Which Galicia?

Previously: Which Iberia?Which Alexandria?Which Albania?Which African Nation?Which Guinea?Which Thebes?Which Georgia?

If you thumb through texts of European history, you’re bound to find references to places that go by the names Galatia, Galicia, and Galatea. These names may look similar, but they have existed in several places across Europe with little if any common connection.

galatia

Galatia, the Greek name for the territory of the Gauls
The story starts with Galatia as the Greek word for Gaul. Although Gaul as we know it from history is approximately modern-day France, 2500 years ago the “Gauls” as they were perceived by the Greeks lived across northern Europe. The geographic boundaries of this region are not easy to understand and this may refer to as broad a territory as a place that took a similar name in Anatolia. Which brings us to…

Galatia, Anatolia
The writings of the Greeks refer to the Galli, a people who lived in central Anatolia. It is not clear if this was a separate people from the Gauls of the north or not, but by the time the Roman Empire had expanded to conquer the region, the area was incorporated as a province of the Roman Empire with the name Galatia.

Galicia, Spain
On the other side of Europe, the Romans named the region of the northern region of the Iberian Peninsula as Gallaecia, after the Gallaeci tribe that inhabited the area. The name lasted for hundreds of years, and was the forefather to the Kingdom of Galicia that lasted through the Middle Ages.

Like the two Iberias that existed in modern-day Spain and modern-day Georgia at opposite ends of Europe and yet had no connection to each other, there is no connection between the Galatia in Anatolia and the Galicia in Spain.

Galicia, Central Europe
Galicia was also a kingdom situated in today’s Poland-Ukraine that emerged as an independent kingdom from the 12th century. It later became part of the Austrian Empire, but emerged as an independent kingdom again in the early 20th century. This name may actually originate in the Roman name for the region, based on the name of the “Gaulics” who lived there, which in term was based on the Greek name of Galicia.

ENDNOTES: Beyond these four regions, there is also Galatia, a village in Kozani Prefecture, within the Greek region of Macedonia. The village is not an incorporated municipality and its population is tiny, numbering less than a thousand on the most recent census. There’s also Nueva Galicia, a region first given to a part of New Spain that is now in Mexico; Galatea, a village in the North Island of New Zealand; Mount Galatea, a peak in the Canadian Rockies; and Galathea National Park, a national park in the Nicobar Islands, India.

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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5 Responses to Which Galicia?

  1. Younghusband says:

    Good post.

    Biographical note: My people came from Galicia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They came to Canada during a wave of immigration in the 1880′s. My grandfather’s generation was born in Canada and him and all his brothers have names of cities and towns in Galicia.

    When people ask my heritage I like to open with the surefire conversation starter: “It doesn’t exist anymore.”

  2. lirelou says:

    Well, the Kelts/Celts certainly crossed a lot of territory before settling into where the Romans found them, so it is remotely possible that all these “Galicians” owe their name to a once common term. If I recall my Irish hsitory correctly, the last group to enter Ireland prior to the Christian era was from the North of Spain, which I guess makes Franco a very distant cousin.

  3. Curzon says:

    “Well, the Kelts/Celts certainly crossed a lot of territory before settling into where the Romans found them, so it is remotely possible that all these “Galicians” owe their name to a once common term. ”

    Indeed.

  4. Dirky says:

    “It later became part of the Austrian Empire, but emerged as an independent kingdom again in the early 20th century.”

    That’s misleading, Galicia was an integral part of the Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary, the emperor having the title of the King of Galicia. It was definitely not independent in the 19-20th centuries.

  5. Curzon says:

    Dirky: Although much of what you say is correct, it definitely was independent for a brief period in the 20th century.