PhrygiansThe Phrygians took over power from the Hittites in much of Central Anatolia from the 12th century B.C. onwards. Indo-Europeans who probably first emerged in the Balkans, the Phrygians may have been included amongst the mysterious “Sea Peoples” who are thought to have overwhelmed the Hittites. Alternatively, they may just have stepped into the void created by the collapse of the Hittite Empire. The full story is yet to be told.


The Phrygians made their capital at Gordion, near the small modern town of Polatlı, but their influence extended across much of Anatolia. To the east they rubbed up against the Urartians, to the west against the Lydians into whose kingdom they were eventually absorbed. The independent Phrygian state is thought to have come to an end around 675 B.C. when invading Cimmerians are believed to have destroyed Gordion.


In their heyday the Phrygians had their own language (which may have survived into the A.D. seventh century), their own style of dress typified by a floppy Phrygian cap, and their own pantheon of gods and goddesses, amongst whom Kybele, the Mother Goddess, held such importance that the Greeks later identified her with their Artemis.


Several famous stories, mostly mythical, are associated with Phrygia. The first concerns King Midas who is said to have prayed that everything he touched would turn to gold, forgetting that this would include his food, his drink, and even his daughter, hence the phrase "the golden touch". In despair Midas prayed to be relieved of his gift and was instructed by the god Dionysius to wash in the Pactolus (Sart Çayı) river. As soon as he did this, the gift passed to the water, thus supposedly explaining the gold that was later found in the river.


A second story tells how King Midas was one of the adjudicators at a musical competition between the gods Pan and Apollo. When the king was foolish enough to prefer Pan’s pipes to Apollo’s lyre, Apollo took his revenge by giving him donkey’s ears. From then on the king kept his head covered to conceal his disgrace. Only his barber got to see the shameful ears and eventually, unable to keep the secret any longer, he rushed down to the river, dug a hole and whispered into it that “King Midas has ass’s ears.” Of course the reeds that grew up on the spot have been whispering the same story as the wind whistles through them ever since.


Finally, Gordion itself was associated with a much later story relating to Alexander the Great who passed through in 333 B.C. by which time the old Phrygia had become a satrapy (province) of Persia. In the old palace he found an oxcart that had originally been brought into town by a peasant named Gordias whom an oracle had decreed should be the next king of Phrygia. The cart was secured with a knot and it was said that whoever eventually untied it would go on to become the ruler of all Asia. No more able to unknot it than anybody else, Alexander solved the problem by slicing through the Gordian knot with his sword. The rest, as they say, is history.


For those looking for reminders of the Phrygians the first stop has to be Gordion, but almost equally interesting, if much less visited, is the small town of Midas Şehri, near Afyon. In the surrounding Phrygian Valleys (Frig Vadisi) there are many small reminders of the Phrygians. Finally, it’s worth paying a quick visit to Pessinus, a minor archeological site near Sivrihisar that also dates back to Phrygian times.


The most important finds from Gordion, including some magnificent metalwork, are housed in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. Unfortunately most of this will be closed for restoration throughout 2013.

Most important Phrygian sites

Frig Vadisi (Phrygian Valley)


Midas Şehri

Museum of Anatolian Civilisations, Ankara


Read more: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-303841-the-best-of-anatolias-phrygian-sites.html

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