The Phrygians (750 - 650 BC)
Not much is known about the Phrygians. They were one of the tribes that migrated to Asia Minor from the Balkans after the destruction of Troia VIIb, circa 1190 BC. However their civilization and the Phrygian kingdom did not appear in history until 750 BC. Although they were an Indo-European people they adapted well into their new homeland and became part of the Asia Minor1 culture.
So far only two of the Phrygian kings are known. The first one was Gordios and the second one was his son Midas. Gordios founded the Phrygian kingdom and the city of Gordion2, which became the kingdom's capital. Gordion is situated where the Persian "Royal Road" of the Achaemenids crosses Sangarius (Sakarya)3 River, which, according to mythology, gets its name from the River-God of Phrygia and central Bithynia. The Phrygians settled in the Sakarya (Sangarius) valley, which is surrounded by the cities Akroinon4, Kotiaion5, and Dorylaeum6. In the chronicles of Eusebius King Midas was mentioned twice, first rising to the throne in 738 BC and second his suicide by drinking bull's blood in 695 BC possibly after the attacks by Cimmerians in circa 695 BC. Midas was also mentioned in the Assyrian records. King Sargon in his chronicles mentioned him first in 717 BC and second in 709 BC. He was known as Mita, the king of the Mushki in the Assyrian records. The Phrygian kingdom survived for a while after the death of its king Midas. However, it disappeared from history in circa 650 BC, presumably after subsequent Cimmerian attacks. According to another view though the weakened Phrygian kingdom had lost its sovereignty to the kingdom of Lydia. Finally, it is annexed into the Persian Empire in 550 BC. Alexander the Great stopped by in Gordion (333 BC, please see below) during his military campaign against the Persian king.
Initially the Phrygians during their migration from the Balkans moved all the way down to south eastern Anatolia. However, when they lost their strength they moved back towards Dorylaeum and Akroinon and moved their capital to Gordion away from the Assyrian threat.
The Phrygians developed a very high civilization. As opposed to the Hittites, writing was common outside the royal family (outside palace). The art and architecture were also highly developed. The Phrygian art was influenced by the Hittite and Hellene cultures but also had developed its own authentic character.
In architecture they were mostly influenced by the western civilizations, carrying the Balkan and Hellene features. The Phrygians built fortified cities, public buildings, and monumental graves (tumuli)7. There are 100 known tumuli, out of which 25 of them were excavated. Their towns were typical in Anatolia, rectangular in the megaron style. However, they are known as the first people who cover the floor of the houses with mosaic. Tumulus is basically a grave. The burial chamber is built with wood. A mound is built on top of this structure by piling rubble and stones, and covering with soil or clay. The tumulus that belonged to the king Midas is the tallest and widest, hence the most impressive one, with a height of 50 m (164 feet) and a diameter of 300 m (984 feet). The grave chamber in Midas' tumulus had a double-sloping roof style.
The Phrygians, like the Urartians, were highly skilled in metallurgy, woodwork, and ivory carving. Excavations in the Phrygian territories unearthed various artifacts, such as furniture components, lion, bull, griffin-shaped wood toys, chariot-shaped bronze toys, and terracotta vessels. Among found were also mugs, jugs, mixing bowls, omphalos bowls8, buckets, and cauldrons, in addition to dress pins9, statuettes, statues, reliefs, and frescoes. The main deity of the Phrygians was the goddess Cybele, who might be related to Kubaba in the Hittite pantheon.
According one view the Phrygians alphabet was a modified version of the Greek alphabet. However, there seems to be some disagreement on this issue. Another view is that the Phrygians developed their own writing possibly based on the Phoenician model.
The Phrygians are known for their legends, not necessarily of their own creation. According to one legend, originally being a poor peasant, Gordios ties his oxcart with a knot in the middle of the town and declares that whoever is able to untie this knot (Gordian knot) will rule rich Asia. The Macedonian, Alexander, the great, in his quest to conquer Asia and own the riches of the far East and India comes across this knot during his stay in Gordion before a war with the Persian empire. When he was told the legend he tries to untie it but was not successful so being a soldier he withdraws his sword and slices it into two halves in his frustration and anger. According to one theory this legend is created by the Greeks to tell that Alexander, The great is destined to conquer highly envied East.
Another legend is a funny story. Midas does not obey his gods and is punished by them for his crime by giving him donkey ears. He hides his donkey ears from everyone except his barber since he has to have a hair cut. His barber, from fear, cannot tell anybody what he witnessed so he digs a whole and whispers into it and then covers it with soil. As the time passes straw grows in this pit and as the wind blows straws, they leak the secret of the king Midas. Eventually everyone in the town learns that Midas has donkey ears.
The Phrygian king Midas was a subject to another legend in the Hellene Mythology. According to this legend anything the King Midas touches was turning to gold10. Midas, to get rid of this magical power, takes a bath in Pactolus river11 near Sardis12 according to wishes of the god Dionysus13 and the magical power is passed to the river. Since then gold nuggets were found in the banks of the Pactolus river.
1. The Asia Minor is also known as Anatolia. Another name for it is Little Asia.
2. Gordion, Gordium (today's Yassı Höyük).
3. Sangarius or Saggarios (In modern Turkey: Sakarya) River.
4. Akroinon (in modern Turkey: Afyon).
5. Kotiaion (in modern Turkey: Kütahya).
6. Dorylaeum (in modern Turkey: Eskişehir).
7. monumental graves (Tumuli).
