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 15

The Influence of Christianity in North Galatia

AT what time and from what direction Christianity was introduced into North Galatia is uncertain. I hope shortly to discuss the subject of “the Diffusion of Christianity in Asia Minor” in a special work. Here only the salient features in the evangelisation of North Galatia can be stated. It probably began either from Bithynia or from the Province Asia, and not from the side of Syria.

The new religion was introduced in all probability at an early date: doubtless Ancyra had been evangelised during the first century (possibly even Pessinus), But there can be no reasonable doubt that the process began in the great provincial centre, Ancyra, just as in Asia it began at Ephesus, and in Achaia at Corinth. The tribal constitution of the country made Ancyra the necessary centre for at least its own tribe; and the backward state of the country districts must have long been a decided bar to the progress of the new religion.

Ancyra and the Bithynian city Juliopolis (which was attached to Galatia about 297) are the only Galatian bishoprics mentioned earlier than 325: they alone appear at the Ancyran Council held about 314. The Ancyran Church1 is first mentioned about A.D. 192 as having been affected by Montanism, but saved by the writer of an anti-Montanist treatise quoted by Eusebius. There was a great persecution at Ancyra under Diocletian, and some of the martyrs who suffered there were doubtless brought from other towns of the Province for trial before the governor resident in Antioch. Thus, e.g., we find that at Juliopolis in the sixth century the martyrs Plato, Heuretos and Gemellos were peculiarly venerated at Juliopolis. Of these Plato is known to have suffered at Ancyra on 22nd July probably under Diocletian,2 and hence probably he was brought up from Juliopolis for trial at the metropolis, but continued to be specially remembered in his own city. The Acta of Theodotus, a work of high authority, contains an interesting account of Diocletian’s persecution, which the writer seems perhaps to have regarded as the first that occurred there.

Ancyra and Juliopolis, then, are the two points in Galatia or on its borders where Christianity can be traced earliest. Now these are two of the points on the short road from Nikomedia to Ancyra and the east — the line which afterwards became famous and important as the “Pilgrim’s Road”.3 As we have seen,4 Galatia was in specially close relations with Bithynia and Pontus; and the extraordinary strength of Christianity in that Province at the very beginning of the second century is attested by the famous despatch of Pliny. Bithynian Christianity would spread through Juliopolis to Ancyra in the natural course of communication.

The epigraphic evidence about Christianity in Galatia will be treated more thoroughly in the proposed treatise on the diffusion of that religion in Asia Minor. Here we will say only that the early Christian inscriptions found in the “Added Land,” west of Lake Tatta, are due beyond doubt to the influence radiating from Iconium; and that in the rest of North Galatia no early Christian inscriptions occur with the exception of three or four at Pessinus, which however are more probably of the fourth than the third century.

On the other hand, there is in North Galatia an unusually large number of late Christian inscriptions in proportion to the epigraphic total.

Now the want of early Christian inscriptions in a district constitutes no proof that Christianity was not known there in early time. But the contrast between the large number of third century Christian inscriptions in Phrygia5 and the lack of them in Galatia is remarkable; and certainly suggests that the new religion had nothing like the same hold on Galatia at that time as on Phrygia. Mr. J. G. C. Anderson expresses himself even more strongly as to the inference to be drawn from the epigraphic facts in Journal of Hellenic Studies, 1899 (second part).

The evidence as to the number of Jews in Galatia has been much misrepresented by the North Galatian critics. For example, an inscription found beside Dorylaion in the Province Asia is quoted as a proof of the presence of Jews in Galatia;6 and a decree of Augustus addressed to the Koinon of the Province Asia, a copy of which was ordered to be kept in the Augusteum at Argyre, is similarly quoted as granting privileges to the Jews of Ancyra.7 With such geography anything can be proved. In the latter case the conjectural alteration of the MSS. to read Ancyra would not help the North Galatian Theorists; for it would then be necessary to understand that the Asian Ancyra was meant. Waddington boldly reads Pergamos for Argyre, on the ground that there was only one Augusteum in Asia when the decree was issued (which is indubitable). Mommsen, while recognising that an Asian city is meant, does not propose any solution for the unintelligible Argyre.

