuries, until falling to the Islamic conquests.

Mark Antony Roman politician and general

Marcus Antonius, commonly known in English as Mark Antony or Anthony, was a Roman politician and general who played a critical role in the transformation of the Roman Republic from an oligarchy into the autocratic Roman Empire.


Located on the mouth of the Berdan River (Cydnus in antiquity), which empties into the Mediterranean, Tarsus is a junction point of land and sea routes connecting the Cilician plain (today called Çukurova), central Anatolia and the Mediterranean sea. The climate is typical of the Mediterranean region, with very hot summers and chilly, damp winters.

Berdan River Turkish river

The Berdan River, also called the Tarsus River, is a river in Mersin Province, south Turkey. The historical city of Tarsus is by the river. In the antiquity, the river was called Cydnus.

Çukurova Region in Adana, Turkey

Çukurova, alternatively known as Cilicia, is a geo-cultural region in south-central Turkey, covering the provinces of Mersin, Adana, Osmaniye and Hatay. With a population of almost 6 million, it is one of the largest population concentrations in Turkey.

Anatolia Asian part of Turkey

Anatolia, also known as Asia Minor, Asian Turkey, the Anatolian peninsula, or the Anatolian plateau, is the westernmost protrusion of Asia, which makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region is bounded by the Black Sea to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, the Armenian Highlands to the east, and the Aegean Sea to the west. The Sea of Marmara forms a connection between the Black and Aegean Seas through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits and separates Anatolia from Thrace on the European mainland.

Tarsus has a long history of commerce, and is still a commercial centre today, trading in the produce of the fertile Çukurova plain; also Tarsus is a thriving industrial centre of refining and processing that produces some for export. Industries include agricultural machinery, spare parts, textiles, fruit-processing, brick-making and ceramics.

Agriculture is an important source of income: half the land area in the district is farmland (1,050 km²) and most of the remainder is forest and orchard. The farmland is mostly well-irrigated, fertilised and managed with up-to-date equipment.


The ancient name is Tarsos, derived from Tarsa, the original name of the city in the Hittite language, which was possibly derived from a pagan god, Tarku, as Hittites were one of the first settlers of the region. [3] First mentioned in historical record in Akkadian texts of the Neo-Assyrian era as Tarsisi. During the Hellenistic era it was known as Antiochia on the Cydnus (Greek : Αντιόχεια του Κύδνου, Latin : Antiochia ad Cydnum), to distinguish it from Syrian Antioch. It was known as Juliopolis to the Romans, Darson in Western Armenian and Tarson in Eastern Armenian.

Hittites ancient Anatolian people who established an empire

The Hittites were an Anatolian people who played an important role in establishing an empire centered on Hattusa in north-central Anatolia around 1600 BC. This empire reached its height during the mid-14th century BC under Suppiluliuma I, when it encompassed an area that included most of Anatolia as well as parts of the northern Levant and Upper Mesopotamia.

Akkadian is an extinct East Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia from the 30th century BC until its gradual replacement by Akkadian-influenced Old Aramaic among Mesopotamians by the eighth century BC.

Greek language language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.



Foundation and prehistory

Excavation of the mound of Gözlükule reveals that the prehistorical development of Tarsus reaches back to the Neolithic Period and continues unbroken through Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Ages.


Gözlükule is a tumulus within the borders of Tarsus city, Mersin Province, Turkey. It is now a park with an altitude of 22 metres (72 ft) with respect to surrounding area.

The Chalcolithic, a name derived from the Greek: χαλκός khalkós, "copper" and from λίθος líthos, "stone" or Copper Age, also known as the Eneolithic or Aeneolithic is an archaeological period which researchers usually regard as part of the broader Neolithic. In the context of Eastern Europe, archaeologists often prefer the term "Eneolithic" to "Chalcolithic" or other alternatives.

The settlement was located at the crossing of several important trade routes, linking Anatolia to Syria and beyond. Because the ruins are covered by the modern city, archaeology has barely touched the ancient city. The city may have been of Semitic origin; it is first mentioned as Tarsisi in Neo-Assyrian records of the campaigns of Esarhaddon, as well as several times in the records of Shalmaneser I and Sennacherib, the latter having the city rebuilt. A Greek legend connects it with the memory of the Assyrian king Sardanapalus (Ashurbanipal), still preserved in the Dunuk-Tach, called 'tomb of Sardanapalus', a monument of unknown origin.