8. Omphalos bowls (phiale).
9. Dress pins (fibulae).
10. Roman writer Ovid in Metamorphoses.
11. Pactolus River (in modern Turkey: Sart Çayı) is in the Aegean coast of Turkey.
12. Sardis or Sardes.
13. Dionysus or Dionysos.
1. "The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations,", prepared by members of staff at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara, Turkey.
2. Akurgal, Ekrem, "Anadolu Kültür Tarihi," TÜBİTAK Popüler Bilim Kitaplari, April 2008, ISBN 978-975-403-107-2
3. Hornblower, Simon (Editor) and Spawforth, Antony (Editor), "The Oxford Classical Dictionary," Third Edition. p642, Oxford University Press.
6. Sander, Oral, "The Complexity of the Process of Civilization," Ancient Anatolia as a Case in Point, The Turkish Yearbook [vol. XVII], Dergiler, Ankara.
6. Roller, Lynn E., "The Art of Writing at Gordion", Expedition, Vol. 31, No 1, p 54-61.
. Hunter, Erica, "Anatolia before the Greeks," University of Cambridge.
1. Burke, Brendan, Anatolian Origins of the Gordian Knot Legend, American School of Classical Studies, 54 Souidias, GR 106 76 Athens, Greece, firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Burke, Brendan, II Interpreting the Finds From Gordion, Textile Production at Gordion, and the Phrygian Economy.
3. Rives, J.B, Phrygian TalesProgramme in Classical Studies, York University, Toronto, ON, M3J 1P3 Canada, email@example.com, April, 2005.
3. Young, Rodney S., "The Gordion Tomb," Fall 1958, Expedition.
Phrygia and the Phrygians
Ancient Phrygia in the west of the Anatolian plateau, the country around the sources of the Sakarya Nehri (river) within the triangle of the modern cities of Afyon, Eskisehir and Ankara, was named after the western Indo-Europeans who came here from Europe around 1200 BC and left their mark as skilled craftsmen with a culture of their own. It was a country clearly with many towns and cities, lying on the routes to the east from Lydia and Caria.
Today it has only three major cities: Afyon, the opium city, Eskisehir, a hub of industry and the main railroad junction, andKütahya, a centre for ceramics and the mining of brown coal. Here in many places the westerlies and southerlies can still carry rain deep into the mountains, bringing denser settlement and a greater degree of cultivation in their train. This farming potential enabled Phrygia even in early classical times to develop a powerful kingdom of its own with many towns and cities. Its fringes, where east met west, were a battleground for Persians and Lydians, Romans and Galatians, Arabs and Romans, Crusadersand Seljuks, Ottomans and Mongols, Byzantines and Turks. Ruins and age-old monuments abound up on the rolling plateau around the upper reaches of the Sakarya, with here and there towering rocky outcrops and a few scraggy trees, although nowadays signs of settlement are few and far between.
The Phrygian language, which died out in the 6th c. AD, was closely related to Greek, as can be seen from 80 ancient Phrygian inscriptions (7th-4th c. BC.), written in a script rather like Greek and over 110 neo-Phrygian writings in Greek fromRoman times.
As Thracian invaders, the Phrygians played a decisive role in the destruction of the Hittite Kingdom and the fall of Troy. Their independent Phrygian kingdom of the 8th and 7th c BC maintained close contacts with the Aryans in the east and the Greeks in the west. Its early history is only briefly chronicled (Herodotus), recounting the suicide of its last king, Midas, in Gordionwhen it fell to the Cimmerians (676 BC.). With the establishment of the Galatians in eastern Phrygia the fertility cult of Cybele, the mother goddess, spread widely amongst town dwellers, while country folk tended to worship Men, the moon god, ruler of Paradise and the Underworld. In 188 BC Phrygia came under Pergamum, followed by Rome, who made it a province in 133 BC.
The early spread of Christianity here was largely due to St Paul but the 2nd c AD also saw the development of two extreme sects: Montanism, derived from the locally born Prophet Montanus who preached that the end of the world was high, and Novationism, named after the Roman theologian and later Bishop Novatian, whose followers called themselves "the pure", in Greek "katharoi" (hence the Cathar heresy of the Middle Ages) and refused to allow any lapsed Christians back into the Church.
The Phrygians arrived in Anatolia in 1200 BC, among the migrating tribes known as the "people of the Aegean Sea". At first they lived in Central Anatolia, building settlements over the ashes of Hittite cities like Hattusas, Alacahöyük, Pazarli and Alisar. At the beginning of the 8th century BC they set up their capital at Gordion.
We are familiar with King Midas from his epic, and from the discovery of his burial chamber. Midas, who succeeded to the throne in 738 BC, defended the frontiers of Phrygia quite well, but could not resist the attacks of the Cimmerians advancing from the Caucasian region. After his defeat by Cimmerians in 695 BC, it is said that he committed suicide by drinking bull's blood. Phrygians built the largest mound (tumulus) in Gordion known as the Tumulus of Midas; it is 53 meters high and 300 meters wide.
The large, almost square-shaped burial chamber is 6.20m by 5.15m. The skeleton of King Midas was laid on a large bench, surrounded by other benches full of gifts for the afterworld. Close observation of the skeleton revealed that King Midas died when he was around 60 years old and he was 1.59m tall. On the floor of the chamber were found 166 bronze funeral gifts and 145 bronze fibula laid at the head of the deceased. The lack of gold reveals that it was not a custom among the Phrygians to present funerary gifts of gold.
