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GALATIA (ga-lā’shĭ-a). The designation in NT times of a territory in north-central Asia Minor, also a Roman province in central Asia Minor. The name was derived from the people called Galatians (Galatia), a Greek modification of their original name Keltoi or Keltai, Celtic tribes from ancient Gaul. After having invaded Macedonia and Greece about 280 b.c., they crossed into Asia Minor on the invitation of Nikomedes I, king of Bithynia, to aid him in a civil war. After ravaging far and wide, they were finally confined to the north-central part of Asia Minor, where they settled as conquerors and gave their name to the territory. Their chief city-centers were Ancyra, Pessinus, and Ravium. In 189 b.c. the Galatians were subjugated by Rome and continued as a subject kingdom under their own chiefs, and after 63 b.c. under kings. On the death of King Amyntas in 25, the Galatian kingdom was converted into a Roman province called Galatia. The province included not only the area inhabited by the Galatians but also parts of Phrygia, Pisidia, Lycaonia, and Isauria. The term Galatia henceforth carried a double connotation: geographically, to designate the territory inhabited by the Galatians, politically to denote the entire Roman province. That the cities of Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, evangelized by Paul on his first missionary journey, were in the province of Galatia is now recognized by all scholars.

If Galatia in Gal.1.2 refers to the Roman province, then the churches addressed were those founded on the first missionary journey (Acts.13.1-Acts.13.52-Acts.14.1-Acts.14.28); if it means the old ethnographic territory of Galatia, then the churches were established on the second missionary journey (Acts.16.6).——DEH

(1) A region and Roman province in central Asia Minor, named after a Celtic tribe that migrated into the valley of the Halys River in the third century b.c. from central Europe. Although never the majority, these “Gauls” ruled the indigenous tribes of Phrygians and Cappadocians. Three different tribes were involved, each of whose Celtic tribes were divided into four classes, called “tetrarchies” by the Greeks. Their military prowess made the Galatians desirable as mercenaries.

(2) Hellenistic Galatia was the central plateau of Asia Minor that is bounded by the upper Sangarius and middle basin of the Halys River, limited to the north by the kingdoms of Bithynia and Pontus. After the fall of the Hittite Empire, this area was called Phrygia, and later Galatia. The Galatians did not dwell in towns, but lived tribally, until finally crushed by the Romans in 25 b.c.

(3) Roman Galatia was created from Galatia proper and major extensions to include Lycaonia, Isauria, Pisidia, as well as the cities of Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Apollonia, and Antioch. A variety of peoples was thus added, and the city of Ancyra* was selected as the capital. Further extensions were added to this vast territory in 6-5 b.c., a.d. 64 and 72, to a size approaching the former Hittite Empire.

(4) NT usage, A subject of dispute has been Paul's usage of the term “Galatia” (Gal. 1:2). Does he refer to the original ethnic sense or to the Roman province? The latter is now more favored. Acts 16:6 seems to imply that Paul visited those ports of Phrygia which had been incorporated into the Roman province of Galatia. Likewise, in Acts 18:23 it is doubtful if Paul ever visited the northern area of Galatia. Two other references to Galatia likewise imply the territory of the Roman province: 2 Timothy 4:10; 1 Peter 1:1, while 1 Corinthians 16:1 will be interpreted according to one's view of the “Galatia” meant in the other passages.


GALATIA (Γαλατία, G1130). The word bears two senses in ancient history and geography. In its first and ethnic meaning, it signifies the kingdom of Galatia in the northern part of the inner plateau of Asia Minor, made up of parts of a territory formerly known as Cappadocia and Phrygia. The name derives from the fact that this area was occupied by “Gauls,” a Celtic people who, in one of the final movements of the two thousand-year-old folkwanderings of the Indo-European tribes, crossed the Hellespont at the unwise invitation of Nicomedes I, king of Bithynia, who sought allies in a civil war, and penetrated the Asia Minor peninsula in 278 b.c. After a typical period of raiding and plundering, the nomad invaders were finally pinned and contained in a tract of high territory extending from the Sangarius to a line E of the Halys. This was the achievement of Attalus I of Pergamum in 230 b.c. From this tribal area the Celts continued their petty harassment of their neighbors, and after the battle of Magnesia in 190 b.c., which marked the beginning of Rom. interest and dominance in Asia Minor, the Republic inherited the Gallic problem.

