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Galatians Epistle to the
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Galatia was the name given by Greek-speaking peoples to that part of the central plateau of Asia Minor which was occupied by Celtic tribes from the 3rd cent. b.c. onwards. It corresponded to the Roman Gallogrœcia, or land of the Gallograeci (= Ἑλληνογαλάται [Diodorus, v. xxxii. 5]), who were so named in distinction from the Galli of Western Europe. Manlius in Livy (xxxviii. 17) professes to despise them-‘Hi jam degeneres sunt: mixti, et Gallograeci vere, quod appellantur.’

About 280 b.c., the barbarians who had been menacing Italy for a century began to move eastward. A great Celtic wave swept over Macedonia and Thessaly. Under the leadership of Leonorios and Lutarios a body of 20,000 invaders-half of them fighting men, the rest women and children-crossed into Asia at the invitation of Nicomedes, king of Bithynia, who desired their help in his struggle with his brother (Livy, xxxviii. 16). His success, however, proved costly both to himself and to his neighbours, for his new barbaric allies established themselves as a robber-State and became the scourge of Asia Minor, exacting tribute from all the rulers north and west of Taurus, some of whom were fain to purchase exemption from their degradations by employing them as mercenary soldiers.

Attalus I. of Pergamos (241-197) was the first to check the fierce barbarians. Defeating them in a series of battles, which are commemorated in the famous Pergamene sculptures, he compelled them to form a permanent settlement with definite boundaries in north-eastern Phrygia. The Galatian country, an irregular rectangle 200 miles long from E. to W. and about 100 miles wide, became ‘in language and manners a Celtic island amidst the waves of eastern peoples, and remained so in internal organization even under the empire’ (T. Mommsen, The Provinces of the Roman Empire2, 1909, i. 338).

Like Caesar’s Gaul, the country was divided into three parts, formed by the rivers Halys and Sangarius. The Tectosages settled round Ancyra, the Tolistobogii round Pessinus, and the Trocmi round Tavium. According to Strabo (xii. v. 1), the three tribes ‘spoke the same language and in no respect differed from one another. Each of them was divided into four cantons called tetrarchies, each of which had its own tetrarch [or chief], its judge, and its general.… The Council of the twelve tetrarchies consisted of 300 men who assembled at a place called the Drynemetum.’

The term ‘Galatians,’ which at first denoted only the Gaulish invaders, was in course of time extended to their Phrygian subjects, and the ‘Galatian’ slaves who were sold in the ancient markets had really no Celtic blood in their veins. For two centuries the proud conquerors formed a comparatively small ruling caste in the country, like the Normans among the Saxons of England. As a military aristocracy, whose only trade was war, they left agriculture, commerce, and all the peaceful crafts to the Phrygian natives. Averse to the life of towns and cities, the chieftains established themselves in hill-forts (φρούριο [Strabo, xii. v. 2]), where they kept up a barbaric state, surrounded by retainers who shared with them the vast wealth they had acquired by their many conquests. For siding with Antiochus the Great in his war with Rome, and frequently breaking their promise to refrain from raiding the lands of their neighbours, the Galatians ultimately brought on themselves a severe castigation at the hands of Cn. Manlius Vulso in 189 b.c. (Livy, xxxviii, 12-27, Polyb. xxii. 16-22). About 160 b.c. they obtained a large accession of territory in Lycaonia, including the towns of Iconium and Lystra. Thereafter they came under the influence of the kings of Pontus, but Mithridates the Great (120-63 b.c.), doubting their loyalty, ordered a massacre of all their chiefs, and this savage and stupid act at once drove the whole nation over to the Roman side. Their new alliance proved greatly to their advantage, and at the settlement of the affairs of Asia Minor by Pompey in 64 b.c., Galatia was made a Roman client-State. Three chiefs (tetrarchs) were appointed, one for each tribe, of whom the ablest and most ambitious, Deiotarus, the friend of Cicero (ad Fam. viii. 10, ix. 12, xv. 1, 2, 4), contrived to seize the territories of the others, and, in spite of the hostility of Julius Caesar, ultimately got himself recognized as king of all Galatia. He died in 40 b.c., and four years later his dominions were bestowed by Mark Antony on Amyntas, the Roman client-king of Pisidia, who had formerly been the secretary of Deiotarus. This brave mid sagacious Gaul, ‘whose career was in many points parallel to that of Herod in Palestine’ (H. von Soden, Hist. of Early Christian Lit., Eng. translation , 1906, p. 59f.), transferred his allegiance from Antony to Augustus after Actium, and became the chief instrument in establishing the Pax Romana in southern Asia Minor. Having overthrown Antipater the robber-chief, he added Derbe and Laranda to his dominions, but lost his life in an attempt to subdue the Homanades of Isauria. Galatia then ceased to be a sovereign State, and was incorporated in the Roman Empire (in 25 b.c.).

