Pausanias, Description of Greece

Pausanias was a Greek writer who flourished in the second century of the common era. His Description of Greece is a traveller’s account of sites of historical and cultural interest in the Peloponnese and central Greece. His account of the Celtic invasion of Greece probably draws from a history by Hieronymus of Cardia which has since been lost. Like other many Greek writers he usually refers to the Celts as “Galatai.”

The following is an adaptation of Pausanias. Description of Greece, trans. W. H. S. Jones and H. A. Ormerod. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1918.

§ 1.4.1. These Galatai inhabit the most remote portion of Europe, near a great sea that is not navigable to its extremities, and possesses ebb and flow and creatures quite unlike those of other seas. Through their country flows the river Eridanus, on the bank of which the daughters of Helius [the Sun] are supposed to lament the fate that befell their brother Phaethon. It was a long time before the name “Galatai” came into use; for in ancient times they were called “Celts” both amongst themselves and by others. An army of them mustered and turned towards the Ionian Sea, dispossessed the Illyrian people, all who dwelt as far as Macedonia with the Macedonians themselves, and overran Thessaly. And when they drew near to Thermopylae, the Greeks in general made no move to prevent the inroad of the barbarians, since previously they had been severely defeated by Alexander and Philip. Further, Antipater and Cassander [successors of Alexander the Great] afterwards crushed the Greeks, so that through weakness each state thought no shame of itself taking no part in the defense of the country.

§ 1.4.2. [280 BCE] But the Athenians, although they were more exhausted than any of the Greeks by the long Macedonian war, and had been generally unsuccessful in their battles, nevertheless set forth to Thermopylae with such Greeks as joined them, having made the Callippus I mentioned their general. Occupying the pass where it was narrowest, they tried to keep the foreigners from entering Greece; but the Galatai, having discovered the path by which Ephialtes of Trachis once led the Persians, overwhelmed the Phocians stationed there and crossed Oeta unnoticed by the Greeks.

§ 1.4.3. Then it was that the Athenians put the Greeks under the greatest obligation, and although outflanked offered resistance to the foreigners on two sides. But the Athenians on the fleet suffered most, for the Lamian gulf is a swamp near Thermopylae—the reason being, I think, the hot water that here runs into the sea. These then were more distressed; for taking the Greeks on board they were forced to sail through the mud weighted as they were by arms and men.

§ 1.4.4. So they tried to save Greece in the way described, but the Galatai, now south of the Gates, cared not at all to capture the other towns, but were very eager to sack Delphi and the treasures of the god. They were opposed by the Delphians themselves and the Phocians of the cities around Parnassus; a force of Aetolians also joined the defenders, for the Aetolians at this time were pre-eminent for their vigorous activity. When the forces engaged, not only were thunderbolts and rocks broken off from Parnassus hurled against the Gauls, but terrible shapes as armed warriors haunted the foreigners. They say that two of them, Hyperochus and Amadocus, came from the Hyperboreans, and that the third was Pyrrhus son of Achilles. Because of this help in battle the Delphians sacrifice to Pyrrhus as to a hero, although formerly they held even his tomb in dishonor, as being that of an enemy.

§ 1.4.5. The greater number of the Galatai crossed over to Asia by ship and plundered its coasts. Some time after, the inhabitants of Pergamus, that in ancient days was called “Teuthrania,” drove the Galatai into it from the sea. […]

§ 1.25.2. [describing the Acropolis of Athens] By the south wall are represented the legendary war with the Giants (who once dwelt about Thrace and on the isthmus of Pallene), the battle between the Athenians and the Amazons, the clash with the Persians at Marathon and the destruction of the Galatai in Mysia. Each portrait is about two cubits in size and all were dedicated by Attalus. There stands too Olympiodorus, who won fame for the greatness of his achievements, especially in the crisis when he displayed a brave confidence among men who had met with continuous reverses, and were therefore in despair of winning a single success in the days to come.

§ 10.15.2. The second Apollo the Delphians call “Sitalcas”; he is thirty-five cubits high. The Aetolians have statues of most of their generals, and images of Artemis, Athena and two of Apollo, dedicated after their conclusion of the war against the Galatai. That the army of Galatai would cross from Europe to Asia to destroy the cities there was prophesied by Phaennis in her predictions a generation before the invasion occurred. She said:

§ 10.15.3. “Then, having crossed the narrow strait of the Hellespont, the devastating host of the Galatai shall raise a shout; and lawlessly they shall ravage Asia; and much worse shall God do to those who dwell by the shores of the sea for a short while. For right soon the son of Cronos shall raise them a helper, the dear son of a bull reared by Zeus, who on all the Galatai shall bring a day of destruction.” By the “son of a bull” she meant Attalus, king of Pergamus, who was also called “bull-horned” by an oracle.

