UD: May 2019
It is relatively late (1st c. BC) that the Celts of the Galatian state in present-day Turkey began to produce their own coinage. By this stage the Celts of Asia-Minor had been influenced considerably by the local cultures of the region – Hellenistic, Phrygian, etc. (see main ‘Galatia’ article). As a result, the coins produced by the Galatians are largely classical in nature, in terms of their iconography and artistic style. Most Galatian coins are of bronze with very few silver emissions. It is probable that the political domination of Rome may have prohibited the minting of Galatian coins on more valuable metals. The only known silver Galatian coins are those issued during the reigns of Brogitarix and his son Amyntas (Fig. 6/10), whereas gold coins of Amyntas which have emerged in recent years are generally believed to be modern forgeries.
While the abstract-iconic artistic processes to be observed in the coinage of the Balkan Celts are notably absent in Galatian coins, they do give us an important insight into the religious and cultural influences at work among the Celts of Asia-Minor in the early Roman period. On them we see the busts of Hermes, Artemis, Minerva, Jupiter and Hercules, and the local Phyrigian deities are also depicted on some Galatian coins (Fig. 1-2 ). The only clearly ‘Celtic’ symbol retained on Galatian coinage during this period is the oval Celtic shield depicted on the coinage of Deiotarus (Fig. 4-5). Such shields are one of the core images on Celtic coins from the Balkans and present day Turkey from the 3rd c. BC until the Roman period (see ‘Shield Coins’ article’).
Galatian coins from Pessinus, the capital of the Tolistoboii (-bogi) tribe (1st c. BC):
Fig 1 – Obverse: busts of Cybele and Attis. Reverse: lion with left paw on trympanum. Two stars (attributed to Dioskouroi) visible on either side of the lion. A fragmentary “PESSINUS” is visible to the left.
Fig. 2 – Obverse: bust of Tyche with turreted headdress; Reverse: lion with one paw on tympanum.
Prior to the 1st c. BC, the Galatians had been traditional enemies of Rome, and during the Mithridatic Wars had also initially supported the Pontic king against Rome. However, this situation changed dramatically one night in 86 BC. Following the defeat of Mithridates’ general, Archelaus, at the hands of Sulla at the battle of Chaeronea, Mithridates, apparently believing that his Galatian allies would desert him, decided to take preventative action. The Galatian leaders were invited to a banquet where, together with their wives and children, they were massacred – ‘He arrested all suspects before the war could become sharper. 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., 7, 46).
Mithridates’ paranoia and the murder of his allies was to backfire dramatically, and the three Galatian leaders who had escaped were to prove a fatal flaw in his scheme. They quickly raised an army from among the Celts of Asia-Minor and attacked Mithridates. In the end the Pontic leader paid dearly for his treachery. His forces were routed and driven out of Galatia completely, as well as suffering further defeats at the hands of the Celts in other parts of Asia-Minor.
From a strategic perspective, Galatian support for Rome during the aforementioned conflict had proved very successful. In the short term it ensured that Celtic territory in Asia-Minor was substantially expanded. As a reward for their services the Galatian chief Tetrarch, Deiotarus I, received the title of King and had his dominions greatly extended, his territory henceforth also including Armenia Minor, – ‘Armenia Minor he conferred upon Deiotarus, the king of Galatia , because he had acted as his ally in the Mithridatic war’ (Eutr., IV, 14). Galatia was henceforth effectively divided by Pompey among the principal tetrarchs of the country, notably two who struck coins – the aforementioned Deiotarus I of the Tolistoboii (-bogi) and Brogitarus, ruler of the Trocmi tribe.
Pompey effectively reorganized Galatia into three principalities, one of which reached to the sea and included Trapezus. This was that of Deiotarus. He kept two main fortresses, one at Blucium which was his royal residence, and one at Peium which was used as his treasury (Strabo, XII, 5, 1). Deiotarus, from all accounts, had over the years proved himself to be a loyal ally of the Romans (Cicero . Deio. 37). Indeed, he seems to have been not just a loyal Roman ally, but had served in the Roman army himself. He had also personally fought in the Mithridatic Wars and proved himself a very effective military commander (Livy, Per. 94a).
