The belief in the ‘Evil Eye’ is present in many ancient cultures, and literary evidence attests to it in the eastern Mediterranean for millennia starting with Hesiod, Callimachus, Plato, Diodorus Siculus, Theocritus, Plutarch, Heliodorus, Pliny the Elder, and Aulus Gellius. It is also represented in Celtic mythology, notably in the form of the Fomorian giant Balor of the Evil Eye . Of interest in the present context are the glass nazars, or ‘magical’ charms, used to ward off the evil eye, particularly popular in the Balkans and today’s Turkey…


Full Article:












THE TYLE EXPERIMENT – On the Celtic State in Eastern Bulgaria

UD: March 2019


One would imagine that an invasion by hundreds of thousands of barbarians would have a catastrophic effect on the economy of a region. However, this presumption has been challenged in recent years by the archaeological and numismatic data emerging from the territory which fell under the control of the ‘barbarian’ Tyle state in eastern Thrace during the 3rd c. BC.

The traditional description of the Celtic tribes who arrived in this area has been one of ‘thirsty savages’ or ‘gangs of mercenaries’ (latest Emilov 2007, 2010), and we have been repeatedly informed that ‘their aim was not to settle, but money and booty which could be acquired in different ways … by attacking wealthy cities, and by ravaging the countryside’ (Nixon 1977, cited by Mitchell 1993; Emilov 2010). However, repeating a simplistic stereotype does not make it true, particularly when the depiction of a culture entirely contradicts all the available archaeological and historical evidence. In this case the facts tell a rather surprising tale – a barbarian invasion that brought political stability and economic prosperity in its wake…



S.E. Thrace map




















BANQUET OF DEATH – Deiotarus, The Celt Who Saved Rome

UD: March 2019




“…for it was king Deiotarus who raised your family, when abject and obscure, from darkness into light”.

(Marcus Tullius Cicero to Caius Caesar – from his speech on behalf of King Deiotarus)



By the 1st c. BC the Celtic tribes of Asia-Minor had become a powerful geo-political force in the region. Since the brutal campaign of Manlius Vulso in 189 BC, in which tens of thousands of them had been killed or enslaved, the Galatians had been bitter enemies of Rome, resisting the expansion of the empire and her allies in Asia-Minor. However, this was all to change dramatically one night in 86 BC, with a brutal act of treachery and murder which was to have far reaching consequences, not just for the Galatians, but for the Roman Empire itself.





At the beginning of the Mithridatic Wars the Celts of Asia-Minor, like the Bastarnae and Scordisci in Thrace, had supported the Pontic King Mithridates VI against Rome. However, after defeat at the Battle of Chaeornea in 86 BC, in which the Galatians had fought for the Pontic king (App. Mith. 41), Mithridates began to suspect treachery even in his closest allies. This paranoia culminated in a bloody pogrom against those whom he suspected would turn against him. The Galatian leaders were invited to a lavish banquet by Archelaus, one of Mithridates commanders, where they, along with their wives and children, were massacred:

“First, he put to death the tetrarchs of Galatia with their wives and children, not only those who were united with him as friends, but those who were not his subjects – all except three who escaped” .

(App. Mith. 46)



Mithridat. s

Portrait of the king of Pontus Mithridates VI. Marble, Roman imperial period (1st century)

(Musée du Louvre)




The murder of the Galatian chieftains was to prove a fatal error for Mithridates, and provoked a swift and brutal backlash from the Celts. One of the Galatian leaders, Deiotarus (I) (the ‘Divine Bull’), raised an army from the country people forthwith, expelled him and his garrisons, and drove them out of Galatia, so that Mithridates had nothing left of that country(loc cit). However, the Celtic revenge attacks quickly escalated and extended beyond Galatia. During the conflict Eumachus, Mithridates’ satrap in the region, had overrun Phrygia and killed a great many Romans, with their wives and children, subjugated the Pisidians and the Isaurians and also Cilica. These Pontic garrisons the Celts now also attacked, driving out Mithridates’ forces, and slaying a great number of them (Livy Per. 94a).