Caesar (Bell. Gall. vi. 16) says of the Western Gauls, ‘Natio est omnis Gallorum admodum dedita religionibus.’ But the faith which the invaders of Asia brought with them did not live long in the new environment. The unwarlike Phrygians whom they subdued were in one respect inflexible, and, as in so many instances, ‘victi victoribus leges dederunt.’ If the Phrygian religion, with its frenzy of devotion, its weird music, its orgiastic dances, its sensuous rites, made a profound impression even upon the cultured Greeks, one need not wonder that the simple Gallic barbarians were fascinated by the cult of Cybele, and that their chiefs were soon found by the side of the native rulers in the great temple of Pessinus. There ‘the priests were a sort of sovereigns and derived a largo revenue from their office’ (Strabo, xii. v. 3). When the old warlike spirit of the Gauls languished, as it naturally did after the establishment of a peaceful provincial government, the two races gradually approximated in other things than religion, but a long time was needed for their complete amalgamation. ‘In spite of their sojourn of several hundred years in Asia Minor, a deep gulf still separated these Occidentals from the Asiatics’ (Mommsen, op. cit. i. 338). Even in the 4th cent. the far-travelled Jerome found at Ancyra, alongside of Greek, a Celtic dialect differing little from what he had heard in Trèves (Preface to Commentary on Galatians).

The province Galatia included the greater part of the wide territory once ruled by Amyntas, viz. Galatia proper (the country of the three Galatian tribes), part of Phrygia (including Antioch and Iconium), Pisidia, Isauria, and part of Lycaonia (with Lystra and Derbe). For nearly a century Galatia was the eastern frontier province, and every fresh annexation to it marked the progress of the Empire in that direction.

Paphlagonia was added in 5 b.c., Amasia and Gazelonitis in 2 b.c., Komana Pontica (forming with Amasia the district of Pontus Galaticus [Ptolemy, v. vi. 3]) in a.d. 34, and Pontus Polemoniacus (the kingdom of Polemon II. [Ptolemy, v. vi. 4]) in a.d., 63. The south-eastern part of the province was somewhat contracted in a.d. 41 by the gift of a slice or Lycaonia, including Laranda, to Antiochus of Commagene (called after him Lycaonia Antiochiana), so that Derbe became the frontier town and Customs’ station. Ptolemy defines the province in his Geog. v. 4, and Pliny in his Historia Naturalis (Pliny) v. 146, 147.

Antioch and Lystra (qq.v. [Note: v. quœ vide, which see.] ) were made Roman colonies by Augustus; Iconium and Derbe (qq.v. [Note: v. quœ vide, which see.] ) were remodelled in Roman style by Claudius, and named Claud-Iconium and Claudio-Derbe. In these cities, planted in the moat civilized and progressive part of central Asia Minor-the region traversed by the great route of traffic and inter-course between Ephesus and Syrian Antioch-many Greeks, Romans, and Jews swelled the native Phrygian and Lycaonian populace.

The meaning of ‘Galatia’ is one of the questiones vexatae of NT exegesis. Are ‘the churches of Galatia’ (Galatians 1:2; cf. 1 Corinthians 16:1) to be sought in the comparatively small district occupied by the Gauls, about Ancyra, Pessinus, and Tavium, or in the great Roman province of Galatia, which included Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe? In the absence of definite information, we have to make probability our guide, and to the present writer the balance of evidence appears to favour the South Galatian hypothesis. The chief difficulty is created by the simultaneous use of a Roman and a non-Roman nomenclature. It was the policy of the Imperial government to stamp an artificial unity upon all the diverse parts of a province, often With but little regard to historical traditions and local sentiments. The old territorial designations were of course still popularly used, but among all who looked at things from the Imperial standpoint-e.g. the Roman governor, the coloni of cities founded by the Romans, the incolae of semi-Roman towns, and the Roman historians-such terms as Galatia and Galatae, Asia and Asiani, Africa and Afri, denoted the province and the people of the province.

