Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Where does the Phrygians come from?

Posted by Fredsvenn on March 18, 2015

Man in Phrygian costume (3rd–1st century BC)

Tomb at Midas City (6th century BC)

All of the above combine to make a pretty compelling story. Could it be that Armenians preserve a legacy of admixture between a linguistically Indo-European speaking, genetically Sardinian-like population, which arrived in Asia Minor from the Balkans at the end of the Bronze Age, finally settling in the Armenian Highlands, and mixing with the local people they encountered?

Phrgyia was a kingdom in the west central part of Anatolia, in what is now Turkey, centered on the Sakarya River. Gordia was the capital of this once powerful empire. According to Homer’s Iliad, the Phrygians were close allies of the Trojans and participants in the Trojan War against the Achaeans.

The Phrygians are most famous for their legendary kings of the heroic age of Greek mythology: Gordias whose Gordian Knot would later be cut by Alexander the Great, Midas who turned whatever he touched to gold, and Mygdon who warred with the Amazons.

Phrygian power reached its peak in the late 8th century BC under another, historical king Midas, who dominated most of western and central Anatolia and rivaled Assyria and Urartu for power in eastern Anatolia. This later Midas was, however, also the last independent king of Phrygia before its capital Gordium was sacked by Cimmerians around 695 BC.

Phrygia then became subject to Lydia, and then successively to Persia, Alexander and his Hellenistic successors, Pergamon, Rome and Byzantium. Phrygians were gradually assimilated into other cultures by the early medieval era, and after the Turkish conquest of Anatolia the name Phrygia passed out of usage as a territorial designation.

The origin of the Phrygians is still a mystery. One theory is that the Phrgyians originally derived from Thrace. Natives of Thrace around 1200 BC crossed over to Asia Minor and settled in Western Anatolia. The empire thrived and soon rivaled Assyria and Urartu for power.

It is said by Homer that the fall of Phrgyia gave rise to the kingdom of Armenia. It is believed that these people traveled east to settle in the Armenian Highlands. Herodotus says of the Armenians who were part of the army of King Xerxes: the Armenians were equipped like Phrygians, being Phrygian colonists” (7.73).

Inscriptions found at Gordium make clear that Phrygians spoke an Indo-European language with at least some vocabulary similar to Greek, and clearly not belonging to the family of Anatolian languages spoken by most of Phrygia’s neighbors. One of the so-called Homeric Hymns describes the Phrygian language as not mutually intelligible with Troy.

According to ancient tradition among Greek historians, the Phrygians anciently migrated to Anatolia from the Balkans. Herodotus says the Phrygians were called Bryges when they lived in Europe. He and other Greek writers also recorded legends about King Midas that associated him with or put his origin in Macedonia; Herodotus, for example, says a wild rose garden in Macedonia was named after Midas.

The Phrygians were also connected by some classical writers to the Mygdones, the name of two groups of people, one of which lived in northern Macedonia and another in Mysia.

Likewise the Phrygians have been identified with the Bebryces, a people said to have warred with Mysia before the Trojan War and who had a king named Mygdon at roughly the same time as the Phrygians were said to have had a king named Mygdon.

The classical historian Strabo groups Phrygians, Mygdones, Mysians, Bebryces and Bithynians together as peoples that migrated to Anatolia from the Balkans. This image of Phrygians as part of a related group of northwest Anatolian cultures seems the most likely explanation for the confusion over whether Phrygians, Bebryces and Anatolian Mygdones were or were not the same people.

The apparent similarity of the Phrygian language to Greek and its dissimilarity with the Anatolian languages spoken by most of their neighbors is also taken as support for a European origin of the Phrygians. Phrygian continued to be spoken until sixth century AD, though its distinctive alphabet was lost earlier than those of most Anatolian cultures.

Some scholars have theorized that such a migration could have occurred more recently than classical sources suggest, and have sought to fit the Phrygian arrival into a narrative explaining the downfall of the Hittite Empire and the end of the high Bronze Age in Anatolia.

According to this recent migration theory, the Phrygians invaded just before or after the collapse of the Hittite Empire at the beginning of the 12th century BC, filling the political vacuum in central-western Anatolia, and may have been counted among the “Sea Peoples” that Egyptian records credit with bringing about the Hittite collapse. The so-called Handmade Knobbed Ware found in Western Anatolia during this period has been suggested to be an import connected to this invasion.

However, most scholars reject such a recent Phrygian migration and accept as factual the Iliad’s account that the Phrygians were established on the Sakarya River before the Trojan War, and thus must have been there during the later stages of the Hittite Empire, and probably earlier. These scholars seek instead to trace the Phrygians’ origins among the many nations of western Anatolia who were subject to the Hittites.

