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 11

Origin of the Province Galatia

THE Roman range of authority and action in any foreign land constituted a Provincia, i.e., a sphere of duty.1 In the early part of the first century B.C. Asia Minor contained two Provinciae, Asia and Cilicia, the latter being the Roman term for a great, ill -defined, half-subdued agglomeration of lands, comprising parts of Cilicia, Pamphylia and other regions. In 80 we begin to get a conception of the range of this new Provincia, in which the Roman interests in southern and south-eastern Asia Minor were contained. Dolabella and his proquaestor Verres governed it (80-79); and Cicero’s speech against the latter gives some conception of the range of his authority, including parts of Lycia, Milyas, Phrygia, Pamphylia and Pisidia, as well as Cilicia.2 Servilius Isauricus succeeded and governed Cilicia 78-75. The first and most pressing duty of the Provincia was to put down the pirates of Isauria or Cilicia Tracheia. Servilius did so to some extent, and was the first Roman officer to lead an army across Mount Taurus. For the efficient conduct of operations it was necessary to have the countries on both sides of Taurus under his command, and in fact part of Phrygia as well as Pamphylia, Lycia, etc., obeyed him.

Asia had been sufficiently and finally regulated by Sulla in B.C. 85-84; but the new Province Cilicia was open to continual variation according as the frontier interests of Rome varied, and for many years the history of Roman conquest and foreign policy in the East was practically identical with the Cilician sphere of duty.

To understand the subject before us, we must bear in mind that there were three classes of States in Asia Minor: (1) Countries incorporated in the Empire, in which law was administered by a Roman governor; (2) Countries connected with Rome by an agreement or alliance the terms of which were expressed in a treaty, i.e., client-states, according to the usual and convenient expression, among which the chief were Galatia and Cappadocia; (3) States in no formal and recognised relations with Rome, especially Pontus and the Isaurian pirates.

The first two classes were included in the conception of the Roman world,3 the third were its enemies.4

Strabo on p. 671 describes the intention5 of the Romans in setting up these subject kings. He is speaking of Cilicia Tracheia, but he expresses the Roman theory as it was applied generally. Some of the subject countries were specially difficult to govern, either on account of the unruly character of the inhabitants, or because the natural features of the land lent themselves readily to brigandage and piracy. As these countries must be either administered by Roman governors or ruled by kings, it was considered that kings would more efficiently control their restless subjects, being permanently on the spot and having soldiers always at command. But the history of the following century shows how, step by step and district by district, these countries were incorporated in the adjacent Roman Provinces, as a certain degree of discipline and civilisation was imparted to the population by the kings, who built cities and introduced the Graeco-Roman customs and education.

The Eastern frontier policy of Rome at this time was expressed in the Cilician sphere of duty or Provincia. Every change in the relations of Rome to its enemies in Asia Minor implied a change in the bounds of that Provincia. Every officer sent to regulate the foreign policy, i.e., the relations with the enemies of Rome, was officially governor of Cilicia.

Lycaonia had been divided between the two chief clientstates, Galatia and Cappadocia;6 but when these states were fighting for existence against Pontus, their authority was necessarily relaxed in Lycaonia. From 80 to 75 we see that it was connected with Cilicia, and doubtless the same arrangement lasted until the end of the Mithridatic Wars, though in practice temporary conquests by the enemy, e.g., by Eumachos in 74, might interfere with the connection for a time.

Pisidic Phrygia7 (including Pisidian Antioch) certainly was added. Philomelium and most of Phrygian Paroreios, with Iconium and the west of Lycaonia, formed the Lycaonian Dioecesis,8 as part of the Cilician Province.