Tacitus (Hist. ii. 9) mentions ‘Galatiam ac Pamphyliam provincias’; in Ann. xiii. 35 he says, ‘et habiti per Galatiam Cappadociamque dilectus’; and in Ann. xv. 6 he has ‘Galatarum Cappadocumque auxilia.’ Ac Iconian inscription to an Imperial officer (CIG [Note: IG Corpus Inscrip. Graecarum.] 3991) designates his administrative district Γαλατικὴ ἐπαρχεία, or ‘Galatic province’. Pliny frequently uses ‘Galatia’ as designating the province (Historia Naturalis (Pliny) v. 27, 95, etc.). For other instances see T. Zahn, Introd. to the NT, 1909, i. 184f.

The crucial question is whether St. Paul assumed the Imperial standpoint and wrote like a Roman. Zahn (op. cit. i. 175) holds that ‘he never uses any but the provincial name for districts under Roman rule, and never employs territorial names which are not also names of Roman provinces’ The Apostle’s employment of the terms Achaia, Macedonia, Dalmatia, Judaea , Arabia, Syria, and Cilicia is regarded as consistently Imperial. Of the divisions of Asia Minor he names only Asia and Galatia, and ‘it is unlikely that he meant by these anything else than the Roman provinces so called, for the very reason that he mentions no districts of Asia Minor whose names do not at the same time denote such provinces’ (op. cit. i. 186). Ramsay similarly maintains that St. Paul always thinks and speaks with his eye on the Roman divisions of the Empire, i.e. the Provinces, in accordance with his station as a Roman citizen and with his invariable and oft-announced principle of accepting and obeying the existing government. This view is contested by the South Galatian theorists. Mommsen, e.g., held that ‘it is inadmissible to take the “Galatians” of Paul in anything except the distinct and narrower sense of the term’ (quoted in Moffatt, Introd. to Literature of the New Testament (Moffatt)., p. 96), and P. W. Schmiedel contends that ‘it is quite un-permissible to say of Paul that he invariably confined himself to the official usage’ (Encyclopaedia Biblica ii. 1604). Both the old, or North Galatian, hypothesis and the new, or South Galatian, are championed by an apparently equal number of distinguished scholars.* [Note: Among the North Galatian theorists are Lightfoot, Jowett, H. J. Holtzmann, Wendt, Godet, Blass, Holsten, Lipsius, Sieffert, Zöckler, Schürer, von Dobschütz, Jülicher, Bousset, Salmon, Gilbert, Findlay, Chase, Moffatt, Steinmann; among the South Galatians are Perrot (who first popularized the theory in his de Galatia Provincia Romana, 1867), Renan, Hausrath, Pfleiderer, Weizsäcker, O. Holtzmann, von Soden, J. Weiss, Clemen, Belser, Gifford, Bartlet, Bacon, Askwith, Rendall, Weber.]

It is certain that St. Paul’s first mission north of Taurus was conducted in the Greek-speaking cities of Antioch and Iconium (which were Phrygian), Lystra and Derbe (which were Lycaonian)-all in the Provincia Galatia, but far from Galatia proper. The historian gives a graphic account of the founding of churches in these four cities (Acts 13:14-52; Acts 14:1-23), and from these churches St. Paul got some of his fellow-workers (Acts 16:1; Acts 20:4). What more natural, ask the South Galatian theorists, than that this much-frequented district should become the storm-centre of a Judaistic controversy, and that the Apostle should write the most militant and impassioned of all his letters in defence of the spiritual liberty of the converts of his pioneer mission? On the North Galatian theory, the founding of churches, say in Pessinus, Ancyra, and Tavium, and their subsequent development, had much more to do with the extension and triumph of apostolic Christianity among the Gentiles-which was St. Luke’s theme-than the planting of the South Galatian churches, and the historian who manifests no interest in North Galatia stands convicted of shifting the centre of gravity to the wrong place. It is difficult, however, to believe that the mission in which the Apostle was welcomed ‘as an angel from heaven, as Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 4:14), and the thrilling experiences which must have filled his mind and heart at the moment when he joined St. Luke in Troas (Acts 16:11), are alluded to in no there than a single ambiguous sentence (Acts 16:6), which Ramsay characterizes as ‘perhaps the most difficult (certainly the most disputed) passage’ in the whole of Acts (Church in the Roman Empire, 1893, p. 74ff.).

