🔼The name Phrygia: Summary
- High, Elevated
- From an ancient Indo-European root meaning mountain.
- From the verb φρυγω (phrugo), to roast or parch.
🔼The name Phrygia in the Bible
The name Phrygia belonged to an ancient kingdom in central Anatolia (modern Turkey) and by the time the Romans split it up and tied the northern end to their province of Galatia, and the southern end to their province of Asia, they had been conquered and ruled by a wide range of empires, from the Lydians to the Persians and the Greeks.
But Phrygia was so old and distinguished that it featured prominently in Homer's Iliad, as well as some well-known myths that described events as far back as perhaps 2,000 BC. Most notably among these myths is the story of Gordias, who became king after he drove his ox-cart into town (since an oracle had said that the first man to do so would be king). Gordias' son Midas, who had a knack for turning things into gold, also had a knack for tying things down, and tied the ox-cart to a post with a knot so difficult to untie that it became proverbially known as the Gordian Knot.
When Alexander the Great arrived in Phrygia in 333 BC, he swiftly untied the cart (or probably a ceremonial representation), not by focusing on the knot but either by slicing the rope or pulling the hinge pin — the sources vary, but the point was made: Alexander determined the fate of the Phrygian monarchy, not oracles and gods.
Phrygia is mentioned three times in the New Testament. Natives of Phrygia were present at the amazing outpour of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Jerusalem (Acts 2:10). Then, since the same Holy Spirit mysteriously forbade Paul, Silas and Timothy to speak in Asia or Bithynia, the men were forced to traverse Phrygia and Galatia (Acts 16:6). Later, Paul again went north from Caesarea and Antioch and passed again through Phrygia and Galatia (Acts 18:23).
🔼Etymology of the name Phrygia
The Phrygians appear to have originated in the Balkans and migrated to Anatolia in the eight century BC. In their homeland, they were known as Bryges, and that name is possibly related to the same root from which comes our modern word "berg" or the Serbian word "breg" meaning hill, cam or crest.
To the Greeks, however, the name Phrygia would have doubtlessly seemed related to the verb φρυγω (phrugo), meaning to roast or parch:
The verb φρυγω (phrugo) means to roast or parch. Adjective φρυγιος (phrugios) means dry and is identical to the ethnonym Phrygian.
If the name Phrygia is indeed related to the Indo-European root that describes geographical elevation, it would probably mean something like High or Elevated and thus perhaps Lofty or Noble (perhaps in character comparable to the name Aram).
But to the Greeks, the name Phrygia sounded like Dry or Parched or even Fire Wood.