Celts in the Balkans?? They were born near there! But first ‘they’ aren’t that simple. The Celts were a diverse, hard-to-define lot who began outside of recorded history.
Back in prehistoric (when nobody knew how to write history) times in central Europe, a culture developed that left distinctive artifacts so archaeologists could dig them up and write about them. Archaeologists duly dug up the stuff, studied it, and called it the Hallstatt culture, 1200 BC to 500 BC. According to Wikipedia “It is commonly associated with Proto-Celtic and Celtic populations in the Western Hallstatt zone and with (pre-)Illyrians in the eastern Hallstatt zone, and followed in much of its area by the La Tène culture. It is named for its type site, Hallstatt, a lakeside village in the Austrian Salzkammergut southeast of Salzburg, where there was a rich salt mine, and some 1,300 burials are known, many with fine artefacts.”
“The culture was based on farming, but metal-working was considerably advanced, and by the end of the period long-range trade within the area and with Mediterranean cultures was economically significant. Social distinctions became increasingly important, with emerging elite classes of chieftains and warriors, and perhaps those with other skills. Society was organized on a tribal basis, though very little is known about this. Only a few of the largest settlements, like Heuneburg in the south of Germany, were towns rather than villages by modern standards.”
The first Celts written about were a tribe called the Boii, seemingly from what is now the Czech Republic. The Boii gave their name to the area – Bohemia. Wikipedia says “From all the different names of the same Celtic people in literature and inscriptions it is possible to abstract a Continental Celtic segment, boio-. There are two major derivations of this segment, both presupposing that it belongs to the family of Indo-European languages: from ‘cow’ and from ‘warrior.’ The Boii would thus be either “the herding people” or “the warrior people….” Their memory also survives in the modern regional names of Bohemia (Boiohaemum), a mixed-language form from boio- and Proto-Germanic *haimaz, “home”: “home of the Boii,” and ‘Bayern’, Bavaria, which is derived from the GermanicBaiovarii tribe (Germ. *baja-warjaz: the first component is most plausibly explained as a Germanic version of Boii; the second part is a common formational morpheme of Germanic tribal names, meaning ‘dwellers’, as in Old English-ware);[note 1] this combination “Boii-dwellers” may have meant “those who dwell where the Boii formerly dwelt”.
“The Boii first appear in history in connection with the Gallic invasion of north Italy, 390 BC, when they made the Etruscan city of Felsina their new capital, Bononia (Bologna)…. According to the ancient authors, the Boii arrived in northern Italy by crossing the Alps. While of the other tribes who had come to Italy along with the Boii, the Senones, Lingones and Cenomani are also attested in Gaul at the time of the Roman conquest. It remains therefore unclear where exactly the Central European origins of the Boii lay, if somewhere in Gaul, Southern Germany or in Bohemia.”
Boii on the Danube
“From the 4th century BC, Celtic groups pushed into the Carpathian region and the Danube basin, coinciding with their movement into Italy. The Boii and Volcae were two large Celtic confederacies who generally cooperated in their campaigns. Splinter groups moved south via two major routes: one following the Danube river, another eastward from Italy. According to legend, 300,000 Celts moved into Italy and Illyria. By the 3rd century, the native inhabitants of Pannonia were almost completely Celticized. La Tène remains are found widely in Pannonia, but finds westward beyond the Tisza river and south beyond the Sava are rather sparse.
These finds are deemed to have been locally produced Norican-Pannonian variation of Celtic culture. Nevertheless, features are encountered that suggest ongoing contacts with distant provinces such as Iberia. The fertile lands around the Pannonian rivers enabled the Celts to establish themselves easily, developing their agriculture and pottery, and at the same time exploiting the rich mines of modern Poland. Thus, it appears that the Celts had created a new homeland for themselves in the southern part of Central Europe; in a region stretching from Poland to the river Danube.“
We’re now in the year 280 BC, when a coalition of Celtic tribes attempted to invade Greece. Like the Celtic invasion of Italy, the Greek expedition was unsuccessful, at great cost to the Celts. However, a sideshow of that invasion was a push to cross the Bosporus into Anatolia (now Turkey). In 277 BC they succeeded by forming an alliance with a local ruler. Once in Anatolia they had to fight more powerful opponents, eventually being pushed into a relatively barren highlands, where they were able to establish themselves as a ruling class.