The North Galatian school accounts for the historian’s neglect of Galatia proper, and for the curtness of his narrative at this vital point (Acts 16:6-8), by his desire ‘to got Paul across to Europe’ (Moffatt, Introd. to Literature of the New Testament (Moffatt)., p. 94); but another explanation seems more natural.

‘I would rather say that the writer passed on rapidly, because the journey itself was direct, and uninterrupted by any important incident such as the supposed preaching and founding of churches in Northern Galatia. St. Paul’s mission to Europe was, according to the indications given in the narrative, the divinely appointed purpose of the whole journey. Twice he is forbidden to turn aside from the direct route between Antioch and Troas. “To speak the word in Asia,” “to go into Bithynia,” would each have been a cause of much delay; and in each case the Apostle found himself constrained by the Spirit’s guidance to go straight forward on his appointed way. One of these Divine interpositions occurred before, and one after the supposed digression into Northern Galatia. Do they not make an intermediate sojourn in that district, which most have been of long duration, and of which the writer gives no hint whatever, quite inconceivable?’ (E. H. Gifford, in Expositor, 4th ser., x. [1894] 15).

Similarly Renan (Saint Paul, 1869, p. 128): ‘The apostolic group thus made almost at one stretch a journey of more than one hundred leagues, across a little-known country, which, from an absence of Roman colonies and Jewish synagogues, did not offer them any of the facilities which they had met with up to that time.’

It is sometimes confidently asserted that the South Galatian theory ‘is shipwrecked on the rock of Greek grammar’ (F. H. Chase, in Expositor, 4th ser., viii. [1893] 411, ix. [1894] 342). On the second missionary tour St. Paul and Silas ‘went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia (τὴν Φρυγίαν καὶ Γαλατικὴν χώραν), having been forbidden of the Holy Ghost to speak the word in Asia’ (Acts 16:6), and in the third tour ‘they went through, the region of Galatia and Phrygia (τὴν Φρυγίαν καὶ Γαλατικὴν χώραν) in order, stablishing all the churches’ (18:23). Ramsay interprets both the Greek phrases as ‘the Phrygo-Galatian country,’ i.e. the regio which is ethnically Phrygian and politically Galatian, accounting for the variation by the fact that in the one instance the district was traversed from west to east, and in the other from east to west. He takes the phrases to denote, in part or in whole (here his exegesis wavers), the South Galatian country which St. Paul had already evangelized in his first tour. Now it must be admitted that if the modern theory, which Ramsay has so long and strenuously advocated, were bound up with this interpretation, there would be no little difficulty in accepting it. For the natural reference of the words ‘they went through (διῆλθον) the Phrygo-Galatic region, having been forbidden (κωλυθέντες) … to speak the word in Asia’ is to a district east of Asia and north of Iconium and Antioch, South Galatia being now left behind. Ramsay, however, contends that κωλυθέντες is not antecedent to, but synchronous with, the verb διῆλθον, and translates ‘they went through the Phrygo-Galatic region forbidden … to speak the word in Asia.’ The grammatical point is fully discussed by E. H. Ask with (The Epistle to the Gal., 1899, p. 34ff.), who produces a number of more or less similar constructions (cf. Gifford, loc. cit. 16ff.). ἀσπασάμενοι in Acts 25:13 would be the most striking parallel, but here Hort thinks that some primitive error has crept into the text. And at the best the proposed exegesis, admittedly unusual, is very precarious, while the South Galatian theory is really independent of it. Many advocates of this theory prefer the alternative offered by Gifford, who holds (loc. cit. p. 19) that in the present contest ‘the region of Phrygia and Galatia’ can only mean ‘the borderland of Phrygia and Galatia northward of Antioch, through which the travellers passed after “having been forbidden to speak the word in Asia.” ’ This is substantially the view of Zahn (op. cit. i. 176; cf. 189f.), who is willing to make a further concession. ‘It could be taken for granted, therefore, in spite of the silence of Acts, which in 16:6 mentions merely a journey of the missionaries through these regions, that Paul and Silas on this occasion preached in Phrygia arid a portion of North Galatia; and that the disciples … whom Paul met on the third missionary journey to several places of the same regions (Acts 18:23) had been converted by the preaching of Paul and Silas on the second journey.’ Only, as Zahn himself is the first to admit, ‘everyone feels the ‘uncertainty of those combinations.’