A few late Galatian inscriptions, belonging to the fourth and fifth centuries, mention persons with Jewish names: at Eudoxias Jacob the Deacon8 and Esther, at Tavium Daniel, Joannes, etc., elsewhere Joannes, Sanbatos, Thadeus, etc.; but all are probably late, and may be Christian (or Jewish Christian).

At Pessinus an inscription mentioning a person Matatas, C. I. G., 4088, is regarded as Jewish by Lightfoot; and similarly several in which the name Akilas or Akylas is used. We may fairly treat Matatas as a Jewish name, Mattathias; or, as the copy is bad, we might venture perhaps to change it to Mata[i]as, i.e., Matthaias; but, even if that be the true reading, since the wife of Mataias was named Kyrilla, he was more probably a Christian9 than a Jew (unless he was Jewish-Christian). Akilas seems to have been a Phrygian name;10 but I think Lightfoot may be right in regarding it as one favoured by Jews: we find Jacob the son of Achilles at Oxyrhynchos in Egypt,11 and Akilas was probably regarded as equivalent to Achilles.

Further, at Pessinus, there occurs an inscription mentioning the strange names Annonios, Eremaste, Paith[o]s, Momaion, Deidōs;12 M. Perrot suggests that Annonios may be the Hebrew Ananias, which seems very probable.

A rather bold speculation, which has been advanced on the strength of some Phrygian inscriptions,13 treats a noble family settled in Akmonia and in Ancyra, bearing the name Julius Severus, as Jewish. Members of this and of some allied families boast themselves as “descendants of kings and tetrarchs”. The usual interpretation treats these as Galatian kings and tetrarchs: but, according to the theory just mentioned, they would be Jewish kings and tetrarchs, probably of the Herod family. But the speculation has too slender foundations to be treated as more than an interesting hypothesis at present; and it is ridiculed by Prof. E. Schurer in his review of the book14 as merely a groundless fancy.

The Jews of North Galatia were immigrants not direct from the East, but either from South Galatia or from Asia or from Bithynia. No settlements of Jews are known to have been made in North Galatia by the Greek kings, whereas large bodies of Jews were settled in the cities along the great line of communication through Lycaonia and Southern Phrygia by the Seleucid kings. Thus North Galatian Jewish settlements are later and sporadic. Lightfoot recognises this secondary origin of the North Galatian Jews.

The relation of North Galatia to the rest of the Roman world was changed in the end of the third century, when Diocletian about 285 made Nicomedia, the Bithynian metropolis, one of the four capitals of the Roman world. The road system of Asia Minor had hitherto been planned with a view to communication with the one imperial centre, Rome; and North Galatia was then on a by-path. Henceforth, communication began to run towards Nicomedia; and North Galatia was in an important position. The change was intensified when Constantinople was made the one great capital of the Roman world. The road system was practically the same in the East for both those centres.

Ancyra now lay on the greatest of roads. All communication of Syria, Cilicia, Cappadocia and Armenia with the Imperial capital passed through it. The development of North Galatia now proceeded with great rapidity. It became one of the most important regions in the Eastern Empire. Bishops of Ancyra played a great part in many Church questions from 312 onwards: and the metropolitan Bishop of Ancyra ranked second only to Caesareia in the Patriarchate of Constantinople.15

The ecclesiastical system of North Galatia was still very backward even in the fourth century; and its cities, which had been slowly growing during the third century out of villages, had not as a rule bishops of their own. This is made clear by a comparison of the ecclesiastical system of the provinces of the south, where civilisation and cities had been developed rapidly owing to their favourable position on the former lines of communication. But during the fifth and following centuries the number of Galatian cities and bishops grew rapidly, and was more than doubled. In the same time the known bishops of Lycaonia increased only from fifteen to seventeen.

