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The Achaean And Aetolian Confederacies Notes

Classics Notes > Roman History 241 BC to 146 BC Notes

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Were the Achaean and Aetolian Confederacies viable between the Hellenistic Kingdoms and an increasingly influential Rome?
"I know too well that the time will come when the Greeks will be forced to yield complete obedience to Rome; but do we wish this time to be as near as possible or as distant as possible?"(24.13.6). This is the question which Philopoemen, the last of the Greeks as far as the Romans were concerned (Plutarch, Aratus 24), puts to the Achaean assembly during its discussion about how to deal with the growing power of Rome in Greece, but by this point in the text of Polybius all Greeks seem to have accepted that Rome, at some point or other, will achieve total domination. The Achaean and Aetolian confederacies had stood with and against the new power respectively but both ultimately came under its sway; the question is whether this was an inevitability once Rome had taken an interest in affairs further East or whether these confederacies were viable in the long term irrespective of both Rome and the powerful Hellenistic kingdom of Macedonia which stood on the doorstep of Greece. To find an answer it is important to consider the history and nature of the two confederacies and their complicated relations with each other, Macedonia and eventually Rome. It is also interesting to very briefly look at the fates of two Greek powers of previous generations, Athens and Sparta, and examine how they fared on their own without association with either league or major Hellenistic power; this will help to reveal how every state in Greece was at the mercy of first Macedonia and then Rome. Firstly the Aetolian league, whom Polybius consistently describes in the worst possible terms; he says they are aggressive and expansionist and that their natural state is lawlessness and the plundering of Greece. When it comes to these people his account must be treated with some degree of care because he rarely makes any attempt to veil the utter contempt with which he views them, being, as he is, a member of the rival Achaean league. It is impossible to say how representative this sort of hatred would have been in a typical leading member of either league, but it is an interesting thing to note when considering whether the two confederacies ever had any hope of working together in a meaningful and lasting way, perhaps the only situation in which they would have had any chance in resisting the advances of either Macedonia or more importantly Rome. The Aetolian league appears to have had a strong central government whose decisions were made by a council and a representative popular assembly. Presiding over this assembly was a military commander and there probably was a smaller, select group of men who made the more mundane decisions that did not require the presence of the large assembly; the rugged nature of the Aetolian land would have made it quite impractical for regular meeting of such a body. The states which were under their control had equal political rights with the others but lacked voting rights, which in theory makes the organisation internally strong and loyalty to it high within its own ranks. Their area of control was large, which gave them enough manpower and resources to expand through much of central Greece during the early Hellenistic period, at the expense of Macedonian domination, however the successes of Antigonus Doson and

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