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AETO´LICUM FOEDUS (τὸ κοινὸν τῶν Αἰτωλῶν), a confederation of the Aetolian towns and tribes, which was afterwards joined by towns and cantons of Greece which did not belong to Aetolia proper. The league appears to have been formed shortly after the battle of Chaeroneia, in B.C. 338, to counteract the influence of Macedonia on the affairs of Greece. Its primary object therefore was the same as that of the later league of the Achaeans. It has been suggested by Schömann (Griech. Alterth. ii. p. 102) that there had existed from very early times a loose kind of confederacy among the Aetolians, the centre of which was the sanctuary of Apollo at Thermon. (Hom. Il. 2.638; 13.217.) In the time of Thucydides (3.119) the several Aetolian tribes between the rivers Achelous and Evenus appear to have been quite independent of one another, although they were designated by the common name of Aetolians ; but we nevertheless find that on certain occasions they acted in concert, as, for example, when they sent embassies to foreign powers, or when they had to ward off the attacks of a common enemy. (Thuc. l.c. 3.95, &c.) It may therefore be admitted that there did not exist any regularly organised league among the tribes of Aetolia, and that it was only their common danger that made them act in concert; but such a state of things, at any rate, facilitated the formation of a league, when the time came at which it was needed. The league appears as a very powerful one very soon after the death of Alexander the Great, viz. during the Lamian war against Antipater. (Diod. 19.66; 20.99.) How far its organisation was then regulated is unknown, though a certain constitution must have existed as early as that time, since we find that Aristotle wrote a work on the Aetolian constitution. (Strab. vii. p.321.) But it was certainly wanting in internal solidity, and not based upon any firm principles. In B.C. 204, two of the heads of the confederacy, Dorimachos and Scopas, were commissioned to regulate its constitution, and it was perhaps in. consequence of their regulation, that a cancelling of debts was decreed two years later. (Plb. 13.1, Fragm. Hist. 68.) The characteristic difference between the Aetolian and Achaean leagues, was that the former originally consisted of a confederacy of nations or tribes, while the latter was a confederacy of towns. Hence the ancient and great towns of the Aetolians, throughout the period of the league, are of no importance and exercise no influence whatever. Even Thermon, although it was the head of the league, and the place where the ordinary meetings of the confederates were held (Plb. 5.8, 18.31, 28.4; Strab. x. p.463), did not serve as a fortress in times of war; and whenever the Aetolians were threatened by any danger, they preferred withdrawing to their impregnable mountains.

The sovereign power of the confederacy was vested in the general assemblies of all the confederates (κοινὸν τῶν Αἰτωλῶν, concilium Aetolorum), and this assembly unquestionably had the right to discuss all questions respecting peace and war, and to elect the great civil and military officers of the league. It is however clear that those assemblies could not be attended by all the Aetolians, for many of them were poor, and lived at a great distance, in addition to which the roads were much more impassable than in other parts of Greece. The constitution of the league was thus in theory a democracy, but under the cover of that name it was in reality an aristocracy, and the name Panaetolicum, which Livy (31.29) applies to the Aetolian assembly, must be understood accordingly [p. 1.42]as an assembly of the wealthiest and most influential persons, who occasionally passed the most arbitrary resolutions, and screened the maddest and most unlawful acts of the leading men under the fine name of a decree of all the Aetolians.

We have already mentioned that the ordinary place of meeting was at Thermon, but on extraordinary occasions assemblies were also held in other towns belonging to the league, though they were not situated in the country of Aetolia proper, e. g. at Heracleia (Liv. 33.3), Naupactus (35.12), Hypata (36.2, 8), and Lamia (35.43, 44). The questions which were to be brought before the assembly were sometimes discussed previously by a committee, selected from the great mass, and called Apocleti (ἀπόκλητοι, Suid. s.v. Liv. 36.28). Some writers believe that the Apocleti formed a permanent council, and that the thirty men sent out to negotiate with Antiochus were only a committee of the Apocleti. (Plb. 4.9, 20.10, 21.3; Tittmann, Griech. Staatsverf. p. 727.)