Syria Country in Western Asia

Syria, officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon to the southwest, the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest. A country of fertile plains, high mountains, and deserts, Syria is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including Syrian Arabs, Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Circassians, Mandeans and Turks. Religious groups include Sunnis, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Isma'ilis, Mandeans, Shiites, Salafis, Yazidis, and Jews. Sunni make up the largest religious group in Syria.

Semitic people group of people, culture and languages in Middle East

Semites, Semitic people or Semitic cultures was a term for an ethnic, cultural or racial group who speak or spoke the Semitic languages.

Neo-Assyrian Empire Historical state in Mesopotamia

The Neo-Assyrian Empire was an Iron Age Mesopotamian empire, in existence between 911 and 609 BC, and became the largest empire of the world up till that time. The Assyrians perfected early techniques of imperial rule, many of which became standard in later empires, and was, according to many historians, the first real empire in history. The Assyrians were the first to be armed with iron weapons, and their troops employed advanced, effective military tactics.

Stephanus of Byzantium quotes Athenodorus of Tarsus as relating another legend:

Anchiale, daughter of Iapetus, founded Anchiale (a city near Tarsus): her son was Cydnus, who gave his name to the river at Tarsus: the son of Cydnus was Parthenius, from whom the city was called Parthenia: afterwards the name was changed to Tarsus.

Much of this legend of the foundation of Tarsus, however, appeared in the Roman era, and none of it is reliable. The geographer Strabo states that Tarsus was founded by people from Argos who were exploring this coast. Another legend states that Bellerophon fell off his winged horse Pegasus and landed here, hurting his foot, and thus the city was named tar-sos (the sole of the foot). Other candidates for legendary founder of the city include the hero Perseus and Triptolemus, son of the earth-goddess Demeter, doubtless because the countryside around Tarsus is excellent farmland. Later the coinage of Tarsus bore the image of Hercules, due to yet another tale in which the hero was held prisoner here by the local god Sandon. Tarsus has been suggested as a possible identification of the biblical Tarshish, where the prophet Jonah wanted to flee, but Tartessos in Spain is a more likely identification for this. (See further [4] )

Early antiquity, Greece and Persia

Ancient silver coin, minted in Tarsus circa 380 BC Cilicia Tarsos Tarkumuwa AR Obol Casabonne 1 20171208.xcf
Ancient silver coin, minted in Tarsus circa 380 BC

In historical times, the city was first ruled by the Hittites, followed by Assyria, and then the Persian Empire. Tarsus, as the principal town of Cilicia, was the seat of a Persian satrapy from 400 BC onward. Indeed, Xenophon records that in 401 BC, when Cyrus the Younger marched against Babylon, the city was governed by King Syennesis in the name of the Persian monarch.

At this period the patron god of the city was Sandon, of whom a large monument existed at Tarsus at least until the 3rd century AD. Coins showed Sandon standing on a winged and horned lion, and it is now thought likely that the Lion of Saint Mark on the pillar in the Piazza San Marco in Venice was in origin a winged lion-griffin from such a monument at Tarsus. [5]

Alexander the Great passed through with his armies in 333 BC and nearly met his death here after a bath in the Cydnus. By this time Tarsus was already largely influenced by Greek language and culture, and as part of the Seleucid Empire it became more and more hellenized. Strabo praises the cultural level of Tarsus in this period with its philosophers, poets and linguists. The schools of Tarsus rivaled those of Athens and Alexandria. 2 Maccabees (4:30) records its revolt in about 171 BC against Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who had renamed the town Antiochia on the Cydnus. The name did not last, however, due to the confusion of so many cities named Antioch. At this time the library of Tarsus held 200,000 books, including a huge collection of scientific works.

