Cultures > Celts



During the Hellenistic period (323 BCE - 31 BCE), the Celts, known as Gauls in the Greco-Roman world, played a significant and dynamic role in the Mediterranean and Balkan regions. Their interactions with Hellenistic states were marked by invasions, settlements, and the integration into various Hellenistic armies. Here's an overview of the Celts in the Hellenistic period:


  1. Origins and Expansion:

    • The Celts originated in central and western Europe and began expanding during the late 5th and early 4th centuries BCE.
    • By the Hellenistic period, Celtic tribes had spread across much of Europe, including into the Balkans, Asia Minor, and even northern Italy.
  2. Celtic Culture:

    • The Celts were known for their warrior culture, skilled metalwork, and distinctive art styles.
    • They were organized into tribes and confederations, each led by a chieftain or king.

Invasions and Interactions

  1. Celtic Invasion of the Balkans:

    • Around 280 BCE, a large coalition of Celtic tribes invaded the Balkan Peninsula, a region then under the influence of Hellenistic states such as Macedonia and the Kingdom of Thrace.
    • The Celts defeated several Hellenistic armies and even managed to sack the sacred site of Delphi in 279 BCE, although their advance was eventually halted.
  2. Formation of Galatia:

    • A group of Celts, known as the Galatians, settled in central Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) around 278 BCE.
    • They established themselves in the region and formed the kingdom of Galatia, becoming a significant power in the area and interacting with various Hellenistic states.
  3. Service as Mercenaries:

    • Many Celts served as mercenaries in the armies of Hellenistic kings. Their reputation as fierce warriors made them valuable assets.
    • Notable Hellenistic leaders such as the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids employed Celtic mercenaries in their campaigns.

Key Events and Battles

  1. Battle of Lysimachia (277 BCE):

    • The Celts faced the forces of Antigonus II Gonatas in this battle near Lysimachia. Antigonus successfully repelled the Celtic invasion, securing his control over Macedonia.
  2. Battle of Thermopylae (279 BCE):

    • The Celts invaded Greece and confronted a coalition of Greek city-states at Thermopylae. Despite initial successes, the Celts were eventually driven back.
  3. Conflict with Pergamon:

    • The Galatians frequently clashed with the Hellenistic kingdom of Pergamon in Asia Minor. The Attalid kings of Pergamon fought several wars against the Galatians, culminating in notable victories such as the Battle of the Kaikos River in 241 BCE.

Cultural and Political Integration

  1. Galatia's Hellenization:

    • Over time, the Galatians adopted many aspects of Hellenistic culture, including Greek language, art, and religious practices.
    • Galatian leaders often styled themselves as Hellenistic kings, blending Celtic and Greek traditions.
  2. Interactions with Rome:

    • The Galatians eventually came into contact with the expanding Roman Republic. By the mid-2nd century BCE, Galatia had become a client state of Rome, further integrating into the broader Mediterranean world.


  1. Cultural Impact:

    • The presence of the Celts in the Hellenistic world contributed to the cultural and ethnic diversity of the period.
    • Their integration into Hellenistic armies and societies exemplified the era's complex intermingling of different cultures.
  2. Historical Significance:

    • The Celts played a crucial role in the military and political dynamics of the Hellenistic period, influencing the course of events in the Balkans and Asia Minor.
    • Their interactions with Hellenistic states demonstrated the fluidity and interconnectedness of the ancient world.


The Celts in the Hellenistic period were both invaders and integrators, leaving a lasting impact on the regions they entered. From their initial invasions and the establishment of Galatia to their service as mercenaries and eventual integration into Hellenistic culture, the Celts significantly influenced the history of the Mediterranean and Balkan regions. Their legacy is a testament to the complex cultural and political landscape of the Hellenistic era.


Hellenistic Cultures

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