This interpretation also gets support from Greek legends about the founding of Phrygia’s main city Gordium by Gordias and of Ancyra by Midas, which suggest that Gordium and Ancyra were believed to be date from the distant past before the Trojan War. Some scholars dismiss the claim of a Phrygian migration as a mere legend, likely arising from the coincidental similarity of their name to the Bryges.

No one has conclusively identified which of the many subjects of the Hittites might have represented early Phrygians. According to a classical tradition, popularized by Josephus, Phrygia can be equated with the country called Togarmah by the ancient Hebrews, which has in turn been identified as the Tegarama of Hittite texts and Til-Garimmu of Assyrian records. Josephus called Togarmah “the Thrugrammeans, who, as the Greeks resolved, were named Phrygians”.

However, the Greek source cited by Josephus is unknown, and it is unclear if there was any basis for the identification other than name similarity. Scholars of the Hittites believe Tegarama was in eastern Anatolia – some locate it at Gurun – far to the east of Phrygia. Some scholars have identified Phrygia with the Assuwa league, and noted that the Iliad mentions a Phrygian (Queen Hecuba’s brother) named Asios.

Another possible early name of Phrygia could be Hapalla, the name of the easternmost province that emerged from the splintering of the Bronze Age western Anatolian empire Arzawa. However, scholars are unsure if Hapalla corresponds to Phrygia or to Pisidia, further south.

A further claim made by Herodotus is that Phrygian colonists founded the Armenian nation. This is likely a reference to a third group of people called Mygdones living in northern Mesopotamia who were apparently allied to the Armenians; Xenophon describes them in his Anabasis in a joint army with the Armenians. However, little is known about these eastern Mygdones, and no evidence of Phrygian language in that region has been found.

Eric P. Hamp in his 2012 Indo-European family tree classified the Phrygian language together with Italo-Celtic as member of a member of a “Northwest Indo-European” group.

In Hamp’s view Northwest Indo-Europeans are likely to have been the first inhabitants of Hallstatt (800-600 BC) with the Pre-Phrygians moving east and south to Anatolia in the same manner as the Galatians do later. Raymund Carl, in 2010, mentions that the Lusatian culture (1300-500 BC) was one such Hallstatt-associated culture.

The Lusatian culture existed in the later Bronze Age and early Iron Age in most of today’s Poland, parts of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, parts of eastern Germany and parts of Ukraine.

It forms part of the Urnfield systems (1300-750 BC) found from eastern France, southern Germany and Austria to Hungary and the Nordic Bronze Age (1700–500 BC) in northwestern Germany and Scandinavia. Hallstatt, the predominant Central European culture, and La Tène (450-100 BCE) influences can also be seen particularly in ornaments (fibulae, pins) and weapons.

The Lusatian culture developed as the preceding Trzciniec culture (c. 1700 and 1200 BC), a Bronze Age archaeological culture in Eastern Europe, experienced influences from the middle Bronze Age Tumulus Bronze Age (1600 BC-1200 BC), essentially incorporating the local communities into the socio-political network of Iron Age Europe.

The Trzciniec culture developed from three corded ware related cultures: Mierzanowicka, Strzyżowska and Iwieńska. These were succeeded by the Lusatian culture, which developed around Łódź. The Trzciniec-Komarov horizon is associated with late Proto-Balto-Slavic, or Trzciniec and Komarov with early Proto-Baltic and Proto-Slavic, respectively.

The Tumulus culture dominated Central Europe during the Middle Bronze Age. It was the descendant of the Unetice culture (2300–1600 BC). Its heartland was the area previously occupied by the Unetice culture besides Bavaria and Württemberg. It was succeeded by the Late Bronze Age Urnfield culture.

The Urnfield culture followed the Tumulus culture and was succeeded by the Hallstatt culture. Linguistic evidence and continuity with the following Hallstatt culture suggests that the people of this culture spoke an early form of Celtic even proto-Celtic originally.

The Lusatian culture is followed by the early Iron Age Billendorf culture in the West. In Poland, the Lusatian culture is taken to span part of the Iron Age as well (there is only a terminological difference) and is succeeded in Montelius VIIbc in northern ranges around the mouth of Vistula by the Pomeranian culture (700-300 BC) spreading south.

My theory is that there are two different people who mixed and became the Phrygians – one comming from the west and the other from the east. The whole question is really about where the Indo-European languages comes from. The Armenian Highland or the Pontic steppes.

Two different groups are called Muški in the Assyrian sources (Diakonoff 1984:115), one from the 12th to 9th centuries, located near the confluence of the Arsanias and the Euphrates (“Eastern Mushki”), and the other in the 8th to 7th centuries, located in Cappadocia and Cilicia (“Western Mushki”).

