A Historical Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians

By W. M. Ramsay

Part 1

Society and Religion in Central Asia Minor in the Time of St. Paul

Chapter 6

Settlement of the Gauls in Galatia

IN the year B.C. 278-7 a large body of Gauls, who had been ravaging the south-eastern parts of Europe, Greece, Macedonia and Thrace, crossed into Asia Minor at the invitation of Nicomedes, king of Bithynia (278-250). They came as a migrating nation, with wives and children, not as a mere body of mercenary soldiers engaged by a king to help in his wars. This national character gave permanence to their settlement, and made their migration an epoch in the history of Asia Minor.1 Bodies of Gauls often in the following century engaged as mercenaries for a time with some king; but the nation remained a body to which the mercenaries returned. Had the Gauls consisted only or mainly of men, they would probably have soon been scattered in military colonies and rapidly have been merged in the native population. But it is recorded that of the 20,000 who came under Leonnorius and Lutarius in 278-7, only half were armed men.

But, owing to this national character of the immigration, the Gauls required to have something in the way of a home and a centre. However hardy and courageous their women were, families cannot live a life of raiding, as a body of mercenaries could. Naturally they would gradually drift to the point of least resistance; and the account which has just been given of the Phrygian people explains why this point was found in Phrygia.

Further, it was found in north-eastern Phrygia, for the south and west were strengthened against the Gauls by the armies of the Seleucid kings of Syria and of the Pergamenian rulers. The fate of the western and southern two-thirds of Asia Minor hung on the rivalry between those two dynasties. The Seleucid dominion over Lycaonia, Phrygia, Caria, Lydia, etc., was contested with varying success by the Pergamenian kings, until at last, in B.C. 189, the Seleucid armies were finally expelled. But while they held to their Lydian rule, the Seleucid kings had to maintain the open road through Lycaonia and southern Phrygia against the Gauls. Similarly in north-western Phrygia the Pergamenian kings were always striving to establish their authority, and thus kept pushing the Gauls eastward.

Thus, after fifty years of promiscuous raiding over great part of western Asia Minor, during which the Gauls,” alternately the scourge and the allies of each Asiatic prince in succession, as passion or interest dictated, indulged their predatory instincts,”2 they were at last fixed in a country which was recognised as their permanent possession.

The conditions, as thus described, explain why the final settlement of the Gauls is attributed variously by ancient authorities. Their settlement was the result of the long-continued pressure of circumstances; and some single event in the fifty years’ fighting is selected by one historian as the most critical and decisive, while others mention other events as more important. The Gauls, or according to the Greek name, Galatae,3 were during this period struggling for life and a home: they were powerful rather through alliance or mercenary service with some of the warring kingdoms in Asia Minor than through their own strength. It is practically certain that they could not have stood unaided against either of the two great Hellenistic powers, the rising Pergamenian kingdom, or the huge Seleucid Empire (which stretched from Smyrna on the Aegean Sea to some vague limit far in the heart of the Asian continent); but they never were unaided. The principal events in that fifty years of raids and wars may be described as follows.

According to Apollonius, the Carian historian,4 the Galatae were in alliance with Mithridates I, King of Pontus (B.C. 302-266), and were by him settled round Ancyra; and E. Meyer infers that that country must have belonged to the Pontic kings at the time. But the inference is wrong. The facts merely prove that Antiochus’s authority over north-eastern Phrygia was weak at the time. Kings prefer to give away their neighbour’s dominions rather than their own; and so Mithridates did to the Gauls.

According to Livy5  the Gauls at this early period of their ravages were in three divisions: the Trocmi wasted the lands towards the Hellespont, the Tolistobogii plundered Aeolis, and the Tectosages took the inner country as their sphere of operations. It was, therefore, the Tectosages, doubtless, who were aided by Mithridates to settle about Ancyra; and the understanding between the Gauls and the Pontic kings lasted for a considerable time. The Seleucid Antiochus I was at this time the chief enemy of both. He is said to have gained a great victory over the Gauls; but it cannot have been a very decisive one; and in 281 he was slain by a Gaul, probably in a battle against either Philetaerus of Pergamus or Ariobarzanes of Pontus (266-246).

