Achaean League

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Achaean League

Achaean League (əkēˈən), confederation of cities on the Gulf of Corinth. The First Achaean League, about which little is known, was formed presumably before the 5th cent. B.C. and lasted through the 4th cent. B.C. Its purpose was mutual protection against pirates. The Achaeans remained aloof from the wars in Greece until they joined the opposition to Philip II of Macedon in 338 B.C. The confederation was dissolved soon after. The Second Achaean League was founded in 280 B.C. Sicyon was freed from the rule of its tyrant in 251 B.C., and it soon joined the confederation under the leadership of Aratus. Other cities outside Achaea were incorporated on terms of equality, and in 247 B.C. the Macedonians were driven from Corinth. There was some promise of liberating all Greece, but unfortunately the interference of Cleomenes III of Sparta threatened the Achaean League, and in 227 B.C. he began a war. The Achaean League then requested (224 B.C.) Macedonian aid against Sparta and the Aetolian League. The result was the eclipse of the confederation until the wars between Macedon and Rome. In 198 B.C. the Achaeans went over to Rome and with Roman aid won practically the whole Peloponnesus, forcing Sparta and Messene to join. Later suspecting the Achaeans of again looking toward Macedon, the Romans deported (168 B.C.) their leaders (including Polybius) to Italy. In 146 B.C. the Romans waged a war against the Achaeans and easily triumphed at Corinth. The Romans dissolved the confederation, thereby ending Greek liberty.
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Achaean League


federation of ancient Greek cities in the Peloponnesos. The Achaean League was a union of the 12 settlements of Achaea (hence the name of the league). During the last third of the fourth century B.C. it disintegrated. Around 280 B.C. it was reborn as an anti-Macedonian federal state, which included the four Achaean city-states, and in 275 it was joined by Aegium (which became the center of the Achaean League) and soon by all of Achaea. In 251 B.C., Sicyon joined the league, after which, under Aratus (second half of the third century), who united Corinth, Epidaurus, Megara, and other cities, the league began to flourish.

There was no predominant city in the Achaean League; those cities which belonged to the league enjoyed internal autonomy. The supreme power belonged to the assembly of league citizens, which assembled twice a year at Aegium. Each city that was a member of the Achaean League had one vote in this assembly. The assembly decided the most important matters and elected the highest officials: a strategus (general), with the right of reelection after one year; a navarch (the head of the fleet); and a hipparch (the head of the cavalry). The Achaean League had an all-league court. The league’s expenditures were covered by fees from the separate cities; the cities also provided military contingents. The Achaean League minted its own coins and had its own uniform system of measures.

During the rule of Aratus the Achaean League achieved the elimination of the Macedonian hegemony in the Peloponnesos. But the reforms of Cleomenes III in Sparta and the resulting agrarian movement in the Peloponnesos frightened the oligarchs. After having called upon the Macedonian king Antigonus III Doson for aid against Sparta, Aratus surrendered the league to the power of Macedonia (221 B.C.). During the war of Rome against Macedonia (200–197) the Achaean League, led by Philopoemen, became allied with Rome, and subsequently on several occasions was utilized by Rome in order to put down liberating and social movements in various areas of Greece (in Boeotia, Sparta, and others). However, the Achaean League’s growing strength and the inclusion of Sparta, Elis, and Messene in the league alarmed the Romans. They began to interfere actively in its affairs, which evoked resistance by the Achaean League. After its defeat by the Romans in 146 B.C., the Achaean League was dispersed. Later in its place and in that of the neighboring territories the Roman province of Achaea was formed.


Ranovich, A. B. Ellinizm i ego istoricheskaia rol’. Moscow-Leningrad, 1950.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Achaean League

federation of Greek cities formed in 280 B.C. to resist Macedonian domination. [Gk. Hist.: Brewer Dictionary, 6]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.