Amphictyonic League

In the Archaic period of Greek history, an amphictyony (Greek: ἀμφικτυονία), a "league of neighbors", or Amphictyonic League was an ancient association of Greek tribes formed in the dim past, before the rise of the Greek polis. The six Dorian cities of coastal southwest Asia Minor, or the twelve Ionian cities to the north, a dodecapolis forming an Ionian League emerging in the aftermath of a dimly-remembered "Meliac war" in the mid-7th century BCE, were already of considerable antiquity when the first written records emerge.

Thucydides made recollection of the Lelantine War, apparently fought in Euboea sometime between the late 8th century BCE and the first half of the 7th century BCE:

"The war between Chalcis and Eretria was the one in which most cities belonging to the rest of Greece were divided up into alliances with one side or the other."

Historians have puzzled over the broader meanings of "alliance" in such early times. "But comparatively large-scale associations lead more readily to contacts, to friendships and enmities at a distance than do little city-like units," George Forrest notes, remarking apropos that Phrygia and Assyria were at war with each other about 720-710 BCE, raising tensions among interested Greeks.

In historic times, an amphictyony might survive as a form of religious organization enjoined to support specific temples or sacred places; traditional amphictyonies coordinated Olympic and Pythian games. Twelve members would meet at specific times in the same sanctuary to keep religious festivals and conduct other matters as well.

An early amphictyony centered on Kalaureia, an island close to the coast of Troezen in the Peloponnesus sacred to Poseidon, was noted by Strabo. Archaeology of the site suggested to Thomas Kelly that the sacred league was founded in the second quarter of the 7th century BCE, ca 680-650; before that date there were virtually no remains at the site, which could not have been used more than sporadically. The island was known at one time as Eirene (Εἰρήνη) ("Peace"), clearly in reference to the amphictiony. Strabo lists the poleis that belonged:

And there was also a kind of Amphictyonic League connected with this temple, a league of seven cities which shared in the sacrifice; they were Hermione, Epidaurus, Aegina, Athens, Prasïeis, Nauplïeis, and Orchomenus Minyeius; however, the Argives paid dues for the Nauplians, and the Lacedaemonians for the Prasians."

Read more about Amphictyonic LeagueThe Delphic Amphictyony

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