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A 5th–6th-century BC monument in the Sehitgazi Valley at the modern village of Yazılıkaya is called the Midas Tomb, and though this is the heartlands of the Phrygian king, it is not a tomb but an impressive shrine dedicated to Cybele. The 56ft-high cut-rock wall, with Phrygian inscriptions, resembles a temple façade. Remains of an 8th-century BC Phrygian acropolis can be seen above the monument. A monastery is cut out of the rocks nearby, and there is a small museum of finds.
The landscape is green and idyllic. It might be the backdrop in a Renaissance oil painting of some myth from the ancient world – which, in a way, is exactly what it is. The kings and princes of this land turned to dust long ago, and now many of the villagers are leaving, too. A sense of timelessness hangs over the land. Everywhere along its roads, one sees monuments and fragments, chunks hewn from a past that has almost assumed the status of legend: the times of Midas, Gordius, Alcibiades, and Seyyit Battal Gazi, the Romans, Seljuks and Ottomans.
This is Phrygia, one of the most beautiful and historic regions of Turkey, but a genuine case of a land that time and modernity have so far forgotten. Although the first ominous stirrings of tourism and development can be detected, as yet the bulldozers and construction machines have shown no signs of moving in.
The name Phrygia, a purely historical and geographical label, comes from the Phrygians, a people who dominated western central Anatolia during most of the gap between the fall of the Hittites, just before 1150BC, and about 690BC, when they were conquered by the Cimmerians. For a while they were one of the most powerful kingdoms in the Near East, and the beauty of their little-known monuments and artefacts suggests that, had the dice of history rolled more kindly, they might have been an powerful influence on world art.
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