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Aetolian Confederacy

The looser tribal organization of the Aetolians of NW Greece gave way during the 4th cent. bce to a federal state, or league, which soon acquired considerable power. This increased dramatically in the first part of the 3rd cent. bce, owing to the Aetolians' role in the victory over the invading Gauls (280/79) and their control of the Delphic amphictiony which soon followed (from 277). Normally hostile to Macedon, they became allies of Rome against Philip (3) V of Macedon in 212 or 211 bce, Rome's first allies in mainland Greece. After a period of estrangement they allied themselves with Rome against Philip once again (199 bce), but such was their feeling of ill-treatment at the hands of the Romans in the aftermath of Philip's defeat at Cynoscephalae (197 bce) that they went on to make common cause with the Seleucid king Antiochus (3) III. This proved their downfall, and in 189 the Aetolians were compelled to accept a treaty as subject allies of Rome. The confederacy was not dissolved, but external influence was gone and problems of debt and civil conflict soon ensued.

At the head of the confederacy was a general elected annually. The primary assembly had two regular meetings a year and could be summoned for special sessions. In this body votes seem to have been counted by heads and not, as in some federal states, by cities. The council (boulē or synhedrion), in which the cities were represented in proportion to population, contained some thousand members. Hence, particularly in time of war, much of the leadership fell to the apoklētoi (of whom there were more than 30), probably a committee of the council. The cities contributed to the federal treasury in proportion to their number of representatives in the council. At no time did the leadership of the confederacy pass out of the hands of the Aetolians proper. This was in no small part because more distant cities were not made regular members, but were instead bound to the confederacy by isopoliteia, which involved civic rights, protection, and potential citizenship but no active participation in federal affairs. Grants of asylia (freedom from plundering) by the Aetolians were not infrequent and were highly prized on account of their practice of right of reprisal and piracy.


G. Klaffenbach, introd. to Inscriptiones Graecae 92. 1, with references to the widely-scattered sources.Find this resource:

    R. Flacelière, Les Aitoliens à Delphes (1937).Find this resource:

      J. A. O. Larsen, Greek Federal States (1968), 78 ff.Find this resource:

        G. Nachtergael, Les Galates en Grèce et les Sôtéria de Delphes (1977).Find this resource:

          J. D. Grainger, The League of the Aitolians (1999).Find this resource:

            T. Corsten, Vom Stamm zum Bund (1999), esp. 133–159.Find this resource:

              J. Scholten, The Politics of Plunder (2000) J. Scholten, “Macedon and the Mainland, 280-221,” in A. Erskine (ed.), Companion to the Hellenistic World (2003), ch. 9. M. H. Hansen and T. H. Nielsen, An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis (2004), 379.

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