Pontus k.

Map of the Kingdom of Pontus – Before the reign of Mithridates VI (darkest purple), after his conquests (purple), and his conquests in the first Mithridatic wars (pink).



Loyal Ally of Rome

For Rome, the Galatian intervention came at a crucial juncture. The Roman general Lucullus had been on the verge of suspending the war because of a lack of supplies for his army, but Celtic support had solved the problem. Now as Lucullus advanced, “30,000 Galatians followed in his train, each carrying a bushel of grain upon his shoulders” (Plut. Luc. 14), and when he subsequently fought Tigranes at the Taurus river Lucullus was also supported by Galatian cavalry (Plut. Luc. 28).

Although largely ignored by modern historians, Deiotarus’ contribution to Roman victory in the Mithridatic War had been crucial. As Cicero so eloquently puts it:

“And what length of time will ever efface, what forgetfulness will ever obliterate those numerous and honourable resolutions of the senate respecting him, which have been recorded in the public writings and memorials of the Roman people?”.

(Cicero, Deio. 37)


Nor was Rome’s gratitude confined to words. For his help in the conflict Deiotarus received the title King, and his territory was greatly extended:

Armenia Minor he conferred upon Deiotarus, the king of Galatia, because he had acted as his ally in the Mithridatic war”.

(Eutr. IV:14)


Deio c.

Kings Of Galatia, Deiotaros. (Ca 62-40 BC) AE. Obverse: Laureate head of Zeus right. Reverse: Large monogram and Celtic oval shield (see ‘Coins of the Galatian Kings’ article)









On the Galatians and the Mithridatic Wars see also:
























Mac Congail

THE GALATIAN GENOCIDE – Gnaeus Manlius Vulso and the Roman “Victory” of 189 BC

UD: March 2019





The Roman commander Gnaeus Manlius Vulso to his troops before the Galatian genocide

(Livy 38:17)





In 192 BC Antiochus III (the Great) invaded Greece, and was elected the commander in chief of the Aetolian League. Declaring himself the “champion of Greek freedom against Roman domination”
















Mac Congail






GALATIA – The Celtic State in Modern Turkey

UD: November 2019



“Then verily, having crossed the narrow strait of the Hellespont,

The devastating host of the Gauls shall pipe”.

(Paus. X, 15: 2-3)



In 278 BC a group of Celts broke off from Brennos’ main force in the Balkans and, under two chieftains called Leonnorius and Lutarius, crossed into Asia-Minor (277 BC), where a Celtic state was founded which subsequently became known as Galatia.

Despite the popular misconception that these ‘Galatians’ represented a large proportion of the Celts who had migrated into southeastern Europe in the previous decades, they were originally a relatively small group consisting of 20,000 people (Livy 38.16:9). Indeed, while historians have traditionally translated the testimony of Livy as 20,000 men (latest Delev 2003:108), the Roman author actually speaks of ‘homines’ not ‘viri’ – i.e. people, not men (see Boteva 2010: 37), and we are further told that ‘of these 20,000 people, not more than 10,000 were armed’ (Livy op cit). Thus, the Celts who migrated into Asia-Minor in 277 BC consisted of no more than 10,000 warriors, accompanied by their families. To put this into context, the central Celtic army in the Balkans in 279 BC had consisted of 150,000 infantry and at least 10,000 – 15,000 cavalry. Nonetheless, the small Celtic force who migrated into Asia-Minor was to have a significant geo-political impact on the region.

The head of a Galatian as depicted on a gold disc discovered in a Celtic tumulus at Bolu, northwestern Turkey (3rd c. BC).

