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 12

History of the Province Galatia, B.C. 25-A.D. 50

THE history of the Province Galatia is a difficult and complicated subject; and the variation in its bounds is very puzzling. It took the place which the Cilician Province had filled under the later Republic: the growth of the Roman power on this side was now concentrated in the Galatic province. The relations of the Empire to the client-states of Pontus, Paphlagonia and Cilicia Tracheia was part of the Galatic sphere of duty. As those states were successively raised to the Roman standard of peace and order through the exertions, the personal presence and the ever-ready armies of their kings, they were one by one taken into the Empire by being incorporated in the Province Galatia. The history of that Province for almost a century is “the history of Roman policy in its gradual advance towards the Euphrates frontier, a long slow process, in which the Roman genius was exerted to the utmost to influence and impress, to educate and discipline, the population of the various countries taken into the Province Galatia”.1 The foundation of the Galatian Churches is an episode in the history of the Province; and he that would understand the “Galatian Question” aright must look at it from that point of view.

The complicacy of the history of this Province between B.C. 25 and A.D. 72 is a proof of its importance in the Roman policy. It resembles in that respect the history of Cilicia Provincia between B.C. 80 and 50. But in A.D. 72 the importance of Galatia ceased; and Cappadocia took its place as the centre of Roman frontier policy. Cappadocia had been a Roman Province since A.D. 17; but it was prematurely incorporated before it was ready for strict Roman organisation, and it was placed only under a procurator, who seems to have left the native organisation undisturbed, and was probably chiefly concerned to see that the proper taxes were paid.

In A.D. 72 Cappadocia was created a consular Province with an army; and the Galatic Province sank again into comparative insignificance, being included in a joint Province with Cappadocia until about A.D. 106, and thereafter separated from it.

It is somewhat remarkable that during the century of its political importance, the Galatic Province never contained an army. Its formation was due to the defeat of the Roman agent, King Amyntas, by the Homonades (see p. 112); and Lollius, the first governor, must have taken with him a body of troops to inaugurate the provincial system. But the Homonades were left for a number of years unpunished, and the Pisidian mountaineers to the west were far from orderly and peaceable, their raids constituting a permanent danger. When at last an army was needed, the Syrian army was employed; and an imperial legate was sent on a special mission to operate with the troops of the Province Syria-Cilicia, though the Homonades were far distant from the frontier of that Province, divided from it by the realm of Archelaos, and pressing hard on the Galatian frontier. An official specially charged with this duty had to be sent, as his absence outside of the territory of Syria-Cilicia was required for a considerable time; but his work was strictly part of the Syrian Provincia or sphere of duty, as he was leading the troops of that Province. He was therefore in the strict and legal Roman sense Legatus Augusti Pro Praetore Provinciae Syriae et Ciliciae.2 His name was P. Sulpicius Quirinius; and the date of his command is approximately given by the simultaneous operations conducted on the Galatian side, where a series of garrisons (Coloniae) connected by military roads with the military capital, Antioch in Pisidian Phrygia, were established by Cornutus Aquila in B.C. 6.

Otherwise Galatia was administered without a standing army, though of course a few soldiers were needed there for the ordinary purposes of order and government. The police-system of the Empire was one of its weakest sides, so that soldiers were needed for police and for revenue-officers and on the great imperial estates; also to act as escort and ministers of the higher Roman officials, and so on. It is true that that vast Empire was administered and guarded with an astonishingly small army; but, considering that Galatia was so new as a Province and so close to foreign and dangerous tribes, we can hardly understand how it was left for nearly a century dependent on the distant Syrian army in the event of any disturbance, internal or external, unless we take into account the character of the population and their loyalty.

The Gaulish tribes were certainly enthusiastically loyal. The long wars side by side with Rome against Mithridates had cemented a permanent feeling of friendship, the most striking proof of which is that Augustus could take one of Deiotaros’s Roman-armed Galatian legions and turn it into a Roman legion, calling it XXII Deiotariana. Other causes described in Section 13 contributed to bind them closely to Rome, and separate them from the Asiatic and Greek races around them.

