Tomb Raider Rodney Young and King Midas – Turkey

I find it amazing to stand on the sites of stories you read as a child never realising you would one day visit those faraway lands or even know that in reality they existed.

On our way to Bursa we stopped at a small village called Yassihuyuk that is in the middle of nowhere and was only discovered because of the large artificial hills (Tumuli) that dot the landscape.  From the air the mounds look out of place and these were the first clue that people had lived in this area originally called Gordion in the Bronze Age. In 1950 American archaeologists started to uncovered these and found several tombs, the largest of which is purported to be the quasi-legendary King Midas’ burial chamber, although there is no proof that he was actually buried there.

The only story I knew was the one about King Midas and the Golden Touch, this is probably the best known. But there is another story that Midas was asked to judge a musical contest between Apollo and Marsyas. Midas decided in favour of Marsyas and in revenge, Apollo cursed him with donkey’s ears. The king tried to hide these under his turban but couldn’t hide them from his barber.  The barber was desperate to tell someone the secret, so he whispered into the reeds, “Midas has ass’s ears.” And so it was that the reeds passed the message to the river and when the river flooded everyone in the kingdom knew what had happened.

Another tale is that a poor farmer would ride into Gordion and one day rule the kingdom. As the king had no sons, he named the farmer his successor and his cart was placed in the temple where it would stand for many years. Local prophecy decreed that whoever untie the complicated Gordian Knot was destined to become ruler of Asia. This turned out to be Alexander the Great, who became ruler but he died young and superstition is that his early death was a result of severing the knot.

Leaving the myths aside the actual tomb is accessed down a long corridor where old wooden logs have been preserved since 725 BC. Whether any of this is true or not a visit to the museum is worthwhile. There is a plethora of pottery from the Bronze Age onwards and the world’s oldest mosaic pavement.

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