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Aetolian League

The Aetolian League was a confederation of states in ancient Greece centered on the cities of Aetolia in central Greece. Alternatively termed the Aitolian League, it was established in 370 BC in opposition to Macedon and the Achaean League. It occupied Delphi from 290 BC and gained territory steadily until, by the end of the 3rd century BC, it controlled the whole of central Greece outside Attica. At its height, the league's territory included Locris, Malis, Dolopes, part of Thessaly, Phocis, and Acarnania. In the latter part of its power, certain Mediterranean city-states joined the Aitolian League such as Kydonia on Crete.

The Aitolians were not highly regarded by other Greeks, who considered them to be semi-barbaric and reckless. However, their league had a complex political and administrative structure, and their armies were easily a match for the other Greek powers. According to Scholten, the Aitolian League consisted of elites at the top, but was fundamentally a society of farmers and herders. The league had a federal structure consisting of a federal council in which the level of representation was proportional to the size of a community's contribution to the league's army, a popular assembly of all citizens which met twice a year, and an inner council equivalent to a federal government. It could raise armies and conduct foreign policy on a common basis. It also implemented economic standardization, levying taxes, using a common currency and adopting a uniform system of weights and measures.

Alliance with Rome

The league was the first Greek ally of the Roman Republic, siding with the Romans during the First Macedonian War, and helping to defeat Philip V of Macedon at the Battle of Cynoscephalae in 197 BC, during the Second Macedonian War. However, it grew increasingly hostile to Roman involvement in Greek affairs and only a few years later sided with Antiochus III, the anti-Roman king of the Seleucid Empire, during the Roman-Syrian War. The defeat of Antiochus in 189 BC robbed the league of its principal foreign ally and made it impossible to stand alone in continued opposition to Rome. The league was forced to sign a peace treaty with Rome that made it a subject ally of the republic. Although it continued to exist in name, the power of the league was broken by the treaty and it never again constituted a significant political or military force.


The Aitolian League was known for its warlike tendencies, it was viewed as one of the most lawless and violent Greek states in the Hellenistic world, known for piracy and similar activities. The armed forces of the Aitolian League are peculiar as compared to other Greek states in the fact they barely used at all any mercenaries, in fact it was more likely for Aitolian to be exported abroad as mercenaries. This is mainly because the Aitolian League itself was much poorer than their counterparts in Greece and also of the lack of manpower in Aitolia. This affected the Aitolian method of warfare, towns and cities were fortified and garrisoned, and obviously the higher quality of fortification, the smaller the garrison needed to be. Much like the Achaians, the Aitolians were more at home in rough terrain, fighting as light troops than in close formations on the open field. Of course this suited them due to their lack of manpower. Aitolian cavalry was more easily available in larger numbers than the infantry due to the fact that it was supplied by the rich and by the nobles, so a cavalry force of 500 could well be possible.



  • John D. Grainger (1999) The League of the Aitolians (Google Books).
  • C. Michael Hogan (2008) Cydonia, Modern Antiquarian, January 23, 2008, (Fieldnotes).
  • Kęciek Krzysztof (2002) "Kynoskefalaj 197 p.n.e" Serie Historic Battles Published in Warsaw by Bellona.
  • Joseph B. Scholten (2000) The Politics of Plunder:Aitolians and Their Koinon in the Early Hellenistic Era (Google Books).
  • Willis Mason West (1902) Ancient History to the Death of Charlemagne, Allyn and Bacon.

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