Gordion Tourist Attractions
Central AnatoliaVillage: Yassihüyük (population: about 400)Situation and ImportanceThe Gordion archeological site lies about 100km/62mi southwest of Ankara and 30km/19mi northwest of Polatli. By the time archeologists led by Rodney S. Young of Pennsylvania University (USA) began work in 1953, the River Sakarya had deposited a layer of sediment several meters thick over the ruins of Gordion's lower town. By 1963 169 bronze vessels and 175 bronze fibulae (ornamental brooches) had been unearthed. There was no trace however of the legendary Phrygian treasure, presumed to have been taken by the Cimmerians.Myth and historyExcavations at Ahlâtlibel (south of Yassihüyük) show that the area around Gordion was already settled in the Early Bronze Age (2500 B.C.), while a cemetery discovered beneath the Phrygian necropolis suggests a subsequent Hittite presence. The Phrygians are thought to have been one of the so-called Sea Peoples who overran Asia Minor in about 1200 B.C. in a series of invasions. There are references to them in Assyrian sources from around 1100 B.C. when, as the Mushki or Mosher, they settled on both sides of the Kizilirmak, from where they began to threaten their eastern neighbors. Phrygian finds at Gordion date from the mid-ninth century B.C.The legend of the founding of the Phrygian dynasty and capital has been preserved in Greek sources. A farmer named Gordius, ploughing his fields, was startled when a myriad of birds flocked around his oxen. Keen to learn the meaning of this omen he set out to consult augurs in a nearby town, meeting a beautiful maiden (later his wife) who told him the birds were a sign of his royal destiny and offered herself for his queen. Gordion then drove his ox-cart to the temple where he was immediately greeted by the people as their ruler, an oracle having prophesied that the first person they saw driving thus to the temple would be their king. The appreciative Gordion set up his ox-cart in the temple, attaching the yoke to the shaft with a long elaborately knotted strap, the legendary Gordion Knot, by cutting which Alexander the Great was later to make history.The most famous Phrygian ruler was King Midas, the son of Gordius. When the kingdom was overrun by the Cimmerians (between 700 and 670 B.C.) and the Scythians, he committed suicide.From the rubble of the kingdom of Phrygia emerged the Lydian Empire (Alyattes 615-560 B.C., and Croesus), under the auspices of which Phrygian culture was, for a period, preserved. In 546 B.C. the Persian Archaemids defeated Croesus and built a new settlement at Gordion. This was destroyed by an earthquake around 400 B.C. Rebuilt yet again the city was so devastated by the Galatians in 278 B.C. that thereafter only a village remained.Gordian knotThe elaborate Gordian knot had no visible end and was considered impossible to unravel. According to legend whoever succeeded would become ruler of Asia Minor. When Alexander the Great set up his winter quarters in Gordion in 334/333 B.C., the ambitious general resolved to fulfill the prophecy. Climbing up to Gordius's ox-cart on the citadel hill, he is said to have cut the knot with his sword. But according to the Greek historian Aristobulos Kassandreia (ca. 300 B.C.), Alexander removed the peg holding the shaft, so freeing the end of the knot.
In the upper town of Gordion, archeologists have unearthed an imposing city gate from the eighth century B.C. Preserved to a height of over 9m/29ft it is a testament to the sophistication of Phrygian stone architecture. Other finds from that epoch include the stone foundations of a palace complex, once supporting walls of mud brick on a timber framework. In three of the four megaron-style buildings, with a hearth, ante-room and principal hall, mosaics of different colored pebbles were found. A second gate dates from the Persian period. Excavation continues.
Tumuli (Tomb of Gordios)
Beyond the village of Yassihüyük a number of burial mounds flank both sides of the Polatli road. The so-called Tomb of Gordios, 53m/174ft high with a diameter of 250m/820ft, facing the site's small museum, is the second largest of its kind in Anatolia (after the 69m/226ft high Tumulus of Alyattes at Bin Tepe near Sardes). Having been erected only at the beginning of the seventh century B.C. at the earliest, the man-made burial mound can hardly be Gordius's tomb, but more probably that of the legendary Midas. On the southwest side a 70m/230ft-long passage leads down to the burial chamber, 39m/130ft below the top of the mound. The 5 x 6m/16 x 20ft chamber, concealed beneath a mass of limestone blocks, was originally without an entrance. The wooden beam walls and gable roof have survived. The chamber was protected from robbers by a 3m/10ft-thick layer of rubble and against damp by 40m/131ft of clay overlaid with gravel. To the left inside the chamber was a bed on which lay the undamaged skeleton of a man, more than 60 years of age and about 1.6m/5ft 3ins tall, his clothes fastened with well-preserved bronze fibulae (of which a total of 175 were found in the burial chamber). Around the walls stood tables laden with rich grave gifts, few of which were of precious metal despite Midas's reputed love of gold.The other, smaller mounds contain tombs from the period 725 to 550 B.C. The so-called Child's Tomb to the southeast of the museum yielded some rather special treasures including wooden furniture, ivory reliefs and box-wood carvings.