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The Roman province of Galatia

Galatians (Greek Γαλάται Galátai ) is the name given to the descendants of the 20,000 Celtic mercenaries from the tribe of the Volcae , who lived in 278 BC. BC by King Nicomedes I of Bithynia . They settled in the area around Gordion and Ancyra (today's Ankara ), which was later named Galatia after them . They divided into three tribes, the Tolistobogier (Τολιστοβόγιοι, Tolistobogii), the Tectosages (Τεκτόσαγες, Tectosages), with their sub-tribes the Ambitouti , Toutobodiaci and Voturi , and the Trokmer (.Τι, κcmiμο)

The Galatians are also mentioned in the New Testament , namely in Paul's letter to the Galatians .


A Galatian kills himself and his wife after Attalus I of Pergamon defeated the Galatians ( Museo Nazionale Romano , Rome)

In 279 BC BC Celts invaded the Balkans and plundered Delphi , among other things . In 278 these were invited as mercenaries by Nicomedes I of Bithynia (280-255 / 3 BC) to win the fight against his brother, the usurper Zipoites. Then Tolistobogier under Leonnorius (Λεωννώριος, Lonorius) and Trokmer under Lutarius (Λουτούριος, Lutarius) crossed the Hellespont ( Sea of ​​Marmara ) and invaded Asia Minor, a total of about 20,000 people, half of them warriors. They helped Nicomedes hold her own.

After being dismissed from service by Nicomedes, they began pillaging the surrounding lands. The Trokmer on the Hellespont and the Tolistobogier in Aeolia and Ionia , where they were 277 BC. Sacked the temple of Apollo of Didyma near the city of Miletus . The tectos, however, devastated the area of ​​the Phrygians . The Seleucid king Antiochus I (281–261 BC) competed against them. In 268 BC It came to the decisive battle, the so-called elephant battle, in which Antiochus triumphed over the numerically superior Galatians through the use of war elephants .

Fixed residences were assigned to the defeated Galatians. The Tolistobogier were settled in the core of the old Phrygian empire, with the old cities Gordion and Pessinus, the Tectos sagas around Ankyra and the Trokmer around Tavium. Since then the land has been called Galatia (Γαλατία). So that the Galatians no longer devastated the country, Antiochus II (261–246 BC) introduced a "Celtic tax" (Γαλατικά), which was paid to the Galatians. But Attalus I of Pergamon (241–197 BC) refused to make the payments and harassed the Galatians militarily until they stopped invading the kingdom of Pergamon.

In 196 BC The city of Lampsakos asked the Romans for help against the Tolistobogians. 5,500 Galatians allied themselves with the Seleucid Antiochus III. (223–187 BC) to fight the Romans. Rome mobilized a large army and in 189 put the Galatians to flight. The Tolistobogier holed up on Mount Olympos , the Tektosag and Trokmer on Mount Magaba near Ankyra. But the Romans remained victorious and took 40,000 prisoners who were sold as slaves. Chiomara (Χιομάρα), the wife of the tetrarch Ortiagon (᾿Ορτιάγων, Ortiago), was able to heroically free herself. The vanquished Galatians formed an alliance with Rome.

Three years later, Ortiagon tried to become sole ruler of the Galatians, but was defeated by Eumenes II of Pergamon (197-159 BC). The Romans, who were hostile to Eumenes, took this opportunity and supported the Galatians allied with them, who invaded the kingdom of Pergamon under Solovettius. In 166 BC The Romans declared the Galatians to be autonomous on condition that they remain in their own country.

After the Romans in 129 BC BC had incorporated the empire of Pergamon as the province of Asia into the Roman Empire, subjugated Mithridates VI. of Pontus (132–63 BC) the Galatians. But because these remained rebellious, he let in the year 86 BC. Murdered all Galatian nobles, with the exception of three tetrarchs and a handsome young man, but Mithradates renounced Galatia for a year and Rome began to interfere again in Galatian politics.

