Ancient Greek History

History of the Achaean League

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The Achaean League was a Greek confederation that operated from the 5th Century BC to 146 AD. Comprised of several city-state, the League was created as merely a defensive treaty against raiders, but it would become much more than that. Although not as powerful as the neighboring empires of Rome and Macedon, the Achaean League would go on to have an important impact on history. Here’s more information about the league:

Early History of the Achaean League

The earliest form of the Achaean League was started in the fifth century BC, but following the destruction of its capital, Helike, the League fragmented in 373 BC. One hundred years later, in 280 (possibly 281) BC, the Achaean League was reformed and quickly expanded to include ten city-states within a decade. This growth was halted by King Antigonus II Gonatas of Macedon, who began placing rulers who supported him in Achaean city-states.
This would change drastically in 243 BC.

A young Achaean general named Aratus managed to secure financial support from the Kingdom of Egypt. Aratus used the money to raise an army, attack, and capture the fortress of Acrocorinth (Corinth). This led to more support from Egypt and brought more city-states to the Achaean League. In 240 BC, King Antigonus relented and the League gained independence.

The Social War

The victory at Acrocorinth was not the end of Macedonian meddling in Greece or the end of the Achaean Leagues problems. The power of the League after their triumph was seen with hostility from the remaining independent city-state in Greece, especially Sparta. Sparta, which the Achaean League had never manage to subdue, began to resist them with more ferocity. Aratus eventually called on the Macedonians to help defeat the Spartans. The new Macedonian king, Antigonus III Doson, agreed to help, but ended up staying in Greece when Sparta surrendered.

After the war, Sparta formed its own league, the Aetolian League, to challenge the Achaean League’s power in Greece. This led to a bloody conflict known as the Social War, which lasted from 220 BC to 217 BC. Macedon once again intervened on the side of the Achaeans, calling a peace conference and condemning Aetolian aggression.

The Achaean League and Rome

However, the Achaean League grew tired of Macedonian interference. When Rome declared war against Macedon again (Second Macedonian War) in 200 BC, the League allied with Rome, and together they finally drove out the Macedonians and subdued Sparta at the same time. This led to the peak of the Achaean League’s power in 196 BC, when they controlled all of the Peloponnese.

However, the League did not hold this power for very long. Rome declared a third war again Macedon in 171 BC, and the Achaean League considered allying with Macedon. This led to several Achaean hostages being taken by Rome as assurances. In 146 BC, the alliance between the League and Rome collapsed entirely, and Rome quickly conquered all of Achaea.

Even though the Achaean League was not as powerful as Rome or Macedon, they still influence world history. The League was one of the first entities to operate under a federalist system. This would go on to influence America’s Founding Fathers when they wrote the Constitution almost two centuries later. Even in the 21st century, the Achaean League’s influence is still felt.

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This post was written by Greek Boston

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