Gordium

Gordium (Greek: Gordion, Turkish "Gordiyon") was the capital of ancient Phrygia. It was located at the site of modern Yassihüyük, about 70-80 km southwest of Ankara (capital of Turkey), in the immediate vicinity of Polatlı district.

Gordium is situated on the place where the ancient Royal road between Lydia and Assyria/Babylonia crosses the river Sangarius (Sakarya River), which flows from central Anatolia to the Black Sea. Remains of the road are still visible.

In the twelfth century BCE, Gordium appears to have been settled by Thracians who had migrated from southeastern Europe. During the ninth and eighth centuries, the city grew to be the capital of a kingdom that controlled much of Asia Minor west of the river Halys. The kings of Phrygia built large tombs near Gordium called tumuli, which consist of artificial mounds constructed over burial chambers. There are about 100 of them, and many of the chambers were wooden. To the south of it was a lower city, and a large suburb was to be found on the other bank of the Sangarius River. In the eighth century, the lower city and the area to the north of the citadel was surrounded by a fortification circuit wall with regularly spaced towers.

The most famous king of Phrygia was the quasi-legendary Midas. Contemporary Assyrian sources dating at least 717 to 709 BCE call him "Mit-ta-a". During his reign, according to Strabo, a nomadic tribe called Cimmerians invaded Asia Minor, and in 710/709, Midas was forced to ask for help from the Assyrian king Sargon II.

There are traces of destruction at Gordium. Archaeologists at first interpreted the destruction level as the remains of a Cimmerian attack, ca. 700 BCE. The traces were later reinterpreted as dating to ca. 800 BCE, on the basis of archaeology (the style of the pottery and artifacts discovered in the destruction level), dendrochronology, and radiocarbon. [K. DeVries et al., " [http://antiquity.ac.uk/ProjGall/devries/devries.html New dates for the destruction levels at Gordion] ", "Antiquity" 77 (June 2003)] If this reinterpretation is right, then the otherwise-unrecorded destruction would seem to have been caused by a conflagration, and not by a Cimmerian attack. The archaeological reinterpretation, though, is debated. [O.W. Muscarella, "The date of the destruction of the Early Phrygian Period at Gordion", "Ancient West & East" 2, 225-252 (2003). (Argues against the archaeological reinterpretation.)] [ M.M. Voigt, "Old Problems and New Solutions: Recent Excavations at Gordion," in: L. Kealhofer (Ed.) The Archaeology of Midas and the Phrygians (Philadelphia, 2005), 28-31. (Argues for the reinterpretation.)] Also, the correct radiocarbon date seems to have a wide range that is consistent with both proposed archaeological dates. [D.J. Keenan, " [http://www.informath.org/pubs/AWE04a.pdf Radiocarbon dates from Iron Age Gordion are confounded] ", "Ancient West & East" 3, 100-103 (2004).]

The so-called 'mound of Midas', the Great Tumulus [The archaeologists' "Tumulus MM".] near Gordium, was excavated in 1957. Its diameter is a little short of 300 meters and it is 43 meters high. In the wooden chamber, which measured 5 × 6 meters, a man's corpse was found, and even the contents of his last dinner could be reconstructed. The tumulus also contained one of the oldest alphabetic inscriptions outside Phoenicia (c.740 BCE). On chronological grounds, the possibility that the dead man was indeed king Midas (who died in 696/695) can be excluded. He may have been the famous king's father. After half a century of confusion, western Asia Minor was reunited by the Lydians, whose first great king was Gyges (c.680-c.644). One of his successors, Alyattes (c.600-560), built a massive fortress on a hill near the citadel. When Lydia was conquered by the Persian king Cyrus the Great and its last king Croesus killed (547 BCE), a Persian garrison took possession of this fortress. Gordium was now included in the satrapy of Greater Phrygia. The garrison stayed there until the last months of 334 BCE, when the Macedonian commander Parmenion captured the city. During the winter, his king Alexander the Great joined him, traditionally cutting the Gordian Knot in the palace.

After the troubles following the death of Alexander, Gordium was first ruled by the Seleucid kings of Asia, then by the Galatian Celts (the remains of their human sacrifices have been found), then by the Attalid rulers of Pergamum, and eventually by the Romans. It remained one of the most important commercial centers in the region, but the size of the city itself diminished. The old center -citadel and lower town- was abandoned after the Roman conquest in 189 BCE; only the western suburbs remained occupied in the Roman era.

Notes

External links

* [http://home.att.net/~gordion/ The Gordion Excavation Project official site]
* [http://www.museum.upenn.edu/new/research/Exp_Rese_Disc/Mediterranean/gordion.shtml The Gordion Archaeological Project] at the University of Pennsylvania Museum website.
* [http://www.wm.edu/anthropology/faculty/voigt/gordion3.html Excavation, Study of Material Excavated 1988-1996, Regional Surface Survey, and Ethnographic Survey] by Mary Voigt.
* [http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~nmiller0/ecopark.html Erosion, Biodiversity, and Archaeology: Preserving the Midas Tumulus at Gordion] by Naomi F. Miller
* [http://www.livius.org/gi-gr/gordium/gordium.htm Livius.org: Gordium]

Further reading

# Keith DeVries (editor). "From Athens to Gordion" (Philadelphia: University Museum, 1980).
# Ann C. Gunter. "Gordion Excavations Final Reports Vol. III: The Bronze Age" (Philadelphia: University Museum, 1991).
# Gustav Körte and Alfred Körte. " [http://efts.lib.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/eos/eos_title.pl?callnum=CC27.D481_vol5| Gordion: Ergebnisse der Ausgrabung im Jahre 1900] ". "Jährliches Ergänzungsheft" 5 (Berlin, 1904). (In German.)
#Ellen L. Kohler. "The Gordion Excavations (1950-1973) Final Reports, Vol. II: The Lesser Phrygian Tumuli, Part 1, The Inhumations" (Philadelphia, 1995).
# Machteld Mellink. "A Hittite Cemetery at Gordion" (Philadelphia: University Museum, 1956).
#Lynn Roller. "Gordion Special Studies, Vol. I: Nonverbal Graffiti, Dipinti, and Stamps" (Philadelphia: University Museum, 1987).
# Irene Romano. "Gordion Special Studies Vol. II: The Terracotta Figurines and Related Vessels" (Philadelphia: University Museum, 1995).
# G. Kenneth Sams. "The Gordion Excavations, 1950-1973: Final Reports, Vol. IV: The Early Phrygian Pottery" (Philadelphia: University Museum, 1994).
# Rodney Young "et al". "Gordion Excavations Reports, Vol. I: Three Great Early Tumuli [P, MM, W] " (Philadelphia: University Museum, 1981).


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