Now as to the fate of Lycaonia when the readjustment of Provinciae occurred after the Mithridatic Wars: in B.C. 64 Pompey gave the eastern part of the former Eleventh Strategia to Cappadocia. This part extended from Kastabala to Kybistra, and the frontier lay a little to the west of Kybistra, for Cicero marching from near Iconium on 2nd September, B.C. 51, was on the frontier between Lycaonia and Cappadocia on 18th September, and reached Kybistra on 19th or 20th September.9 This would not be possible if the frontier extended to the neighbourhood of Derbe, as it probably did in the original Strategia. Moreover, Derbe and Laranda were under the administration of Antipater, who afterwards entertained Cicero during his Anatolian journeys. Antipater was under the authority of the Roman governor of Cilicia;10  and therefore this part of Lycaonia must have been under the Cilician Provincia or sphere of duty.

Justin defines the territory added to Cappadocia in 129 (i.e., the Eleventh Strategia in its former condition) as “Lycaonia and Cilicia” (i.e., part of the two countries); but Appian describes it in 64 as “part of Cilicia, viz., Kastabala and other cities”;11 we now see the reason of this difference.

Evidently Phrygia Paroreios continued as before, with its chief city Philomelium, to form part of the Cilician Province, for the same reason of convenience as before under Servilius Isauricus,

It is strange that Kybistra and along with it perhaps the pass leading down to the Cilician Gates was permitted to remain part of Cappadocia, for it was regularly traversed by the Cilician governor when he crossed into Campestris Cilicia; but Cicero calls it Cappadocian, though he had his army encamped there. The Cappadocian king was apparently found so submissive that his nominal rule over Kybistra was no inconvenience.

From 56 to 50 three Dioeceses of Asia, Laodiceia or Cibyra, Apameia, and Synnada, were attached to the Cilician Province.12 The reason was evidently convenience. The governor, landing at Ephesus, could conveniently hold the assizes in those three cities, as he went along the great highway to the East, which passed through them as well as through Philomelium and Iconium. This arrangement shows the paramount importance of the Province. Cilicia was governed by consular, while Asia was usually administered by praetorian officers at this time.

It was the governor of Cilicia, not the governor of Asia, who was brought into close relations with Galatia during this period, as we see from Cicero’s language about Deiotaros.

When the Civil War broke out, the importance of the Cilician Provincia was at an end. Asia, as being nearer the seat of war, resumed its ancient importance. There was no leisure to think of foreign relations for many years. The bounds of Rome in these regions shrank. Lands which had been enrolled in a province were even given over to dependent or client princes, implying that the overburdened empire was no longer fit to maintain order in these outlying districts.

In these circumstances the three Phrygian Dioeceses, Laodiceia, Apameia, and Synnada, were restored to Asia;13 and this arrangement continued in force from 50 onwards. But the Philomelian Dioecesis was, as before, attached to Cilicia along with the intermediate regions, Lycaonia and Pisidic Phrygia. Thus, about 46 to 44, Cicero was begging the officials of Cilicia, Philippus and Gallus, to attend to the affairs of his friend Egnatius, which his agent L. Oppius at Philomelium found difficulty in managing.14 The Philomelian assizes are called forum Lycaonium by Cicero, and Pliny mentions that part of Lycaonia was in the same conventus with Philomelium.15

The troubled period of the Civil Wars seems to have stirred up Antipater of Derbe to shake off the Roman authority; already under Philippus he had been on bad relations with his superior, and that governor had taken his children as hostages for his good conduct.16 Cicero wrote to Philippus interceding on behalf of Antipater, who had formerly entertained him in some of his progresses through the Cilician Province, 51-50. Afterwards matters became worse, and Antipater became an open enemy of Rome, which Strabo expresses when he calls him a brigand.

In B.C. 40, when Antony came to regulate the eastern half of the empire, which had been placed under his care, he gave to Amyntas, secretary of the late Deiotaros, a new kingdom, comprising Pisidic Phrygia and Pisidia generally. Great part of Pisidia was still practically independent, so that Amyntas’s duty really was to preserve order in this mountainous and disturbed region. Pisidian Antioch must have been his capital, and from this time onwards that city began to be important in the eastern Roman world. Amyntas, like the other client kings of this period, was a sort of chief constable for Rome; a Roman army could not be spared for this district, and the king was free to construct an army of his own, and keep the country quiet as best he could.