The reign of Antiochus II was very disturbed; and he could not regain the lost Seleucid authority over the region of Ancyra, seized by the Tectosages. His son Seleucus II (247-226) gave his youngest sister (perhaps named Laodike) in marriage to Mithridates II (246-190); and as dowry she brought with her Great Phrygia to the Pontic king.6 This fact means that Seleucus in his difficulties was trying to secure the Pontic alliance, or at least neutrality; and relinquished his claims to a country, in the remoter parts of which his predecessors had ceased to possess any authority. It also implies, as E. Meyer recognises rightly, that the Gauls round Ancyra were regarded as more or less dependents, and not exactly as equal allies of Mithridates.

At this period so dangerous were the Gaulish raids over the western regions of Asia Minor (in which they are said to have ravaged as far south as even Themisonion7 and Apameia8), that Eumenes I of Pergamos (263-241) bought safety by paying tribute to the Tolistoagii.9 His successor Attalos I (241-197) refused to continue this tribute; and when the Tolistoagii invaded his country, he defeated them in a great battle at the sources of the Caicos, 240, or possibly a little later.

Soon after began the “Brothers’ War” between Seleucus and Antiochus Hierax, the prize being the Seleucid dominions in Asia Minor. The Gauls were hired as mercenaries by Antiochus, and Mithridates also preferred this alliance to that of his father-in-law, Seleucus, who was defeated in a battle beside Ancyra10 about 235. Then followed a quarrel between Hierax and his Gaulish mercenaries; and Hierax escaped by flight. Thereafter the Gauls appear as equal allies of Hierax, who became lord of Seleucid Asia Minor; and war broke out with Attalos I. In this war Attalos gained four great victories. The first, or second, was fought at the sanctuary of Aphrodite close to Pergamos (implying a raid by the allies up to the city) against the Tolistoagii and Tectosages and Hierax. In the other three battles (in Hellespontine Phrygia,11 at Koloe, and on the Harpasos in Caria) only Antiochus is mentioned; hence probably the Gauls were decisively defeated at the Aphrodision, and the limits of their country were definitely drawn about 232, and a peace concluded with them, so that they took no further part in the war, whose issue was that Attalos I became lord of all Asia up to Taurus.

At this point, the Gaulish tribes were compelled to concentrate themselves in the country which henceforth bore their name. The Tectosages remained about Ancyra; the other two were forced into the same neighbourhood. There was a kind of bargain struck. On the one hand Attalos recognised the right of the Gauls to that land; they were no longer to be regarded as interlopers and outlaws; they now had their acknowledged home as one of the peoples of Asia Minor. On the other hand, the Gauls evidently agreed to observe their fixed boundaries on the side towards Attalos, and to refrain from raiding his territory.

Clearly, their bounds on the west were now drawn more narrowly. A region west from Pessinus bore in later times the name of the Gaulish tribe Troknades; and yet it was part of Asia (i.e., the Pergamenian kingdom), and not included in Galatia. There seems no other occasion except this when such a region is likely to have been taken from the Gauls by the Pergamenian kings. At the same time Pessinus was relieved from the pressure of the Gauls. Whether they had ever succeeded in capturing that great religious centre, or had only mastered the open country round it while the strong and populous city maintained itself against them, certain it is that for the following fifty years Pessinus was in close alliance with Pergamos and at variance with the Gauls.

If the Gauls were thus shut in on the west, how were they to find room? Probably they found it by spreading in other directions. They did not spread north, because we find them henceforth allied with their northern neighbour Paphlagonia; and Bithynia seems not to have lost any territory to them, as Juliopolis remained Bithynian for centuries. South, they bordered on territory disputed between Attalos and the Seleucids, from which therefore they were debarred. But on the east they had more scope; and the friends of Pergamos, which represented the Hellenising and civilising power in Asia Minor, must be foes of Pontus, the oriental and barbarian power. This makes it probable that now they crossed the Halys, and occupied part of the Pontic territory. Some years afterwards, too, we find them in the later stages of a quarrel with Cappadocia about territory claimed by both, evidently east of the Halys. For a time, then, the face of the new nation, the Galatae, was turned towards the east.