Assyrian sources identify the Western Mushki with the Phrygians, while Greek sources clearly distinguish between Phrygians and Moschoi.

Identification of the Eastern with the Western Mushki is uncertain, but it is of course possible to assume a migration of at least part of the Eastern Mushki to Cilicia in the course of the 10th to 8th centuries, and this possibility has been repeatedly suggested, variously identifying the Mushki as speakers of a Georgian, Armenian or Anatolian idiom.

The Eastern Muski appear to have moved into Hatti in the 12th century, completing the downfall of the collapsing Hittite state, along with various Sea Peoples. They established themselves in a post-Hittite kingdom in Cappadocia.

Whether they moved into the core Hittite areas from the east or west has been a matter of some discussion by historians. Some speculate that they may have originally occupied a territory in the area of Urartu; alternatively, ancient accounts suggest that they first arrived from a homeland in the west (as part of the Armeno-Phrygian migration), from the region of Troy, or even from as far as Macedonia, as the Bryges.

Together with the Hurrians and Kaskas, they invaded the Assyrian provinces of Alzi and Puruhuzzi in about 1160, but they were pushed back and defeated, along with the Kaskas, by Tiglath-Pileser I in 1115 BC, who until 1110 advanced as far as Milid.

The Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture notes that “the Armenians according to Diakonoff, are then an amalgam of the Hurrian (and Urartians), Luvians and the Proto-Armenian Mushki (or Armeno-Phrygians) who carried their IE language eastwards across Anatolia.”

Linguists classify Armenian as an independent branch of the Indo-European language family. It is of interest to linguists for its distinctive phonological developments within the Indo-European languages.

Armenian shares a number of major innovations with Greek, and some linguists group these two languages with Phrygian and the Indo-Iranian family into a higher-level subgroup of Indo-European, which is defined by such shared innovations as the augment. More recently, others have proposed a Balkan grouping including Greek, Phrygian, Armenian, and Albanian.

Armeno-Phrygian is a term for a minority supported claim of hypothetical people who are thought to have lived in the Armenian Highland as a group and then have separated to form the Phrygians and the Mushki of Cappadocia. It is also used for the language they are assumed to have spoken.

It can also be used for a language branch including these languages, a branch of the Indo-European family or a sub-branch of the proposed Graeco-Armeno-Aryan or Armeno-Aryan branch.

Classification is difficult because little is known of Phrygian and virtually nothing of Mushki, while Proto-Armenian arguably forms a subgroup with Greek, and Indo-Iranian.

Note that the name Mushki is applied to different peoples by different sources and at different times. It can mean the Phrygians (in Assyrian sources) or Proto-Armenians as well as the Mushki of Cappadocia, or all three, in which case it is synonymous with Armeno-Phrygian.

The Armenian hypothesis of the Proto-Indo-European Urheimat, based on the Glottalic theory suggests that the Proto-Indo-European language was spoken during the 4th millennium BC in the Armenian Highland.

It is an Indo-Hittite model and does not include the Anatolian languages in its scenario. The phonological peculiarities proposed in the Glottalic theory would be best preserved in the Armenian language and the Germanic languages, the former assuming the role of the dialect which remained in situ, implied to be particularly archaic in spite of its late attestation.

The Proto-Greek language would be practically equivalent to Mycenaean Greek and date to the 17th century BC, closely associating Greek migration to Greece with the Indo-Aryan migration to India at about the same time (viz., Indo-European expansion at the transition to the Late Bronze Age, including the possibility of Indo-European Kassites).

The Armenian hypothesis was proposed by Russian linguists T. V. Gamkrelidze and V. V. Ivanov in 1985, presenting it first in two articles in Vestnik drevnej istorii and then in a much larger work.

Gamkrelidze and Ivanov argue that IE spread out from Armenia into the Pontic steppe, from which it expanded – as per the Kurgan hypothesis – into Western Europe. The Hittite, Indo-Iranian, Greek and Armenian branches split from the Armenian homeland.

The Armenian hypothesis argues for the latest possible date of Proto-Indo-European (sans Anatolian), roughly a millennium later than the mainstream Kurgan hypothesis. In this, it figures as an opposite to the Anatolian hypothesis, in spite of the geographical proximity of the respective suggested Urheimaten, diverging from the timeframe suggested there by as much as three millennia.

Robert Drews, commenting on the hypothesis, says that “most of the chronological and historical arguments seem fragile at best, and of those that I am able to judge, some are evidently wrong”.

However, he argues that it is far more powerful as a linguistic model, providing insights into the relationship between Indo-European and the Semitic and Kartvelian languages. J. Grepin, reviewing Gamkrelidze and Ivanov’s book, wrote that their model of linguistic relationships is “the most complex, far reaching and fully supported of this century.”

