Celts: Thyatira inscription for a son rescued by the god Apollo out from under “the mob of Galatians” (276 BCE)

Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Celts: Thyatira inscription for a son rescued by the god Apollo out from under “the mob of Galatians” (276 BCE),' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified November 8, 2023, https://philipharland.com/Blog/?p=12134.

Ancient authors: Argeios from Thyatira (area of Süleymanlı, Turkey), TAM V 881 (link) = ILydiaKP II 19 (link).

Sketch of TAM V 881 = ILydiaKP II 19 by Keil and von Premerstein 1911, 14. Public domain.

Comments: As the important Priene inscription (link) shows, Greek perceptions of Galatian or Celtic northerners were heavily influenced by the major invasion which began in Macedonia and Greece around 280-279 BCE and spread to western Asia Minor from about 278 to 275 BCE.  First of all, Galatians are perceived as uncivilized and violent barbarians who plunder; on the other hand, violence perpetrated by Greeks is conceived as resistance or war. Bound up in the forming image of Galatians, however, is the perception that Galatians are “impious,” particularly since they (like other conquering powers) are not necessarily concerned with local cultural customs regarding local gods and they sometimes loot or destroy temples of those gods. The other side of the coin, of course, was the potential and realized Greek perception that their own gods would protect them (on which see also Herakles clubbing a barbarian or Galatian at this link). Later on, a similar picture emerges with Greeks perceiving Zeus of Panamaros’ divine intervention to protect against Parthian incursions in the first century BCE (link).

This fascinating inscription from Thyatira in Lydia from the time of the initial invasion of Galatians gives us the personal side of the invasion, bringing us down to the family level of perceptions. The father of a son who was rescued from under the “horde” or “mob” of Galatians pushing through the area sets up a monument thanking the local version of the god Apollo. The age of the son (perhaps even a child, but also perhaps engaged in the fighting itself) and the precise circumstances in which the son (but not the other family members) was caught are not specified, but the nature of the monument suggests the situation was dire and perhaps death was averted. There is also reference to the wife’s state of health as well. The fact that the father had made a vow in the context of the Galatian invasion – praying to the local god that if his family was protected he would set up this very monument as thanks – shows how the gods were imagined to play a role in this clash between peoples. Of course, the monument as a whole and the notion of Apollo saving a family member from danger or death implies that the family is pious and that the Galatians are, once again, “impious.”

Source of the translation: Translation by Harland.


To good fortune. When Antiochos and Seleukos son of Antiochos were ruling, in the thirty-seventh year [276/275 BCE] in the month of Hyperberetaios [September], Argeios son of Phanokritas, having made a vow to Apollo Pityaenos [i.e. Apollo located at a place called Pityaia], set up this monument (stele) for himself, his healthy wife, and the rescue (or: salvation) of his son Phanokritas, who was rescued out from under the mob (halēs; or: horde) of Galatians. Therefore, may Apollo be gracious through every situation towards Argeios, his wife, his descendents, and his brothers.

ἀγαθῆι τύχηι. | βασιλευόντων Ἀντιόχου | καὶ Σελεύκου τοῦ Ἀντιόχου | ἑβδόμου καὶ τριακοστοῦ ἔτους, μη||νὸς Ὑπερβερεταίου. Ἀπόλλωνι | Πιτυαηνῶι εὐξάμενος Ἀργεῖος | Φανοκρίτου ἀνέθηκε τὴν στή|λην ὑπέρ τε τῆς αὐτοῦ καὶ τῆς | γυναικὸς ὑγιείας καὶ τῆς τοῦ || υἱοῦ Φανοκρίτου σωτηρίας, ὅς ἁ|λοὺς ὑπὸ τῶν Γαλατῶν ἐσώθη. | εἴη οὖν ὁ Ἀπόλλων ἵλεως διὰ | παντὸς Ἀργείωι καὶ τῆι γυναι|κὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐγγόνοις καὶ || ἀδελφοῖς.

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