(Istanbul Archaeological Museum)



One question which has never been satisfactorily addressed is the exact ethnic origin of the ‘Celts’ who migrated into southeastern Europe and Asia-Minor at the end of the 4th / beginning of the 3rd c. BC. In the case of the Galatian tribes this answer to this question is clearly given in ancient sources. Of the 3 tribal groups which broke off from the main Celtic force on the Balkans – the Tolostobogi (-boii), the Trocmi (/Trogmi) and the Volcae Tectosages – the latter are the key to identifying the exact ethnic origin of the Celts who would become the Galatians.

 The Volcae Tectosages, one of the Belgae tribes (see Mac Congail 2007), ‘were named after the tribe in Celtica’ (Strabo xii, 5:1). Of this tribe, Caesar tells us that they had originally been settled north-east of the Rhine, in what is now western and central Germany in the basin of the river Weser, and he mentions that the Volcae Tectosages still remained in western Germany in his day (Caesar BG 6.24):

“And there was formerly a time when the Gauls excelled the Germans in prowess, and waged war on them offensively, and, on account of the great number of their people and the insufficiency of their land, sent colonies over the Rhine.”

“Accordingly, the Volcae Tectosages, seized on those parts of Germany which are the most fruitful [and lie] around the Hercynian forest (which, I perceive, was known by report to Eratosthenes and some other Greeks, and which they call Orcynia), and settled there. Which nation to this time retains its position in those settlements, and has a very high character for justice and military merit; now also they continue in the same scarcity, indigence, hardihood, as the Germani.”  

This similarity between the Celtic Belgae tribes and the Germani in the eyes of classical authors is also crucial to our understanding of another ethnic group who appear in southeastern Europe in the late Iron Age – the Bastarnae (see Bastarnae article). By the 3rd c. BC the Volcae had also expanded into southeastern Gaul where we find them in the province of Gallia Narbonensis occupying the district between the Garumna, Cerbenna Mons and the Rhodanus. They were divided into two groups – the Volcae Arecomici and the Volcae Tectosages (whose territory included that of the Tolosate tribe) in the west separated by the river Arauris or a line between the Arauris and Orbis. The chief town of the Tectosages was Tolosa (Mac Congail op cit: 298; on further topographical links between the Tectosages in Gaul and those in Galatia see also Mac Congail 2004: 171-176).


The other two groups who accompanied the Volcae in the Galatian migration of 277 BC – the Tolistobogi and Trocmi are otherwise unknown and we learn that they ‘took their names from their leaders’ (Strabo vii, 5:1), indicating that these were mixed tribal groups. Of vital importance is Strabo’s testimony (loc cit) that ‘all three spoke the same language and differed from each other in no respect’. As the Trocmi and Tolistobogi ‘differed in no respect’ from the Volcae Tectosages, it logically follows that these were also Belgae. Thus, one may conclude that the tribal groups who migrated into Asia-Minor in 277 BC, and subsequently became the Galatians, originated from the Belgae branch of the Celtic group.  

Ethnogenesis and migrations of the Volcae


 1 - 1 - Hidirsihlar tumulus, Bolu

Galatian bronze plate and H-Shaped horse bit  – from Hidirsihlar tumulus, Bolu, Turkey (3rd c. BC)

Early Galatian burial in a terracotta sarcophagus (containing the skeletons of two individuals and a rich range of burial goods), discovered in a forest in the Akdağmadeni District of Yozgat, Central Anatolia





However prolific they may have been (see below) the Galatians could not hold the large territory which they initially occupied (Mac Congail 2008:95-96), and appear to have overextended themselves. They subsequently fought with various success against the Syrian king Antiochus I who gained the title Soter (Saviour – Αντίοχος Α’ Σωτήρ) after defeating them at the ‘Battle of the Elephants’ in 275 BC. Following this defeat, the Galatians settled astride the Halys river and on the Phrygian plain – the poorest and least populated part of the region (Kilburn 1959:165-167; Mac Congail 2008:104).

1 - Dead Galatian - Marble. Roman copy of second half of 2nd century CE after a Pergamon original of second half of 2nd century BC.

