Ancient Galatia, at the center of Asia Minor with its capital Ancyra (modern Ankara), was part of Phrygia and Cappadocia in early antiquity. The first Galatians crossed the straits from Europe into Anatolia in 278 BC. These Gallic tribes of eastern Celts had been forced back to the Danube by Alexander the Great and his general Lysimachus. They descended on Macedonia in 279 only to be soundly beaten at the Dardanelles. then King Nicomedes of Bithynia brought them in as mercenaries the following year to provide support in his power struggle with the Seleucid Antiochos I. The arrival of these Celtic hordes made serious inroads into the flourishing civilizations of Asia Minor. The local rulers, summoning up their own forces, succeeded in containing the "barbarians" in the area between Pergamum, Bithynia, Pontus and Cappadocia, and Antiochos I defeated them in the famous "Battle of Elephants" in Ankara.

Employed as mercenaries by the Hellenistic kings, they renewed their pillaging raids on Anatolia's cities until Attalos I, King of Pergamum (241-197 BC.), defeated them in two battles between 235 and 225 BC (Altar of Zeus in Pergamum was erected to commemorate this victory) and forced them to settle. For over a thousand years the Galatians lived around the Phrygian city of Ancyra, hence the name of the region comes from. Manlius Vulso, a Roman consul, was finally responsible for the collective defeat of their tribes in 189 BC. Around 55 AD the Apostle Paul wrote his famous Epistle to the Galatians concerning the independence of his Gospel and the freedom from Jewish law of any Galatians he converted to Christianity.