The failure of its bishop in a Council does not prove that a city was not then a bishopric. But it was far easier for North Galatian bishops to attend the fourth century Councils of Ancyra, Nicaea and Constantinople than for the Lycaonian and Pisidian bishops. Yet the ecclesiastical system of Lycaonia and Pisidia was nearly complete at those Councils, while that of Galatia was only in an embryo form. See pp. 213, 221.

Even the praises given so cordially to the Galatians by the rhetoricians of the fourth century — quoted so frequently as proofs of the thorough Hellenisation of Galatia — are really proofs that the Hellenic character was of quite recent growth in the country.

Themistius16 speaks of the Galatians as acute and clever, and more docile than the thorough Hellenes: he evidently contrasts the Galatians as beginners in the higher Hellenic education with the thorough Greeks of Syrian Antioch and other cities where Greek learning was long settled. He also contrasts the cities of Galatia with Antioch as smaller and unable to vie with it.

Libanius frequently in his letters mentions his Galatian pupils, and like Themistius praises their diligence and ability. They were good pupils, and therefore favourites with a good teacher. But the majority of them evidently belonged to Ancyra, as might be shown by a comparison of the references which he makes to them: in fact, with him the word “Galatian” often seems really to mean “Ancyran”. Occasionally pupils who were not of Ancyra are mentioned, as e.g., in Epist. 1333. But on the whole Ancyra stands for him as representing Galatia.

The only other city of Galatia which he mentions17 is Tabia, Epist. 1000. Wolff, in his edition, interprets that letter as referring to Tabioi, an Italian city mentioned by Stephanus; but more probably it is the Galatian Tabium or Tavium that is meant. In that letter, which is addressed to Paeoninus, he recommends Phalerius, who is going to settle in the city as a teacher. Probably, Libanius had been asked to recommend a teacher, and sends Phalerius. The impression which the letter makes is that Tabia was now for the first time aspiring to have its own higher school of rhetoric. One thinks of the new High School founded at Como about A.D. 102-106, and the teacher recommended by Tacitus.18

The general impression conveyed by Themistius and Libanius is similar to the idea conveyed about Spain, Gaul and Africa by writers of the first and second centuries. The higher education was new in the country, and was pursued with peculiar intensity by fresh and ardent pupils, who formed a delightful contrast to the rather blasé Greeks in the experience of their professorial instructors.

Thus the civilisation and high position which is associated with North Galatia belongs specially to the Christian period. Ancyra the great was the Christian Ancyra.19 We are apt to forget how late most of the proofs of its civilisation are. An example of this forgetfulness occurs in some criticisms which have been made on certain statements in The Church in the Roman Empire similar to the preceding paragraphs. It is necessary to reply to those criticisms here, as they are likely to be repeated.

Mr. W. T. Arnold20 says: “I suspect that Professor Ramsay has overstated the Celticism and barbarism of Galatia. I think it probable that these adaptable Celts were Hellenised early. The term Gallogręcia, compared with Themistius’s (p. 360) Γαλατίᾳ τῇ Ἑλληνίδι,21 is significant. There is plenty of evidence as to the early splendour of Ancyra (Ἄγκυρα τερπνὴ παμφαεστάτη πόλις), and the facts collected by Perrot could easily be added to.”

The early splendour of Ancyra was emphasised by me as much as by Mr. Arnold: the words of the book which he reviews were: “Ancyra was the capital of the province, because it was a city of great power and wealth (beyond Iconium or Antioch),” and it is stated that it contained “a Greek-speaking population to which St. Paul could address himself”. But a city might be splendid without being of the Greek type in civilisation and spirit. Mr. Arnold proves the early Hellenisation of Galatia from Themistius, but Themistius belongs to the fourth century; and I have repeatedly22 emphasised the rapid fourth century development of the country.

Moreover, the quotation apparently is misunderstood by my critic (as is clear when the context is read): it does not mean, as he takes it, “Galatia which is Hellenic,” but in mere pedantic distinction “Galatia in the Greek world as distinguished from Galatia in the far West” (i.e., Gallia).23 So also Gallogręcia does not mean, as he seems to think, “Gręcised Gaul”; it was a Roman word adopted by the Greeks in some rare instances,24 and merely distinguished the Grecian from Transalpine Gallia. Probably Gallogręci was the first formation, and from it was derived Gallogręcia. It is grecised Hellenogalatai, Diodorus, V 32, 5.