“The Dead Galatian” – Marble. Roman copy from the late 2nd century AD, after a Pergamon original of the 2nd century BC

(Museo archeologico nationale di Venezia)


Pliny the Elder gives us the most detailed account of the geographic dispersion of the Galatian tribes:

‘Galatia, which lies above Phrygia and includes the greater part of the territory taken from that province, as also its former capital Gordium. The Gauls who are settled in these parts are called the Tolistobogi, the Voturi and the Ambitouti; those who dwell in Maeonia and Paphlagonia are called the Trocmi. Cappadocia stretches along to the north-west of Galatia, its most fertile parts being possessed by the Tectosages and the Teutobodiaci. These are the nations by which these parts are occupied; and they are divided into people and tetrarchies, 195 in number. Its towns are, among the Tectosages, Ancyra, among the Trocmi, Tavium, and among the Tolistobogi, Pessinius’  (Pliny V,42).


There is disagreement in the sources on whether the Celts founded these towns or ‘adopted’ them from the previous population. Memnon tells us that, ‘They each founded cities, the Trogmi at Ancyra, the Tolistobogi at Tabia and the Tectosages at Pessinus’ (Memnon 11,7). However, Pausanias testifies that the town of Ancyra had been a Phrygian settlement before the Celts arrived – ‘Now this people occupied the country on the far side of the river Sangarius capturing Ancyra, a city of the Phrygians which Midas son of Gordius had founded in former times’ (Paus I, 4:5).



 galat tribes g.

arlbe head of a Galatian. Early 2nd century CE copy of an original from an altar at Pergamon to commemorate Attalus I’s victory over the Galatians in 230 BCE Vatican museum

Marble head of a Galatian. Early 2nd century AD copy of an original from an altar at Pergamon to commemorate Attalus I’s victory over the Galatians in 230 BC

(Vatican Museum)





Each Galatian tribe was sub-divided into 4 groups, the 12 sub-divisions being sub-tribes similar to the Pagi in Gaul (Hubert II:48). They had an organized and highly developed political and legal system. Each tribe was divided up into 4 administrative portions called tetrarchies, which had its own ruling tetrarch. Each of these units also had its own judge and military commander, both subject to the tetrarch, and also 2 subordinate commanders. A council, consisting of 300 men, met at Drynemeton and passed judgement in murder cases, but the tetrarch and the judges had jurisdiction over all other cases (Strabo vii, 5:1). The mass of the Galatian population lived in villages and they intermarried with the local population (Livy 38:17-18; Strabo 13, 4,3).

Earlier interpretations of Galatian settlements as poor farming villages have changed in recent years. Excavations such as those at Gordium (above) indicate that some houses contained evidence of considerable wealth, including gold coins and stone sculptures. Moreover, some of these people could at least read Greek, the language used to inscribe some of their possessions, and favored items made in Greek style.

(after Dandoy et al 2002)

Galatian bracelets and earrings 3rd c. BC

Bolu, Hidirsihlar Tumulus.

(Istanbul Archaeological Museum)

Ceramic vessels from a Celtic / Galatian burial complex at Bogazköy (Çorum reg.) central Turkey (2 c. BC)


One phenomenon which is remarked on in a number of sources is that the Galatians were an exceptionally prolific people (Justin. xxv, 2). An analysis of the statistics would appear to confirm the veracity of these accounts. Although only 20,000 Celts had migrated into Asia-Minor in 277 BC by the beginning of the 2nd c. BC their population had increased radically. This is clearly illustrated by the fact that during the Galatian genocide carried out by the Romans under Gnaeus Manlius Vulso in 189 BC, 40,000 Galatians were massacred on one day at Olympus (Livy 38:23) and another 8,000 a few days later at Ancyra (App. Syr. Vii, 42; on the Vulso campaign see Mac Congail 2008: 114-119).

