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date: 20 October 2018

alliance, Greek

Fundamentally, an agreement between states to fight together (symmachein) against a common enemy, so that the standard term is symmachia. Such alliances might be made either for a limited period or for all time. Thucydides (2), 1. 44. 1, 5. 48. 2, distinguishes between a symmachia, as a full offensive and defensive alliance, and an epimachia, as a purely defensive alliance; but that use of the two terms is not widespread, and, for instance, the prospectus of the Second Athenian Confederacy, which was a defensive alliance, consistently uses symmachein and cognate words (IG 22. 43 = RO no. 22). In a full offensive and defensive alliance it was commonly stated that the participating states were to ‘have the same friends and enemies’: that formulation might be used when the alliance was on an equal basis, but it could be adapted to circumstances in which one participant was inferior to the other, as in 404 bce when Athens undertook both to have the same friends and enemies as Sparta and to follow Sparta's lead.

The Peloponnesian League, built up by Sparta in the second half of the 6th cent. bce, was the first instance of a league of allies united for purposes of foreign policy. Such leagues tended to be formed with a dominant state as leader (hēgemōn), influential through possession of executive power even if not formally privileged in decision-making, and with a council which played a part in decision-making and enabled representatives of the member states to express opinions and vote. Other examples were the Delian League, the Second Athenian Confederacy, the league centred on Thebes (1) in the 360s and after, and the League of Corinth (see corinth, league of) organized by Philip (1) II of Macedon. In the Delian League Athens came to interfere in various ways with the autonomy of the members; and to win support for her Second Confederacy she gave undertakings that such interference would not be repeated. In the Hellenistic period federal states which expanded beyond their core membership, such as the Achaean Confederacy and the Aetolian Confederacy, took the place of leagues centred on a hēgemōn.



For 770–338 bce, H. Bengtson (ed.), Die Staatsverträge des Altertums 22 (1975).Find this resource:

For 338–200 bce, H. H. Schmitt (ed.), Die Staatsverträge des Altertums 3 (1969).Find this resource:

Modern literature

W. S. Ferguson, Greek Imperialism (1913), chs. 1–3, 7.Find this resource:

G. Busolt, Griechische Staatskunde 2, 3rd edn. (1926), pt. 3.Find this resource:

V. Martin, La Vie internationale dans la Grèce des cités (1940), pt. 2 ch. 1.Find this resource:

I. Calabi, Ricerche sui rapporti tra le poleis (1953), chs. 2, 3, 5.Find this resource:

V. Ehrenberg, The Greek State, 2nd edn. (1969), pt. 1 ch. 3.Find this resource:

K. Tausend, Amphiktyonie und Symmachie, Historia Einzelschr. 73 (1992).Find this resource:

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