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Anatolia’s Mighty Phrygia, The Kingdom Of Myth And Midas

Anatolia’s Mighty Phrygia, The Kingdom Of Myth And Midas

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In the western-central arid heartland of ancient Anatolia, the river Sangarios snaked through the ancient Iron Age Kingdom of Phrygia, once a rival to Assyria in the south-east and Urartu in the north-east for domination of the region. The name ‘Phrygia’ is usually associated with Alexander the Great cutting the famous Gordion Knot; as well as King Midas, the tragic greedy king, who touched his daughter and turned her into gold; and in Homer’s Iliad, Hecuba, queen of Troy’s King Priam, was a princess of Phrygia. Yet the mythical history of this once mighty state reaches further back to the pre-Deluge. In the eastern region of Phrygia, at Iconium, once resided an ancient King Annacus, who lived to be 300 years old and at the end of his reign, ‘a great flood drowned the land’. But from the dredges arose another great king, Mannis, whose energetic exploits were so great that the term “manic” derives from his name. Not much is known about the interregnum between King Mannis and the legendary King Gordias, founder of Gordion and a dynasty of Phrygian kings.

Sketch of Phrygians by unknown artist. (Public Domain)

Sketch of Phrygians by unknown artist. (Public Domain)

King Gordias And The Gordion Knot

Somewhere between 1200 to 800 BC, at the collapse of the Bronze Age and the entry of the Iron Age, the Macedonian tribe of Bryges migrated to Anatolia. The last of the Bryges royal line was the impoverished Gordias, who by the second millennium BC, travelled to Telmissus on his ox-cart, there to consult the oracle at the sanctuary of Sabazios, the Thracian sky-god, a nomadic horseman god, who wielded his staff of power. On his way, an eagle came to land on the pole of his cart and Gordias interpreted the omen that he would one day reclaim his rightful inheritance and become a king. At the gates of the sanctuary, he met a sibyl priestess who advised him on a suitable sacrifice and he asked her to marry him. Meanwhile the Phrygians, who were out of a king, were gathered inside the temple asking the oracle for a solution to their conundrum. As fortune would have it, they were informed the first man to drive up to the temple in an ox-wagon would become their king, just as Gordias and his prophetess were approaching on the ox-wagon. King Gordias founded the city of Gordion on the banks of the Sangarios river as his new capital and tied his ox-wagon to a pole in a temple on the acropolis, with the now-famous Gordion Knot.


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Top Image: Horseman and griffin, Phrygia, 600–550 BC. (Sailko / CC BY-SA 3.0)

By: Micki Pistorius

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Dr Micki

Micki Pistorius is a South African psychologist, author and journalist. As a child, Micki’s natural curiosity was cultivated by both her parents and developed into an insatiable interest in history, art and literature. Her passion for history, archaeology and human... Read More

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