Name and Situation.

Ancient province of southeastern Asia Minor, separated from Syria by the Taurus-Amanus range. In native Phenician inscriptions the name is given as or (Lidzbarski, "Handbuch der Nordsemitischen Epigraphik," i. 274). Originally inhabited by Phenicians and Syrians (Herodotus, vii. 91), Cilicia was only gradually Hellenized fromthe time of Alexander the Great; and because of its proximity to Syria it was often included in that country, to which it belonged politically. After the death of Alexander it became a Seleucid-Syrian province (I Macc. xi. 14; II Macc. iv. 36); it was afterward a part of Armenia; and from 63 B.C. it belonged to Rome. As a Roman province Cilicia was known to the author of the Book of Judith; although the Babylonian monarchy is referred to therein (Judith i. 7; ii. 21, 25).

Josephus ("Ant." i. 6, § 1) asserts that the Θάρσος of the Bible (Gen. x. 4, "Tarshish") is the old name for Cilicia. He expressly identifies Θάρσος with Ταρσός ("Tarsus"), the renowned capital of Cilicia; but this is philologically impossible. He also makes the prophet Jonah travel to Tarsus in Cilicia ("Ant." ix. 10, § 2), and mentions the country in several other connections. According to Josephus, it was by way of Cilicia that Pompey (63 B.C.) returned from Judea to Rome with Aristobulus as his prisoner ("B. J." i. 7, § 7). Herod with his sons embarked for Cilicia, landing at Eleusa, where he met Archelaus, King of Cappadocia ("Ant." xvi. 4, § 6; "B. J." i. 23, § 4). At times Celenderis in Cilicia, a city otherwise unknown, is referred to ("Ant." xvii. 5, § 1; "B. J." i. 31, § 3). Alexander, a great-great-grandson of Herod, became king of an island of Cilicia by the favor of Vespasian ("Ant." xviii. 5, § 4). The infamous Berenice, after her husband's death, married Polemon, King of Cilicia ("Ant." xx. 7, § 3). Antiochus, King of Commagene, who at first joined the Romans against the Jews, fled to Tarsus in Cilicia, where he was taken prisoner by Pætus ("B. J." vii. 7, § 2, 3). Mopsuestia, too, a Cilician city which afterward became celebrated through its Biblical exegesis, is referred to by Josephus ("Ant." xiii. 13, § 4). Cilicians were among the mercenaries of Alexander Jannæus (ib. § 5; "B. J." i. 4, § 3) and those of Herod.

In the Talmud.

In the Talmud the country is referred to as "Ḳiliḳah" after the Greek name. The cities of Tarsus, Taurus Amanus, and Zephyrion are mentioned; but it is not certain that the Cilician Zephyrion is intended. The Syrians (Payne Smith, "Thesaurus Syriacus," p. 3602) also mentioned Tarsus and Zephyrus among the important cities of Cilicia; but "Aulon Kilikios" (Targ. Yer. Num. xxxiv. 8) is the name of a place in Moab (compare Josephus, "Ant." xiii. 5, § 4).

That Jews were dwelling in Cilicia is known from Philo ("Legatio ad Caium," p. 36). At the time of the Apostles many Cilician Jews lived in Jerusalem (Acts vi. 9); among them Paul (ib. ix. 11, xxi. 39, xxii. 3), whose birthplace was Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia. Nahum, the son of Rabbi Simai, preached in Tarsus (Pesiḳ. R. 15; ed. Friedmann, p. 78b); so that there must have been a congregation and a synagogue there. Some explain the "synagogue of the Tarsiyim" as meaning "people of Tarsus." In Jaffa a Greek epitaph of a Jew, "son of Jose of Tarsus," has been found. Epiphanius ("Hæres." xxx. 11) states that the patriarch Judah, of the fourth century, sent messengers to Cilicia to collect tithes and offerings in every city. In Corycos in Cilicia the sarcophagus of a Jew named Alexander and his wife has been found. In Rome the epitaph of a Jew, "Asaphat of Tarsus" ("Jahrb. Gesch. der Jud." ii. 287), has been deciphered; but the reading is doubtful. Christianity spread rapidly in Cilicia; and this indicates that there were numerous Jews in the province.


Cilicia produced much wine (Pliny, "Historia Naturalis," xiv. 11), to which reference is often made in the Talmud (Tosef., Sheb. v. 2; Yer. Ḥal. 60b). The Cilician bean is also frequently mentioned (Ma'as. v. 8), as is the so-called "cilicium," a coarse cloth made of Cilician goat-hair (Kelim xix. 1). The word "cilicium" is used by the Vulgate to render the Biblical word ("sack"); and in the ecclesiastical life of the Christians it has a certain religious significance. Curly hair on the body is designated as "cilicinus" by the Rabbis (Sifra, ed. Weiss, 76c).

Though Cilicia came under various rulers, it was not until its conquest by the Turks that the Jews of the country attained to any prominence.

  • Boettger, Topographisch-Historisches Lexicon zu den Schriften des Flavius Josephus, p. 90;
  • Neubauer, G. T. p. 314;
  • Bochart, Canaan, i. 5;
  • S. Krauss, Lehnwörter, ii. 531;
  • Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., iii. 17.
G. S. Kr.
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