The destruction layer at the Celtic settlement at Gordium left after the Roman massacres in 189 BC

(After Dandoy et al 2002)






Undoubtedly, considering the longevity of the Galatian state, the Celtic culture not only influenced, but was influenced by, the surrounding cultures – Hellenistic, Phrygian etc. The Galatian Celts adopted the local religious practices in some cases – we are told, for example, that the Celtic princess Camma was a priestess of the Phrygian Artemis (Polyaen. Strat. Viii, 39). In later Galatian coins we see the busts of Hermes, Artemis, Minerva, Jupiter and Hercules, and in addition Cybele, the local Phyrigian deity.

( On Camma see: )

Galatian coin from Pessinius (1st century BC). On the obverse are the busts of Cybele (Sibel) and Attis. On the reverse side is a lion sitting with its left paw on a tympanum. Two stars (attributed to Dioskouroi?) visible on either side of the lion. A fragmentary “PESSINUS” is visible to the left

( On Galatian coins see: )

gal tomb tumulus O rob 1950's - Gordium

Galatian tomb at Gordium (2nd c. BC). The tomb was robbed by locals in the 1950’s.


Human Sacrifice?

What is striking is the juxtaposition of Greek and Celtic customs illustrated by new evidence for Galatian religious practices at settlements such as that at Gordium. On the mound at that site, the workshop next to a monumental building produced figurines totally Greek in style; figures of Greek deities such as Nike and Kybele were also found. But near the mound archaeologists also found remains left by very different ritualschilling evidence of strangulation, decapitation, and bizarre arrangements of human and animal bones, similar to practices well known from Celtic sites in Europe.

At the Gordion site, several of the people whose remains were found in area A died violently, with strangulation the most common cause of death, whether by hanging or garotting. All of these people were presumably “sacrificed”, but the exact circumstances have not been determined (Dandov et al 2002).

The uppermost of these two women had suffered blows to the head and a broken neck; large grinding stones had been placed on top of the lower woman

(After Dandoy et al 2002)



Excavation in area B, in the western part of the lower town at Gordium, revealed clusters of human bones from bodies that had been dismembered. The remains, co-mingled with animal bones, were then carefully rearranged, sometimes in symmetrical patterns, on an outside ground surface with shallow depressions. The ceramic material dates it to the 3rd c. BC. Similar placing of animal bones in burials is to be observed at Celtic burials on the Balkans such as those at Kalnovo in eastern  Bulgaria, which date to the beginning of the 2nd c. BC. 

This skull of a teenager (12-17 years old) was carefully placed alongside the skull, pelvis, and upper leg bone of a dog. Beneath these was the pelvic bone of another person.

(After Dandoy et al 2002)


The largest deposit at Gordion, bone cluster 3 (below), consists of a few human bones, and over 2,100 animal bones and fragments. Three humans are present. A 4-8-year-old child is represented by a lower jaw and some cranial fragments. A fragmentary right pelvic bone came from an adult female aged 35-39, and a pair of pelvic bones represent an adult male aged 40-44. A sacrum (the fused vertebrae forming the back of the pelvis) and several long bones could belong to either adult. The human bones are cracked from weathering and the pelvic bones were gnawed by carnivores-signs that they were exposed on the surface for some time (Dandoy et al 2002).

While many of these human remains have been correctly interpreted as examples of human sacrifice, there is another explanation for some of the rituals to be observed at the Galatian settlement. Evidence of weathering and dismemberment of the dead is consistent with the well documented Celtic religious practice of exposing corpses after death to be devoured by birds of prey and carnivores. The removal of flesh from corpses, which is well documented in the Celtic world, had a mortuary significance that differed greatly from the Greco-Roman practices (Soprena Genzor 1995: 198 ff.). The last 25 years of research have revealed how interments were the culmination of previous very complex rituals. The removal of flesh before interment is clearly attested at Celtic sanctuaries like Ribemont (Brunaux 2004: 103-24), but the enormous deficit of interments, especially in the late La Têne period, can be partially explained by the exposure of corpses with the consequent destruction of most of the skeleton. Such practices are recorded among the Balkan Celts (Churchin 1995) and were particularly common among the Belgae tribes, from whom the Galatians originated (on these Celtic rituals see Soprena Genzor 1995; Brunaux 2004: 118-24).