The general assembly usually met in the autumn, when the officers of the league were elected. (Plb. 4.37.) The highest among them, as among those of the Achaean league, bore the title of στρατηγός, whose office lasted only for one year. The first whose name is known was Eurydamos, who commanded the Aetolians in the war against the Galatians. (Paus. 10.16.2.) The strategus had the right to convoke the assembly; he presided in it, introduced the subjects for deliberation, and levied the troops. (Liv. 38.4.) He had his share of the booty made in war, but was not allowed to vote in decisions upon peace or war. (Liv. 35.25.) This was a wise precaution, as a sanguine strategus might easily have involved the league in wars which would have been ruinous to the nation. His name was signed to all public documents, treaties, and decrees of the general assembly. An exception occurs in the peace with the Romans, because they themselves dictated it and abandoned the usual form. (Plb. 22.15.) Respecting the mode of election, we are told by Hesychius (s. v. κυάμῳ πατρίῳ), that it was decided by white and black beans, and not by voting, but by drawing lots. The authority on which the statement of Hesychius is based can be of no weight, and we must suppose that the election was made by voting (see Schömann, Griech. Alt. ii. p. 105).

The officers next in rank to the strategus were the hipparchus and the public scribe. (Plb. 22.15; comp. Liv. 38.11.) We further hear of σύνεδροι, who act as arbiters (Böckh, Corp. Inscr. vol. ii. p. 633), and νομογράφοι, who however may have had no more to do with the making of laws than the Athenian nomothetae. (Böckh, l.c. pp. 857, 858.)

With the exception of the points above mentioned, the constitution of the Aetolian league is involved in great obscurity. There are, however, two things which appear to have had an injurious effect upon the confederacy: first, the circumstance that its members were scattered over a large tract of country, and that besides Aetolia proper and some neighbouring countries, such as Locris and Thessaly, it embraced towns in the heart of Peloponnesus, the island of Cephallenia in the west, and in the east the town of Cios on the Propontis; in the second place, many of the confederates had been forced to join the league, and were ready to abandon it again as soon as an opportunity offered. (Plb. 4.25; comp. 22.13, 15; Liv. 38.9, 11.) The towns which belonged to the league of course enjoyed isopolity; but, as it endeavoured to increase its strength in all possible ways, the Aetolians also formed connections of friendship and alliances with other states which did not join the league. (Plb. 2.46.) The political existence of the league was destroyed in 3.100.189 by the treaty with Rome, whereby they became subjects of Rome; and the treachery of the Roman party among the Aetolians themselves caused in B.C. 167 five hundred and fifty of the leading patriots to be put to death, and those who survived the massacre were carried to Rome as prisoners. (Liv. 45.31; Just. 33.2.) An Aetolian, like an Achaean, league continued to exist under the Roman dominion as late as the time of Pausanias (10.38), but it was without any political significance. (Comp. Tittmann, Darstellung der Griech. Staatsverf. p. 721, &c.; Lucas, Ueber Polyb. Darstellung des Aetol. Bundes, Königsberg, 1827, 4to ; K. F. Hermann, Griech. Staatsalterth. § 183; Schorn, Geschichte Griechenl. p. 25, &c.; Brandstäter, Die Gesch. des Aetol. Landes, Volkes und Bundes, p. 298, &c.)


hide References (25 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (25):
    • Homer, Iliad, 13.217
    • Homer, Iliad, 2.638
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.16.2
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.38
    • Polybius, Histories, 18.31
    • Polybius, Histories, 20.10
    • Polybius, Histories, 21.3
    • Polybius, Histories, 22.15
    • Polybius, Histories, 28.4
    • Polybius, Histories, 4.25
    • Polybius, Histories, 13.1
    • Polybius, Histories, 2.46
    • Polybius, Histories, 4.37
    • Polybius, Histories, 4.9
    • Polybius, Histories, 5.8
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 35, 25
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 38, 11
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 33, 3
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 38, 4
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 38, 9
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 36, 28
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 45, 31
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 31, 29
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 19.66
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 20.99
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