Geographical sites:

  • Delphi (click here to focus in map) (see also Pleiades #540726)
    Pleiades_icon Delphi settlement Geocontext: Delphi, formerly Pytho
    Description: The ancient pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Delphi in Greece, seat of the oracle of Apollo.


Text #8700

Diodorus Siculus. The Library of History. Vol. 11
[Diod. 22.9. Translated by C. H. Oldfather. Harvard University Press. 1935. (12 Vols.) pp. 61--63]

Brennus, the king of the Gauls, accompanied by one hundred and fifty thousand infantry, armed with long shields, and ten thousand cavalry, together with a horde of camp followers, large numbers of traders, and two thousand waggons, invaded Macedonia and engaged in battle. Having in this conflict lost many men … as lacking sufficient strength … when later he advanced into Greece and to the oracle at Delphi, which he wished to plunder. In the mighty battle fought there he lost tens of thousands of his comrades-in‑arms, and Brennus himself was three times wounded. Weighed down and near to death, he assembled his host there and spoke to the Gauls. He advised them to kill him and all the wounded, to burn their waggons, and to return home unburdened; he advised them also to make Cichorius king. Then, after drinking deeply of undiluted wine, Brennus slew himself. After Cichorius had given him burial, he killed the wounded and those who were victims of cold and starvation some twenty thousand in all; and so he began the journey homeward with the rest by the same route. In difficult terrain the Greeks would attack and cut off those in the rear, and carried off all their baggage. On the way to Thermopylae, food being scarce there, they abandoned twenty thousand more men. All the rest perished as they were going through the country of the Dardani, and not a single man was left to return home.

Brennus, the king of the Gauls, on entering a temple found no dedications of gold or silver, and when he came only upon images of stone and wood he laughed at them, to think that men, believing that gods have human form, should set up their images in wood and stone.

At the time of the Gallic invasion the inhabitants of Delphi, seeing that danger was at hand, asked the god if they should remove the treasures, the children, and the women from the shrine to the most strongly fortified of the neighbouring cities. The Pythia replied to the Delphians that the god commanded them to leave in place in the shrine the dedications and whatever else pertained to the adornment of the gods; for the god, and with him the White Maidens, would protect all. As there were in the sacred precinct two temples of extreme antiquity, one of Athena Pronaia and one of Artemis, they assumed that these goddesses were the “White Maidens” named in the oracle.

Text #3988

Pausanias. Description of Greece. Series: Description of Greece. Vol. 1
[Paus. 1.4.4. Translated by W. H. S. Jones. Harvard University Press. 1918. (6 Vols.) p. 21]


So they tried to save Greece in the way described1, but the Gauls, now south of the Gates, cared not at all to capture the other towns, but were very eager to sack Delphi and the treasures of the god. They were opposed by the Delphians themselves and the Phocians of the cities around Parnassus; a force of Aetolians also joined the defenders, for the Aetolians at this time were pre-eminent for their vigorous activity. When the forces engaged, not only were thunderbolts and rocks broken off from Parnassus hurled against the Gauls, but terrible shapes as armed warriors haunted the foreigners. They say that two of them, Hyperochus and Amadocus, came from the Hyperboreans, and that the third was Pyrrhus son of Achilles. Because of this help in battle the Delphians sacrifice to Pyrrhus as to a hero, although formerly they held even his tomb in dishonor, as being that of an enemy.

  1. i.e. the Athenians at Thermopylae [nE]

Text #8697

Pausanias. Description of Greece. Series: Description of Greece. Vol. 4
[Paus. 10.23.2--10.23.6. Translated by J. G. Frazer. Macmillan and Co Ltd.. 1898. (6 Vols.)]


Brennus and his army were now faced by the Greeks who had mustered at Delphi, and soon portents boding no good to the barbarians were sent by the god, the clearest recorded in history. For the whole ground occupied by the Gallic army was shaken violently most of the day, with continuous thunder and lightning.

The thunder both terrified the Gauls and prevented them hearing their orders, while the bolts from heaven set on fire not only those whom they struck but also their neighbors, themselves and their armour alike. Then there were seen by them ghosts of the heroes Hyperochus, Laodocus and Pyrrhus; according to some a fourth appeared, Phylacus, a local hero of Delphi.