Rome sent Manlius Vulso to subdue the tribesmen, and he did so with effectiveness in a campaign of 188 b.c. With typical Rom. diplomatic skill, the Republic was able to use the Galatians as a check on the dynamic kingdom of Pergamum, and also to retain their allegiance when Mithridates of Pontus launched his strong attacks on Rome in Asia Minor. Galatia, as a tribal region, was organized on a Celtic pattern, the three ethnic groups Tolistobogii, Tectusages, and Trocmi, occupying separate areas, with distinct capitals—Pessinus, Ancyra, and Tavium respectively. Each tribe was divided into four septs or wards, each under a tetrarch. The combined council of the three tribes had provision for periodic meetings and retained collective jurisdicition in cases of murder. So coherent was their community, that its Celtic character survived into the empire, and Jerome is evidence for their retention of their Gallic speech into the 5th century. Part of Pompey’s organization of Asia in 63 b.c. appears to have been the establishment of a paramount ruler in Galatia. Deiotarus, tetrarch of the Tolistobogii of W Galatia, was of considerable help to Pompey in the third Mithridatic War. He was rewarded by Pompey in 64 b.c. with part of neighboring Pontus, and twelve or thirteen years later received from the Senate of Rome the district of Lesser Armenia and the kingship over the area of his control, together with the resultant royal title.

The Galatian king naturally followed Pompey in the civil war between Pompey and Julius Caesar, and was deprived of his territorial acquisitions by Caesar on his victory. In 45 b.c. he was accused before Caesar of various acts of insubordination, and was defended by the great orator Cicero, whose speech for the accused survives. Deiotarus had prudently befriended Cicero’s son, during the orator’s governorship of Cilicia. After Caesar’s assassination in the following year, Deiotarus regained control of his lost territory, and bought recognition from Antony. He supported Brutus and Cassius in the renewed civil war, again a wrong choice, but one hardly to be avoided when the “tyrannicides” lay across his communications with Rome. By a timely desertion to Antony at Philippi, Deiotarus retained his kingdom, and in 42 b.c., after murdering a rival tetrarch, he acquired all of Galatia and associated regions. These details of petty history are important because they mark the course of the evolution of the ethnic region of Galatia into the multi-racial Rom. province, and the freedom with which Rome habitually varied frontier lines to suit administrative expediency.

Deiotarus died in 40 b.c., and was succeeded by his secretary, Amyntas, who had commanded the Galatian auxiliaries of Brutus and Cassius at Philippi, and had shared in, or prompted, the desertion of the Galatian contingent to Antony. Antony rewarded Amyntas in 39 b.c. with a Galatian kingdom which ultimately included parts of Lycia, Pamphylia, and Pisidia. Amyntas accompanied Antony to Actium, when Antony and Octavian clashed in the final phase of the civil strife which saw the end of the Roman Republic, and history repeated itself. A Galatian prince was, by force of geographical and political circumstances, on the wrong side. Again, a timely desertion, this time before the actual armed clash of Actium’s decisive naval battle, won the favor of the victor. Octavian, soon to emerge from the long strife as the Emperor Augustus, confirmed Amyntas in all his royal possessions.

Amyntas died in a campaign against unruly highlanders on the mountainous southern marches of his realm. It was in 25 b.c. that Augustus, engaged in the long task of establishing the Rom. peace, and organizing its frontiers, seized the opportunity to convert Amyntas’ realm, augmented by parts of Phrygia, Lycaonia, Pisidia, and possibly Pamphylia, into a province called Galatia. The precedent of including slices of contiguous territory under Galatian control had been set by Pompey. Augustus’ principate merely adapted, adopted and applied precedents which had been established at least since the days of the great Pompey. Portions of Paphlagonia and Pontus were afterward incorporated into the province, which was normally governed by a praetorian legate until a.d. 72. In this year Cappadocia and Lesser Armenia were included in the Galatian provincial boundaries, and the augmented province was placed under consular legate. Another reorganization under Trajan saw Galatia again reduced in a.d. 137. Under Diocletian the province had shrunk almost to the old ethnic area of the original Galatian tribal lands. The chief cities in the 1st century were Ancyra and the Pisidian Antioch. Within the province of Galatia were also the other towns visited by Paul in his fruitful first journey into Asia Minor—Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, all of which included large populations of Romans and other Italian expatriates, Greeks, and Jews.

