The Phrygian Valley (Frig Vadisi in Turkish), with remnants of a 3,000-year-old civilization, is a large area that spreads across the central Anatolian and Aegean regions. The forces of wind and water on the volcanic tuff rock shaped its stunning landscape of cliffs and fairy chimneys that often resembles that of Cappadocia. Since 2015, the area is on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.
Historical Background of the Phrygian Valley
The Phrygians were an ancient Indo-European people who spoke a language with a vocabulary similar to Greek. According to Greek historians around 1200 BCE, at the demise of the Hittite Empire, the Phrygians migrated from Thrace to the Anatolian plateau. By the 8th century BCE, the Phrygian kingdom with its capital at Gordion had emerged.
The Phrygian Empire saw its heyday under its famous King Midas, one of the several monarchs carrying that name, when it dominated Central Anatolıa. The empire came to an end when it was invaded by the Cimmerians at around 690 BCE. The culture of the Phrygians, as is testified by their temple in Aizanoi (Çavdarhisar) and the rock-cut temples in the Phrygian Valley, was based on Greek culture, but with strong Neo-Hittite and Urartian influences.
Sites and Photos of the Phrygian Valley
The large area known as the Phrygian Valley spreads across three Turkish provinces: Eskişehir, Kütahya, and Afyon. This page focuses on our excursion from Afyon to the village of Döğer with the Aslankaya monument and Lake Emre, followed by a visit to the Midas Monument, also known as Midas Şehri or Midas Kenti, at Yazılıkaya near Eskişehir. It also contains some information about the Phrygian capital Gordion, which we visited on another occasion.
We start our tour of the Phrygian Valley in Döğer in the Ihsaniye district. Döğer is a small provincial town with a population of about 5,450 people. In the surroundings of Döğer, the landscape is dominated with impressive tuff rock formations. For the farmers of the Afyon province, the cultivation of opium poppies for medical purposes is an important source of income. By the way, Turkey is the world's largest producer of medicinal (legal) opium. In the village of Döğer itself, there is an Ottoman Caravanserai that dates back to 1434. In the surroundings of Döğer, there are several Phrygian monuments, including large rock tombs, rock altars and open-air temples. Döğer's most prominent Phrygian monument is the impressive rock tomb of Aslankaya at 5 km from Döğer.
The monument of Aslankaya, or Lion's Rock, dates from the mid-sixth century BCE and was dedicated to the Anatolian mother goddess Cybele. In 1884, the Scottish archaeologist William Mitchell Ramsey, while exploring the Phrygian Valley, found the monument. The Aslankaya monument is carved in a single standing, 15-metre high, rock of volcanic origin. The carved façade at its southeast wall has a height of over 7 metres and a width of 6.6 metres and resembles the entrance to a temple. The triangular pediment on the top of the facade is decorated with bas-relief figures of two sphinxes. At the centre of the facade, there is a niche that used to contain a statue of Cybele, flanked by two lion figures. Unfortunately, the statue of Cybele was destroyed by vandals in 1994. On the rock walls on the sides of the façade, there are additional decorations. On the right side, there is a large low relief of a lion standing on its hind legs. More information on the Phrygian Valley and the Aslankaya Monument is available at Archaeology News.
Lake Emre - Emre Gölü
A short distance from Aslankaya lies another highlight of the Phrygian Valley, the peaceful Lake Emre (Emre Gölü) with its spectacular rock formations and untouched nature. On a hill, next to the lake, are the ruins of the late 18th century Ottoman Yunus Emre Tekke, the former seat of a dervish brotherhood and named after the great Anatolian Sufi poet Yunus Emre.
Yazılıkaya - Midas Monument (Midas Anıtı) - Midas City (Midas Şehri, Midas Kenti)
It's a one hour drive (60 km) from Döğer to reach the highlight of our excursion, the Midas Monument (Turkish Midas Anıtı), also known as the City of Midas (Turkish Midas Şehri or Midas Kenti), near the village of Yazılıkaya (Turkish for inscribed rock) in the Eskişehir province. This 17-metre high monument, carved in the volcanic tuff rock and covered with geometric designs and hieroglyphs, is rightfully considered a masterpiece of Phrygian art. It is believed that the place was used by the Phrygians for religious ceremonies in honour of the mother goddess Cybele. The archaeological site covers an area that is 650 meters long, and 320 meters wide. The most important monuments of the site date from the 8th to the 6th century BCE, when it was the second most important place of the Phrygian civilization, after the capital Gordion. The first archaeological observations and sketches were made by Colonel William Martin Leake in 1800 when he was travelling from Constantinople to Egypt. Later, when William Mitchell Ramsey visited the Phrygian Valley, he called the monument "Midas City", based on inscriptions carrying the name of the Phrygian monarch.
The impressive monument has a height of 16-17 m. In the centre, surrounded by geometrical patterns, a shallow niche is carved in the rock. Most probably it contained a statue of the goddess Cybele, who was also known to the Phrygians as Matar. Above the façade, there is an inscription, that states that a certain Ates dedicated this monument to King Midas. Opposite the monument stands a massive rock formation called Kırkgöz Kayalıkları (Rock of the Forty Eyes), which was used in later periods as a necropolis.
It takes at least one hour to visit the Midas monument. The path leading to the acropolis, that offers some spectacular views, passes some steep stairways leading to huge cisterns that trapped rainwater for the dry season. There is also an unfinished monument, a smaller version of the Midas monument, that offered scientists insight into the techniques that the Phrygians used in their rock-cut monuments.
Gordion, the ancient capital of the Phrygians, is in the vicinity of the modern city of Polatlı and is best visited from Ankara. The site's main attraction is Tumulus MM, the large burial mound with a height of over 50 m. The tumulus dates from around 740 BCE and was constructed to cover the tomb of a Phrygian king, presumably Gordias, the father of the legendary King Midas.
Travel Information & Travel Tips for the Phrygian Valley
We visited Aslankaya, Lake Emre, and the Midas Monument on a half-day excursion by taxi from Afyon in 2008. At the time of our visit, standard guide books like Lonely Planet didn't make any mention of the Phrygian Valley at all. That's why our visit was limited to only a few places. It is also wise to bring a good map with you. Our driver got lost several times. Alternatively, you can take a bus from Afyon's local bus terminal (Köy Garaj) to Ihsaniye and catch a taxi there.
The excursion from Ankara to Gordion was in 2010. In Ankara, we took the bus to Polatlı, where we took a taxi to the tumulus site and the Phrygian citadel.