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Creating a Common Polity

Creating a Common Polity: Religion, Economy, and Politics in the Making of the Greek Koinon

Emily Mackil
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 624
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  • Book Info
    Creating a Common Polity
    Book Description:

    In the ancient Greece of Pericles and Plato, thepolis,or city-state, reigned supreme, but by the time of Alexander, nearly half of the mainland Greek city-states had surrendered part of their autonomy to join the larger political entities calledkoina.In the first book in fifty years to tackle the rise of these so-called Greek federal states, Emily Mackil charts a complex, fascinating map of how shared religious practices and long-standing economic interactions faciliated political cooperation and the emergence of a new kind of state. Mackil provides a detailed historical narrative spanning five centuries to contextualize her analyses, which focus on the three best-attested areas of mainland Greece-Boiotia, Achaia, and Aitolia. The analysis is supported by a dossier of Greek inscriptions, each text accompanied by an English translation and commentary.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95393-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. MAPS
    (pp. xvii-xxviii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Federal political structures, characterized by a division of sovereignty among multiple levels of government, have proved tremendously attractive in early modern and modern history for two basic reasons. First, their careful distribution of power gives them tremendous advantages for the governance of extremely large territories with disparate resources and highly localized economies; for this reason federalism has allowed the United States, Canada, and Australia to function successfully as single states.¹ Second, and more recently, the preservation of political entities below the national level has made them appealing to multiethnic states such as India, Belgium, and Spain; the ability to foster...


    • 1 The Archaic Period and the Fifth Century
      (pp. 21-57)

      Signs of cooperation among communities within particular regions appear at different moments in the archaic and early classical periods. Across regions, however, evidence for an emergent group identity, articulated around descent from a common ancestor and the occupation of a shared territory, tends to precede evidence for active cooperation among communities. While this similarity is highly significant for our understanding of how the koinon developed, divergences in other respects command our attention. The process of urbanization that is a central part of polis development occurred differently in each of the three regions that form the core of this study, and...

    • 2 The Fourth Century
      (pp. 58-90)

      During the first half of the fourth century the loose cooperative practices of the Achaians and Aitolians were transformed into a set of formal political institutions that bound the poleis and communities of each region together into regional states. Although the evidence is not plentiful, it is unmistakable. For Boiotia rich literary sources allow us to trace the struggle against Sparta and the unambiguous domination of the Boiotian koinon by Thebes, which itself begins to reveal the remarkable fragility of the koinon as a set of institutions, a theme we shall pick up in greater detail in chapter 6. The...

    • 3 The Hellenistic Period
      (pp. 91-144)

      During the Hellenistic period, the koina of mainland Greece and the Peloponnese were strengthened and expanded both to achieve greater security against powerful enemies and to gain control over greater and more diversified sets of resources. Attempts to retain regional autonomy led to a series of shifting alliances, especially complex during the wars of Alexander’s successors. The city of Thebes was rebuilt and eventually rejoined the Boiotian koinon, which became robust in this period, with a set of institutions refined to prevent the old hegemon from regaining its former position of dominance over the other member poleis and the koinon...


    • 4 Cultic Communities
      (pp. 147-236)

      Few would argue with the claim that religion was a powerful mechanism for social cohesion in the ancient Greek world, both within an individual state and between communities that retained distinct political identities. The former is captured, negatively perhaps but quite sharply, by the extreme reactions to perceived religious irregularities in moments of political crisis: the charges of impiety leveled against Alkibiades and others in connection with the Profanation of the Mysteries and the Mutilation of the Herms, actions interpreted by many as indicative of an attempt to overthrow the democracy, were made as the Athenians embarked on an expedition...

    • 5 Economic Communities
      (pp. 237-325)

      Shortly after the conclusion of the King’s Peace, ambassadors from the northern Greek poleis of Akanthos and Apollonia went to Sparta to appeal for help in combatting the expansion of the koinon of the Chalkideis under the leadership of Olynthos. Having seized control of significant portions of Macedonia, including Pella itself, the leaders of the koinon were pressing on those poleis of the Chalkidic Peninsula, like Akanthos and Apollonia, that were not members. Xenophon gives us a speech by one Kleigenes, the Akanthian ambassador to Sparta, in which Kleigenes enumerates the resources and advantages that he believes make the koinon...

    • 6 Political Communities
      (pp. 326-399)

      If the religious and economic origins of the koinon and the state’s ongoing engagement with those spheres of social action highlight its complexity and suggest that it was more multifaceted than what we tend to think of as a federal state, its political structures are indubitably akin to those we recognize in modern federal states. We need now to turn to this arena, where the label “federal” is more immediately applicable than it has been until this point in the argument.

      At the heart of the Greek koinon, as in all federal political structures, lies a pair of dilemmas. First,...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 400-408)

    The origins of this book lie in two simple observations. The first is the fact that nearly half the poleis of the classical Greek world for some time participated in koina, a number that certainly increased in the Hellenistic period. The second is that we have had no compelling understanding of why they did so. For membership in a koinon entailed the surrender of partial autonomy by the polis, which can be construed either as a dilution or as a loss of significant state power. Yet refusal to surrender autonomy, a state’s power of self-determination, lies at the heart of...

  10. APPENDIX: Epigraphic Dossier
    (pp. 409-504)
    (pp. 505-558)
    (pp. 559-586)
    (pp. 587-594)