Pessinus — A settlement in Galatia
Archaeological research since 1967 showed that the city developed around 400 BC at the earliest, which contradicts any historical claim of early Phrygian roots.

By the 3rd century BC at the latest, Pessinus had become a temple state ruled by a clerical oligarchy consisting of Galloi, eunuch priests of the Mother Goddess. After the arrival of Celtic tribes in Asia Minor in 278/277 BC, and their defeat at the hand of Antiochus I, the Celts settled in the north-central region of Anatolia which became known as Galatia. The tribe of the Tolistobogi occupied the Phrygian territory between Gordium and Pessinus. It is doubtful that the temple state actually stood under Galatian control at this early stage.

Roman involvement in Pessinus however has early roots. In 205/204 BC, alarmed by a number of meteor showers during the ongoing Second Punic War, the Romans, after consulting the Sibylline Books, decided to introduce the cult of the Great Mother of Ida (Magna Mater Idaea, also known as Cybele) to the city. They sought the aid of their ally Attalus I (241-197 BC), and following his instructions, they went to Pessinus and removed the goddess' most important image, a large black stone that was said to have fallen from the sky, to Rome (Livy 10.4-11.18)

According to Strabo (12.5.3) the priests gradually lost their privileges. The Mithridatic Wars (89-85 BC; 83-81 BC; 73-63 BC) caused political and economic turmoil throughout the region. When Deiotaros, tetrarch of the Tolistobogi and loyal vassal of Rome, became king of Galatia in 67/66 BC or 63 BC, Pessinus lost its status as an independent sacred principality.

In 36 BC, rule over Galatia was transferred to king Amyntas by Marc Anthony. At the death of the monarch, under Emperor Augustus the empire of the Galatians was annexed by the Imperium Romanum as the province of Galatia. Pessinus became the administrative capital of the Galatian tribe of the Tolistobogi and soon developed into a genuinely Graeco-Roman polis with a large number of monumental buildings, such as a colonnaded street and a Temple of the Imperial Cult.

Modern location: Ballıhisar, Turkey
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