Roman period

Oscillum depicting a couple kissing. Terracotta figurine made in Tarsus, Roman Era Oscillum kiss Louvre Tarse92e.jpg
Oscillum depicting a couple kissing. Terracotta figurine made in Tarsus, Roman Era
Ancient Roman road in Tarsus Antik yol.jpg
Ancient Roman road in Tarsus

In 67 BC, Pompey, after crushing the Cilician pirates, subjected Tarsus to Rome, and it became capital of the Roman province of Cilicia. [6] To flatter Julius Caesar, for a time it took the name Juliopolis. It was also here that Cleopatra and Mark Antony met and was the scene of the celebrated feasts they gave during the construction of their fleet (41 BC). In William Shakespeare's 1606 play Antony and Cleopatra (Act 5, Scene 2), after Antony's death Cleopatra says she is going to Cydnus to meet Antony, i.e., she will commit suicide to meet him in the afterlife; "Go fetch / My best attires: I am again for Cydnus, / To meet Mark Antony"

Cleopatra's Gate in Tarsus Cleopatra Gate in Tarsus.JPG
Cleopatra's Gate in Tarsus

In the Roman period, the city was also an important intellectual centre, boasting its own academy. One of its leading disciples, the philosopher Athenodorus Cananites, was the tutor of the first Roman emperor, Augustus, a fact which secured continuous imperial patronage for the city. [6]

When the province of Cilicia was divided, Tarsus remained the civil and religious metropolis of Cilicia Prima, and was a grand city with palaces, marketplaces, roads and bridges, baths, fountains and waterworks, a gymnasium on the banks of the Cydnus, and a stadium. Tarsus was later eclipsed by nearby Adana, but remained important as a port and shipyard. Several Roman emperors were interred here: Marcus Claudius Tacitus, Maximinus II, and Julian the Apostate, who planned to move his capital here from Antioch if he returned from his Persian expedition. [7]

Christianity and Byzantine era

Church of St. Paul in Tarsus (the church and the surroundings are on the UN World Heritage tentative list) SaintPaul'sChurchTarsus (2).JPG
Church of St. Paul in Tarsus (the church and the surroundings are on the UN World Heritage tentative list)

Tarsus was the city where, according to the Acts of the Apostles, "Saul of Tarsus" [Acts 9:11] was born, but he was "brought up" ( [Acts 22:3] ) in Jerusalem. [8] Paul was a Roman citizen (Acts 21:39; Acts 22: 25-29) "from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city". Saul became Paul the Apostle after his encounter with Christ (Acts 9:11; 21:39; 22:3 ), and he returned here after his conversion (Acts 9:30 ). After about eight years, Barnabas retrieved him from Tarsus to help with the work in Syrian Antioch (Acts 11:25 ).

Already by this time a Christian community probably existed, although the first recorded bishop, Helenus, dates only from the 3rd century. Owing to the importance of Tarsus, many martyrs were put to death there, among them Saint Pelagia of Tarsus, Saint Boniface of Tarsus, Saint Marinus of Tarsus, Saint Diomedes, Saint Quiricus and Saint Julitta.

The city remained largely pagan, however, up to the time of Julian the Apostate (r. 361–363), who reportedly planned to make it his capital. [9] Following his death during his campaign against Sassanid Persia, he was buried next to the city walls, opposite the earlier tomb of the Tetrarch Maximinus Daia. [10] Emperor Justinian I (r. 527–565) undertook public works in the city, altering the course of the Cydnus river and rebuilding the bridge. Towards the end of his reign, the city suffered from riots of the Blues hippodrome faction. [10]

A cave in Tarsus is one of a number of places said to be the location of the legend of the Seven Sleepers, common to Christianity and Islam.


Lead seal of Theodore, Metropolitan of Tarsus (late 7th century) Seal of Theodore, Metropolitan of Tarsus, 7th century.jpg
Lead seal of Theodore, Metropolitan of Tarsus (late 7th century)

The first recorded bishop of Tarsus, Helenus, went several times to Antioch in connection with the dispute concerning Paul of Samosata. [11] Le Quien [12] mentions twenty-two of its bishops, of whom several are legendary. Among them are:

From the 6th century, the metropolitan see of Tarsus had seven suffragan bishoprics (Échos d'Orient, X, 145).

The Greek archdiocese, again mentioned in the 10th century (Échos d'Orient, X, 98), has existed down to the present day, as part of the Patriarchate of Antioch. [14]

At about the end of the 10th century, the Armenians established a diocese of their rite; Saint Nerses of Lambron was its most distinguished representative in the 12th century.

