Galations: The Biblical Celts

Yes, that’s right, Galatia in Turkey. Those people in Paul’s New Testament Epistle to the Galations were Celts, from Gaul. These Continental Celts eventually arrived in Macedonia in 279 B.E., where they gathered under a tribal leader named Brennus. They intended to raid the rich temple of Delphi. Like their insular brethren, these Gauls were independent of thought, and the host split into two groups, one, under Brennus, marching south on Delphi: the other group, under Leonorius and Luterius, turned eastward and pillaged Thrace. They were joined by the small remnants of the army of Brennus, who was repulsed by the Greeks, and killed himself in despair. In 278 B.C.E., 20,000 Gauls, under Leonorius, Luterius, and fifteen other chieftains, crossed over to Asia Minor, in two divisions. The two groups joined, and hired out as mercenaries to Nicomedes I, King of Bithynia, to defeat his younger brother. Nicomedes rewarded them with land in the heart of Asia Minor, now known as Galatia. You’ll notice their territory includes the section of Turkey formerly known as Phrygia.

The Galations frequently worked as mercenaries in subsequent years, and were hired by Pompey in 64 B.C.E. Rome pretty much absorbed them politically after that; the Galatians’ last king, Amyntas, fought at Actium, 31 B.C.E., on the side of Mark Antony but at the last he supported Augustus. After the death of Amyntas, Augustus proclaimed the land of the exported Gauls the Roman province of Galatia. About 75 years later St. Paul wrote his Epistle the Galatians. If you want the gory details, you can read the Catholic Encyclopedia.

The Gordian Project is a series of excavations at Gordian, in the Phyria region of Galatia. Gordian is the city associated with King Midas. The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology is one of the participants in thse excavations. Recently, an article in Archaeology magazine suggested that Celtic descendent of the Gaulish settlers, were, in good Celtic traditions, engaging in human sacrifice. I’m not all that persuaded by the article, it’s a little too full of unsupported assertions, but as yet I’ve not seen anything in the academic press.

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