Mr. Arnold’s other quotation dates from the ninth century.

Such is the evidence by which he supports his opinion that Galatia was Hellenised much earlier than I represent. His vague allusion to other facts that might be quoted implies only that he believes them to exist, but has not got them ready. We must assume that he quoted what he thought telling proofs of his view. The proofs that he does quote entirely confirm my statements as to the lateness of Galatian civilisation.


1 ἡ κατὰ τόπον ἐκκλησία, the local Church (on the phrase see Cities and Bish. of Phrygia, I, p. 272 f, no. 192).

[2] I can find nothing about the other two.

[3] Histor. Geogr. of Asia Minor, pp. 197, 240.

[4] See above, pp. 143, 154.

[5] Cities and Bish. of Phrygia, Ch. XII, XVII.

[6] Schürer, das Jüd. Volk im Zeitalter J. C, 2nd Edition, I, p. 690. It shows a, seven-branched candlestick and the name Ἠσαῦος.

[7] Schürer, op. cit., I, p. 690, Lightfoot, p. 11, Josephus, Ant. Jud., XVI 6, 2.

[8] μνῆμα εἱερω[ῖάτου δ]εικωνος Εἰακὼβ [Μυρι]κηνοῦ.

[9] Kyrilla, though sometimes pagan, favours Christian origin: hence the other alteration Ma[i]atas is less probable. With Mataias compare Mathas in a Christian inscription, Cities and Bish. of Phrygia, II, p. 562.

[10] Histor. Gebgr. of Asia Minor, p. 226.

[11] Grenfell and Hunt, I, p. 97.

[12] C. I. G., 4087; Perrot, Explor. Arch., No. 105.

[13] Cities and Bish. of Phrygia, II, pp. 648 ff, 673.

[14] Theolog. Literaturztg, 1898.

[15] The order of precedence was gradually becoming fixed even during the fourth century; but was not strictly determined before the sixth century.

[16] Or. XXIII Soph., p. 299 Petavius, καὶ οὐ λέγω τὸ ἄστυ τοῦ Ἀντιόχου οὐδὲ ὅσοις ἐκεῖ συνέμιξα ἀνδράσι τὰ ἐμὰ φορτία μαστεύουσι καὶ περιποιουμένοις, οὐδὲ ὅσοις ἐν Γαλατίᾳ τῇ Ἑλληνίδι· καὶ αἱ μὲν πόλεις, οὐχ οὕτω μεγάλαι οὐδʼ οἷσι τῇ μεγίστῃ ἀμφισβητεῖν· οἱ δὲ ἄνδρες ἴστε ὅτι ὀξεῖς καὶ ἀγχίνοι καὶ εὐμαθέστεροι τῶν ἄγαν Ἑλλήνων.

[17] He mentions many second or third rate cities outside of Galatia, as Sinope, Rhossos, Tyana, Cucusos, Cyrrhos, Berytos, Apameia, Berrhoia, Emesa, Elousa, Bostra, Doliche, Petra, Tyros, etc.

[18] Pliny, Epist. IV 13. Compare the official Grammaticus Latinus at Magallum in Spain, C. I. L., II 2892.

[19] The results obtained in an intended work on “The Diffusion of Christianity in Asia Minor” must be assumed here.

[20] English Historical Review, 1895, p. 554.

[21] Differently accented in E. H. R.

[22] First in Hisior. Geogr. of Asia Minor, pp. 74 ff, 199 ff, and often since.

[23] “Galatia the Greek (not Galatia the Celtic)” is probably the exact thought. Themistius speaks of Keltoi on p. 349 Pet., meaning apparently the European Gauls.

[24] Galli, Gallia, and Gracia are all Roman terms, never used by Greeks except as borrowed from Latin.

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