We are familiar with King Midas from his epic, and from the discovery of his burial chamber. Midas, who succeeded to the throne in 738 B.C., defended the eastern and western frontiers of Phrygia quite well, but could not resist the attacks of the Cimmerians advancing from the Caucasian region. After his defeat by this tribe in 695 B.C., it is said that he committed suicide by drinking bull’s blood. Without a doubt, the largest mound in Gordion was that covering the tomb of King Midas. It is 53 m (174 ft) high and 300 m (984 ft) wide.
The large, almost square-shaped burial chamber is 6.2 m (20 ft) long and 5.15 m (17 ft) wide. The skeleton of King Midas was laid on a large bench, surrounded by other benches on which lay various gifts for the afterworld. Close observation of the skeleton revealed that King Midas died when he was around 60 years old, and that he was quite short in stature, 1.59 m (5 ft). Found on the floor of the tomb chamber were 166 bronze funeral gifts that most likely fell off the nine tables and walls. In addition, there were also 145 bronze fibula laid at the head of the deceased.
The lack of gold reveals that it was not a custom among the Phrygians to present funerary gifts crafted from gold. Influenced by Hittite art, Phrygian art, in turn, influenced Etruscian art in Italy. However, they were also directly influenced by the Urartu in Eastern Anatolia. For instance, they imported the Urartu figure of a bull’s head and worked it on a cauldron of strictly Phrygian form. Metal ores were known and used in metalwork during the Early and Mid-Bronze Ages, from 2500 B.C. onwards. However, it was only around 1000 B.C. that Phrygian metalwork forms borrowed from pottery and metal vessels entered popular use. Phrygian art can be divided into three categories: 1- Local Phrygian ware; 2- Urartu import ware; 3- Assyrian import ware. These groups are again divisible into two major phases consisting of artifacts found in mounds dating before 695 B.C.
The pottery of the Phrygian period was fine polychrome ware, which can be distinguished basically as early and late ware. Because of the Lydian domination of Anatolia during the late period, it bears western Anatolian influence (after 695 B.C.).
As a contrast to the Hittite-based motifs of the early period, in later ware we see studded patterns within lozenge-shaped frames, and again studded motifs on animal forms. Complicated motifs took the place of very simple and geometric motifs from the old period. Instead of one color painted over another color, they started to be painted in many colors. Where animal shapes previously took on a schematic look to them, pieces from the late period showed evolvement. In addition, the late period witnessed motifs of meander, dots and plaited hair. Filtered vessels that had little application in daily life were seen to be popular as a funerary gift. Today, Phrygian works of art are on exhibit at the Anatolian Civilizations Museum in Ankara. Apart from their capital Gordion, Pessinus was also a major Phrygian settlement. Examples of Megaron planned, semerdam-roofed houses were carved into the rock tombs. These may be seen around Afyon and Eskisehir. The Aslantas rock monument near Afyon and the ruins of Midas, near Eskisehir are among the most important monuments of the Phrygian period in Anatolia, and are where the Phrygians worshipped their major deity Cybele and her lover Attis. The Phrygian language belonged to the Indo-European group of languages and as it has not been deciphered yet, our knowledge of the Phrygians is still quite limited.