“You foolish Galatians!” With these words the apostle Paul scolds his audience in a letter by the same name. But who were the Galatians, and where did they live? There has been a longstanding “north or south” debate concerning the specific location of the Galatians mentioned in the Bible. New archaeological discoveries in Turkey are now reshaping our understanding of Galatia when Paul visited and wrote his letter.
The name Galatia comes from the 20,000 Gauls and their families who migrated from Thrace (a historical region west of modern Istanbul shared today by Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey) into Asia Minor in 278 B.C.E. The Galatians settled the cities of Pessinus, Ancyra, and Tavium in the region later known as Galatia (located in what is now north central Turkey). In 25 B.C.E., the region was bequeathed to Rome, which made it a Roman province. The emperor Augustus named Ancyra (modern Ankara) as its capital. The new province included not only geographic Galatia—“north Galatia”—but also other regions to its south.