Among the many Phocians who were killed in the action was Aleximachus, who in this battle excelled all the other Greeks in devoting youth, physical strength, and a stout heart, to slaying the barbarians. The Phocians made a statue of Aleximachus and sent it to Delphi as an offering to Apollo.

All the day the barbarians were beset by calamities and terrors of this kind. But the night was to bring upon them experiences far more painful. For there came on a severe frost, and snow with it; and great rocks slipping from Parnassus, and crags breaking away, made the barbarians their target, the crash of which brought destruction, not on one or two at a time, but on thirty or even more, as they chanced to be gathered in groups, keeping guard or taking rest.

At sunrise the Greeks came on from Delphi, making a frontal attack with the exception of the Phocians, who, being more familiar with the district, descended through the snow down the precipitous parts of Parnassus, and surprised the Celts in their rear, shooting them down with arrows and javelins without anything to fear from the barbarians.

At the beginning of the fight the Gauls offered a spirited resistance, especially the company attached to Brennus, which was composed of the tallest and bravest of the Gauls, and that though they were shot at from all sides, and no less distressed by the frost, especially the wounded men. But when Brennus himself was wounded, he was carried fainting from the battle, and the barbarians, harassed on all sides by the Greeks, fell back reluctantly, putting to the sword those who, disabled by wounds or sickness, could not go with them.

Text #8698

Justin. Epitome of the Phillippic History of Pompeius Trogus
[Bk. 24 Ch. 8 ]


The Gauls, animated by these assertions, and disordered, at the same time, with the wine which they had drunk the day before, rushed to battle without any fear of danger. The Delphians, on the other hand, placing more confidence in the god than in their own strength, resisted the enemy with contempt, and, from the top of the hill, repelled the Gauls as they climbed up, partly with pieces of rock, and partly with their weapons. Amidst this contest between the two, the priests of all the temples, as well as the priestesses themselves, with their hair loose, and with their decorations and fillets, rushed, trembling and frantic, into the front ranks of the combatants, exclaiming that “the god was come; that they had seen him leap down into his temple through the opening roof; that, while they were all humbly imploring aid of the deity, a youth of extraordinary beauty, far above that of mortals, and two armed virgins, coming from the neighbouring temples of Diana and Minerva, met them; that they had not only perceived them with their eyes, but had heard also the sound of a bow and the rattling of arms;” and they therefore conjured them with the strongest entreaties, “not to delay, when the gods were leading them on, to spread slaughter among the enemy, and to share the victory with the powers of heaven.”

Incited by these exhortations, they all rushed eagerly to the field of battle, where they themselves also soon perceived the presence of the divinity; for a part of the mountain, broken off by an earthquake, overwhelmed a host of the Gauls, and some of the densest bodies of the enemy were scattered abroad, not without wounds, and fell to the earth. A tempest then followed, which destroyed, with hail and cold, those that were suffering from bodily injuries. The general Brennus himself, unable to endure the pain of his wounds, ended his life with his dagger. The other general, after punishing the advisers of the war, made off from Greece with all expedition, accompanied with ten thousand wounded men. But neither was fortune more favourable to those who fled; for in their terror, they passed no night under shelter, and no day without hardship and danger; and continual rains, snow congealed by the frost, famine, fatigue, and, what was the greatest evil, the constant want of sleep, consumed the wretched remains of the unfortunate army. The nations and people too, through whom they marched, pursued their stragglers, as if to spoil them. Hence it happened that, of so great an army, which a little before, presuming on its strength, contended even against the gods, not a man was left to be a memorial of its destruction.

Text #8699

Justin. Epitome of the Phillippic History of Pompeius Trogus
[Bk. 32 Ch. 3 ]


The Gauls, after their disastrous attack upon Delphi, in which they had felt the power of the divinity more than that of the enemy, and had lost their leader Brennus, had fled, like exiles, partly into Asia, and partly into Thrace, and then returned, by the same way by which they had come, into their own country. Of these, a certain number settled at the conflux of the Danube and Save, and took the name of Scordisci. The Tectosagi, on returning to their old settlements about Toulouse, were seized with a pestilential distemper, and did not recover from it, until, being warned by the admonitions of their soothsayers, they threw the gold and silver, which they had got in war and sacrilege, into the lake of Toulouse; all which treasure, a hundred and ten thousand pounds of silver, and fifteen hundred thousand pounds of gold, Caepio,1 the Roman consul, a long time after, carried away with him.