§ 10.19.5. I have made some mention of the Galatai’s invasion of Greece in my description of the Athenian Council Chamber.1 But I have resolved to give a more detailed account of the Galatai in my description of Delphi, because the greatest of the Greek exploits against the barbarians took place there. The Celts conducted their first foreign expedition under the leadership of Cambaules. Advancing as far as Thrace they lost heart and broke off their march, realizing that they were too few in number to be a match for the Greeks.

§ 10.19.6. But when they decided to invade foreign territory a second time, so great was the influence of Cambaules’ veterans, who had tasted the joy of plunder and acquired a passion for robbery and plunder, that a large force of infantry and no small number of mounted men attended the muster. So the army was split up into three divisions by the chieftains, to each of whom was assigned a separate land to invade.

§ 10.19.7. Cerethrius was to be leader against the Thracians and the nation of the Triballi. The invaders of Paeonia were under the command of Brennus and Acichorius. Bolgius attacked the Macedonians and Illyrians, and engaged in a struggle with Ptolemy, king of the Macedonians at that time. It was this Ptolemy who, though he had taken refuge as a suppliant with Seleucus, the son of Antiochus, treacherously murdered him, and was surnamed “Thunderbolt” because of his recklessness. Ptolemy himself perished in the fighting, and the Macedonian losses were heavy. But once more the Celts lacked courage to advance against Greece, and so the second expedition returned home.

§ 10.19.8. It was then that Brennus, both in public meetings and also in personal talks with individual officers of the Galatai, strongly urged a campaign against Greece, enlarging on the weakness of Greece at the time, on the wealth of the Greek states, and on the even greater wealth in sanctuaries, including votive offerings and coined silver and gold. So he induced the Galatai to march against Greece. Among the officers he chose to be his colleagues was Acichorius.

§ 10.19.9. The muster of foot amounted to one hundred and fifty-two thousand, with twenty thousand four hundred horse. This was the number of horsemen in action at any one time, but the real number was sixty-one thousand two hundred. For to each horseman were attached two servants, who were themselves skilled riders and, like their masters, had a horse.

§ 10.19.10. When the horsemen of Galatai were engaged, the servants remained behind the ranks and proved useful in the following way: if a horseman or his horse should fall, the slave brought him a horse to mount; if the rider was killed, the slave mounted the horse in his master’s place; if both rider and horse were killed, there was a mounted man ready. When a rider was wounded, one slave brought back to camp the wounded man, while the other took his vacant place in the ranks.

§ 10.19.11. I believe that the Galatai in adopting these methods copied the Persian regiment of the Ten Thousand, who were called the Immortals. There was, however, this difference: the Persians used to wait until the battle was over before replacing casualties, while the Galatai kept reinforcing the horsemen to their full number during the height of the action. This organization is called in their native speech trimarcisia, for I would have you know that marca is the Celtic name for a horse.

§ 10.19.12. This was the size of the army, and such was the intention of Brennus, when he attacked Greece. The spirit of the Greeks was utterly broken, but the extremity of their terror forced them to defend Greece. They realized that the struggle that faced them would not be one for liberty, as it was when they fought the Persians, and that giving water and earth would not protect them. They still remembered the fate of Macedonia, Thrace and Paeonia during the former incursion of the Galatai, and reports were coming in of violence committed at that very time on the Thessalians. So every man, as well as every state, was convinced that they must either conquer or perish.

§ 10.20.7. On that very night [Brennus] despatched some troops to the Spercheius, not to the places where the old bridges had stood, but lower down, where the Greeks would not notice the crossing, and just where the river spread over the plain and made a marsh and lake instead of a narrow, violent stream. Brennus sent to this place some ten thousand Galatai, picking out the swimmers and the tallest men; and the Celts as a people are far taller than any other people.

§ 10.20.9. Brennus brought his army across over the bridges and proceeded to Heracleia. The Galatai plundered the country, and massacred those whom they caught in the fields, but did not capture the city. For a year previous to this the Aetolians had forced Heracleia to join the Aetolian League; so now they defended a city which they considered to belong to them just as much as to the Heracleots.

§ 10.21.1. Deserters kept Brennus informed about the forces from each city mustered at Thermopylae. So, despising the Greek army, he advanced from Heracleia, and began the battle at sun-rise on the next day. He had no Greek soothsayer, and made no use of his own country’s sacrifices, if indeed the Celts have any art of divination. Whereupon the Greeks attacked silently and in good order. When they came to close quarters, the infantry did not rush out of their line far enough to disturb their proper formation, while the light-armed troops remained in position, throwing javelins, shooting arrows or slinging bullets.