The non-Gaulish peoples in the rest of the Province were kept loyal and orderly by two causes. In the first place, the peace and comparatively good government of the Empire made such a welcome change from the almost ceaseless wars of the period B.C. 334-31, with the oppression and rapacity accompanying them, that the rule of Augustus and his successors was welcomed as a direct gift from heaven to wretched war-worn men. In the second place, the temper of the Asia Minor peoples was essentially quiet and obedient;3 and from the beginning of history to the present day it has always been an easy task to maintain peace and order among them. The people are always capable of being roused to fanaticism; but it requires a strong stimulus to excite them; and, where the government prevents such a stimulus being applied, and maintains anything like justice, the population remains marvellously quiet and submissive.

In these circumstances Galatia could safely be left without a standing army.

The importance attached at first in the imperial policy to the Galatic Province appears from a series of facts, small indeed in themselves, but attesting the continued attention paid to it by the Emperors. In the obscurity that envelops this region, it is remarkable how many such small details have become known to us.

The conquered Homonades were incorporated in the Province,4 and the effort to pacify the southern frontier is probably connected with the foundation of the Colonia Caesareia Antiochia5 and Colonia Julia Felix Gemina Lustra, with four others towards the western side of the Pisidian frontier. This brought a considerable Latinspeaking population to Antioch and Lystra, and the municipal government in both cities was remodelled after the Roman fashion. Duoviri, Quaestors and Aediles took the place of Strategoi or Archontes; lictors marched in front of these Roman magistrates; decuriones were substituted for the Boule; the language used in the municipal deeds was Latin (as we see in the inscriptions); the law administered among the cives Romani in the Colonies was Roman; the personal names became in large proportion Roman.6 If we had as many names of Lystran and Antiochian as we have of Corinthian converts, we should doubtless find quite as large a proportion of Roman names in the two Galatian as in the Grecian Colonia.7

This event was a marked step in the Roman isation of Southern Galatia. Neither of these two cities had previously ranked among the greater cities of Asia Minor; and Lystra, in fact, had been an utterly insignificant place. Now Antioch was a Latin city, and its citizens had Latin rights. Considering what dignity and practical advantages lay in the Roman or Latin citizenship, the presence in Antioch of so large a proportion of cives gave it a position in the land that nothing else could have conferred upon it. Moreover, it was the military centre of the provincial frontier defence on the south; and it was all the more important because there was no army in the Province, and the defence lay with the burghers of the Coloniae.

The two Coloniae were connected by a “royal road,” an imperial highway, which is mentioned in the Acts of Paul and Thekla, and which in an administrative point of view must have been a most important road, until the thorough pacification of Pisidia, and the incorporation in the Empire of the whole mountainous country between the Provinces Galatia and Cilicia in A.D. 72, did away with the need for frontier defence. Then Lystra sank back into comparative insignificance, and the use of Latin declined, as we see in the later inscriptions.

It is important to observe that the dignity and rank of these cities depended, entirely in the case of Lystra, and mainly in the case of Antioch, on their Roman character. Apart from that they were of little or no consequence. With that they were more honourable than their neighbours. No one who has taken any interest in the history of Asia Minor at this period will doubt that the Roman feeling was strong in these cities. The mutual rivalry of the cities in the East is familiar to every student. They wrangled for precedence, until even the Emperor was appealed to for a decision; they invented titles of honour for themselves to outshine their rivals and appropriated the titles invented by their rivals. In Asia, Smyrna, Ephesus and Pergamos vied with one another, in Bithynia, Nikomedia and Nicaea, in Cilicia, Tarsus and Anazarbos. In Macedonia a trace of the rivalry between Philippi and Amphipolis is visible in Act 16:12. 8 So in South Galatia it may be taken as certain that there was keen rivalry between the chief cities. Antioch and Lystra, strong in their Roman rank, could congratulate themselves on outshining Iconium, the old capital. See § LIII.

Yet in face of these facts, which are familiar to all who have studied the actual history of Asia Minor, it has been seriously maintained by some Biblical critics in the last year or two that about A.D. 50, the natural and hardly avoidable address for an audience in these two cities would have been “Phrygians” and “Lycaonians”. To see the relation of these national names to the existing situation in South Galatia, we must observe the implication.

