Did you ever hear of King Midas?
Yes , the one with the long ears like a donkey ?
Let me tell you the legends surrounding of King Midas:
King Midas in the legend is the King of Phrygia and well known for his foolishness and greediness since the gods offer him a wish for his services and he asks everything that he touches to be turned into gold. The gods fulfill him the wish but when Midas was touching food it turned to gold and when he was touching his daughter she turned into gold as well – to get everything back to normal the gods ask him to wash his hands in the river so that the sand banks of the river turned into golden color.
The other legend about King Midas is that the God of the Shepherd, Pan with his flute is challenging God Appollon who is playing on his harp to a musical duel.
A judge is asked to decide on who of the ones is better in music.
All judge Appollon as the more talented one while King Midas, the only one, judges that Pan is the better musician.
Appollon gets very furious and decides that the ears of King Midas are too small to listen correctly and with anger he changes King Midas’s ears into long donkey ears.
Midas is horrified and tries to hide his big ears under hats and under his long hair until one day he needs to go to the barber.
While the barber was cutting off his hair he was shocked when the secret of Midas was revealed and he saw his huge ears. Midas told him to keep this secret but the barber could not keep quite and in his helplessness he went to the riverside and revealed the secret to the reeds at the river. The wind took the words from the reeds and carried it out to the World and everybody got to learn about the donkey ears of the King.
In this blogpost I will tell you more about him and his kingdom and show you that it is more than a legend that we are talking about – a lot of surprises on what I saw on my trip to his land…
It is Saturday early in the morning at 5.00 o’clock and we sit in out little bus, sleepy but very excited, 10 people with our professional guide and we are heading to the Kingdom of King Midas, to the Phrygian valley, in Turkey. Our destination is Afyon which is about 450 km south eastern from Istanbul in the Aegean region and at the western inner Anatolian zone.
The ancient Phrygian civilization which is still full of secrets is dating back to the time period 1200-676 BC and was covering the rocky valleys in the inner Anatolian region between Afyon – Eskisehir – Kütahya- Polatlı ( the ancient name was Gordion and it was the capital of the Phrygian Empire ).
During our trip we will explore this area which is untouched and unbelievably photogenic and has a significant historical role and importance in the Anatolian region.
Our first stop will be Döğer village in Afyonkarahisar where we are going to see the famous Phrygian Lion Rock ( Aslantaş ) and Snake Rock ( Yılantaş ) .We drive through the green valleys with the very specific limestone tufa formations which are very similar to the formations in Cappadocia. These 2 famous rocks are monumental Phrygian chamber tombs which have been discovered in 1882 and standing just in mid of the valley in pure nature in the middle of nowhere…
Lion Rock (Aslantaş), is carved into a 10 meters high rock , in the middle front there is the grave chamber guarded by 2 standing lions Above the grave chamber there are another 2 smaller lying sphinx ( lion with human head ) where it is supposed that there was a Kybele figure right in the middle but due to the erosion of wind and rain on the rock it is nearly not visible anymore.
Kibele or Cybele, in the Phrygian culture also called Matar Kubileya ( probably means Mother Mountain ) and in the Lydian culture called Kuvava, was the ancient Anatolian mother goddess standing for prosperity. In Roman culture also known as Mater Magna.
Few hundred meters further we again find a wall gathered with 2 standing huge lions facing each other which are showing the power of the mountain and there is the snake rock which is actually a broken and upside down lion head rock.
While we are driving through the valleys everywhere we see traces of the ancient Phrygian civilization temples in different variations; grave chambers, gates with ornaments, water cisterns, places for the sacrifice of animals , ancient ruins of Phrygian castles, different types of altars.
Some of the altars are with stairs , some are without and some are with facades.
Everywhere we observe lion figures at the top of the gates or the altars.
In the whole area we also recognize the synergy between the ancient and the current civilizations. Contemporary graves from the past centuries are located next to the ancient grave chambers.
We drive along ancient sites where you can climb up mountains, where you can find hidden tunnels and water cisterns.
It is a civilization with many unexplained sides, where there is not so much documentation of other then the information that exists from other civilizations which are telling about the Phrygians culture but not from the Phrygians themselves.
In the afternoon we arrive at Yazilikaya which is also called Midas City located about 70 km south of Eskisehir and which is a major village where the Phrygians were living at and which is well known for its Phrygian archeological and historical remains. Today it is a natural and historical park and museum. Yazilikaya means the “Rock with the Inscriptions ” and is a huge rock facade with Phrygian inscriptions with the face to the East as it was usual to show the strength of the Empire. Unfortunately so far it was not possible to decrypt the Phrygian texts on the rock as there is no knowledge on the Phrygian language. Just few words like Mater can be recognized out of the engravings.