The precise meaning of the term Galatia is of some importance in NT studies and involves a modern controversy which cannot be said to be completely resolved. It is beyond question from the full account given in Acts 13 and 14, that Paul visited urban centers in the southern part of the province, and established Christian communities there. On the very slender evidence of Acts 16:6, some have contended that he also visited northern Galatia, the habitat of the Celtic stratum of the population, and also established churches there. It was to these churches, marked by their volatile, excitable, Celtic congregations, that Paul addressed the strictures of his letter “to the Galatians.” The opening clause of Acts 16:6, of which so much is demanded, runs in KJV: “Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia....” W. M. Ramsay cogently demonstrated that the clause described a single area and is to be rendered “the Phrygian Galatic region.” Roman provinces were administratively cut into “regions.” Rome’s tampering with ancient boundary lines has been noted above, and was a feature of her government and organization in Asia Minor. Part of the onetime kingdom of Galatia was incorporated in the province of Galatia, as it was constituted after the death of Amyntas. Another part belonged to the province of Asia. It is reasonable then to interpret the opening clause of the verse under discussion as a reference to the section of Phrygian territory which was included in the new province of Galatia. This is an interpretation clearly supported by the rest of the verse concerning the constraint felt by the apostle not at that time to extend his activities into the neighboring province of Asia by moving westward from Pisidia.

This is not the proper place to discuss Acts 18:23 where the same geographical expression is encountered in reverse. R. J. Knowling has a lucid and sufficient comment upon it in EGT II. 341, where he quotes periodical lit. relevant to the controversy. A. Souter has also a brief clear statement (HDB p. 277). At any time epigraphy, in a rich archeological field, may provide evidence which will remove all perplexity. In the meantime, while the brevity of Luke’s account of Paul’s activity over considerable tracts of his ministry, and even his occasional complete silence, may be granted, it seems clear that the Galatian churches known to the NT were those founded in the more sophisticated and multi-racial parts of the province. Such foundations were certainly consonant with Paul’s obvious Gentile strategy. Christian communities may have been established in the northern Celtic reaches of the province at a comparatively early date, but if so their foundation must have been due to unrecorded diffusion from the more civilized S, and not to the personal penetration of the ethnic area by the apostle.

The strong consensus of modern scholarship would therefore agree that the Galatians addressed in Paul’s famous letter were the southern communities of his own planting, and it would follow that the “churches of Galatia,” of which Paul makes mention to the Corinthians (1 Cor 16:1) were the same group. Did Paul ever use the term Galatia in other than its Rom. sense? He was a self-conscious Rom. citizen, and used language from that point of view, not in a parochial sense. He may even be observed rejecting an available alternative term and turning a Lat. word into Gr. (“Illyricum,” Rom 15:19 is an example). The Galatians to his mind could not be the inhabitants of an ethnic area. They were the inhabitants of a province, and in his context the whole body of Christians from that area, regardless of race. It is on historical grounds rather than linguistic, and on the fact that there is no clear evidence either of a visit to N Galatia, or a facet of Pauline policy which would make such a visit likely, that it may be assumed with some confidence that the Galatians addressed were the Christian communities of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. A balanced brief review of the arguments arrayed for both N and S “Galatian Theories,” with due weight given to arguments advanced for the former, is to be found in R. A. Cole’s small commentary on the Galatian letter (pp. 16-20, Tyndale NT Commentaries).

It remains to mention the listing of Galatians among those to whom the first general epistle of Peter is addressed. The bearer of the letter obviously moved in a southward bending curve from E to W through the northern half of Asia Minor, the long deep tract of territory N of the Taurus Range. Facilities for travel were abundant, and the fact that church communities in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia were addressed reveals the active Christian life apparent in the peninsula. Nothing, however, can be deduced about the pattern of Galatian Christianity, for however deeply the faith may have penetrated northern ethnic Galatia, an epistle couched in terms so general, a circular, in fact, cannot be supposed to have omitted the strong Christian communities in the multi-racial S.


W. M. Ramsay, Saint Paul the Traveller and Roman Citizen (1898); An Historical Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (1900); F. Stahelin, Geschichte der Kleinasiatischen Galater (2 Auflage, 1907); W. M. Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire (1911); A. H. M. Jones, Cities of the Eastern Provinces (1937); R. A. Cole, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians (1965); E. M. Blaiklock, Cities of the New Testament (1966).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

ga-la’-shi-a, ga-la’-sha (Galatia):


1. Two Senses of Name

(1) Geographical

(2) Political

2. Questions to Be Answered


1. The Gaulish Kingdom

2. Transference to Rome

3. The Roman Province


1. Stages of Evangelization of Province

2. The Churches Mentioned


I. Introductory.

1. Two Senses of Name:

"Galatia" was a name used in two different senses during the 1st century after Christ:

(1) Geographical

To designate a country in the north part of the central plateau of Asia Minor, touching Paphlagonia and Bithynia North, Phrygia West and South, Cappadocia and Pontus Southeast and East, about the headwaters of the Sangarios and the middle course of the Halys;

(2) Political

To designate a large province of the Roman empire, including not merely the country Galatia, but also Paphlagonia and parts of Pontus, Phrygia, Pisidia, Lycaonia and Isauria. The name occurs in 1Co 16:1; Ga 1:2; 1Pe 1:1, and perhaps 2Ti 4:10. Some writers assume that Galatia is also mentioned in Ac 16:6; 18:23; but the Greek there has the phrase "Galatic region" or "territory," though the English Versions of the Bible has "Galatia"; and it must not be assumed without proof that "Galatic region" is synonymous with "Galatia." If e.g. a modern narrative mentioned that a traveler crossed British territory, we know that this means something quite different from crossing Britain. "Galatic region" has a different connotation from "Galatia"; and, even if we should find that geographically it was equivalent, the writer had some reason for using that special form.