The present tendency of the North Galatian theorists is greatly to restrict the field of the Apostle’s activity in Galatia proper. Lightfoot’s assumption that he carried his mission through the whole of North Galatia is felt to be ‘as gratuitous as it is embarrassing’ (Schmiedel, Encyclopaedia Biblica , ii. 1606). Tivium and Ancyra are now left out of account, and only ‘a few churches, none of them very far apart,’ are supposed to have been planted in the west of North Galatia (ib.); but the more the sphere of operations is thus limited, the more difficult does it become to believe that ‘the churches of Galatia’ are to be sought exclusively in this small and hypothetical mission-field, while the great and flourishing churches of South Galatia are heard of no more.

The following points, though severally indecisive, all favour the South Galatian theory. (1) The baneful activity of Judaizers in Galatia suggests the presence of Jews and Jewish Christians in the newly planted churches, and there is abundant evidence of the strength and prominence of the Jews in Antioch (Acts 13:14-51; Acts 14:19), Iconium (14:1), and Lystra (16:1-3; cf. 2 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 3:15), whereas even Philo’s inflated list of countries where Jews were to be found in his time (Leg. ad Gaium, xxxvi.) does not include Galatia proper, and among the Jews who made the journey to Jerusalem at Pentecost there were Asians and Phrygians but apparently no Galatians (Acts 2:9). (2) The writer of Acts, who in general uses ethnographic rather than political terms, avoids ‘Galatia,’ which would have been taken to mean Old Galatia, and twice employs the phrase ‘Galatic region.’ Ramsay’s view is that the term ‘Galatic’ excludes Galatia in the narrow sense, and that 16:6, in the light of contemporary usage, implies that St. Paul did not traverse North Galatia (Church in the Roman Emp., p. 81), The evidence for a definite usage, however, is scanty, ‘Pontus Galaticus’ (which occurs in Ptolemy and inscriptions) not being quite a parallel ease; and other explanations of the phrase ‘Galatic region’ are certainly admissible (Moffatt, Introd. to Literature of the New Testament (Moffatt)., p. 93). (3) The pronoun ὑμᾶς in Galatians 2:5 seems to imply that the Galatian churches existed when St. Paul was contending for the spiritual freedom of the Gentiles at the Jerusalem Council, which was held before the journey on which, according to the old theory, he preached in North Galatia. Some think that St. Paul here merely claims to have been lighting the battle of the Gentiles, or the Gentile Christians, generally; but in that case he would probably have said ‘you Gentiles’ (Ephesians 2:11; Ephesians 3:1). (4) It is possible to make too much of the parallel between Galatians 4:14, ‘ye received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus,’ and the account of the Apostle’s remarkable experience at Lystra, where the people regarded him and Barnabas as gods (Acts 14:11-14). Still the coincidence, as Zahn says (op. cit., p. 180), is probably more than ‘a tantalising accident.’ The pagans who acclaimed the coming of Jupiter and Mercury would be likely enough, when partially Christianized, to think themselves recipients of a visit of angels. Even Lightfoot (Galatians5, 1876, p. 18) admits that here is one of the ‘considerations in favour of the Roman province.’ (5) The charge which the Judaizers apparently made against the self-constituted Apostle of freedom of being still a preacher of circumcision (Galatians 5:11) is best explained by a reference to the case of Timothy (Acts 16:1-8), in which the South Galatian churches had a special interest, Timothy being a native of Lystra. (6) The repeated allusion to Barnabas (Galatians 2:1; Galatians 2:9; Galatians 2:13), who was one of the founders of the South Galatian Church, would have much less appositeness in an Epistle addressed to North Galatia, where that apostle was not personally known. It is true that he is referred to once in each of two other letters (1 Corinthians 9:6, Colossians 4:10), but in both cases there were special reasons for the mention of his name (Zahn, op. cit., p. 179). (7) While some of St. Paul’s helpers came from South Galatia (Acts 16:1; Acts 20:4), and while Gains and Timothy may have been delegated by ‘the churches of Galatia’ (1 Corinthians 16:1) to carry their offerings to the saints at Jerusalem (a somewhat doubtful inference from Acts 20:4), North Galatia did not, as far as is known, provide a single person ‘for the work of ministering.’ (8) There is evidence that Christianity penetrated North Galatia much more slowly than South Galatia. ‘Ancyra and the Bithynian city Juliopolis (which was attached to Galatia about 297) are the only Galatian bishoprics mentioned earlier than 325: they alone appear at the Ancyran Council held about 314’ (Ramsay, Hist. Com. on Gal., 1899, p. 165).

