Phrygian Period


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VIII. Phrygian Period (750 - 600 BCE.) 

 Following the destruction of Hittite Empire by the Aegean migrations, many small kingdoms emerged here and there, and they ruled Anatolia between 1,250 - 750 BCE. Besides these many smaller kingdoms, we know two powerful states, one is Urartian Kingdom that we have discussed in the previous chapter, and the other one is Phrygian Kingdom which ruled from central Anatolian plateau. 

Assyrian cuneiforms, late Hittite hieroglyphic inscriptions, Urartian annals and Classical Greek writers have provided much information about the Phrygians. Also, the pottery and other objects found at the sites of Gordion the capital of Phrygians and Pazarli  supported the information given by the ancient texts. Based on the writings of Greek and Lydian historians, and also archaeological evidence, we can believe that the Phrygians originated from the Danube area, from where they migrated into Thrace and later crossed the Dardanelles and settled in and around Troy and soon after spread over the western Anatolia. From the exactly same style burial mounds found in Thrace and Gordion, we can trace the roots of the Phrygians first to Thrace and on to the area along the Danube river. 

Part of the problem in origins of the Phrygians lies in the various names given to tribes or peoples who may have been Phrygians. For example Mushki, which is frequently mentioned in the Assyrian annals, sometimes often, in connection with Tabal, also long assumed to have been Phrygians. Probably, the Phrygian kingdom comprised a confederation of peoples, united against the Assyrian kingdom. As we read in the Urartian chapter, Urartians followed pretty much the same policies against Assyrians. 

We are not quite sure yet, when and to which parts of Anatolia Phrygians migrated. However, we know that they settled in Central Anatolia on a land covering Ankara, Sinop, Alacahoyuk, Pazarli, Hattusas, Konya and Melidia on eastern Anatolia and Manisa on the west. Generally agreed that the Phrygians were among those migrating peoples known as "Sea Peoples" who destroyed the Hittite Empire that was already weakened by the Kashka people from the north. Later in the Hellenistic period, Phrygian lands were settled by Galatians, a tribe from eastern Europe, and renamed as Galatia, nevertheless this territory was, for a long time, known as Phrygia even later in the Hellenistic times.  

Scholars believe that Phrygians established themselves as a strong and powerful kingdom only after 8th C. BCE.  Because, from 8th C. BCE and on, Assyrian annals mention a nation under the name Mushki that is believed to be the same people as Phrygians. Greek sources tell that Phrygians had existed in Anatolia from 13th C.  BCE. Homer's Iliad has provided the information that Phrygians were available in Anatolia in the time of the King Priamus of Troy, roughly 12th C. BCE. On the other hand historian Herodotus in his book tells that Phrygians, before they came into Anatolia, lived in Macedonia area and by that time they were called Brygians. Herodotus also mentions the first kings, Gordios, Midas and Adrastus and he says Phrygians lived on the left hand of the river Halys and the area between Lydia and Cappadocia is called Phrygia. The information given by Herodotus is supported by the Phrygian style burial mounds and monuments found in this area. What makes us believe that Phrygians have never been an important nation before the 8th C. BCE. is that nowhere in Anatolia has Phrygian monument or pottery before  that century. 

Phrygians, between 12th and 8th C. BCE., they lived in Anatolia, but as small clans and tribes, only after the 8th C. BCE., they became a noticeable political and military power. Nevertheless, Phrygians have never been able to control the whole part of Anatolia. For example, one of the newly emerging powers in Anatolia, Lydian Kingdom has survived through the Phrygian period and there is no evidence that Lydians lived under the Phrygian hegemony. Another point that leads us to believe that Phrygians did not control Anatolia totally, is the lack of Phrygian towns along the Aegean and Mediterranean coastlines. Excavations at ancient cities on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts have provided no Phrygian pottery and objects. 

As Phrygian state was at its peak, under the king Midas, Anatolia was invaded by a new flog of people. This people were known as Gommers in the old testament, as Gimmirais in Assyrian records and Cimmerois in Greek sources, now we call the Cimmerians. Cimmerians, as told by Herodotus, lived on the Crimean peninsula to the north of Black Sea. When their land was attacked by Scythians, a wild and powerful people, they, in large groups, entered Anatolia and destroyed Urartian kingdom in the eastern Anatolia. 

Assyrian king Sargon II, carried out many defense wars against Cimmerians, another Assyrian king Asahardon, agreed with Scythians, and drove  Cimmerians from eastern to central Anatolia.  Cimmerians, first time met Phrygians in this area, and defeated Phrygians in a battle in the year 676 BCE after which the king Midas killed himself by drinking bull blood. 

The burial mound at Gordion is believed to be the king Midas'. The body found inside the burial chamber is of a short man at the age 60s. What surprised the archaeologists, who excavated this tomb, was the lack of gold in the burial chamber, because the king Midas was famous for his rich treasures. One of the reasons for that might be the Cimmerians, who probably looted the riches of Midas. About the same time, Gordion the capital city was burned and destroyed. 

After destroying the Phrygians, Cimmerians continuing their march towards west, destroyed and sacked many Ionian cities including Miletus and Smyrna. Cimmerian invasion lasted for 80 years, and this period of 80 years in Anatolia was known as a period of terror and fear. The Assyrian king Asarhaddon gave Cimmerians a heavy attack in the year 679 BCE, and the remains of this people were destroyed by the Lydian king Alyattes in 609 BCE. 

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