Hellenistic Structures > Tomb of Midas

Tomb of Midas


The Tomb of Midas, also known as the Midas Mound or the Tumulus of Midas (Midas Tümülüsü), is an ancient burial mound located in the Phrygian Valley near the modern town of Gordion in Turkey. Despite its name, the tomb does not belong to the legendary King Midas of the golden touch but is believed to be the burial site of a Phrygian king from the 8th century BCE, likely King Gordias or another prominent Phrygian ruler. Here’s an overview of the Tomb of Midas:

Historical Context

  1. Phrygia:

    • Phrygia was an ancient kingdom in west-central Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) that flourished during the early first millennium BCE.
    • The Phrygians are known for their distinctive culture, including their contributions to art, architecture, and mythology.
  2. King Midas:

    • King Midas is a legendary figure in Greek mythology, famous for his ability to turn everything he touched into gold.
    • While the historical King Midas might have inspired these legends, the tomb associated with his name predates the myth and likely belongs to an earlier Phrygian king.

The Tomb of Midas

  1. Location and Structure:

    • The tomb is located at the ancient site of Gordion, which served as the capital of Phrygia.
    • It is a large burial mound (tumulus) measuring approximately 53 meters (174 feet) in height and about 300 meters (984 feet) in diameter, making it one of the largest such structures in Anatolia.
  2. Construction:

    • The mound covers a wooden chamber tomb constructed of large logs, which housed the remains of the deceased and his grave goods.
    • The chamber is surrounded by a thick layer of stones and earth, creating the tumulus.
  3. Grave Goods:

    • The tomb contained a wealth of grave goods, including finely crafted furniture, bronze vessels, pottery, and other artifacts, indicating the high status of the buried individual.
    • The presence of these items reflects the wealth and craftsmanship of the Phrygian kingdom.

Archaeological Discoveries

  1. Excavations:

    • The tomb was excavated in the mid-20th century by archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania, led by Rodney S. Young.
    • The excavations revealed the well-preserved wooden burial chamber and a rich assemblage of artifacts.
  2. Human Remains:

    • The remains of a male individual, believed to be a Phrygian king, were found in the tomb.
    • Analysis of the remains and the grave goods has provided insights into Phrygian burial practices, social hierarchy, and daily life.
  3. Artifacts:

    • The artifacts discovered in the tomb include elaborately decorated bronze bowls, wooden tables, and a throne-like chair, among other items.
    • These objects demonstrate the advanced metalworking and woodworking skills of the Phrygians.

Cultural and Historical Significance

  1. Phrygian Culture:

    • The Tomb of Midas provides valuable insights into the culture and society of the Phrygians, including their funerary practices and artistic achievements.
    • The elaborate burial reflects the importance of the ruler and the Phrygian belief in an afterlife where such goods would be needed.
  2. Myth and Legend:

    • The association with King Midas, whether historically accurate or not, adds to the mystique of the site and underscores the blending of history and legend in ancient cultures.
    • The tomb serves as a physical reminder of the legends surrounding the Phrygian kings and their impact on Greek mythology.
  3. Archaeological Importance:

    • The Tomb of Midas is a key archaeological site for understanding the early history of Anatolia and the development of ancient civilizations in the region.
    • It continues to attract researchers and visitors, contributing to our knowledge of ancient burial practices and Phrygian heritage.

Modern-Day Relevance

  1. Tourism and Preservation:

    • The Tomb of Midas is part of the Gordion archaeological site, which is open to visitors and provides a fascinating glimpse into ancient Phrygian history.
    • Efforts are ongoing to preserve the site and its artifacts, ensuring that they remain accessible for future generations.
  2. Educational Value:

    • The tomb and its discoveries are of great educational value, offering insights into ancient engineering, burial customs, and the interplay between history and myth.

In summary, the Tomb of Midas is a significant archaeological site that sheds light on the Phrygian civilization and its cultural practices. Its association with the legendary King Midas adds to its allure, making it a key point of interest for historians, archaeologists, and visitors interested in the ancient world.


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