The Roman character of the nomenclature in 1 Peter 1:1 is rarely questioned. It is evidently the writer’s purpose to enumerate all the provinces of Asia Minor, with the exception of Lycia-Pamphilia, where ‘the elect’ were still few (as maybe inferred from Acts 13:18; Acts 14:25), and Cilicia, which was reckoned with Syria (Acts 15:23; Acts 15:41). And just as he includes the Phrygian churches of the Lycus valley-Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis (Colossians 1:2; Colossians 2:1)-the Church of Troas (Acts 20:6-12), and the Churches of the Apocalypse (Revelation 1:11), in the province of ‘Asia,’ so he reckons the Churches founded by St. Paul in Lycaonia and Eastern Phrygia as belonging to the province of ‘Galatia.’

In 2 Timothy 4:10 the Revised Version has ‘Gaul’ as a marginal alternative to ‘Galatia.’ א and C actually read Γαλλία instead of Γαλατία, and, besides, the latter word was often applied by Greek writers to European Gaul. If it could be assumed that St. Paul was able to carry out his purpose of going westward to evangelize Spain, he might be supposed to have visited Southern Gaul en route, and Crescens might afterwards have gone to this region. Eusebius (HE [Note: E Historia Ecclesiastica (Eusebius, etc.).] iii. 4), Epiphanius (Haer. li. 11), and Theodoret (in loco) certainly understand that Gaul is meant; and the early Christian inhabitants of that country naturally liked to believe that their Church had been founded by an apostolic emissary, if not by an apostle. But they had nothing better to base their belief upon than conjecture, and it is much more likely that the reference is here to Asiatic Galatia, since the other places named in the context-Thessalonica and Dalmatia-are both east, not west, of Rome.

The meaning of Γαλάται in 1 Maccabees 8:2 is disputable. The Revised Version says that Judas Maccabaeus (circa, about 162 b.c.) ‘heard of the fame of the Romans, that they are valiant men.… And they told him of their wars and exploits which they do among the Gauls,’ etc. A reference to Spain in the next verse might suggest European Gauls, but on the whole it is much more likely that reports of Manlius’s victories over the Celtic invaders of Asia Minor had come to the ear of the Jewish leader.

Literature.-J. Weiss, article ‘Kleinasien’ in Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche 3; W. M. Ramsay, article ‘Galatia’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) ; P. W. Schmiedel, article ‘Galatia’ in Encyclopaedia Biblica . The chief contributions to both sides of the Galatian controversy are given by J. Moffatt, Introd. to Literature of the New Testament (Moffatt)., 1911, pp. 90-92. The important monographs of V. Weber-Die Abfassung des Galaterbriefs vor dem Apostelkonzil (1900) and Der heilige Paulus vom Apostelübereinkommen bis zum Apostelkonzil (1901)-are South Galatian, while those of A. Steinmann-Die Abfassungszeit des Galaterbriefes (1906), and Der Leserkreis des Galaterbriefes (1908)-are North Galatian.

James Strahan.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Galatia'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​g/galatia.html. 1906-1918.
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