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.
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.
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. 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.