So how did these Celts end up in a place supposedly named after them – Galatia? Two reasons: 1. They actually came from Gaul – the name the Romans gave to the area in what is now France that was then inhabited by Celtic tribes. 2. By the time these Celtic tribes – the Volcae and Tectosages – arrived in Anatolia, the Roman Empire was expanding. The Romans were by then calling all Celts by the name they invented when they first encountered them back west – Gauls. So Galatia was the land of the Gauls.
Back to Wikipedia: “The territory of Celtic Galatia included the cities of Ancyra (present day Ankara), Pessinus, Tavium, and Gordion.….
“Upon the death of Deiotarus, the Kingdom of Galatia was given to Amyntas, an auxiliary commander in the Roman army of Brutus and Cassius who gained the favor of Mark Antony. After his death in 25 BC, Galatia was incorporated by Augustus into the Roman Empire, becoming a Roman province. Near his capital Ancyra (modern Ankara), Pylamenes, the king’s heir, rebuilt a temple of the Phrygian god Men to venerate Augustus (the Monumentum Ancyranum), as a sign of fidelity. It was on the walls of this temple in Galatia that the major source for the Res Gestae of Augustus were preserved for modernity. Few of the provinces proved more enthusiastically loyal to Rome. Josephus related the Biblical figure Gomer to Galatia (or perhaps to Gaul in general): “For Gomer founded those whom the Greeks now call Galatians, [Galls], but were then called Gomerites.” Others have related Gomer to Cimmerians. Paul the Apostle visited Galatia in his missionary journeys, and wrote to the Christians there in the Epistle to the Galatians. Although originally possessing a strong cultural identity, by the 2nd century AD, the Galatians had become assimilated (Hellenization) into the Hellenistic civilization of Anatolia. The Galatians were still speaking the Galatian language in the time of St. Jerome (347–420 AD), who wrote that the Galatians of Ancyra and the Treveri of Trier (in what is now the Rhineland) spoke the same language (Comentarii in Epistolam ad Galatos, 2.3, composed c. 387). In an administrative reorganisation (c. 386–395), two new provinces succeeded it, Galatia Prima and Galatia Secunda or Salutaris, which included part of Phrygia. The fate of the Galatian people is a subject of some uncertainty, but they seem ultimately to have been absorbed into the Greek-speaking populations of Anatolia.”
Wikipedia again- ” The area was eventually incorporated in the new thema of Anatolikon in the latter half of the 7th century, traces of the old provincial administration survived until the early 8th century. The Anatolic Theme (Greek: Άνατολικόν [θέμα], Anatolikon [thema]), more properly known as the Theme of the Anatolics (Greek: θέμα Άνατολικῶν, thema Anatolikōn) was a Byzantine theme (a military-civilian province) in central Asia Minor (modern Turkey). From its establishment, it was the largest and senior-most of the themes, and its military governors (stratēgoi) were powerful individuals, several of them rising to the imperial throne or launching failed rebellions to capture it. The theme and its army played an important role in the Arab–Byzantine wars of the 7th–10th centuries, after which it enjoyed a period of relative peace that lasted until its conquest by the Seljuk Turks in the late 1070s.”
The Seljuk empire was founded by Tughril Beg (1016–1063) in 1037. From their homelands near the Aral Sea, the Seljuks advanced first into Khorasan and then into mainland Persia, before eventually conquering eastern Anatolia. Here the Seljuks won the battle of Manzikert in 1071 and conquered most of Anatolia from the Byzantine Empire, which became one of the reasons for the first crusade (1095-1099). From c. 1150-1250, the Seljuk empire declined, and was around 1260 invaded by the Mongols. The Mongols divided Anatolia into emirates. Eventually one of these, the Ottoman, would conquer the rest.