One of the three surviving nobles was Deiotaros Philorhomaios (86-40 BC; Δηιοτάρος Deiotarus), the tetrarch of the Tolistobogians. He tried to become the sole ruler of the Galatians and married two of his daughters to the Brogitaros (Βρογιτάρος, Brogitarus), Tetrarch of the Trokmer, and the Castor Tarkondarios (Κάστωρ Ταρκονδάριος), Tetrarch of the Tectos sagas. 52 BC He then made his son-in-law Brogitaros disappear and thus gained control of the Trokmer. But Julius Caesar then assigned the Trokmer to Mithridates of Pergamon (Μιθριδάτης ο Περγαμήνος), a nephew of Brogitaros. After Caesar's murder , Deiotarus not only had his second son-in-law, Castor Tarkondarius, killed, but also his daughter who was married to him. Mithridates came as early as 46 BC. Around, and so Deiotaros was 44 BC. Sole ruler over all Galatians, but died four years later. Since his son Deiotaros Philopator had been dead for three years, the rule passed to his grandson Castor II (40-36 BC), the son of Castor Tarkondarios. After this Amyntas (36-25 BC) became Galatian king. After his death, Galatia was incorporated into the Roman Empire.

The expansion of the Roman province of Galatia was changed several times, the capital was Ankyra. The Galatians had long retained peculiarities of their ancestral culture, with a strong Hellenistic influence, of course. As late as 400 AD, church father Jerome testified to the existence of Celtic-speaking peoples in the area.

Political organization

The Galatians were divided into three tribes: Tolistobogier, Tektosag, and Trokmer. Each tribe was divided into four groups, each with a tetrarch. Each of these twelve tetrarchs was subordinate to a priest and a general to whom two commanders were also subordinate. The total council of the Galatians consisted of 300 men who met in the common meeting place Drunemeton (Δρυνέμετον, "Holy Oak Grove"). Later there were only three tetrarchs, one for each tribe. These struggled for sole rule, so that ultimately only a tetrarch, now also called king, ruled over the Galatians.

The Tolistobogier (ancient Greek Τολιστβόγιοι, Latin Tolistobogii ) lived in the west on the Sangarios river with the suburb Gordion and Pessinus , which was one of the most important shrines in Asia Minor at that time. In the middle of the Tectosages settled (old Greek Τεκτόσαγες, Latin Tectosages ) with the capital Ancyra (now Ankara ). The border with the Trokmer settling in the east (ancient Greek Τρόκμοι, Latin Trocmi ) was formed by the river Halys (today Kızılırmak ). Their main place was Tavium .


Galatia has an unfavorable climate with hot dry summers and long cold and snowy winters. The fertile river plains and the wide steppe with aromatic herbs are suitable for beekeeping and sheep keeping, which provided meat, milk and fine wool, while the dung was used as heating material. Olive trees provided oil and olives, while the lice of the Kermes oak (Galatian: ὕς, hys) were processed into red dye. The country supplied opals and smoky topaz of precious stones .

A particularly important acquisition for the Galatians was always military service; they had fought as mercenaries in every war in the region. In times of peace the Galatians threatened raids and raids and extorted tribute money. Control over the important cult city of Pessinus brought the Galatians significant income.

Religion and customs

Even in later times, a great similarity in religion and jurisprudence with the Gauls was noticed among the Galatians . As in Gaul, the father of the family had power over the life and death of his wife and children. In addition to the human sacrifices, the existence of the Drunemeton or Drynemeton (Celtic dru-nemeton , "oak grove") can be seen both as a meeting place and as a cult counterpart to the Gallic nemeton in the Carnut Forest . The Gallic hooded demon Genius cucullatus may find its counterpart in the healing god Telesphoros ("Perfector"). Celtic epithets of Greek gods also indicate, such as Zeus Boyssoyrigios , also Zeus Bussurigios (Ζεὺς Βουσσουριγίος; "Zeus with the royal mouth") in two inscriptions from the vicinity of Ankara and Zeus Bennios (Ζεὺς Βέννιος; to chariot Gallic benna "). A connection between Bussurigios and Bussumarius is suspected, but is uncertain. Tetrarch names like Deiotaros (Gaulish * Dēvo-tarvos , "bull of heaven") and Brogitaros ("bull of the country") indicate a bull cult. Some rivers in Galatia were named Gallos (Υάλλος) and the later Galatian cybel priests were called "Gauls" (Υάλλοι).

However, the Galatians apparently soon also took over cults from Asia Minor, above all the Pessinuntian cult of Cybele and Attis and the Galatian tetrarch Brogitaros bought the priesthood of Pessinus for expensive money. The Galatian queen Kamma (Κάμμα) was the priestess of Artemis , whom the Galatians are said to have worshiped the most of all deities. In Tavium, the main town of the Trokmer, a large statue of Zeus was venerated.

