The Galatians

During the Lu Tone period not all of the Celtic migrations took place in a westerly direction. There was another trend of eastward expansion along the valley of the Danube River toward the Black Sea. By the fifth century B<: Celtic settlements were established along the eastern Black Sea coast from the Crimean peninsula to Greece, and archaeologists have found some evidence of Celtic settlement in the I kraine, Poland, and Russia. For the next two centuries, the Celts of Galatia would play a prominent role in Greece and Asia Minor.

Right: Celtic warriors about to descend on the combined Greek forces at the battle of Thermopylae.

Below: On this site in the Pass of Thermopylae in Greece, an army of Celtic invaders defeated an army of Greek defenders in 279 bc.

y the start of the third century BC the Celts had reached the Carpathian Mountains, and Macedonia, Thrace, and Greece were subjected to Celtic raids. Celtic warbands were also employed in the war between Athens and Sparta, and in 274 BC eastern Celtic warriors were reported in Egypt, where they fought as mercenaries. Decades before, in 334 BC, Alexander the Great had made a peace treat)' with the Celts who lived along the northern borders of Macedonia, which allowed him to

Alexander The Great Persian Army

move his army into Asia Minor to fight the Persians without worrying about Celtic raids into Macedonia in his absence.

By the start of the third century BC the Celts had conquered Thrace, EiiSi^. forcing thousands of

Galatian Celts

into Macedonia and Greece. While Gallic incursions into Italy threatened the survival of the Roman city-state, an even more significant Celtic threat was looming over Greece. In 279 BC a large Celtic army finally invaded Macedonia and defeated the Macedonians in two pitched battles. A section ot the Celtic force led by King Brennus continued south into Greece where it defeated an army of the combined Greek city states at Thermopylae, then continued on to sack Delphi.

Against Greece and Rome

By the mid-third century Celts had established a state in the central plateau of Asia Minor. From that point on these people were known as Galatians, to distinguish them from the Gauls and Celts further to the west. Their society was a tribal one, with the Tolistoboii, Tectosages, and Trocmi tribes maintaining a social organization similar to that of their fellow Celtic tribesmen in Gaul. The Greeks collectively referred to these tribes as the Commonwealth of Galatia.

In 261 BC the Galatians defeated the Syrians in battle at F.phesus, ensuring Galatian independence for the next few decades. Celtic attempts to carve out their own empire at the expense of the Greek city states in Asia Minor were thwarted when the Galatians were defeated by Pcrgamon (241 BC). For the next century, Greeks, Syrians, and Galatians would vie with each other for military and political supremacy in Asia Minor.

The Romans became embroiled in Asia Minor during the first decades of the second century BC when the Senate declared war on Antiochus of Syria, w ho controlled much of Greece and Macedonia. The Syrians and their Galatian allies were defeated at the Battle of Magnesia (191 BC), and within two years a veteran Roman army was sent to invade Galatia. The Romans allied themselves with Pcrgamon, and between 189 and 187 BC the Galatians were crushed in a scries of battles. The Romans gave Galatia to Pergamon as a subject province, although Rome effectively controlled both regions.

For the moment, Asia Minor was under Roman control. While the Romans were distracted by internal disputes the Galatians formed alliances with neighboring provinces such as Bithvnia and Pontus to defeat

Pergamon, and by 123 BC a resurgent Galatian confederation had become the dominant power in Asia Minor. The first decades of the first century BC saw the rise of Pontus as a major power in the region. In 88 BC King Mithridates VI of Pontus massacred a gathering of Galatian leaders. The Galatians waged a bitter war for survival against Mithridates, and when the Pontic king declared war on Rome, the Celtic leader Deiotaros allied himself with the Romans. Although Mithridates was defeated, the alliance with Rome would cost the Galatians their freedom. By the mid-first century BC Galatia was a Roman province, and Celtic identity was submerged by the trappings of Roman civilization.

As for the Celts of Thrace and the Danube, they were overcome by the emergent Germano-SIavic society of the Dacians. By 60 BC the last identifiable Celtic tribe in eastern ELurope was the Boii of Bohemia, and following their defeat by the Dacians, these people migrated into the territory occupied by the Helvetii in modern Switzerland. This migration would provide an excuse for Julius Caesar to invade Gaul. Celtic culture would eventually be crushed by Roman and German expansion.

Below: Portrait of Mithridates VI based on a contemporary coin. Mithridates treacherously murdered an embassy of Galatian Celts.

Celtic Galatiaian

GAULS Celts)

THRACE

BLACK SEA

• Byzantium BITHYNIA

GALATIA

Egypt

Crete

MEDITERRANEAN SEA

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Egypt

Crete

MEDITERRANEAN SEA

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The Celtic invasion of Thrace and the later invasions of Macedon, Greece, and Anatolia between 278-9 bc.

GAULS Celts)

THRACE

BLACK SEA

Celtic invasions Macedon Seleucid kingdom Ptolemaic kingdom Roman empire

• Byzantium BITHYNIA

GALATIA

Galatian CeltsCelts Migrations Map
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Responses

  • Melissa Onio
    Are helvetii the galatians?
    7 years ago
  • amelia
    Where is galatia on a map?
    11 months ago

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