Tarsus is included in the Catholic Church's list of titular sees as a metropolitan see of both the Latin, the Maronite and the Melkite Catholic Church. [15]

Middle Ages

Following the Muslim conquest of the Levant in the 630s, the city came first into contact with the forces of the Rashidun Caliphate. It is unclear when the town was first captured by the Arabs, but it is clear that it, and the wider region of Cilicia, remained contested between the Byzantines and the new Caliphate for several decades, up to the early 8th century. According to the Muslim sources, during his retreat the Byzantine emperor Heraclius (r. 610–641) deliberately withdrew the population and devastated the region between Antioch and Tarsus, creating an empty no man's land between the two empires. [16]

It was not until the early Abbasid period that Tarsus, by then lying in ruins, was once more reoccupied and refortified, this time as an advanced strongpoint within the fortified zone of the al-ʿAwāṣim , stretching from Tarsus northeast to Malatya, and as an assembly centre for expeditions against the Byzantine Empire. [17] The first attempt was undertaken by al-Hasan ibn Qahtaba al-Ta'i in 778/9, but it was apparently unsuccessful, and the city was not fully restored until 787/8, by Faraj ibn Sulaym on the orders of Caliph Harun al-Rashid (r. 786–809). 3,000 Khurasanis and 2,000 Syrians (a thousand each from Antioch and al-Massisa) were given houses and land in the new fortress city. [18] Tarsus was apparently recovered by the Byzantines soon after, at some point at the turn of the century. The city probably remained in Byzantine hands during the Abbasid civil war of the Fourth Fitna, but returned to Muslim control by 830, when Caliph al-Ma'mun (r. 813–833) recommenced offensive campaigns against Byzantium, using the city as a base. [19]

Henceforth and until the Byzantine reconquest in the 10th century, Tarsus was one of the main centres for the holy war ( jihād ) against Byzantium, comprising annual raids (ṣawāʿif) into Byzantine lands through the Cilician Gates when the mountain snows had melted and passage was possible. These were mounted by the local garrisons, maintained by the taxation not only of the frontier zone of the al-ʿAwāṣim but also by generous subsidies from the caliphal government, and large numbers of volunteer warriors of the faith (mujahidun or ghazis ). [20] Tarsus remained under direct Abbasid control until 878/9, when it and wider Cilician border zone were granted to the autonomous ruler of Egypt, Ahmad ibn Tulun. The local governor Yazaman al-Khadim returned the city to the direct allegiance to Baghdad from 882 on, but was forced to recognize the Tulunids again in 890. Tulunid possession of the border zone lasted until the death of Ibn Tulun's heir Khumarawayh in 896, after which Caliph al-Mu'tadid (r. 892–902) re-asserted direct control. [21] The area remained under Abbasid rule for the next four decades. After a brief period where the border zone was under Ikhshidid control, in 946/7, Tarsus recognized the overlordship of the Hamdanid emir Sayf al-Dawla of Aleppo, who had become the new master of northern Syria and of the Byzantine borderlands. Facing a resurgent Byzantium, he was able to stem the tide for a while, but in 965, the Byzantine emperor Nikephoros II Phokas (r. 963–969) captured the city, ending Muslim rule there. [22] Throughout this period, the governors of Tarsus also operated an active mint in the city. [23] [24]

The terms of surrender of the city allowed any Muslim who wished to leave with as many of his possessions as he could carry. Many of those who left eventually settled, according to al-Muqaddasi, at Baniyas. Most of those who remained behind became Christians, and the local main mosque was either torn down or turned into a stable. [17] The city remained under Byzantine rule until 1085. [10] It was thereafter disputed between Latin Crusaders, Byzantines (1137–72), Seljuk Turks, and the Armenians of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia (Kingdom of Lesser Armenia). [10] These last became definitively masters until about 1359, when it was captured by the Ramadanids with Mamluks. Finally, the area was brought under the control of the Ottoman Empire by Selim I in 1516.

In the Middle Ages Tarsus was renowned throughout the Middle East; a number of Arab writers praised it as a beautiful and well-defended city, its walls being in two layers with five gates and earthworks outside, surrounded by rich farmland, watered by the river and the lake. By 1671 the traveller Evliya Çelebi records "a city on the plain, an hour from the sea, surrounded by strong walls two-storeys high, moated on all sides, with three distinct neighbourhoods inside the walls".