A similar kingdom was at the same time constructed further east. Part of Lycaonia and Isauria and Cilicia Tracheia17 was entrusted to Polemon of Laodiceia, an able man, who henceforth played an important part in the eastern Roman world. Polemon was entrusted on the Cilician frontier with the same task as Amyntas on the Phrygian frontier. Iconium was probably Polemon’s capital.18 How much of Cilicia Tracheia was given to Polemon is uncertain, and probably was uncertain even to Antony and to Polemon. The country had only been very imperfectly subdued; many of the tribes had never seen a Roman soldier or official, and were completely ignorant of Roman ways. Polemon evidently was left to do the best he could in his difficult and ill-defined realm.

Both these kingdoms are mere scraps out of the vast Cilician Province. Rome had abandoned for the time her duties in this region; the Cilician Province shrank into insignificance; and new kings were permitted to rule parts even of Campestris Cilicia.

Polemon had an interesting and remarkable career, the vicissitudes of which throw light on the confused state of inner Asia Minor at this time. He was the son of Zeno, a rhetorician of Laodiceia, the great Phrygian city on the Lycus, who had led the successful resistance to the Parthian inroad in B.C. 40. In reward for Zeno’s services on this occasion his son was promoted successively to the kingdoms of Cilicia Tracheia and of Pontus, Armenia, and Bosphorus. Though he did not, like Amyntas and Deiotaros of Paphlagonia, desert his first patron Antony before Actium, he was taken into favour by Augustus, and passed a long and successful life in the Roman alliance. He married Pythodoris, a rich lady of Tralles in Lydia, whose mother was Antonia, daughter of the triumvir. Thus the Roman rank and the name of Antonius was bequeathed to the sons of Polemon, though he was only a Greek; and his daughter, Tryphaina, played a part in Pauline semi-historical legend.19

These and other kings, such as Herod in Samaria and Idumaea, Kastor in Galatia, had all to pay a fixed tribute.

In 36 there was a fresh shuffle of the cards and the kings. Kastor died, and his Galatian realm was given to Amyntas, while his Paphlagonian dominions were left to his brother Deiotaros. Amyntas retained his Phrygo-Pisidian sovereignty; and, if his enlarged realm was to be easily manageable, evidently either part of the province Asia, or else Iconium and the old Lycaonian Tetrarchy, must be given to him, so that Galatia might be joined to Pisidia. The latter course was taken, and Polemon lost Iconium and Lycaonia. At the same time his Cilician dominion was transferred to Cleopatra, and he was made king of Pontus, to which was added Armenia Minor in 35 as a reward for his services in the Parthian War.

A great Asiatic kingdom was now constructed for Antony’s favoured Cleopatra;20 and a Cleopatran era was instituted of which the year 1 was reckoned to end on 31st August, B.C. 36. These changes were therefore made during the earlier months of that year.

The kingdoms of Amyntas and Polemon could be justified as attempts to provide a substitute for Roman rule amid its present difficulties. Antony did not desire to occupy his soldiers on the east in case of trouble from his western rival, Augustus. But the kingdom of Cleopatra was merely the result of Antony’s infatuation.

Amyntas did not neglect the arts of peace. He had vast flocks of sheep in the great plains that extend between Iconium, North Galatia and Lake Tatta.

Preparations for the final struggle between Antony and Augustus interfered with the progress of affairs on the plateau of Asia Minor. Amyntas and Polemon both served at Actium under their lord, Antony. But both were pardoned and confirmed in their power by Augustus, who doubtless recognised their ability and their readiness to serve him as well as they had served Antony. Augustus even gave to Amyntas the country of Cilicia Tracheia, which Cleopatra had held since 36.