  1. Roman consul in 106 BC. [nE]

Text #9173

"Battle of Thermopylae 279 BC", in Wikipedia.

The Battle of Thermopylae was fought in 279 BC between invading Gallic armies and a combined army of Greek Aetolians, Boeotians, Athenians, Phocians at Thermopylae. The Gauls under Brennus were victorious, and advanced further into the Greek peninsula where they sacked Delphi.

Gallic groups, originating from the various La Tène chiefdoms, began a south-eastern movement into the Balkan peninsula from the 4th century BC. Although Gallic settlements were concentrated in the western half of the Carpathian basin, there were notable incursions, and settlements, within the Balkan peninsula itself.

From their new bases in northern Illyria and Pannonia, the Gallic invasions climaxed in the early 3rd century BC, with the invasion of Greece. The 279 BC invasion of Greece proper was preceded by a series of other military campaigns waged toward southern Balkans and against the kingdom of Macedonia, favoured by the state of confusion ensuing from the intricated succession to Alexander.

The Celtic military pressure toward Greece in the southern Balkans reached its turning point in 281 BC. In 280 BC a great army, comprising about 85,000 warriors, coming from Pannonia and split into three divisions, marched South in a great expedition to Macedon and central Greece. Under the leadership of Cerethrius, 20,000 men moved against the Thracians and Triballi. Another division, led by Brennus and Acichorius1 moved against Paionians while a third division, headed by Bolgios, aimed for Macedonians and Illyrians.

Bolgios inflicted heavy losses on the Macedonians, whose young king, Ptolemy Keraunos, was captured and decapitated. However, Bolgios’ contingent was repulsed by the Macedonian nobleman Sosthenes, and satisfied with the loot they had won, Bolgios’ contingents turned back. Sosthenes, in turn, was attacked and defeated by Brennus and his division, who were then free to ravage the country.

After these expeditions returned home, Brennus urged and persuaded them to mount a third united expedition against central Greece, led by himself and Acichorius.

A Greek coalition made up of Aetolians, Boeotians, Athenians, Phocians, and other Greeks north of Corinth took up quarters at the narrow pass of Thermopylae, on the east coast of central Greece. During the initial assault, Brennus’ forces suffered heavy losses. Hence he decided to send a large force under Acichorius against Aetolia. The Aetolian detachment, as Brennus hoped, left Thermopylae to defend their homes. The Aetolians joined the defense en masse - the old and women joining the fight. Realizing that the Gallic sword was dangerous only at close quarters, the Aetolians resorted to skirmishing tactics. According to Pausanias, only half the number that had set out for Aetolia returned.

Eventually Brennus found a way around the pass at Thermopylae but the Greeks escaped by sea.

Brennus pushed on to Delphi where he was defeated and forced to retreat, after which he died of wounds sustained in the battle. His army fell back to the river Spercheios where it was routed by the Thessalians and Malians. Some of the survivors of the Greek campaign, led by Comontoris (one of Brennus’ generals) settled in Thrace, founding a short-lived city-state named Tyle. Another group of Gauls, who split off from Brennus’ army in 281, were transported over to Asia Minor by Nicomedes I to help him defeat his brother and secure the throne of Bithynia. They eventually settled in the region that came to be named after them as Galatia. They were defeated by Antiochus I, and as a result, they were confined to barren highlands in the center of Anatolia.

  1. Brennus is said to have belonged to an otherwise unknown tribe called the Prausi. See: Strabo, Geography 4:1.13. Not to be confused with the Brennus of the previous century, who sacked Rome in 387 BC. Some writers suppose that Brennus and Acichorius are the same persons, the former being only a title and the latter the real name. Schmidt, “De fontibus veterum auctorum in enarrandis expeditionibus a Gallis in Macedoniania susceptis,” Berol. 1834

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