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, 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…
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.
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.