Ancient writers report that the Galatians sacrificed prisoners of war, which archeology can confirm. In addition to human sacrifices, horses, cattle and dogs were also sacrificed. The statement that the Galatians in 189 BC B.C. went into battle completely naked is credible, as this is attested as an ancient Gallic custom. As for funerary customs, the Galatians adopted Anatolian customs very early.

Cicero reports about his client, the Galatian king Deiotaros, that he has not done anything without first observing the flight of birds as an auspice . For example, Deiotaros had already broken off journeys if there were unfavorable signs.

As a result of the missionary work of the Apostle Paul of Tarsus , the Galatians became the first Christianized tribes of the Celts from the middle of the 1st century (see Galatians ).


The gala tables was a Celtic language , but only some of the glosses and names of people, tribes and villages have survived. This scanty evidence shows that Galatian was a Gallic dialect . As late as 400 Jerome said : "In addition to Greek, which everyone in the East speaks, the Galatians also have their own language, somewhat similar to that of the Treveri ".

Many Galatian proper names can be clearly interpreted from the Gallic, for example: Deiotaros "Divine bull"; Brogitaros "national bull "; Sinorix "Old King"; Eporedorix "Roswagen King"; Eposognatos »horse confidante«; Artiknos »bearling«. The place names are typically Celtic: Ecobriga , Drynemeton "Holy Oak Grove " and Vindia (Οὐινδία) "White".

Roman auxiliary units

The following auxiliary units were originally recruited from Galatians:

In addition, the Legio XXII Deiotariana of Galatians was set up.


  • Helmut Birkhan : Celts. Attempt at a complete representation of their culture. Publishing house of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna 1997, ISBN 3-7001-2609-3 .
  • Philip Freeman: The Galatian Language. A comprehensive Survey of the Language of the ancient Celts in Greco-Roman Asia Minor (= Ancient Near Eastern Texts and Studies. Vol. 13). Mellen Press, Lewiston et al. 2001, ISBN 0-7734-7480-3 .
  • Justin K. Hardin: Galatians and the Imperial Cult. A Critical Analysis of the First Century Social Context of Paul's Letter (= Scientific Studies on the New Testament. Series 2, Vol. 237). Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2008, ISBN 978-3-16-149563-2 .
  • Bernhard Maier : Lexicon of Celtic Religion and Culture (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 466). Kröner, Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 3-520-46601-5 , p. 137.
  • Wolfgang Meid : The Celts (= Reclams Universal Library 17053). Reclam, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-15-017053-3 .
  • Karl Strobel : The Galatians. History and character of the Celtic formation of states on the soil of Hellenistic Asia Minor. Volume 1: Studies on the history and historical geography of Hellenistic and Roman Asia Minor. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-05-003044-5 .

Web links

Commons : Galatians  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Galatians  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Johannes Hoops: Reallexikon der Germanic antiquity. Walter de Gruyter, 1968, ISBN 978-3-11-018387-0 , p. 564.
  2. ^ Elmar Schwertheim : Asia Minor in antiquity. From the Hittites to Constantine (= Beck'sche series 2348 CH Beck Wissen ). 2nd, revised edition. Beck, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-406-50848-6 , p. 75.
  3. Strabo: Geographics 12,5,1.
  4. Pompeius Trogus: Epitoma 25,2,8ff.
  5. Helmut Birkhan: Celts. Attempt at a complete representation of their culture. Vienna, 1997, pp. 626, 749.
  6. Inscriptions from Akçataş & Karahüyük (RECAM 203, 204).
  7. a b Helmut Birkhan: Celts. Attempt at a complete representation of their culture. Vienna, 1997, p. 146 f.
  8. Wolfgang Meid: The Celts. Stuttgart, 2007, p. 52 f.
  9. Plutarch: de mul. vir 257.
  10. Cicero: De divinatione , 1,15,26: Qui nihil umquam nisi auspicato gerit ...
  11. Helmut Birkhan: Celts. Attempt at a complete representation of their culture. Vienna 1997, p. 301: Hieronymos: Commentarius in Epistulam ad Galatas 2,3: Galatas excepto sermone Graeco, quo omnis oriens loquitur, propriam linguam eandem habere quam Treviros.