Influenced by Hittite art, Phrygian art, in turn, influenced Etruscan art in Italy. However, they were also directly influenced by theUrartu in Eastern Anatolia. For instance, they imported the Urartu figure of a bull's head and worked it on a cauldron of strictly Phrygian form. Metal ores were known and used in metalwork during the Early and Mid-Bronze Ages, from 2500 BC onwards. However, it was only around 1000 BC that Phrygian metalwork forms borrowed from pottery and metal vessels entered popular use. Phrygian art can be divided into three categories:
1. Local Phrygian ware
2. Urartu import ware
3. Assyrian import ware.
These groups are again divided into two major phases consisting of artifacts found in mounds dating before 695 BC.
The pottery of the Phrygian period was fine polychrome ware, which can be distinguished basically as early and late ware. Because of the Lydian domination of Anatolia during the late period, it bears western Anatolian influence after 695 BC.
As a contrast to the Hittite based motifs of the early period, in later ware we see studded patterns within lozenge shaped frames, and again studded motifs on animal forms. Complicated motifs took the place of very simple and geometric motifs from the old period. Instead of one color painted over another color, they started to be painted in many colors. Where animal shapes previously took on a schematic look to them, pieces from the late period showed evolvement. In addition, the late period witnessed motifs of meander, dots and plaited hair. Filtered vessels that had little application in daily life were seen to be popular as a funerary gift. Today Phrygian works of art are on exhibit at the Anatolian Civilizations Museum in Ankara.
Apart from their capital Gordion were you can visit the Tumulus of King Midas and nearby small museum, Pessinus was also a major Phrygian settlement. Examples of megaron planned, semerdam roofed houses were carved into the rock tombs. These may be seen around Afyon Arslantas and Eskisehir Yazilikaya.
The Arslantas rock monument near Afyon and the ruins of Midas near Eskisehir are among the most important Phrygian monuments in Anatolia, and are where the Phrygians worshipped their major deity Cybele and her lover Attis.
The Phrygian language belonged to the Indo-European group of languages.
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Welcome to the Phrygian Way
The Phrygians appeared in Anatolia in the 11th century BC, migrating across the straits from Thrace. They settled in the region covering the territories of the present day provinces of Afyonkarahisar, Ankara, Eskisehir and Kutahya. By the mid 8th century BC a vibrant civilisation centred around the capital Gordium (Gordion), present day Yassihoyuk, Polatli County of Ankara, was flourishing.
The legendary Midas was the most renowned Phrygian king. Besides the Phrygian capital Gordium, other important settlements were Pessinous (Ballihisar), and the city of Midas (Yazilikaya). The region was covered with volcanic ashes thrown out by Turkmen Mountain (called Mount Elaphoeis in antiquity), and the consolidated tuff created easily carved rocks. The Phrygians left behind many carved rock monuments in the region. The easily worked nature of the local rock also aided in the creation of ancient roads which are still visible in many parts of the region.
The Phrygians were defeated by the Cimmerians, who migrated from the Caucuses in the 7th century BC, and disappeared from history. Phrygian writing is still to be deciphered, but we knew that they were the inventors of flutelike woodwind instruments.
About the trail
The Phrygian Trekking Route is one of the longest trails in Turkey. Planned with great care for the comfort and enjoyment of hikers, the route passes through the renowned Phrygian Valleys where hikers may visit the ruins of ancient civilisations and enjoy the natural beauty of the region. The Trekking Route is 506 kilometres long, and is marked in accordance with international standards. The Route has three starting points and the trails meet at the Yazilikaya (Inscribed Rock), which was a focal point for the Phrygians. Hikers may start the route at the following points: 1) Gordium (Polatli, Ankara), 2) Seydiler (Afyonkarahisar), and 3) Yenice Farm Ciftligi (Ahmetoglu Village, Kutahya).
The project is sponsored by FRIGKUM (Association for Development and Protection of Phrygian Cultural Heritage) and is completed in 2013 by a small volunter team led by Huseyin Sari. The Route was planned in order to introduce trekkers and byclists to Phrygian culture, and to enable them to enjoy a safe journeythrough the Phrygian Valleys along trails once used by the Phrygians.
The trail starts at Gordium, the political capital of the Phrygians, then follows the valley of the Porsuk (ancient Tembris) River, passes through Sivrihisar (ancient Spaleia), and arrives at Pessinous (Ballikaya), another important Phrygian settlement. The trail then enters the valley of the Sakarya (ancient Sangarius) River, where you enter a completely different world. After the Sakarya Valley, the trail enters the region known as Mountainous Phrygia. The trail then reaches the Yazilikaya, the site of the Midas monument which formed the cult centre of the Phrygians. Here the trail splits into two. One branch leads to Findikli Village passing through the Asmainler, Zahran, and Inli Valleys, once home to Phrygian settlements. This branch terminates at Yenice Farm on the highway between Kutahya and Eskisehir. The other branch passes through Saricaova, a picturesque Circassian village, and Doger, town in Afyonkarahisar. The trail then takes you through Ayazini Town before coming to an end at Seydiler, on the highway between Afyonkarahisar and Ankara. Hikers who complete these trails will treasure the memory forever.
The best time to trek is spring and autumn, but there are different attractions in all seasons. Along the trail, there are plenty of springs for water year-round.
Gordion is one of the most important sites of the ancient world. It is known primarily as the political and cultural capital of the Phrygians, a people who dominated much of central Anatolia during the early first millennium BCE. With its monumental Phrygian architecture, an extensive destruction level dating to around 800 BCE, and a series of wealthy tombs belonging to Phrygian royalty and other elites, Gordion is the premier archaeological type-site for Phrygian civilization. As such, it is on a par with Athens, Rome, Pompeii, the Hittite capital at Hattusha, and Babylon in elucidating for us the material achievements of an ancient civilization.