Amyntas was now entrusted with the whole task of maintaining order on the south side of the plateau, which at first, 39-36, had been shared with Polemon. He was to keep the peace among the mountaineers of Taurus, who were accustomed to raid the more fertile lands north of the mountains. Pamphylia had been added in 36 to his dominions, so that he had the mountains between his hands and was able to attack from either side. He vigorously set about his task of introducing the Roman peace into the mountains by the Roman method of war, and overcame Antipater, the lord of Derbe and Laranda, who seems to have set up as an opposition prince.

He was, however, killed in B.C. 25 during a war with the Homonades, a powerful tribe who inhabited the mountains west of Isaura, around lake Trogitis (Seidi-Sheher-lake).

Augustus, thereupon, resolved to take into the Empire great part of Amyntas’s kingdom, as being now sufficiently inured to Roman methods. He despatched Lollius (to whom afterwards Horace addressed the eighth Ode of his Fourth Book) to organise the new Province, which included all the northern and western part of the kingdom.


[1] The word provincia had originally no territorial implication: the decision of law-cases between cives and strangers was the provincia of one of the praetors.

[2] Verr., II I 38, 95, where the word totam is rhetorical: it is to be connected with all the preceding list of names (and not simply with Phrygian); Verres plagued all Lycia, Pamphylia, Phrygia, etc. No stress can be laid on it as proving that entire Phrygia was under Polabella; it is a stroke of rhetoric.

[3] See Christ Born in Bethlehem, p. 117 ff.

[4] No international law was recognised then, except in so far as it was expressed in a formal treaty.

[5] This paragraph is taken verbatim from Christ Born in Bethlehem, p. 132.

[6] See p. 64 f.

[7] Pisidic Phrygia, Polyb., XXII 5, 14 (where it is misunderstood by most modern writers), is practically identical with Galatic Phrygia, a later name meaning the part of Phrygia included in the Province Galatia. It was the part of Phrygia towards Pisidia (Strab., pp. 557, 569, 577, Ptolemy, V 5, 4). See Cities and Bish. of Phrygia, I, p. 316.

[8] Cicero, Alt., V 21, 9, more fully defined in Pliny, Nat. Hist., V 25, as Lycaonia in Asiaticam iurisdictionem versa, and distinguished from the three Phrygian Dioeceses by Cicero, Fam., XIII 67. The boundary’ between the Phrygian and Lycaonian Dioeceses lay between the Lakes of Ak-Sheher (XL Martyrs) and Eber Göl.

[9] He started from Iconium on 29th August, but returned to it on the following day. Schmidt, Briefwechsel des Cicero, pp. 80 f., 397.

[10] Cicero, Fam., XIII 73.

[11] Justin, XXXVII I: he merely epitomises Pompeius Trogus, and the spirit evaporates in an epitome. Appian, Mithr., 105.

[12]  They were Asian, demonstrably, 62-56 and 49-46.

[13] Cicero, Fam., XIII 67, says pointedly that the three Asiatic Dioeceses were thus shifted about, showing that the Philomelian or Lycaonian Dioecesis was treated separately.

[14] Cicero, Fam., XIII 43, 44, 73, 74. At the same time Cicero wrote to Appuleius, proquaestor in Asia, asking him to attend to Egnatius’s affairs in that province, which were managed by his slave Anchialos, Fam., XIII 45.

[15] Cicero, Att., V 21, 9. Lycaonia . . . cum qua conveniunt Philomelienses, Pliny, Hist. Nat., V 25.

[16] Perhaps the children of Antipater were permanently retained as hostages by the provincial government; but Philippus seems to have had them in his power after he left his province, Cicero, Fam., XIII 74.

[17] Appian, Bell. Civ., V 75; cp. Strabo, pp. 569, 577.

[18] Strabo, p. 568.

[19] See the Church in the Roman Empire, ch. XVI.

[20] See Kromayer in Hermes, 1894, p. 574 f.

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