Yazilikaya was discovered in 1800 and defined as the most important religious center of the Phrygian civilization. During our walk through the rocky mountains over here we recognize how fertile and pure the soil is and this is the reason why the old Phrygians were holding lots of religious cults and ceremonies in these mountains for their “Mother Nature ” and this is also why there are different type of altars everywhere to do their sacrifices to their goddess, altars with stairs, with facades, or with both.
At the other side of the rock of Yazilikaya there is a similar smaller rock with an unfinished facade – actually this is an example that shows us the technique that the Phrygians were making use of when they were carving these rocks with a facade or with animal figures. The facade of the rock is somehow not finished and its face is turned to the West which is absolutely unusual for the Phrygian culture.
Archeologists assume that this rock was carved at the end of the Phrygian Empire and this is why this one is facing not East but West ie where the sun is going down.
During our walk through Midas City Mr Mehmet, the Mukhtar of this region is happily accompanying us and showing us the way. 28 years his father was Mukhtar of this region and since 25 years he is the headman over here. He is happy to show us this untouched region and the way through the valleys and the mountains. Mehmet bey knows each and every corner of this ancient site like his inner pocket.
We have a chat with him and he tells us that he loves the region, spent his childhood here and even often has some beautiful night walks in the site.
He tells us that sometimes he would wish that somebody from the ancient times should come up and tell him how people lived here in those days.
When we walk down light rain begins and while we are just on our way to leave the site we meet an old shepherd. He is sitting down at the tufa rock with his stick in his hand. Just few steps down on the other side of the wall his animals are grazing.
I ask him what he is doing over here and what he says is nice: he is sitting here as he does not want the animals to come to the site as he wants to keep it clean – this is why the animals are not allowed to climb up over here.
We say good bye and leave Midas city and drive towards Polatli , Gordion the ancient capital city.
On the next day we are excited when we leave the hotel as today our goal is to visit Gordion.
The ancient Phrygian capital (750 – 600 BC) is named after the father of King Midas, King Gordion, who became just by chance King of the Phrygian Empire and who was also the one inventing the Gordion knot for the first time. He told his folks that the one who is able to open the Gordion knot will be the Emperor of Asia and it was Alexander the Great who just cut the knot into 2 pieces with his sword and became the Emperor of the region but just for a very short period (people say that by cutting the knot into 2 pieces he cut his life period by half – he died at the age of 33).
We visit the Gordion Museum.
Inside the museum you can find examples of the first stone mosaics of the World.
Furthermore, there are little archeological remains from the Phrygian civilization, most of the valuable pieces are displayed in the Museum of Ancient Civilizations in Ankara.
This is the most visible Kybele figure from the Phyrigian culture.
Now we actually come to the most exciting part – we are just standing in front of the Tumulus of King Midas,in front of the ancient burial. A Tumulus is a mound of earth and stones which is raised over a grave.
The higher a Tumulus was, the higher was the grade of the person lying in this grave.
The Phrygians were coming from the Balkans to Anatolia and were bringing this culture with them as there is no other civilization in Anatolia making use of this type of Tumuli.
In Polatli there are 124 ancient Tumuli and the highest is the one that we are in front of and most of the others are not excavated.
Archeologists also assume that it could be either the Tumulus of King Midas or even his father Gordion.
The Tumulus was excavated in 1951 with the help of the coal miners from Zonguldak since it is very difficult to excavate a tumulus without really damaging it. But with the help of the coal miners it was possible in those days and the inner wooden grave appeared under the Earth and the Stones of the Tumulus.
It is unbelievable how the wood could stand the almost three thousand years without being damaged here.
We enter the Tumulus through a long and dark doorway where at the end you can see the wooden interior of the tomb of the legendary King Midas.
After having visited this very special location we leave to see the ancient Royal city where King Midas was living, to “Yassıhöyük”. It starts to rain a little bit but the whole region is looking marvelous. There are lots of Tumuli around standing isolated in the landmark. The sky is dark grey, the fields are green and partly yellow but very bright.
The air is fresh, the rain drops are pure and the smell in the air is a mix of soil and water – it is really amazing.
While the rain drops are falling down we walk around ” Yassıhöyük ” and see the archeological remains of the ancient imperial city.
Gordion , Yassihoyuk will soon apply for being a UNESCO HERITAGE site .
We wish them success as Gordion, Yassihoyuk defintely is a very important part of World History .
Our trip comes to its end and we are leaving the region with a lot of deep feelings , highly impressed.
King Midas is not just a legend or a myth but a real king who lived and reigned over this fruitful and beautiful region with his folks and their culture and they left deep traces behind that we are still not able to understand and which need to be further investigated.
It was an unbelievable great trip that we will remember for a long time.