History of Galatia

I will be teaching a lunchtime Bible study on Galatians next year.  Busy doing some reading and preparation this week.  Hope to let you in on my thoughts:

There has over the years been much debate over just who the Galatian correspondence is addressing. Whilst I do not think this is of critical importance for our understanding of the letter, it is a worth a bit of time spent thinking about the background.

The area known as Galatia has three distinct phases in its history:

1. Ethnic “Gaul-atia” Kingdom (c. 278 B.C. – 25 B.C.)

When an army of Celtic (also called Gauls or Galatians) mercenaries conquered and settled in north-central Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), they named it after their homeland.

After ravaging their neighbours for about 45 years they were finally contained within the an area over 200 miles from southwest to northeast, bounded by Lyconia and Pamphylia to the south, by Bithynia, Paphlagonia and Pontus to the north, by Cappadocia to the east and by Phrygia to the west.”

2. Cosmopolitan, larger Roman province (25 B.C. – 137 A.D.)

After fighting a number of losing battles against Rome, the Galatian king saw the benefits of supporting Rome. As a result they were rewarded by being designated a client kingdom and their borders were enlarged with territory to the south-east that included portions of Pisidia, Phyrgia, Cilicia and a large part of Lyconia.

Galatia thus came to include a large territory containing many who were ethnically not Galatian.

When the last Galatian king, Amyntas, was killed in battle, the Roman empereor Augustus did not trust the Galatians and instead reorganized it as a Roman province under a governor. This was the Galatia of Paul’s day.

“Thus in the time of Paul the Roman province of Galatia extended from Pontus on the Black Sea to Pamphylia on the Mediterranean.” (2)

3. Smaller Roman province (c 74 A.D. onwards)

From around A.D. 74 onwards the Roman emperors began to detach large portions of southern Galatia and incorporate them into other provinces. And by about 297 A.D. the province of Galatia was reduced to approximately its original size.

See here for some helpful maps of the history of Galatia.


(1) Hawthorne, G. F., Martin, R. P., & Reid, D. G. 1993. Dictionary of Paul and his letters. InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, Ill.

(2)  Ibid.

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~ by John on December 9, 2008.

3 Responses to “History of Galatia”

  1. [...] This post is building on this previous one. [...]

  2. [...] 4. History of Galatia [...]

  3. Hi i have just completed an essay on Celtic Mission and Spirituality(Comparing and contrasting that with the Apostle Paul).
    One line of thought that I had was , if paul/timothy convereted the Celts and they visited the united Kingdom, does this mean that our doctrine/theolgy was the same as Paul’s? I think this is quite an interesting theory. It would be good to get your thoughts on this.
    I would say that individuals are more spirtual aware in a post christendom age that in christendom. Celtic spirituality may be a wway of introducing them to true Spirituality.

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