We now fast-forward to the early 1900’s. The old Galatian town of Ancyra is now the Ottoman town of Ankara, or as many English called it, Angora. Let’s quote from the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Brittianica “
ANGORA, or Enguri. (1) A city of Turkey (anc. Ancyra) in Asia, capital of the vilayet of the same name, situated upon a steep, rocky hill, which rises 500 ft. above the plain, on the left bank of the Enguri Su, a tributary of the Sakaria (Sangarius), about 220 m. E.S.E. of Constantinople. The hill is crowned by the ruins of the old citadel, which add to the picturesqueness of the view; but the town is not well built, its streets being narrow and many of its houses constructed of sun-dried mud bricks; there are, however, many fine remains of Graeco-Roman and Byzantine architecture, the most remarkable being the temple of Rome and Augustus, on the walls of which is the famous Monumentum Ancyranum (see Ancyra). Ancyra was the centre of the Tectosages, one of the three Gaulish tribes which settled in Galatia in the 3rd century B.C., and became the capital of the Roman province of Galatia when it was formally constituted in 25 B.C. During the Byzantine period, throughout which it occupied a position of great importance, it was captured by Persians and Arabs; then it fell into the hands of the Seljuk Turks, was held for eighteen years by the Latin Crusaders, and finally passed to the Ottoman Turks in 1360. In 1402 a great battle was fought in the vicinity of Angora, in which the Turkish sultan Bayezid was defeated and made prisoner by the Tatar conqueror Timur (Tamerlane). In 1415 it was recovered by the Turks under Mahommed I., and since that period has belonged to the Ottoman empire. In 1832 it was taken by the Egyptians under Ibrahim Pasha. Angora is connected with Constantinople by railway, and exports wool, mohair, grain and yellow berries. Mohair cloth is manufactured, and the town is noted for its honey and fruit. From 1639 to 1768 there was an agency of the Levant Company here; there is now a British consul. Pop. estimated at 28,000 (Moslems, 18,000; Christians, largely Roman Catholic Armenians, about 9400; Jews, 400).
(2) A Turkish vilayet in north-central Asia Minor, which includes most of the ancient Galatia. It is an agricultural country, depending for its prosperity on its grain, wool (average annual export, 4,400,000 lb), and the mohair obtained from the beautiful Angora goats (average annual clip, 3,300,000 lb).
The fineness of the hair may perhaps be ascribed to some peculiarity in the atmosphere, for it is remarkable that the cats, dogs and other animals of the country are to a certain extent affected in the same way, and that they all lose much of their distinctive beauty when taken from their native districts. The only important industry is carpet-weaving at Kir-sheher and Kaisaríeh. There are mines of silver, copper, lignite and salt, and many hot springs, including some of great repute medicinally. Average annual exports 1896-1898, £920,762; imports, £411,836. Pop. about 900,000 (Moslems, 765,000 to 800,000, the rest being Christians, with a few hundred Jews).
Wikipedia says: “The Turkish Angora (Turkish: Ankara kedisi, ‘Ankara cat’) is a breed of a domestic cat. Turkish Angoras are one of the ancient, natural breeds of cat, having originated in central Turkey, in the Ankara region. The breed has been documented as early as the 17th century and is believed to be the origin of the mutations for both the coloration white and long hair. The breed is also sometimes referred to as simply the Angora or Ankara cat.”
“The Angora rabbit (Turkish: Ankara tavşanı), which is one of the oldest types of domestic rabbit, is bred for the long fibers of its coat, known as Angora wool, that are gathered by shearing, combing, or plucking. Because rabbits do not possess the same allergy-causing qualities as many other animals, their wool is an important alternative. There are at least 11 distinct breeds of Angora rabbit, four of which are currently recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA): English Angora, French Angora, Giant Angora, and Satin Angora.
In 1923, Ankara was made the capitol of the new Republic of Turkey, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. From a population estimated at 28,000 in the early 1900’s (see above) Ankara has grown to over 4.5 million in 2015.