Fig 3 – Kings Of Galatia, Deiotaros. AE (Ca 62-40 BC). Obverse: Laureate head of Zeus right . Reverse: Eagle standing left, head right, on thunderbolt; monogram to left.
Fig. 4-5 – Kings Of Galatia, Deiotaros. (Ca 62-40 BC) AE. Obverse: Laureate head of Zeus right. Reverse: Large monogram and Celtic oval shield.
Brogitarus, ruler of the Trocmi tribe, was king of Galatia between 63 and 50 BC, reigning concurrently with his father-in-law Deiotarus. By Deiotarus’ daughter, Brogitarus was the father of Amyntas, tetrarch of the Trocmi, and also king of Galatia (see below).
Cicero claims that Brogitarus obtained his elevation to the kingship of Galatia alongside Deiotarus by bribery (Cicero Pro Sestio 25:56). Brogitarus also became high priest of the Great Mother at Pessinus. Cicero claims that the priesthood “was sold for a large sum to Brogitarus, a profligate man, and unworthy of any such sacred character, especially as he had desired it not for the purpose of doing honour to the goddess, but only of profaning her temple.”
Fig. 6 – Brogitarus Tetradrachma. (circa 65-50 BC) Obverse: head of Zeus with oak-wreath. Reverse: eagle on thunderbolt with a military standard behind it and the words “ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΒΡΟΓΙΤΑΡΟΥ ΦΙΛΟΡΩΜΑΙΟΥ” (King Brogitarus Friend of Rome)
Amyntas was the last king of the Celtic state in Asia-Minor, and most Galatian coins discovered belong to this king. Amyntas at first possessed Lycaonia, where he maintained more than 300 flocks (Strabo, xii). To this he added the territory of Derbe by the murder of its prince, Antipater of Derbe, the friend of Cicero (Cicero, Ad Familiares, xiii. 73), and Isaura and Cappadocia by Roman favour. After the death of Deiotarus, he was made king of Cappadocia in 37 BC as a client ruler of Mark Anthony. Plutarch enumerates him among the supporters of Mark Antony at Actium and is mentioned as deserting to Octavian, just before the battle (31 BC) (Plutarch, Parallel Lives, “Mark Anthony”, 61, 63).
While pursuing his schemes of expansion, Amyntas had conquered the Homonada region, and killed the local chieftain. However, his death was avenged by his widow, and Amyntas was killed in an ambush in 25 BC which she laid for him (Pliny, Naturalis Historia, v. 23).
Fig. 7 – Amyntas. AE. (36-25 BC) Obverse: Head of bearded Herakles right, club over shoulder. Reverse: lion walking right.
Fig. 8 – Amyntas. AE. (36-25 BC) Obverse: bearded bust of Herakles right, club over shoulder. Reverse: Lion walking right, B (= Basileus) above, monogram below.
Fig. 9 – Amyntas. AE. (36-25 BC) Obverse: Head of Artemis right, bow & quiver over shoulder. Reverse: stag standing right.
Fig. 10 – Amyntas AR Tetradrachm. (36-25 BC) Obverse: Helmeted head of Athena right. Reverse: Nike advancing left, holding scepter, adorned with diadem.
On the death of Amyntas, Galatia became a Roman province. Appian quite well sums up the final years of Galatia as a (semi-) independent state – ‘Pompey put the various nations that had belonged to the Seleucidae under kings or chiefs of their own. In like manner he confirmed the four chiefs of the Galatians in Asia who had co-operated with him in the Mithridatic war, in their territories. Not long afterwards they all came gradually under the Roman rule, mostly in the time of Augustus’ (App. Syr. viii, 5).