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date: 01 October 2022



  • Stephen Mitchell


  • Ancient Geography

Phrygia (See asia minor, Classical) was the large and ill-defined geographical region which stretched across much of west central Anatolia. The settlement and culture of Phrygia during the early 1st millennium bce is known principally through the excavations at Gordium, and the legends associated with its legendary king, Midas. During the Roman period the region extended north to Bithynia, west to the upper valley of the Hermus and to Lydia, south to Pisidia and to Lycaonia, and east as far as the Salt Lake. Phrygian, one of the Anatolian languages, is attested within these boundaries by neo-Phrygian inscriptions, mostly of the 3rd cent. ce; see phrygian language. Another useful criterion by which the presence of Phrygian culture may be determined is the distribution of grave monuments depicting a door, a typical Phrygian motif. At earlier periods, however, artefacts of Phrygian type were distributed over a much wider area; so-called Old Phrygian inscriptions (of the 8th and 7th cents. bce) have been found as far apart as Dascylium in the Hellespont and Tyana in western Cappadocia.

Virtually nothing is known about Phrygian society between the 5th and the 2nd cents. bce. Macedonian settlers, following in the wake of Alexander (3) the Great's campaigns, established themselves around the Anatolian plateau, for instance at Docimium, Philomelium, and Lysias, and introduced a partly Hellenized culture which was imitated by the native aristocracy. Cities and city institutions emerged during the 3rd cent. bce in S. Phrygia under Seleucid influence. Phrygian culture, however, is best attested in the Roman period. The region was then divided between the provinces of Asia and Galatia. It has produced thousands of inscriptions from its cities (mostly agricultural townships which acquired city status under the empire) and above all from the village-communities, which were the most characteristic form of settlement. Apart from funerary texts the commonest type of inscriptions are religious dedications to Greek and Anatolian deities. Phrygian religious life, which doubtless perpetuated traditions which stretched far back into Anatolian prehistory, can be described and analysed in considerable detail. Alongside those of Zeus and various mother goddesses, the most widespread cults were for the Anatolian god Mēn, and for deities associated with righteousness, vengeance, and justice, including the abstract couple ‘Holy and Just’ (see angels). They enjoined a strict moral code of behaviour, and it is no coincidence that Jewish and early Christian communities flourished on Phrygian soil in the 2nd and 3rd cents. ce.


  • W. M. Ramsay, The Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia (1895–1897).
  • Monumenta Asiae Minoris Antiquae (1928– ), 1, 4–7, 9–10.
  • C. H. E. Haspels, The Highlands of Phrygia (1971).
  • C. Naour and T. Drew Bear, Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt 2. 18. 3 (1990), 1907–2044.
  • M. Waelkens, Die kleinasiatischen Türsteine (1984).