2. Questions to Be Answered:

The questions that have to be answered are: (a) In which of the two senses is "Galatia" used by Paul and Peter? (b) What did Luke mean by Galatic region or territory? These questions have not merely geographical import; they bear most closely, and exercise determining influence, on many points in the biography, chronology, missionary work and methods of Paul.

II. Origin of the Name "Galatia."

1. The Gaulish Kingdom:

The name was introduced into Asia after 278-277 BC, when a large body of migrating Gauls (Galatai in Greek) crossed over from Europe at the invitation of Nikomedes, king of Bithynia; after ravaging a great part of Western Asia Minor they were gradually confined to a district, and boundaries were fixed for them after 232 BC. Thus, originated the independent state of Galatia, inhabited by three Gaulish tribes, Tolistobogioi, Tektosages and Trokmoi, with three city-centers, Pessinus, Ankyra and Tavia (Tavion in Strabo), who had brought their wives and families with them, and therefore continued to be a distinct Gaulish race and stock (which would have been impossible if they had come as simple warriors who took wives from the conquered inhabitants). The Gaulish language was apparently imposed on all the old inhabitants, who remained in the country as an inferior caste. The Galatai soon adopted the country religion, alongside of their own; the latter they retained at least as late as the 2nd century after Christ, but it was politically important for them to maintain and exercise the powers of the old priesthood, as at Pessinus, where the Galatai shared the office with the old priestly families.

2. Transference to Rome:

The Galatian state of the Three Tribes lasted till 25 BC, governed first by a council and by tetrarchs, or chiefs of the twelve divisions (four to each tribe) of the people, then, after 63 BC, by three kings. Of these, Deiotaros succeeded in establishing himself as sole king, by murdering the two other tribal kings; and after his death in 40 BC his power passed to Castor and then to Amyntas, 36-25 BC. Amyntas bequeathed his kingdom to Rome; and it was made a Roman province (Dion Cass. 48, 33, 5; Strabo, 567, omits Castor). Amyntas had ruled also parts of Phrygia, Pisidia, Lycaonia and Isauria. The new province included these parts, and to it were added Paphlagonia 6 BC, part of Pontus 2 BC (called Pontus Galaticus in distinction from Eastern Pontus, which was governed by King Polemon and styled Polemoniacus), and in 64 also Pontus Polemoniacus. Part of Lycaonia was non-Roman and was governed by King Antiochus; from 41 to 72 AD Laranda belonged to this district, which was distinguished as Antiochiana regio from the Roman region Lycaonia called Galatica.

3. The Roman Province:

This large province was divided into regiones for administrative purposes; and the regiones coincided roughly with the old national divisions Pisidia, Phrygia (including Antioch, Iconium, Apollonia), Lycaonia (including Derbe, Lystra and a district organized on the village-system), etc. See Calder in Journal of Roman Studies, 1912. This province was called by the Romans Galatia, as being the kingdom of Amyntas (just like the province Asia, which also consisted of a number of different countries as diverse and alien as those of province Galatia, and was so called because the Romans popularly and loosely spoke of the kings of that congeries of countries as kings of Asia). The extent of both names, Asia and Galatia, in Roman language, varied with the varying bounds of each province. The name "Galatia" is used to indicate the province, as it was at the moment, by Ptolemy, Pliny v.146, Tacitus Hist. ii.9; Ann. xiii. 35; later chroniclers, Syncellus, Eutropius, and Hist. Aug. Max. et Balb. 7 (who derived it from earlier authorities, and used it in the old sense, not the sense customary in their own time); and in inscriptions CIL, III, 254, 272 (Eph. Ep. v.51); VI, 1408, 1409, 332; VIII, 11028 (Mommsen rightly, not Schmidt), 18270, etc. It will be observed that these are almost all Roman sources, and (as we shall see) express a purely Roman view. If Paul used the name "Galatia" to indicate the province, this would show that he consistently and naturally took a Roman view, used names in a Roman connotation, and grouped his churches according to Roman provincial divisions; but that is characteristic of the apostle, who looked forward from Asia to Rome (Ac 19:21), aimed at imperial conquest and marched across the Empire from province to province (Macedonia, Achaia, Asia are always provinces to Paul). On the other hand, in the East and the Greco-Asiatic world, the tendency was to speak of the province either as the Galatic Eparchia (as at Iconium in 54 AD, CIG, 3991), or by enumeration of its regiones (or a selection of the regiones). The latter method is followed in a number of inscriptions found in the province (CIL, III, passim). Now let us apply these contemporary facts to the interpretation of the narrative of Luke.