People began living at the site of Gordion in the Early Bronze Age, at least as early as ca. 2500 BCE, and that habitation still continues in the village of Yassıhöyük, which lies adjacent to the site. Across that enormous span of time, archaeologists can detect few breaks in habitation. The reasons for the site’s appeal include its location on major trade routes across Anatolia, an abundance of water from the Sangarios (modern Sakarya) river, and broad tracts of arable land suitable for farming.
The major periods represented are the Bronze Age (ca. 2500–1200 BCE), the Iron Age (ca. 1200–550 BCE, largely synonymous here with the Phrygian Period), the Achaemenid Persian (or "Late Phrygian") period (ca. 550–330 BCE), the Hellenistic era (third to first centuries BCE), the Roman Empire (first to fifth centuries CE), the Medieval period (sixth to 14th centuries CE), the Ottoman period (15th–20th centuries CE) and the Modern era beginning with the formation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923. The pre-Medieval habitation has produced the large settlement mound that is today the central archaeological feature of the site. The mound’s modern Turkish name is Yassıhöyük, literally “flat-topped settlement mound.”
Relatively little is known about the Bronze Age at Gordion, primarily because of overlying monumental buildings of the Phrygian period. On a ridge not far from the main site, however, in the vicinity of the modern village, lies a cemetery belonging to the time of the Hittite Old Kingdom (17th–15th centuries BCE). A few examples of Hittite hieroglyphic writing from the site, and pottery much like that from major Hittite centers, suggest that it somehow fit into the larger Hittite sphere. There is insufficient evidence to determine the extent to which Gordion was affected when the Hittite Empire collapsed around 1200 BCE.
During the subsequent period, which corresponds with Gordion's Early Iron Age phase, the site witnessed a new cultural element as reflected by handmade pottery with parallels in southeastern Europe. The pottery is taken to mark the beginning of the presence of Phrygians who, as known from later Greek writers, migrated from southeastern Europe into Anatolia.
Gordion is best known as the principal center of the Phrygians and their civilization, and as the seat of the most famous Phrygian king, Midas, who ruled in the late eighth century BCE (Middle Phrygian period). Phrygian material culture holds strong at Gordion well into the fourth century BCE, from humble, village beginnings in the 11th century across the lives of two great citadels (Early and Middle Phrygian), one succeeding the other after a great destruction by fire around 800 BCE. The site initially served as the capital of a presumably independent Phrygian state (at least through the reign of Midas), but thereafter it was subject to other powers: the west Anatolian kingdom of Lydia (first half of the sixth century BCE, if not earlier), and then, for the next two centuries, the Persian Empire.
When Alexander the Great of Macedon began his world-altering campaign against the Persian Empire in 334 BCE, he came to Gordion in that first year and may have wintered there. It is likely that Alexander was greeted by the final vestiges of the later Phrygian citadel. Anything less makes little sense in light of the fact that Gordion was the mustering-point for the contingents of Alexander’s army before their march into Cilicia to confront Darius III, last ruler of the Persian Empire. His stay at Gordion also led to one of the most curious events in ancient history, the cutting of the Gordian knot.
In the decades following Alexander’s visit, Gordion witnessed a transformation from a Phrygian citadel to a large town of the Hellenistic period, as the time after Alexander’s conquest and before the advent of the Roman Empire is known. The site stands as a good example of why the period is so-called, namely, the spread of Hellenic culture outside the boundaries of the old Greek world into areas that had totally different cultural backgrounds and ethnic groups. Inscriptions in the Phrygian language, which had been numerous until now, cease to be found. In their place occur Greek inscriptions, sometimes with Greek or Greek-sounding personal names. Greek gods are worshiped or at least recognized. The repertory of traditional Phrygian material goods, especially pottery, succumbs to Greek types. The population may well have been mixed, with Phrygians, other Anatolians, Persians, and Greeks. Present too, after the middle of the third century, were Celts or Galatians, who had migrated east en masse from western Europe, and who were taken on as mercenaries by Anatolian monarchs. It was, in fact, the Celtic presence that led to Gordion’s abrupt end as a thriving Hellenistic town. In 189 BCE, the Roman general Manlius Vulso, at the behest of the kingdom of Pergamon, came to Gordion on an expedition against the Gauls. He found the site abandoned, the inhabitants having fled in advance of his arrival.
It was not until the first century CE, in the time of the young Roman Empire, that the site of Gordion was refounded, high on the western half of the old Citadel Mound. In good Roman fashion, the buildings were oriented to the cardinal points of the compass, unlike earlier periods of settlement. The new founding may represent a Roman colony; in any case, it appears on the basis of recent excavations to have had a military function. The town also may have had a different name, Vindia or Vinda, as occurs on Roman itineraries for the general vicinity of Gordion. In the second century CE, when nearby Ancyra (modern Ankara) was the thriving capital of the Roman province of Galatia, the site of Gordion also seems to have enjoyed relative prosperity. After a gap in habitation from about 175 until the late third century, the site again witnessed settlement into the Early Byzantine period (sixth century). Another gap was followed by activity in Late Byzantine/Selcuk/Early Ottoman times (13th to 15th centuries). During the late Ottoman period, habitation was centered to the west of the Citadel Mound, at the village of Bebi, which was destroyed in the Battle of the Sakarya in 1921—the climactic engagement in the Turkish War of Liberation. Fox-holes, spent shells, and some human remains are poignant reminders of this conflict. The modern village of Yassıhöyük is the current manifestation of the ongoing history of human settlement at Gordion.
