The hill country of Phrygia features natural beauty, Iron-age Phrygian monuments, and early Christian inscriptions. Located between the coastal region of Asia and inland Galatia, ancient Phrygia consists of the modern provinces of Afyonkarahisar, Eskişehir, and Kütahya. The main biblical connection to Phrygia comes in Acts 16:6. Paul and Barnabas “went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia” on their second journey. This was a detour from their original plan, as the Holy Spirit forbade them from speaking in Asia.
This post offers a four-day itinerary through the region, based on my trip in April 2022. Because I came up from Antalya, it was a loop beginning and ending in Apamea in southern Phrygia.
A helpful resource for locating and exploring the monuments and sites of Phrygia is Phrygian Way Guide Book, by Hüseyin Sarı. For academic publications, see the works of the legendary Emilie Haspels along with Roman Phyrgia, edited by Peter Thonemann.
Day 1–Apamea to Afyonkarahisar (southeast Phrygia)
The ancient city of Apamea was located on the main east-west route across Anatolia. When people traveled eastward from the Aegean, they ascended out of the Lycus River valley to Apamea en route to Pisidian Antioch. The modern city of Dinar remains a junction city. Ruins can be found at several locations around town.
Most finds have been collected in a large open-air museum around the parking of the Dinar Belediyesi Atolye, the city’s equipment maintenance site, which is 200 meters west of the northwest junction, on the south side of the road going toward Denizli.
At the train station (TCDD) in town, a portion of Augustus’ calendar inscription was reused in the water foundation.
Recent excavations at the acropolis on the northeast side of town have exposed the theatre (here).
When one is leaving town to the north, Suçıkan Park has a few ancient artifacts, though many have been removed to the new museum in Afyon.
William Ramsay discovered the famous Abercius inscription at (the Pentapolis) Hierapolis, which is the thermal village of Hüdai, 5km SW of Sandıklı. Artefacts have been gathered near the Byzantine-era remains along the river (here).
After passing through Afyon and checking into our hotel, we traveled eastward to visit the famous Dokimeion Marble Quarry on the south side of İscehisar. This was a remarkable visit, as the quarry is still active and massive. Because it was the month of Ramadan and few people were working, we were able to drive into Ozbektas Mermer and see the ancient quarry with original workshop inscriptions. A historical bridge stands in the center of İscehisar, and 100 meters to its NW is a large field of cut stones with inscriptions from the masonry workshops.
We then visited a few Byzantine remains farther east. Kirkinler Rock Settlement is a cluster of medieval churches with a series of high cross reliefs. A church with a two-story monastic cell above is in the middle of Seydiler (here) but is hard to locate and cannot be ascended (see “Phrygia,” in Anatolia in the Byzantine Period, pp. 402–413).
At night, we stayed in Afyon at the MCG Marble hotel. A new archaeology museum was being constructed in Afyon but had not yet opened.
Day 2–Afyon to Eskişehir (eastern Highlands of Phrygia)
Our first stop was Ayazini (here), a Phrygian and Byzantine-era settlement. Beginning with the large church with external carving, the site continues for one kilometer. One could spend two hours exploring the area. Large-scale construction projects were transforming the sleepy village into a tourism destination.
The main stop of the stay was Midas City (Turkish, Yazılı Kaya). Though set in a rural location, the Phrygian cultic site is magnificent. The entire rock outcropping has tombs, roads, engravings, and cisterns, all worth exploring.
We took the back road straight north to Seyitgazi for a late lunch. The site was a notable Roman and Byzantine city (Nakoleia) but few remains have emerged from the small excavation on the hill (here) above the large Seyitgazi Türbesi.
The ancient city of Dorylaeum (another important junction city) is modern Eskişehir. The city is a vibrant university city with a river walk downtown. We spent our evening enjoying the European vibe. The archaeology museum has limited offerings. We stayed at the Manzara Hotel because the historic Eskişehir Büyükşehir Belediyesi Porsuk Konuk Evi was booked.
Day 3–Eskişehir to Uşak (western Lowlands of Phrygia)
Before leaving Eskişehir, we stopped at Şarhöyük, the inaccessible tel of the ancient city, located on the northern edge of town (here).
Ancient Kotiaeion is Kutahya, a Turkish city now famous for its porcelain. The military base (Kütahya Hava Er Eğitim Tugay Komutanlığı) has an archaeology museum (published by Thomas Drew-Bear) but foreigners need advance permission from Ankara to visit. The small museum in the old town center has a nice collection, and the acropolis above has Byzantine fortification walls and magnificent views.
Aizinoi features the best preserved Greco-Roman temple in Turkey. The main street with Diocletian’s price edict and the stadium/theatre are also worth a visit. The remains were more extensive than expected; we could have spent over two hours on-site.
Our day ended in Uşak, which is ancient Temenouthyrai. The city has a splendid, new archaeology museum that highlights the province’s main sites.
Day 4–Uşak to Dinar (southwest Phrygia)
We started the morning by visiting Ulubey Canyon National Park (here), the “Grand Canyon” of Turkey. We had time only to walk out over the cantilevered glass floor but trails through the canyon would have made for a splendid hike.
We then visited the Hellenistic city of Blaundos (here). Positioned on a natural land peninsula, the abandoned site has an iconic setting. Recent excavations have made good progress, though the fortified gate prohibits the team from bringing in heavy machinery. Hundreds of Roman-era tock tombs dot the valley below (article). Some have misnamed the site as the “Stonehenge of Turkey,” but the iconic rock formation is just a Byzantine wall that collapsed in a peculiar fashion.
Pepouza was the ancient hometown of Montanists, the charismatic early Christian movement that believed the New Jerusalem would descend to this Phrygian city. The site was located by Tabbernee and Lampe in the early 2000s. To visit, enter from the north through the village of Karayakublu, then take the dirt road down to the river valley. We walked the bushy path along the river bank from farmhouses to the rock-cut settlement (here). The rooms were carved far up the rock cliff and we could not find an entry point. On the way back to Apamea, we made a quick stop at the 2C Cilandras Bridge (here).
Overall, the four-day trip through Phrygia allowed us to see all the main sites and enjoy the region’s natural beauty.