III. The Narrative of Luke.

1. Stages of Evangelization of Province:

The evangelization of the province began in Ac 13:14. The stages are:

(1) the audience in the synagogue, Ac 13:42 f;

(2) almost the whole city, 13:44;

(3) the whole region, i.e. a large district which was affected from the capital (as the whole of Asia was affected from Ephesus 19:10);

(4) Iconium another city of this region: in 13:51 no boundary is mentioned;

(5) a new region Lycaonia with two cities and surrounding district (14:6);

(6) return journey to organize the churches in (a) Lystra, (b) Iconium and Antioch (the secondary reading of Westcott and Hort, (kai eis Ikonion kai Antiocheleian), is right, distinguishing the two regions (a) Lycaonia, (b) that of Iconium and Antioch);

(7) progress across the region Pisidia, where no churches were founded (Pisidian Antioch is not in this region, which lies between Antioch and Pamphylia).

Again (in Ac 16:1-6) Paul revisited the two regiones:

(1) Derbe and Lystra, i.e. regio Lycaonia Galatica,

(2) the Phrygian and Galatic region, i.e. the region which was racially Phrygian and politically Galatic. Paul traversed both regions, making no new churches but only strengthening the existing disciples and churches. In Ac 18:23 he again revisited the two regiones, and they are briefly enumerated:

(1) the Galatic region (so called briefly by a traveler, who had just traversed Antiochiana and distinguished Galatica from it);

(2) Phrygia. On this occasion he specially appealed, not to churches as in 16:6, but to disciples; it was a final visit and intended to reach personally every individual, before Paul went away to Rome and the West. On this occasion the contribution to the poor of Jerusalem was instituted, and the proceeds later were carried by Timothy and Gaius of Derbe (Ac 20:4; 24:17; 1Co 16:1); this was a device to bind the new churches to the original center of the faith.

2. The Churches Mentioned:

These four churches are mentioned by Luke always as belonging to two regiones, Phrygia and Lycaoma; and each region is in one case described as Galatic, i.e. part of the province Galatia. Luke did not follow the Roman custom, as Paul did; he kept the custom of the Greeks and Asiatic peoples, and styled the province by enumerating its regiones, using the expression Galatic (as in Pontus Galaticus and at Iconium, CIG, 3991) to indicate the supreme unity of the province. By using this adjective about both regiones he marked his point of view that all four churches are included in the provincial unity.

IV. Paul’s Use of "Galatians."

The people of the province of Galatia, consisting of many diverse races, when summed up together, were called Galatai, by Tacitus, Ann. xv.6; Syncellus, when he says (Augoustos Galatais phorous etheto), follows an older historian describing the imposing of taxes on the province; and an inscription of Apollonia Phrygiae calls the people of the city Galatae (Lebas-Waddington, 1192). If Paul spoke to Philippi or Corinth or Antioch singly, he addressed them as Philippians, Corinthians, Antiochians (Php 4:15; 2Co 6:11), not as Macedonians or Achaians; but when he had to address a group of several churches (as Antioch, Iconium, Derbe and Lystra) he could use only the provincial unity, Galatae.

All attempts to find in Paul’s letter to the Galatians any allusions that specially suit the character of the Gauls or Galatae have failed. The Gauls were an aristocracy in a land which they had conquered. They clung stubbornly to their own Celtic religion long after the time of Paul, even though they also acknowledged the power of the old goddess of the country. They spoke their own Celtic tongue. They were proud, even boastful, and independent. They kept their native law under the Empire. The "Galatians" to whom Paul wrote had Changed very quickly to a new form of religion, not from fickleness, but from a certain proneness to a more oriental form of religion which exacted of them more sacrifice of a ritual type. They needed to be called to freedom; they were submissive rather than arrogant. They spoke Greek. They were accustomed to the Greco-Asiatic law: the law of adoption and inheritance which Paul mentions in his letter is not Roman, but Greco-Asiatic, which in these departments was similar, with some differences; on this see the writer’s Historical Commentary on Galatians.