Here originates the name Galatia. The use of that name implies more than mere occupancy of the land by roving, unsettled bands of Gauls. It implies a political reality, a form of government, a recognised “land of the Galatae”. Henceforth, we speak of this people by the name which they bore among the Greek-speaking races — Γαλάται.

But what was the sense in which this term, Galatae, was used? Did it indicate simply the Gaulish conquerors? or did it include the entire population of the country Galatia? At first, of course, the Galatae were only the Gaulish conquerors, who were as sharply marked off from the Phrygian subject-people, as Normans were from English about A.D. 1066-1100. But, obviously, not a thought of separation between two sections of the population remains in the minds of those writers who in late-Roman or Byzantine times speak of the Galatian people. After the lapse of several centuries, the Gauls had become as undistinguishable from their subjects as Normans now are in England: a few old families might trace their Gaulish descent,12 but it was not a practical factor in the life of the country.

When and how this change was produced will be shown in Section 8.

Note. — Principal Modern Authorities (apart from Commentators): —

Holder, Alt-Celtischer Sprachschatz (A-M).

Van Gelder, De Gallis in Graecia et Asia ante an. 150 (1888).

Staehelin, Geschichte der Kleinasiatischen Galater (1897).

Körte in Mittheilungen des Instituts Athen. Abth. (1897).

Zwintcher, de Galatarum Tetrarchis.

Anderson in Journal of Hellenic Studies (1899).

Crowfoot in Journal of Hellenic Studies (1899).

Perrot, Explor. Archéol. de la Galatie (1862).

Perrot, de Galatia Provincia Romana (1867).

Perrot, Mémoires d’Archéologie, p. 229 ff.

Meyer, Geschichte des Koenigreichs Pontes (1879).

Th. Reinach, Rois de Bithynie, de Pont, de Cappadoce (1888 and 1887).

Hennig, Symbolae ad As. Min. Reges Sacerdotes (1893).

Wroth, Catalogue of Brit. Mus. Coins, Galatia, etc. (1899).

Radet in Revue des Universités du Midi (1896).

Ramsay, Histor. Geography of Asia Minor, Ch. H, K.

Pauly-Wissowa, Real. Encyclop. s.vv. Attalos, Antiochos, etc.

The General Histories of the period.

See also p. 102.

[1] See above, p. 10.

[2] Lightfoot, Galatians, p. 6.

[3] Galli, warriors: Galatae, nobles. The latter name probably spread from the Greeks of Marseilles. There is some tendency to use Κέλτοι or Κέλται as the generic name of all cognate tribes. The general name for the speech is Κελτική, Κελτιστί.)

[4] Apollonius, of unknown date, is often said to belong to the Cilician Aphrodisias; but obviously he was of the Carian city. Suidas says only Ἀφροδισιεύς.

[5] XXXVIII 16, 13 (on the authority doubtless of Polybius).

[6] Justin, XXXVIII 6.

[7] Cities and Bish. of Phrygia, I, p. 264.

[8] Ibid., II, p. 422.

[9] Tolistoagii is the name in the early inscriptions. The form Tolistobogii is also found in early authorities, and is universal in inscriptions and coins of the Roman period. The relation between the names is obscure.

[10] So Polyaenus; Eusebius says in Cappadocia. Cappadocia here means, doubtless, the territory of the Pontic king (the name Pontus for the kingdom had hardly yet come into use), and therefore may include Ancyra. The Gauls are named as the victors by Trogus and Polyaenus; Mithridates by Eusebius.

[11] This may possibly have been the first battle.

[12] That families in Galatia boasted of their ancient lineage, Gaulish or otherwise, is proved by several inscriptions: C.I.G. no. 4030 and Cities and Bish. of Phrygia, pt. II, p. 649.)

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