We must observe that a non-Roman people, and an individual who is not a Roman or Latin citizen, could belong to the empire only by virtue of belonging to a Province. The status of each non-Roman person in the Empire was that of a “provincial”; and he was designated as a member of the Roman Empire, not by his nation, but by his Province. His nation was a non-Roman idea; so long as a person is described as a Phrygian or a Lycaonian, he is thereby described as outside of the Empire. In the Roman theory, the foreigner, the enemy, and the slave, are related ideas. If the Roman citizen can get a foreigner into his power, the latter thereby at once becomes a slave: the foreigner has no rights and is merely regarded as an enemy, except in so far as by a special treaty Rome has guaranteed certain rights to all members of his nation. The slave was designated by his national name as Phryx or Lycao or Syrus: so was a horse. But the Roman soldier was designated by his home in the Empire, i.e., either his Province, or his city as one of the units composing the Province: only the marines, classiarii, who were originally slaves, were regularly designated after the servile fashion.9

When an audience of Antiochians and Lystrans was addressed by a courteous orator, he would certainly not address those citizens of the Coloniae by the servile designation as Phrygians or Lycaonians. If he sought to please them, he would designate them either as Galatae, i.e., members of the Roman Empire as being members of the Province Galatia, or as Coloni, citizens of Roman Coloniae, which would be an even more honorific term. An inscription10 of one of the Pisidian Coloniae, Comama, opens with the address, in Latin and in Greek, “To the Coloni,” implying the pride of that obscure town in the designation. Much more would Antioch and her sister Lystra11 demand some such Roman address, instead of the national designation, Phrygians and Lycaonians, which ruled them out as non-Roman and foreign and barbarian: a Lycaonian, in the Roman view, was either an enemy outside, or a slave inside, the Empire.

In B.C. 5 great part of Paphlagonia was taken into the Galatic Province. Paphlagonia, which was in close alliance with Galatia during part at least of the second century B.C., was conquered by Mithridates and Nikomedes of Bithynia about B.C. 110; and the conquerors divided it. Pompey, in the settlement of 64, retained the partition, and apparently gave the western half to Pylaimenes, the eastern to Attalos.

The connection of Paphlagonia with Galatia is shown by the facts that part (probably the western) was called “the country of Gaizatorix,”12 and that the eastern with its capital Gangra was governed by Kastor 40-36, and then by his brother Deiotaros Philadelphos13 until B.C. 5, when it passed to the Romans,

The relation of Paphlagonia to Galatia is similar to that of northern and western Lycaonia, as we saw in Sections 8, 10. In each case the strong Galatian state tended to swallow up the weaker state on its frontier.

In B.C. 2 an addition on the north-eastern frontier was made to Galatia.14 There was there a small state carved out of Pontus, which Antony or Augustus had granted to a Gaul of tetrarchic family named Ateporix; it comprised a village called Karana, formerly subject to Zela, which was now formed into a city by concentrating there the people of the surrounding territory. This was now taken into the Empire, and Karana was re-named Sebastopolis in honour of its new rank.

Along with this accession came the more important territory of Amasia, formerly the capital of the Pontic kingdom; apparently it was for some reason taken away from King Polemon, to whom it had been given in B.C. 36. Gazelonitis (except its sea-board) was also probably annexed now to the Galatic Province, which thus comprised a considerable part of Pontus.

Tiberius, as is well known, made a point of preserving Augustus’s arrangement with the least possible change; but Galatia attracted some attention. In Pisidia, south-east from Antioch, was a tribe named Orondeis, whose former tribal organisation was now changed into the city organisation of the ordinary Graeco-Roman type:15 in other words, a city was founded, and part of the tribe was concentrated in it after the fashion of Greek municipalities. This city, of course, was enlarged from one of the tribal villages. The name of the village had been Pappa or Papa: it now became Tiberiopolis; but the old name returned, first alongside of, and after a time instead of, the new title.

In 34-35 the territory of Comana Pontica, one of the greatest priestly centres in Asia Minor, was annexed to the Empire. It had been ruled by a Gaul, Dyteutos (grandson of Domnilaos), about whom Strabo tells a romantic tale. His elder brother had been condemned to death along with his father Adiatorix for massacring the Romans resident in Heracleia Pontica. Dyteutos claimed to be the elder: the real elder would not permit Dyteutos to take his place. Thus arose a contest between the brothers, each claiming to die for the other. Dyteutos survived, and was made by Augustus high priest of Comana, an office which he held at least till A.D. 19. He or perhaps his son probably died in 34-35, and Tiberius annexed the territory.