Darbyshire, G. and G.H. Pizzorno. 2009. "Gordion in History," Expedition 51.2, pp. 11–22.
Copyright © 2008-10 Penn Museum
All Rights Reserved About Digital Gordion
Phrygians were a Balkan origin nation who came to Anatolia with Aegean migrations. Initially they came to Anatolia through the Straits and settled around Eskişehir, Afyon, Ankara and Sakarya valley around 1200 BC, later founded a powerful civilization covering an area from Kütahya to Kızılırmak, Ankara and Eskişehir. Eventhough it is believed that they were ethnically Indo-European, they accomodated to Anatolia and with the influence of Hellenistic and Late Hittite civilizations, they developed a unique Anatolian culture in the area.
Phrygia was founded on the crossroads of oldest roads in Anatolia. Connection with main roads leading Aegean ports to Eastern Anatolia, Syria and Northern Mesopotamia was done by roads passing through Phrygia. Royal Road, built during Persian rule and connecting Sardes to Susa also passed through Phrygia. These roads constituted a special importance to Phrygia as compared to its neighbouring states, and in this sense, Phrygia was on the crossroads of transportation and trade between Aegean Region and Asia Minor. This strategic location also influenced political organisation of the state.
Establishment of the first political unity by Phrygians was in around 750 BC. The first known Phrygian king was Gordias, who also named the capital cityGordion. According to the myth, an augur tells Phrygians who were in search of a new king, to acclaim the first man to ride up into the town by ox cart as the king. This man was Gordios, he was acclaimed the king and ox cart was preserved in the acropolis. Historically famous Gordion Knot is a mass of ivy which tied this cart to a column. After centuries, the Gordion Knot was believed that the hero to untie this knot would become the ruler of Asia.In 334 BC, Alexander the Great tried to unbind the knot, but failed. Getting angry, he impaitently drew his sword and cut the knot into two. Alexander the Great was really on the way to become the ruler of Asia as he defeated Persian Empire. However, he died after a fever illness when he was only 33, which was believed that this was the fate as he did not try to unbind the knot, but acted impatienltly and cut with sword instead.
After becoming the king, Gordias succeeded in gathering the scattered Phrygian society into a political unity. According to historian Arianos, Gordias married to a women from Thelmessos (Fethiye) and had a son named Midas. Midas was the most known Phrygian king, though researches note all Phrygian kings were named Midas. Midas' fame and glory spread beyond the territories of his kingdom, even to Greek city states and continental Greece.
When Midas acceded to Phrygian throne, Assyrians were their main enemy. After settling peace with Assyrians and securing southeastern borders, he developed peaceful relations with western states. He married to Kyme King's daughter, a western Anatolian city state. On the other hand he strengthened his relations by presenting his ivory throne to Delphoi Apollo temple in Greece. Historian of 5th century BC Herodotus quotes that Midas was the first foreigner who sent a gift to Delphoi Apollo Temple. Besides Gordion, Midas City and Pessinus were developed cities during the reign of Midas.
Around 700 BC, Cimmerian assaults, who came to Anatolia from Caucasia and settled into Eatern Anatolia, reached until Kızılırmak. Phrygia was completely devastated after Cimmerian - Phrygian wars, eventually King Midas killed himself in 676 BC.
After the collapse of Phrygian State, they survived as small principalities under Lydian domination until the great Persian invasion in 545 BC. Later, they endured until 300BC in various parts of Anatolia. It is known that Phrygian culture survived in Anatolia until Roman Era.
Phrygian culture was a developed one; writing did not only belong to the king, ordinary people could also use writing. They used letter writing system based on Phoenician alphabet. They are also known as the first civilization who developed animal stories. Folk dance figures on a pot exhibited in Gordion Museum, a pair flute and Matar statue accompanied by two lyre playing musicians found in Boğazköy, and bone flutes found in Gordion at Hellenistic layer reveal the role of music and dancing at Phrygian daily life.
The first Phrygian exhibition in the world was organised in İstanbul 2008 where 275 brilliant and unique Phrygian works were collected from different museums of Turkiye to contribute to enlightening Phrygian culture, who developed a fundamental civilization in Anatolia and influenced their successors, Greeks and Romans.
PHRYGIAN CITIES IN ANATOLIA
Phrygian City : Current Location:
Gordion :Yassıhöyük - Ankara
Midas City : Yazılıkaya - Eskişehir
Hierapolis : Pamukkale - Denizli
Dorylaeum : Şarkhöyük - Eskişehir
Daskylaion :Ergili - Balıkesir
Pesinius : Ballıhisar - Eskişehir
Keretapa : Kayadibi - Konya
Aizanoi : Çavdarhisar- Kütahya
Ankyra : Ankara
A “TECHNOLOGIC” PHRYGIAN INVENTION: FIBULA
Fibula was a kind of ornament used to attach pieces of fabric, and first samples of modern safety pins. It was first used in Anatolia by Phrygians. These fibulas, used for attaching clothes and belts, were big and and had magnificent appearance, and were generally made of bronze in horse shoe shape, which had an average size of 5 - 6 cm width.
A Phrygian was buried into grave together with his or her fibulas. Fibulas for them, not only had a sacred attribution, but also was a symbol of wealth and nobility. During the excavations at King Midas' tomb, 175 pieces of big size fibulas made of bronze and silver were found. The technology that Phrygians used in making such fibulas was relatively developed as compared to the technology available by other civilizations of that time. Fibulas also were demanded and appreciated pieces of art by Assyrians and Late Hittite settlements. Later it was embraced by Hellenic Civilization and taken off as it was.
