There are two places, paramount from the historical point of view, bearing the same name - Yazılıkaya - in the area of Turkey. Not surprisingly, as in Turkish this word means 'inscribed rock' and thus perfectly reflects the character of all the monuments that were created by carving inscriptions in the rock walls. The monument, which is described here, also has two other names - Midas Kenti (Midas City) and Midas Anıtı (Midas Monument), that distinguish it from the Hittite sanctuary of Yazılıkaya, located in the vicinity of Hattusa, in central Anatolia.
Phrygian Yazılıkaya is located in the area of the Phrygian Valley, in Eskişehir Province, on a plateau that also bears the name Yazılıkaya, at an altitude of over 1,300 meters above sea level. The site dominates the plain, rising about 70 meters above the surrounding terrain. It covers an area 650 meters long, and 320 meters wide.
The earliest traces of human settlement discovered near Yazılıkaya originate from the early Bronze Age. However, there is no evidence of the continuity of the settlement, and the most important monuments of Yazılıkaya are dated to the period from the 8th to the 6th century BC. At that time Yazilikaya was the second most important place of the development of Phrygian civilization, besides their capital city - Gordion. It was guarded by four fortresses standing on the nearby hills - Akpara, Pişmiş, Gökgöz, and Kocabaş. Their ruins are still visible.
It remains unknown when the Phrygians left the area of Yazılıkaya. Structures and inscriptions found nearby indicate to an occupation of these areas in the later periods of history - in Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine times.
The Western world heard about Yazılıkaya already in 1800 when Colonel William Martin Leake stumbled upon this place during a military mission associated with a trip from Istanbul to Egypt. Leake examined the rock monument and drew its sketch. In 1824, when he published a book with the description of his journey and the attached sketch of the monument, the Phrygian Valley region attracted the attention of European researchers.
At the end of the 19th century a Scottish archaeologist, William M. Ramsay, visited the area and called the monument "Midas City." He associated Yazılıkaya with the Phrygian king Midas due to the inscription engraved in the rock, bearing the name of that monarch.
Systematic archaeological work in Yazılıkaya began in 1936, under the leadership of the French Archaeological Institute in Istanbul. The work was first led by A. Gabriel, and then by C. H. E. Haspels, until 1939. During this period, some significant discoveries were made, including uncovered rock reliefs, cisterns, structures on the north-eastern side of the site, and a stone staircase leading down to the plain. The first phase of excavations ended with the outbreak of World War II.
The second round of archaeological work in Yazılıkaya started in 1948 and lasted until 1951. The management of the team of archaeologists was taken by Halet Cambel, already known at the time from his excavations in the late-Hittite fortress of Karatepe-Aslantaş. The most important finding from this period was a necropolis located in the eastern part of the plateau.
Subsequent works in Yazilikaya were carried out in the 70s and the 90s of the 20th century. The area surrounding rock tombs, tunnels hollowed out in the rocks and cisterns were all cleared out. At the beginning of the 21st century, the study of Yazılıkaya plain was conducted, leading to the discovery of other Phrygian monuments.
The most important and the most spectacular structure in Yazılıkaya is called the Midas Monument. It is a beautifully decorated façade, carved into the vertical rock, dating back to the 7th or the 6th century BC. Its appearance resembles an entrance to a temple, but actually only a very shallow niche is carved into the rock. Most probably it used to house a statue of the goddess Cybele, also known among the Phrygians as Matar.
The façade has a square shape with a side length of 16 meters. It is an imitation of the Phrygian megaron, a rectangular structure with a large, deep hall fronted by a much shallower anteroom or porch. The niche, carved into the rock, is surrounded by geometric patterns, evoking the maze. The whole structure was topped was an acroterion, but unfortunately it has not been preserved to our times.
Above the façade, there is an inscription in Old Phrygian, carved into the rock. It states that a certain Ates, perhaps a priest, dedicated this monument to King Midas. Because Phrygia was ruled by several kings bearing this name, the researchers are not able to clearly identify the monarch who was honored by this monument.
Opposite the Midas Monument stands a massive rock formation called Kırkgöz Kayalıkları (i.e. the Rock of the Forty Eyes). It was used in the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods. A monumental rock tomb from the Hellenistic times is on the east side. It has two chambers, and its vault was originally supported by two pillars, now destroyed. In the Byzantine period, a multi-storied settlement was carved in the rocks, with multiple chambers, passages, and stairways.
The sightseeing route goes from the Monument Midas along a monumental ramp, following the lower terrace of Yazılıkaya. On the route there are many Phrygian reliefs and rock tombs. Huge, rock-hewn Phrygian water cisterns can also be seen, with steep stairs, severely affected by time and weather factors. The top of a cistern was originally covered with a vault for security during water collection. Water flowed into the cisterns from the upper plateau, to feed the "Healing Cybele" stream on the lower terrace.
The path then leads to another rock façade, called the Unfinished Monument (tr. Bitmemiş Anıt) or Little Yazılıkaya. Because the work was never finished, the studies of this structure provided scientists with information about the techniques used to create such monumental reliefs. First, the rock was flattened, and then the façade was carved from the top down. The architectural frame and the ornament were carved at the same time. Little Yazılıkaya measures 7 to 10 meters, and faces the western direction. About 2 meters below the monument there is a smaller façade, to the left, and a rock-cut altar, to the right.
The sightseeing path forks not far from the Unfinished Monument. One of its branches leads uphill, to the Acropolis. It contains tombs carved into the rock, the reliefs of Phrygian deities, as well as so-called Midas throne. In fact, it was probably a water reservoir or a sarcophagus. From the top of the Acropolis, Phrygian fortresses Pişmiş, Gökgöz and Kocabaş are visible in the distance.
The lower branch of the path leads to other water cisterns, dug deep into the rock. Many small water-gathering pools on the rock citadel were connected with these three monumental rock-cut cisterns, reached by vertical and zigzag stairways. Human and animal reliefs were carved at the entrances to these structures. Therefore it is believed that in addition to the practical function of supplying the city with water, they also played the ceremonial and religious roles in the worship of Phrygian Mother Goddess, Matar (Cybele).
Also along the lower branch of the sightseeing path, you can find a monumental Phrygian rock tomb. It givessome idea of the indoor architecture of Phrygian houses since the details of roofing were carved on its ceiling. The tomb consists of a single rectangular chamber, with a small rectancular door reached by a rock-cut stairway.
Yazılıkaya area is vast and rich in interesting monuments, so plan at least two hours for its exploration. The sightseeing route allows you to walk around the entire site. The most important structures are marked with information boards in English and Turkish. The entrance to Yazılıkaya is paid (3 TL).
The car park is 300 meters away from the entrance to Yazılıkaya. There is a small cafeteria nearby, but during our visit it was closed. Therefore, before setting out to explore Yazılıkaya, take some drinking water, especially that the area is largely unprotected from the sun.
Near Yazılıkaya there is also a village known as Kümbet, located 14 km to the west. There you can see a Seljuk mausoleum and a beautifully decorated Phrygian tomb.
By public transport: there are no public transport options to Yazılıkaya. It is possible to take a taxi from Seyitgazi, some 30 km away.
By car: from Eskişehir go to the south along D665 route. Turn off this road near Seyitgazi, 46 km away from Eskişehir. Drive 26 km along a secondary road to get to Yazılıkaya.
If you travel from Afyon, head along D665 route to the north, and turn off in the north-western direction after 49 km. The total distance from Afyon to Yazılıkaya is 64 km. On your way, make a stopover at Ayazini to visit a rock necropolis and a Byzantine church.