Claudius gave his name to five Galatic cities, ClaudioSeleuceia in Pisidia, Claudio-Derbe and Claud-Iconium16 in Lycaonia, Germanicopolis-Gangra and NeoclaudiopolisAndrapa in Paphlagonia. These honorary names were, doubtless, connected with some new arrangements introduced into the respective districts. Derbe was the frontier city from 41 onwards, and a station for customs on goods entering the Province.17

Nero in 63 annexed the country called Pontus Polemoniacus, incorporating it in the Province Galatia. Pontus consisted of three parts: (1) The coast on each side of Amisos, in the province Bithynia-Pontus: (2) The kingdom of Polemon II, grandson of Polemon and the noble Queen Pythodoris, called for a century afterwards Pontus Polemoniacus; (3) The Galatic territory of Pontus, called Pontus Galaticus, a name which lasted even after Pontus Polemoniacus was incorporated in the Galatian Province.

This sketch brings out the real sterling strength of the Galatic element in central Asia Minor. Not merely their narrower old Galatia, but most of the surrounding countries, were under Celtic rule before they came into the Roman Empire. These facts in their entirety show how pre-eminently the Galatic realm must have occupied the Roman attention. All others but the Galatae were an Asiatic mob: the Galatae were men, chiefs, kings and rulers. Only Polemon was excepted, and Polemon was closely connected with the Antonian family.

The fate of Tracheiotis or Cilicia Tracheia was closely connected with the Galatic sphere of duty. When the Province was created, Tracheiotis was given to Archelaos, King of Cappadocia; and Strabo says that the same extent of Tracheiotic territory was ruled by Cleopatra, by Amyntas, and by Archelaos. Archelaos was degraded and died soon after in A.D. 17; but even before that, about A.D. 11, owing to his imbecility, Augustus took two districts, Kennatis and Lalassis, from him, and gave them to Ajax, son of Teucer, of an ancient priestly dynastic family.

In 17 Archelaos II was allowed by Tiberius to rule part of his father’s Cilician kingdom, while Cappadocia was made a Procuratorial Province. The rest of Tracheiotis, including Olba, Lalassis and Kennatis, was given to M. Antonius Polemon in 17 or soon after. Ajax, who struck coins in his fifth year under Tiberius, had probably died; and Polemon, Asiatic dynast and Roman citizen, son of Polemon I of Pontus, descended from Antony the Triumvir, ruled and coined money for eleven years or more.

In 35 Archelaos instituted a census and valuation after the Roman fashion (doubtless acting under Roman orders, like Herod in Palestine B.C. 8-6), which provoked a rebellion among his subjects the Kietai.18 As Polemon is not mentioned, he was probably dead, and perhaps Archelaos had succeeded to his power.19

In 37 Antiochus IV of Commagene was granted part of Tracheiotis by Caligula; and, though he seems soon to have been disgraced, Claudius in 41 restored and enlarged his Tracheiotic realm. The government of the two Cappadocian kings seems to have been feeble; and a more energetic ruler was needed. Part of Lycaonia, viz., Laranda and the territory around, was given to Antiochus, who was reckoned as king “of the Lycaonians”.

Laranda had hitherto been part of the Roman Province, and supplied soldiers to the Roman legions.20 But, though a Lycaonian city, it is the true centre for the administration of Tracheiotis, because from it radiate the roads that lead across Tracheiotis to the coast;21 and, apparently, the necessity for assigning it to the king of Tracheiotis was now recognised. Coins with legend ΔΥΚΑΟΝΩΝ were struck by Antiochus, evidently at Laranda. Derbe now became the frontier city of Roman territory and a customs station; and its new importance was marked with the title Claudio-Derbe.

Antiochus proved a vigorous ruler. He founded in Tracheiotis a large number of cities, two named Claudiopolis a Germanicopolis, an Eirenopolis, two named Antiocheia, an Iotapa after his queen; and his reign marks an important step in the spread of Grasco-Roman civilisation in that wild and mountainous region.22 So successful was he, that Vespasian recognised Tracheiotis as fit for incorporation in the Empire, and Antiochus was degraded in A.D. 72.