THE FIRTS MUSIC CONTEST OF THE WORLD and INVENTION OF FLUTE
THE MOST WELL KNOWN OF THE MIDAS MYTHS: MIDAS WITH DONKEY EARS
Apollo, who invented seven string lyre and presented to humanity, is the best music performer, according to Hellenic consideration. Some day, a sheperd named Marsyas performes a music with a flute, which almost everybody in the ancient world considered his music superior than that of Apollo. Marsyas achieved in having the sounds of different reeds from a single one, which he picked seven holes on it. The first samples of flute, flageolet and reed flute was thus invented.
Marsyas not only invented the flute, he was also a perfect player of it. Gods on Olympos eventually decided to organise a contest between Apollo and Marsyas, and asked Midas to be the judge. First Apollo plays his lyre, and then Marsyas plays oriental emotional melodies with his flute. Midas declares Marsyas as the winner of the contest, whereupon Apollo gets very angry with Midas, and changes Midas' ears into donkey ears, saying he did not have an ear for music. Midas hides his donkey ears for a long time by wearing Phrygian cap. After some time, his hair gets so long that he needs to go to a barber to have his hair cut. He warns the barber not to tell anybody what he saw. However, although he says nothing to anybody, the chatty barber at last goes to a well and shouts: “Midas has donkey ears, Midas has donkey ears”. A blowing wind takes this sound and spreads all over the Phrygian valley. The reeds in the valley repeats these words as they are shaken by the blowing wind.
This mythical contest is commemorated every year in Dinar town with “Marsyas Music and Art Festival”. Moreover, a satiric opeara named “Midas' Ears”, written by Güngör Dilmen and composed by Ferit Tüzün is among important works on the myth.
LYDIAN GOLD AND MIDAS MYTH
Old Satyr Silenos, who brought up Dionysos gets lost in Phrygian highlands, according to myth. Getting tired, he sleeps under a tree. People who found Silenos ridicile and humiliate him, and bring him to King Midas.Midas knows Silones at once, and hosts him for 10 days at his court, and takes him to Dionysos at the end of 10th day. When Dionysos meets Silenos, who lost him some time ago, feels so happy that asks Midas to demand whatever he wishes. Midas wishes whatever he touches turn into gold. Dionysos asks him to think once, however, Dionysos effects Midas' wish upon his insist, anyhow; everthing he touches turns into gold. Midas first sits on his throne, it becomes gold. Then, his rod also becomes gold. His cheer lasts until dinner; his bread, his water, even his daughter that he hugged all turn into gold. The king repents from his wish, and begs Dionysos to disenchant the magic. Dionysos asks him to go to Lydia and bathe at Paktolos River (Gediz River). King bathes at the river and breaks free from the magic. It is believed that the wealth of Lydia and Sardes City stems from this river, whose sand turned into gold. The Turkish expression “be it gold whatever you touch” said after a favor is also derived from this myth.
Midas, whose story best reported by Latin poet Ovidius, also inspired contemporary movies and artistic work. At 2004 Walt Disney Cartoon “Aladdin and King of the Thieves”, golden hand of Midas myth was narrated.
CITY OF LEGENDARY KING: MIDAS
The city was exactly located on Phrygian highland. Air is really fresh due to elevation, thus was called as “Phrygia Salutaris”, or “Healthy Phrygia” during Phrygian era. Ancient Midas City, located at current Yazılıkaya, 80 km South of Eskişehir, was founded at outskirts of Acropolis.
There is a Midas monument on an effusive volcanic rock on northeast front of the Acropolis, walls surrounding the Acropolis, underground stairways, tombs, altars, an incomplete monument and a fountain. The Midas Monument on the upside of village is especially important for Phrygian history. The ancient city was named after this monument, and is dated to the first quarter of 6th century BC. As the most magnificent of the Phrygian Rock monuments, it is among the most significant structures of the region and the world. It is 17 meters high, and 16.5 meters wide. It is also named as Yazılıkaya (The scripted rock) as there are scripts on it.
Midas Monument has a surface decorated with geometric “meander” motifs, a unique style reflecting the characteristics of Phrygian art. This decoration style called “meander” was named after Menderes (Meander)River, the motifs inspired by the meanders of the river was called as such.
The monument endured till date without much damage. There is a niche in the mid part of the monument. Likewise all other Phrygian rock monuments, Midas Monument was also constructed to place Cybele statutes in it. There are three inscriptons on the monument, which still could not be transcribed yet.
CITY OF THE FIRSTS; GORDION
THE FIRST CIVILIZATION EVER USED MOSAIC IN ARCHITECTURE
FIRST TUMULI OF HISTORY: ANATOLIAN PYRAMIDS
Phyrgia is the first civilization ever used mosaics in architecture. Mosaics they produced by using pebbles of Sakarya River inspired eyecatching Greek and Roman artistic work. Gordion, capital of Phrygia was founded on east coast of Sakarya River. Archaeologists discovered ruins of a monumental gate, constructions belonging to royal family, houses and city walls in the city. All these are dated to the most prosperous period of Phrygian era (725 - 667 BC). Surfaces of megaron planned palaces,houses and public buildings were covered with mosaic. Decorated with rich and differend geometric figurtes, these Phrygian mosaics are known as the oldest samples of mosaic art. Part of these mosaics are exhibited today in Ankara, at Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.
