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CILICIA, district on the southeastern coast of Asia Minor, between Pamphylia and Syria. Cilicia became part of the Seleucid Empire on the death of Alexander the Great, and in 65 B.C.E. fell to the Roman conqueror Pompey, who immediately made the region into a Roman province. Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia, has been identified by various authors with the biblical Tarshish. Josephus relates how Jonah embarked at Jaffa "to sail to Tarsus in Cilicia" (Ant. 9:208), and a similar tradition is attributed to Saadiah Gaon, by Ibn Ezra in his commentary to Jonah (1:3). During the Second Temple period the kings of Judea maintained various links with Cilicia. Alexander Yannai recruited a major portion of his mercenary force among its inhabitants (Jos., Ant., 13:374), and Herod, on one of his return journeys from Rome, visited it with his sons (Jos., Ant., 16:131). Herod's great-granddaughter Berenice was married for a short time to Polemo, king of Cilicia (Jos. Ant. 20:145–6). Little is known of the early settlement of Jews in Cilicia. A general allusion to a community is made by Philo, who quotes the petition of Agrippa I to Emperor Caligula (Legatio ad Gaium, 281). The New Testament refers to Cilician Jews in Jerusalem (Acts 6:9), with Paul describing himself as "a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia" (Acts, 21:39; 22:39; cf. 9:11). After the destruction of the Second Temple a number of rabbis visited Cilicia, among them Akiva, who is mentioned at Zephyrion in Cilicia (Tosef., BK 10:17; Sif., Num. 4; TJ, Av. Zar. 2:4, 41), and Nahum b. Simai, who preached at Tarsus (PR 15:78). During the fourth century messengers were sent to Cilicia by the patriarchs to collect funds for Palestinian Jewry. The rabbis were so well acquainted with the wine and beans of Cilicia that the latter were even used by them as a standard measure: the space of a "bright spot" of leprosy must be "a square with both sides the length of a Cilician split bean" (Tosef., Shev. 5:2; Ma'as. 5:8; Kelim 17:12; Neg. 6:1).


Schuerer, Gesch, 3 (1909), 22; Frey, Corpus, 2 (1952), nos. 782–95.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.