Bone cluster 3 at Gordion, consists of human bones from 3 individuals, and over 2,100 animal bones and fragments.


Funerary inscription of the Celtic/Galatian aristocrat Bellon, son of Goutoumaros – discovered at Susuz-Böcü Mevkii (ancient Tavium), central Turkey:

Βέλλων Γουτουμάρου / ἥρως χρηστὲ χαῖρε. / Γριμίταλος καὶ Ανδρόμα/χος τὸν ἑα(υ)τῶν πατέρα / ἀρετῆς ἕνεκεν = ‘Bellon, son of Goutoumaros, good hero, greetings. Grimitalos and Andromachos (honoured) their father for his virtue”

The inscription dates to the 1st century AD, and comes from an estate which belonged to an aristocratic family of the Celtic Trocmi tribe. The estate specialized in the large scale production of wine, and continued to exist well into Late Antiquity.


“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you ?”

(Galatians 3:1)

A set of three Coptic vellum fragments, written in a two column codex, of the Biblical passage from the Letter of St. Paul to the Galatians (6th-8th Century AD).

In the first century AD the Galatians initially received St. Paul as an angel from heaven (Galatians 4:14). However, the message of Christianity appears not to have been fully understood by the Celts of Asia-Minor. Acts (xiii-xiv) gives indications that, even at this late stage, old traditions were still strong in Galatia – at Lystra they had to be restrained from sacrificing to St. Paul, and shortly afterwards they stoned ‘the Angel of God’ , and left him for dead …





(Modern) Literature cited

Boteva D. (2010) The Ancient Historians on the Celtic Kingdom in South-Eastern Thrace. In: In Search of Celtic Tylis in Thrace (III c. BC). Proceedings of the Interdisciplinary Colloqium Arranged by the National Archaeological Institute and Museum at Sofia and the Welsh Department, Aberystwyth University. Held at the National Archaeological Institute and Museum. Sofia 2010. p. 33-50

Brunaux J.L. (2004) Guerre et religion en Gaule. Essai d’anthropologie celtique. Paris: Errance.

Churchin L.A. (1995) The Unburied Dead at Thermopylae (279 BC) In: The Ancient History Bulletin 9: 68-71

Dandoy J., Selinsky P, Voight M. Celtic Sacrifice. In: Archaeology. Volume 55 Number 1, January/February 2002.

Delev P. (2003) From Corupedion towards Pydna: Thrace in the Third Century. In: Thracia 15, 2003, 107-120.

Hubert H. The History of the Celtic People. London 1934 (Rep. 1992).

Kilburn K. (1959) Lucian. Harvard.

Mac Congail B. (2004) Observations on Inscriptions from the Plovdiv/Pazardjik Districts Containing the Element Tiuta-.  Ann. Arch. Mus. Plovdiv IX/2 2004. P. 171-176.

Mac Congail B.(2007)  Belgae expansion into South Eastern Europe and Asia-Minor (4th – 3rd c. BC.) In: PRAE. In Honorem Henrieta Todorova. National Archaeological Institute With Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Sofia 2007. p. 295 – 302.

Mac Congail B. (2008) Kingdoms of the Forgotten. Plovdiv. (attached Pdf.)

Soprena Genzor G. (1995) Ética y ritual. Aproximación al estudio de la religiosidad de los pueblos celtibéricos. Zaragosa




Mac Congail


Rolltier Bohemia Boii late 2 c. BC

In the tide of nationalism and revisionism which has marked the last century, our common European Celtic heritage has been systematically deconstructed, manipulated and denied. To balance this phenomenon, the BALKANCELTS organization presents the archaeological, numismatic, linguistic and historical facts pertaining to the Celts in Eastern Europe and Asia-Minor, within the context of the pan-European Celtic culture – a heritage which belongs to no nation, yet is common to all.