Graeco-Aryan (or Graeco-Armeno-Aryan) is a hypothetical clade within the Indo-European family, ancestral to the Greek language, the Armenian language, and the Indo-Iranian languages.

Graeco-Aryan unity would have become divided into Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian by the mid 3rd millennium BC. Conceivably, Proto-Armenian would have been located between Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian, consistent with the fact that Armenian shares certain features only with Indo-Iranian (the satem change) but others only with Greek (s > h).

Graeco-Aryan has comparatively wide support among Indo-Europeanists for the Indo-European Homeland to be located in the Armenian Highland. Early and strong evidence was given by Euler’s 1979 examination on shared features in Greek and Sanskrit nominal flection.

Used in tandem with the Graeco-Armenian hypothesis, the Armenian language would also be included under the label Aryano-Greco-Armenic, splitting into proto-Greek/Phrygian and “Armeno-Aryan” (ancestor of Armenian and Indo-Iranian).

In the context of the Kurgan hypothesis, Greco-Aryan is also known as “Late PIE” or “Late Indo-European” (LIE), suggesting that Greco-Aryan forms a dialect group which corresponds to the latest stage of linguistic unity in the Indo-European homeland in the early part of the 3rd millennium BC. By 2500 BC, Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian had separated, moving westward and eastward from the Pontic Steppe, respectively.

If Graeco-Aryan is a valid group, Grassmann’s law may have a common origin in Greek and Sanskrit. Note, however, that Grassmann’s law in Greek postdates certain sound changes that happened only in Greek and not Sanskrit, which suggests that it cannot strictly be an inheritance from a common Graeco-Aryan stage.

Rather, it is more likely an areal feature that spread across a then-contiguous Graeco-Aryan-speaking area after early Proto-Greek and Proto-Indo-Iranian had developed into separate dialects but before they ceased being in geographic contact.

Graeco-Aryan is invoked in particular in studies of comparative mythology, e.g. by West (1999) and Watkins (2001).

The loans from Iranian languages initially led linguists to erroneously classify Armenian as an Iranian language. The distinctness of Armenian was only recognized when Hübschmann (1875) used the comparative method to distinguish two layers of Iranian loans from the older Armenian vocabulary.

I. M. Austin (1942) concluded that there was an early contact between Armenian and Anatolian languages, based on what he considered common archaisms, such as the lack of a feminine and the absence of inherited long vowels.

However, unlike shared innovations (or synapomorphies), the common retention of archaisms (or symplesiomorphy) is not necessarily considered evidence of a period of common isolated development.

Soviet linguist Igor Diakonov (1985) noted the presence in Old Armenian of what he calls a Caucasian substratum, identified by earlier scholars, consisting of loans from the Kartvelian and Northeast Caucasian languages.

Noting that the Hurro-Urartian peoples inhabited the Armenian homeland in the second millennium b.c., Diakonov identifies in Armenian a Hurro-Urartian substratum of social, cultural, and animal and plant terms. Some of the terms he gives admittedly have an Akkadian or Sumerian provenance, but he suggests they were borrowed through Hurrian or Urartian.

Given that these borrowings do not undergo sound changes characteristic of the development of Armenian from Proto-Indo-European, he dates their borrowing to a time before the written record but after the Proto-Armenian language stage.

In 1981, Hopper proposed to divide all Indo-European languages into Decem and Taihun groups, according to the pronunciation of the numeral ’10’, by analogy with the Centum-Satem isogloss, which is based on the pronunciation of the numeral ‘100’.

The Armenian, Germanic, Anatolian, and Tocharian subfamilies belong to the Taihun group because the numeral ’10’ begins with a voiceless t there. All other Indo-European languages belong to the Decem group because the numeral 10 begins with a voiced d in them. The question then can be framed as which, if either, of these groups reflects the original state of things, and which is an innovation.

The centum–satem division is one of many isoglosses of the Indo-European language family, related to the different evolution of the three dorsal consonant rows of the mainstream reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European (PIE).

The centum group includes Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Hellenic and Tocharian, while the satem languages (which have the sibilant where centum equivalents have the velar) include Baltic, Slavic, Armenian and Indo-Iranian.

Recent evidence from Luwian indicates that all three dorsal consonant rows were maintained separately in Proto-Anatolian, and the Centumization observed in Hittite occurred only after the breakup of Common Anatolian.

The Centum–Satem isogloss is now understood to be a chronological development of Proto-Indo-European. Centumization removed the palatovelars from the language, leaving none to satemize.

In addition there is residual evidence of various sorts in satem languages of a former distinction between velar and labiovelar consonants, indicating the earlier centum state. It is therefore clear that centumization was followed by satemization. However the evidence of Anatolian indicates that centum was not the original state of Proto-Indo-European.

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