The city was founded around 1,400 B.C. when the Hittites settled the area. It is thought that Cilicia was the capital of the area they designated Kuzziwatna. Cilicia became a Roman province in 64 BC after it was conquered by Pompey. Tarsus became the capital city. Tarsus was located on the southern coast of Asia Minor. Cilicia had two main regions: the western half with its mountainous terrain, and the eastern plain, which contained fertile land. Tarsus was located in the eastern region. The city is 79 feet above sea level and 10 miles from the Mediterranean Sea. The city is built around the Cydnus River.
Tarsus was a prosperous city and intellectualism and education were its major distinctions. Strabo wrote thusly of Tarsus in the 1st century AD. : " The people at Tarsus have devoted themselves so eagerly, not only to philosophy, but also to the whole round of education in general that they have surpassed even Athens, Alexandria, or any other place that can be named where there have been schools and lectures of philosophers." The city also contained a number of schools of rhetoric; a method of speaking that Paul used in many of his epistles. Tarsus was also known as a center of Stoic philosophy.
Paul demonstrates a great grasp of the Hellenistic culture in his apologetic arguments of Acts and also in his epistles. He undoubtedly had first hand knowledge of this culture in Tarsus. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, was a Jew, a Tarsian citizen, and at the same time Roman. Only a "Hebrew sprung from Hebrews" could be the Apostle of the perfected Judaic faith; but he must be born and brought up in childhood among the Gentiles, a citizen of a Gentile city, and a member of the Roman aristocracy which ruled the Mediterranean world. While Paul spoke in Hebrew or Aramaic to the people of Jerusalem, he wrote in Greek and quoted from the Septuagint. Tent making was a common trade in Cilicia and the tents were made of material created from the hair of the mountain goats of the area.