Note. — North Galatian Theorists on Polemon. We have said, p. 4, that the North Galatian Theory rests only on want of knowledge of the facts of Asia Minor in the time of Paul; thus, e.g., in the latest edition of MeyerSieffert, 1899, p. 8, we find the assertion that Polemon’s territory had by that time come under Roman ownership (Polemon’s Gebiet unter röm. Herrschaft gekommen war). In truth, by far the greater part of Polemon’s first kingdom was still governed by king Antiochus, and practically the whole of his second kingdom was still ruled by his grandson Polemon II.

I have been blamed for unreasonably expecting theologians to be familiar with all the most recent historical investigations; but it may surely be expected that they will refrain from repeating historical blunders and founding their theories of Pauline history on those false premises. There are a dozen works about Polemon, from Waddington’s Mélanges de Nutnismatique, II, p. 109 ff., onwards, any of which would be sufficient to show the erroneousness of Meyer-Sieffert’s statement. There remain many serious controversies about the various persons, Polemon I, M. Antonius Polemon, Polemon II, on which we cannot enter. We have given the views which seem established as the most probable; and Mr. G. F. Hill will soon publish a detailed argument demonstrating independently the view advocated here and in Hastings’ Dict. of the Bible, art. Galatia.

It would be an endless task to correct every historical misstatement about Asia Minor made by the North Galatian Theorists. But it goes beyond the bounds of ordinary mistakes such as we wink at in theologians with a fixed prejudice, when Meyer-Siefifert, p. 11 note, state that Strabo wrote before the Roman Province Galatia was constituted, and Dion Cassius wrote after it had been dissolved. Did Meyer-Siefifert fancy that Galatia was constituted in 25 A.D., or did they forget when Strabo wrote? Galatia was constituted about forty years before Strabo composed his history. Galatia was much smaller when Dion wrote, but even then it was a huge Province.


[1] Hastings, Dict. of the Bible, II 86.

[2] This has been pointed out in Christ Born in Bethlehem, ch. XI; and only a blindness to the real inner nature of the Roman provincial system could suggest a doubt whether such a special mission was consistent with Roman usage, or whether such a special officer would be styled Legatus Syriae Provinciae; those who doubt the second point are forgetting the Roman sense of Provincia, and taking it in our territorial sense.

[3] See section 4 f.

[4] See C. I. L., III 6799, in their territory, dedicated to Afrinus, governor of Galatia under Claudius.

[5] It may possibly have been founded earlier, being called Caesareia while the others are called Augusta; but, if so, it is likely to have been strengthened at this time.

[6] See section 19.

[7] See Hastings’ Dict. of the Bible, I, p. 480.

[8] St. Paul the Trav., p. 206.

[9] Mommsen has discussed the subject with his usual logical precision and wide knowledge from several points of view. See his papers in Hermes, 1884, p. 33 ff, and in Festgabe für G. Beseler, p. 255 ff. Also Mitteis, Reichsrecht und Volksrecht, p. 358 ff.

[10] See American Journal of Archaeology, 1888, p. 264.

[11] See section XXI.

[12] Strabo, p. 562.

[13] So M. Theod. Reinach, Rev. Numism., 1891, p. 395. Deiotaros married Adobogiona (perhaps daughter of Mithridates and granddaughter of the older Adobogiona, p. 101.

[14] Date: see Rev. Études Grecques, 1894, p. 251.

[15] This was a characteristic process in the imperial period. The tribal organisation was much less developed and “civilised” than the city.

[16] This act is misrepresented by some Biblical critics as the establishment of a Roman Colonia Iconium, see p. 218.

[17] λιμήν Steph. Byz. See section 22.

[18] Only part of Ketis or Kietis was ruled by Archelaos, evidently the northern part with its centre at Hierapolis Koropissos (see Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, p. 11 note). The southern part had its centre at Olba, the city of Polemon. On the census see Christ Born at Bethlehem, ch. 8.

[19] There is, however, no certain proof that Archelaos was king of the whole of the wide Ketian or Kietian territory in 36.

[20] C. I. L., III 2709, 2818, with Mommsen’s commentary on p. 281.

[21] Historical Geogr. of Asia Minor, p. 361.

[22] Revue Numismatique, 1894, p. 169 f.


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