Tumulus, piled or accumulated tomb, was also first used by Phrygians. Most of these tumuli, which were used after 8th century BC, are in capital Gordion and there are about 100 of them. Height of a tumulus vary from 2 - 3 metres to 60 - 80 meters,depending on the importance of the buried person. These tumuli are also named as “Anatolian Pyramids”. Discovery of the grave room without any decay beneath the 53metres high great tumulus, believed to have belonged King Midas is considered as one of the greatest arceological achievements at second half of the 20th century. Yet it is stil a secret how Phrygian people could construct such gigantic tumuli, grave rooms are also mysterious. The American team dug 2 millions metrescube of soil to reach the grave room. (total volume of the Cheops Pyramid is 2.6 millions metercube). Excavations at these tumuli still underway, 25 of them were excavated. pending,
THE OLDEST WOODEN FURNITURE OF HISTORY - THE FIRST SIDEBOARD OF HISTORY - INIMITABLE MIDAS TABLES
FIRTS TENON TABLES OF THE WORLD
As they had rich forest resources, Phryfians developed much at carpentry and furniture. Phrygiand first developed making armchairs and tables without using nails, with mortise and tennon technique.
Prof. Dr Elizabeth Simpson of Pennsylvania University worked on thousands of pieces of wood for 27 years, and gathered 3 tables of Midas. Wood found at archeological excavations is usually decayed. Phrygian furniture, most found almost at fairly good situation surprised scientists and artists much.
The most striking one among the royal tables was, a 2700 year old table believed to have belonged to King Midas. Restoration of the table, which is a masterpiece of wood mortise and tenon technique lasted 6 years. The table, as the most significant entangled wood tennon design, was made of juniper, box and walnut wood. Having interesting bends and crimps, the table resembles art nouveau style. The other two restored tables were dinner tables of King Midas. These are believed to be the first sideboards of history. Similar samples of these tables, which have puzzle-like decorations, have no similar samples, either in Phrygian or in any other civilizations. The tables were also used as portable temples.
Apart from tables, restoration of chairs, folding screens, cages and frames, children's thrones, animal shape toys is being executed by Turkish and American teams. The precious and inimitable samples of historical furniture art are being ehxibited in Ankara, at Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.
PHRYGIAN CYBELE CULT; MAGNA MATAR, FATE OF ROME - ARTEMIS - DIANA
Origins of Cybele cult in Anatolia dates back to prehistoric era, however, consideration as the holiest and protective figure falls Phrygian era. Symbolising maternity, survival of life and thus fertility, Cybele influenced the successive civilizations to a great extent. The most widely known among these is Artemis in Greek mythology, named Diana in Roman mythology.
Cybele Cult of Phrygia was in Pessinus city, Sivrihisar town of today. This cult was a black meteor. Pergamon king constructed a splendid temple here in 189 BC. (It stil stands until its roof). At this time, Rome was at state of war against threatening Carthage, and the situation was not that good. According to writings of Byzantian historians, Roman augurs said the stone symbolising Cybele (Magna Matar) had to be brought to Rome, otherwise it would be impossible to be victorious against Hannibal of Carthage. A group of people takethe stone and depart to Rome in 204 BC. However, the ship strikes on a rock in Tiber river, and all attempts to move the ship fail. Augurs predict that a virgin and blameless girl could save the ship. Many young girls try to save the ship to enjoy this honour. A defamed young and beautiful girl, named Claudio Quinto ties her belt to ship and pulls it, and saves the ship. Cybele stone is brought to Rome and placed to the temple at Palatinus Mountain. Eventually, Rome defeats Carthage and wins a brilliant victory against its biggest enemy. The stone still exists there. Portrait of Cybele was also placed into coat of arms of Roman Empire. Portrait of Cybele is still used in Italian post stamps, and modern Italy is symbolized with a woman figure with a torret over it.
The Phrygian alphabet
History of the alphabet :
Once upon a time were the Phoenicians, Semitic people who wanted to transcribe their language in a written form. They elaborate a system which took in account only the consonants because, as Semites, they didn’t use vowels. They spread this new system across the Mediterranean, where they had some business to do.
But most of the people they met needed vowels. It’s in Cilicia, SE Turkey (nowadays in the Mersin area) where the first use of vowels are found. It is now accepted by the scholars that the Greeks went to seek for their alphabet there by a sea road and that the Phrygians also, but by a land road. After a first period of independent elaboration, the two people worked together and numerous exchanges can be seen. This is how the first inscriptions appears in the middle of the 8th c.
The Phrygian alphabet :
The Paleo-phrygian alphabet counts 19 letters. 17 appears in every area of Phrygia. They are similar to the Greek ones for the typography and their likely pronunciation. Two don’t appear in every region or their form varies.
Our understanding of the Phrygian :
We cannot understand the Phrygian but we can read it. The typography is close to the Greek one and we can assume that the letters are pronounced in the same way. The endings according to their function in the sentence are similar. Therefore we can read Phrygian and propose an order in the sentence but the signification is obscure. We need a bilingual dictionary to understand the meaning of the words.
Use of the Paleo-phrygian inscriptions :
They are mostly engraved on the rock-cut monuments. They are monumental inscriptions and certainly official. The message can not be understood but it’s important to note the occurrences of different words. For example, ‘Midas’ appears on the Midas Monument : what is his role ? King, god, priest ? Or someone else ?
Graffites are another kind of inscriptions. They mostly consist of only one word, certainly a person’s name expressing an ownership. Their historical value is not very consequent but they give some information on Phrygian anthroponyms (= names of person)
New Phrygian :
Neo-Phrygian appears in the 2-3rd c. AD, mostly on funerary steles. It is written like paleo-phrygian but transcribes or Greek or Phrygian stereotyped curse and protection spells.
