3rd-1st cent. BC
Brown and Gareth Harding
The Celts were
one of the great peoples of Europe. From their original homelands south
of the Rhine they spread out into Britain, Ireland, Spain, Southern
France, Bohemia, Northern Italy, the Balkans and Turkey. This movement
happened over many hundreds of years.
Both the Greeks
and the Romans portrayed them as fearsome barbarians but they left no
literature so we must rely on sculpture, the Classical authors, and
modern archaeology. Information about the Celtic Galatians is very
sparse. Anyone wishing to know more will find them described by the
classical authors, Arrian, Caesar, Pausanias, Polybius, Strabo, amongst
others. More about Galatians can also be deduced from coins and stone
metalwork is beautiful, and its most likely they produced the first mail
armour: a matrix of individually- forged interlocking rings. Many of
their lands were populous and well organized with the landscape dotted
with settlements, forts and shrines.
the forth century the Celts expanded along the Danube valley and in the
early third century started to migrated once again. What started this
migration towards Macedonia and Greece is unclear, possibly due to
famine, but the most likely caused was overpopulation. (Strabo:
They are wont to change their abode on slight provocation, migrating in
bands with all their battle-array, or rather setting out with their
households when displaced by a stronger enemy.)
In c 281
BC, under the leadership of Bolbios, one band invaded Macedonia and
killed its ruler, Ptolemy Ceraunus, thus opening the way south. They
were eventually defeated by Antigonus Gonatas, the grandson of Antigonus
One-Eye at a battle near Lysimachia in Thrace in 278-7 BC.
band, under Acichorius and Brennus (possibly a word for chief) headed
south into Greece. In 279 BC a coalition made of Aetolians, Boeotians,
Athenians, Phocians, and northern Greeks took position at the narrow
pass of Thermopylae, on the east coast of central Greece. In the ensuing
battle the Galatians suffering heavy losses in their initial assault.
Subsequently, a large force under Acichorius was diverted towards
Aetolia. As a result the Aetolian detachment left Thermopylae to defend
their homes and the remaining Greeks were unable to hold the Celts at
bay. Brennus’ forces found a way around the pass, supposedly by the same
route used by the Persians, and the Greeks were obliged to escape by
battle at Delphi 279 BC the Greeks once more drew up to confront
Brennus and his marauding Celts. At the start of the battle there was a
violent thunderstorm making it hard to manoeuvre or hear orders. The
Greeks attacked from both sides and when Brennus was wounded, with the
Celts having already suffered heavy losses, they made a fighting
The next day the
Celtic army began a disorderly retreat hard pressed by the Greeks.
According to Pausanias the Celts suffered 26,000 dead.
band marched through Thrace. These were led by Leonorius and Lutarius.
They finally crossed the Bosporus at the invitation of Nicomedes I to
help him defeat his brother and secure the throne of Bithynia. This band
eventually settled in central Anatolia, including the eastern part of
ancient Phrygia, before being strengthened by fresh immigration from
Europe. They soon overran Bithynia, supporting themselves by plundering
their neighbours and hiring out as mercenaries; even fighting on both
sides of a conflict in some instances.
were to fight for and against Antiochus I, II, and II, even killing
Antiochus II. They also supplied troops to the Egyptian Successors from
Ptolemy II in 276 BC to Queen Cleopatra’s bodyguard. Their power was to
be curbed by Attalus I of Pergamum— which rose to become the most
powerful state in western Anatolia.
Romans sent Gnaeus Manlius Vulso against the Galatians in 189 BC He
defeated them. With their military power in decline the Galatians fell
under Pontic domination. When Mithradates VI of Pontus attacked the
Romans in 89 BC they revolted and became strong supporters of Rome.
In 64 BC
Galatia became a client state of the Roman Empire with Deiotarus
recognized by the Romans as king of Galatia, supplanting the three
tribal chieftains of old. Following his death his son Deiotarus II ruled
for a few years before he was succeeded in his turn by Amyntas.
Following the death of Amyntas in 25 BC Galatia was incorporated into
the Roman Empire as a province.
tribes settled Galatia, numbering 20,000 fighting men, with their women
Tectosgaes in the centre around their capital Ancyra.
Tolistobogii in the west with Pessinus as their chief town.
Trocmi on the east around their chief town Tavium
constitution of the state saw each tribe divided into four clans each
governed by a tetrarch. Under him were a judge, a general, and two
sub-generals. Later the system changed with the tetrarchs becoming
petty kings. A council of the nation consisting of the tetrarch’s and
three hundred senators was periodically held.
Deiotarus (Divine Bull— in Gallic Deiotarix and in Greek Deiotaros) was
Tetrarch of the Tolistobogii. He ruled the Galatians from his fortress
in Blucium and
was married to
Berenice, daughter of Attalus III, of Pergamum. He picked the wrong side
in the Roman Civil War by supporting Pompey. At his trial he was
supported by Cicero and thus survived.
Virtually nothing is known of Galatian religion. They did sacrifice
some prisoners to the gods in 165 BC when these unfortunates weren’t
ransomed. There was a shrine or Drunemeton (oak-sanctuary). No mention
is made of Druids.
raised 30 cohorts of troops, three legions, from the Galatians people in
48 BC. These troops were trained with Roman help. When Galatia was
incorporation into the Roman Empire what remained of these cohorts was
made into a single Roman legion— Legio XXII.
descriptions of Celts fighting naked up until the start of the third
century. This possibly had some religio-magical significance amongst
the Celts—we will never know.