Ottoman and modern period

Tarsus Grand Mosque Ulucami, Tarsus, Mersin Province.jpg
Tarsus Grand Mosque
Kırkkaşık Bazaar KırkkaşıkBazaarTarsus (3).JPG
Kırkkaşık Bazaar

Under Ottoman rule, it initially formed part of the Eyalet of Aleppo. After the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus in 1571 it became seat of a sanjak (sub-province) within the Cyprus Eyalet, before being transferred in 1608 to the sanjak of Adana as a kaza (district). [17]

Despite its excellent defences, Tarsus was captured from the Ottomans in 1832 by the Mamluks of Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt, son of Muhammad Ali, and for 8 years remained in the hands of the Egyptians, who began growing cotton on the surrounding plain. Upon the return of the Ottomans this cotton drove a substantial growth in the economy of the area, due to increased world demand for the crop during shortages caused by the U.S. Civil War. A new road was built to the port in Mersin and the city of Tarsus grew and thrived. Still today many large houses in the city stand as reminders of the wealth generated during this period. However, after being a port for 3,000 years, by the end of the 19th century neglect resulted in Tarsus no longer having access to the sea, and the delta became a swamp. At this point Tarsus was a typical Ottoman city with communities of Muslim Turks, Christian Greeks and Armenians. At the founding of the Turkish Republic in the 1920s the swamp was drained and the River Berdan was dammed to build Turkey's first hydro-electric power station. Irrigation, roadworks and a railway brought the economy of Tarsus back to life, with new factories, particularly producing textiles.


The local cuisine includes: chargrilled chicken; hummus; şalgam (pickled turnips); tantuni (a sandwich of grilled meats); the tiny pizzas (lahmacun) called "fındık lahmacun"; and cezerye (a confection made out of carrots).


As of 1920, Tarsus was producing cotton, and had two cotton spinning mills with over 26,000 spindles. [25]


Tarsus City Stadium TarsusCityStadium (5).JPG
Tarsus City Stadium

Tarsus has two football statiums, Tarsus City Stadium and Burhanettin Kocamaz Stadium, and an arena, Tarsus Arena. Local football club is Tarsus Idman Yurdu.

Main sights

Tarsus is home to numerous ancient sites, with many in need of restoration and research. These have been well described by travellers over many years. For instance Blackwood's Magazine (Edinburgh) in 1890, [26] and H. V. Morton's In the Steps of St Paul in 1936. [27]

The best known include:

Sites of religious interest and pilgrimage include:

From the Turkish era are:

Places of natural beauty include:

Notable residents

See also

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Tarsus Museum

Tarsus Museum is an archaeology and ethnography museum in Tarsus, Mersin Province, in southern Turkey.

Thamal al-Dulafi was an Abbasid military commander and longtime governor of Tarsus and the borderlands with the Byzantine Empire in Cilicia. A former Dulafid slave, he commanded several successful raiding expeditions, mostly by sea, against the Byzantines, but also against the Fatimids in Egypt and against the Qarmatians in Iraq.

Byzantine conquest of Cilicia

The Byzantine reconquest of Cilicia was a series of conflicts and engagements between the forces of the Byzantine Empire under Nikephoros II Phokas and the Hamdanid ruler of Aleppo, Sayf al-Dawla, over control of the region of Cilicia in southeastern Anatolia. Since the Muslim conquests of the 7th century, Cilicia had been a frontier province of the Muslim world and a base for regular raids against the Byzantine provinces in Anatolia. By the middle of the 10th century, the fragmentation of the Abbasid Caliphate and the strengthening of Byzantium under the Macedonian dynasty allowed the Byzantines to gradually take the offensive. Under the soldier-emperor Nikephoros II Phokas, with the help of the general and future emperor John I Tzimiskes, the Byzantines overcame the resistance of Sayf al-Dawla, who had taken control of the former Abbasid borderlands in northern Syria, and launched a series of aggressive campaigns that in 964–965 recaptured Cilicia. The successful conquest opened the way for the recovery of Cyprus and Antioch over the next few years, and the eclipse of the Hamdanids as an independent power in the region.


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