Neo-Phrygian comes after some centuries of complete interruption of Phrygian writing. Did a tradition exist but didn’t leave any remains ?
The most important book on the old Phrygian alphabet is :
• Brixhe, C., Lejeune, M., Corpus d’inscriptions paléo-phrygiennes, IFEA, Editions Recherche sur les civilisations, Paris 1984.
Some other interesting books :
• Jeffery, L.H., The Local Scripts of archaic Greece, Oxford 1961.
• Lemaire, A., “L’écriture phénicienne en Cilicie et la diffusion des écritures alphabétiques”, C.Baurain, C.Bonnet, V.Krings (éds.),Phoinikeia Grammata, lire et écrire en Méditerranée, Actes du colloque de Liège, 15-18 novembre 1989, Société des études classiques, Naumur, 1991, p.133-136.
• Masson, O., “Anatolian languages”, CAH III/2, 1991, p. 666-676.
• Röllig, W., “L’alphabet”, V.Krings (éd.), La civilisation phénicienne et punique, manuel de recherche, E.J.Brill, Leiden, 1995, p.193-214.
King Midas is the central figure of Phrygian history, and the only king we are sure he existed. He seemed to be so important that he became a myth.
King Midas - the legends and the truth
The dichotomy of King Midas in ancient texts
The last dinner of King Midas
A reconstitution of a funerary banquet in Phrygia, due to remains found in Tumulus MM at Gordion.
Short bibliography on King Midas
Major references to learn about Midas
In Phrygia, the religion is centered on the feminine figure of Matar, the Mother. It is not yet sure that a male principle existed near her.
The Phrygian pantheon
A brief English version of the main aspects of Phrygian religion.
An article in French out of the Encyclopedia Universalis. This article concerns mostly the goddess in Classical andRoman times.
Overview of rock-cut monuments
These monuments, mostly religious, are still enigmas for the archaeologists
Funerary habits in Phrygia
A brief overview of the main funerary types in Phrygia
Les pratiques funéraires en Phrygie (version courte)
Un bref topo en français sur les pratiques funéraires phrygiennes
Les pratiques funéraires en Phrygie (version longue)
Un exposé plus complet sur les différentes pratiques funéraires
Phrygia and the Bible
The name 'Phrygia' appears in the Bible, even if we can't learn much from it ...
An unsolved question
A brief English version
La version courte
L'alphabet phrygien version longue
Un topo aussi complet que possible sur cette question épineuse
Overview on Phrygian writing
Example of phrugian script
This external link will bring you to a thematic bibliography on Gordion and Phrygian archaeology made by the Gordion team. Great for further information.
Up-to-date in December 2003
The last publications on Phrygia (3-4 months old)
What you should read first to know more about Phrygia
Religion in Phrygia - Cybele
The main and perhaps only deity in ancient Phrygia appears to be the Great Mother, named Cybele by the Greek and Roman authors. She is only known as the MATAR in old Phrygia, sometimes qualified by an epithet like Kubileya, this epithet leading certainly to the later Cybele name.
Her Functions :
She is the goddess of the mountains and of wild nature. As such, she is worshipped in remote and inhospitable parts of the country. Her role is very motherly : she gives life by the fertility of the crops and welcomes the dead in her earthly breast. She also protects mankind from the beast and is a poliad goddess, the guardian of the cities.
Her paredros :
She is sometimes represented with a young man, Attis, who is her son and her lover in the same time. He betrays the goddess who emasculates him in a crisis of mania (=fury), then he dies. The succession of his death and rebirth symbolizes the eternal rebirth of nature. This story became famous in the later cult. This companion doesn’t exist in the 8-6th c. BC and only appears in later images.
Her representation :
Her typical representation in Phrygia is in the figuration of a building’s façade, standing in the doorway. The façade itself can be related to the rock-cut monuments of the Highlands of Phrygia. She is wearing a belted long dress, a head polos (high cylindrical hat), and a veil covering the whole body. In Phrygia, her usual attributes are the bird of prey and a small vase. Lions are sometimes related to her, in a aggressive but tamed manner. Her older representation has nothing to do with the later Agoracritos version of Cybele, showing her seated on a throne, her hand resting on the neck of a perfectly still lion and the other holding a tympanon (= big circular drum), giving a much stiffer and matronal idea of the goddess.
Her cult :
We have no Phrygian written sources and archaeology doesn’t give much information on cult. According to Greek authors of the 5th c. , we can say that the cult took place at night, in the mountains. Music was performed by percussion instruments, songs and screams, all likely to provoke mania. Dances strengthens this ecstatic and orgiastic aspect.
For French speakers, consult:
• Phrygian.com's religion article
• Cybele, an article from the Encyclopedia Universalis
These monuments are mainly located in the highlands of Phrygia, between Afyon, Eskisehir et Kütahya.
The rock-cut façades are the most impressing form of this kind of monuments. The Midas Monument, in the City of Midas, is the perfect example. Measuring 16m high, with the door as focus point, its geometrical decoration, elaborate gable et now corroded acroterion shows a magnificent image of the typical organization of these monuments. They are generally considered as having a religious aim, as an open-air shrine of the Mother.
The rock-cut thrones are located on top of the acropolis in the Highlands of Phrygia. Some steps lead to a large bench, sometimes decorated with circular forms, usually anthropomorphic. Their function is not yet clear but is perhaps religious.
Sursa: MARIAN ILIE
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