Who Were the Galatians in the Bible?

Searching for Galatia’s borders in the first century

Galatia map

Who were the Galatians in the Bible? This map shows the regions of Anatolia during the first century C.E., when Paul would have traveled through the area. Recent archaeological discoveries suggest that the province of Galatia would have included the regions of Pisidia, Phrygia, Lycaonia, and Pamphylia at that time. Map: Biblical Archaeology Society.

Who were the Galatians in the Bible? The apostle Paul addressed one of his now-canonical letters to the “churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2), but where exactly were these churches located?

Galatia refers to a region in north central Turkey; Ankara, the capital of modern Turkey, was once a major Galatian city (Ancyra). The name of Galatia is derived from the 20,000 Gauls who settled in the region in 278 B.C.E. More than two centuries later, in 25 B.C.E., the area became a Roman province and was extended to the south. In Paul’s day, the new province included the regions of Pisidia, Phrygia, and Lycaonia. Scholars often refer to these new, southern regions as “south Galatia” and to geographic Galatia as “north Galatia.”

Yet recent archaeological discoveries suggest that Galatia extended even further south during the first century C.E.—meaning that the audience of Paul’s letter might be larger than earlier supposed.

In the Fall 2020 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Mark Wilson of the Asia Minor Research Center in Antalya, Turkey, examines the size of Galatia at the time that Paul visited and wrote his letter. As suggested by its title, “Galatia in Text, Geography, and Archaeology,” his article weighs all the available evidence for tracking down this province’s borders to determine the original audience of Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

Perga Inscription

Dated to the late 40s C.E., this Latin inscription from Perga mentions Galatia and Pamphylia as a joint Roman province and names Sextus Afranicus Burrus as its procurator. Photo: Mark Wilson.

The Book of Acts records Paul’s travels through “south Galatia,” including the cities of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe (Acts 13–16). Paul also visited Perga and Attalia in the region of Pamphylia on the Mediterranean coast (Acts 13–14). Three recent archaeological discoveries suggest that these cities in Pamphylia were part of Galatia when Paul visited the region:

The Stadiasmus Patarensis, a road monument from the city of Patara in the region of Lycia, dates to 46 C.E. and lists Pamphylia as a bordering province. While some scholars had thought Lycia and Pamphylia were a joint province at this time, this road monument contradicts that theory and shows that Pamphylia and Lycia were not a joint province when Paul visited the area.

Further, two Latin inscriptions, excavated from the city of Perga in Pamphylia, name Galatia and Pamphylia as a joint province during the late 40s and early 50s C.E.

These inscriptions show that the province of Galatia stretched from central Anatolia to the Mediterranean Sea during Paul’s day. Wilson concludes that the audience of Galatians would have included cities in Pisidia, Phrygia, Lycaonia, and Pamphylia. Learn more about Galatia in Mark Wilson’s article “Galatia in Text, Geography, and Archaeology,” published in the Fall 2020 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Subscribers: Read the full article “Galatia in Text, Geography, and Archaeology” by Mark Wilson in the Fall 2020 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Our website, blog and email newsletter are a crucial part of Biblical Archaeology Society's nonprofit educational mission

This costs substantial money and resources, but we don't charge a cent to you to cover any of those expenses.

If you'd like to help make it possible for us to continue Bible History Daily,, and our email newsletter please donate. Even $5 helps:


Read more in the Bas Library

Not a BAS Library or All-Access Member yet? Join today.


On the Road and on the Sea with St. Paul: Traveling conditions in the first century
by Jerome Murphy-O’Connor. In the Acts of the Apostles, we are told that Paul made three missionary journeys. In almost every introduction to the New Testament I have seen, the author discusses St. Paul’s journeys in terms of places and dates; his concern is to establish the location of the cities Paul visited and to fix the exact time he visited them. But when Paul himself speaks of his travels he emphasizes, not the “where” or the “when,” but the “how.”

After the Flood!: The drowning of an ancient Roman city by Jessica A. Meyerson. It was called one of the biggest archaeological finds in years: In late November 1999 Turkish and French archaeologists began excavating the ancient Roman city of Zeugma in southeastern Turkey. Within weeks, they’d unearthed two large villas containing over a dozen exquisite ancient Roman mosaics. Preliminary surveys revealed that hundreds of other villas lay buried just beneath the surface of the surrounding area. It’s a “second Pompeii,” crowed one local Turkish politician.

Paul’s Contradictions: Can they be resolved?
by John G. Gager. Was the apostle to the gentiles incapable of consistent thinking? Some recent Paul scholars have made precisely this claim. The Finnish exegete Heikki Räisänen, for example, has taken what I call a “contradictionist” view of Paul’s letters, insisting that “Paul’s thought on the law is full of…inconsistencies.”

Become a member of Biblical Archaeology Society, and gain All Access with your membership today

The BAS Library includes online access to more than 9,000 articles by world-renowned experts and 22,000 gorgeous color photos from…

  • more than 45 years of Biblical Archaeology Review
  • 20 years of Bible Review, critical interpretations of Biblical texts
  • 8 years of Archaeology Odyssey, exploring the ancient roots of the Western world
  • The fully-searchable New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, an authoritative work of the past century of archaeological study
  • Video lectures from world-renowned experts
  • Four books published by BAS and the Smithsonian Institution

Plus, you get access to so much more from your All-Access pass:

Biblical Archaeology Review print edition:

Enjoy our current issues in the convenient, time-tested, paper magazine format…

  • One year of print issues of Biblical Archaeology Review magazine

Biblical Archaeology Review digital edition:

Stay on top of the latest research! You get …

  • One year of issues of Biblical Archaeology Review magazine, all on your iPhone, iPad, Android, or Kindle Fire
  • Instant access to the complete digital edition back-issue catalog of BAR from the January/February 2011 issue forward

All of this rich and detailed scholarship is available to you—right now—by becoming an All-Access member.

That’s right: when you join as an All-Access member, you get a ticket to four decades of study, insight and discovery. Why not join us right now and start your own exploration?

Whether you’re researching a paper, preparing a sermon, deepening your understanding of Scripture or history, or simply marveling at the complexity of the Bible – the most important book in history—the BAS All-Access pass is an invaluable tool that cannot be matched anywhere else.

You'll get to experience all the discoveries and debate in beautiful clarity with Biblical Archaeology Review, anytime, anywhere! And the Library is fully searchable by topic, author, title and keyword, and includes curated special collections on topics of particular interest.

The All-Access membership pass is the way to explore Bible history and biblical archaeology.

Related Posts

Jul 28
Speaking in Tongues in the Bible

By: Megan Sauter

Jul 22
Eunuchs in the Bible

By: Megan Sauter

Lorenzo Lotto, The Nativity, 1523
Jul 18
Who Was Jesus’ Biological Father?

By: Biblical Archaeology Society Staff

Parable of Talents
Jul 17
What Does the Parable of the Talents Mean?

By: Biblical Archaeology Society Staff

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend