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federal states


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Are found in the Greek world from the late 6th cent. bc. The term is used of those organizations in which the separate city‐states (see polis) of a geographical and ethnic region were combined to form a single entity at any rate for purposes of foreign policy, while for local purposes retaining their separate identity as city‐states and their separate citizenship. Thus Boeotia was a federal state in which the individual communities were still regarded as cities, whereas Attica formed the city‐state of Athens and the demes did not have the degree of autonomy appropriate to cities. Tribal states in the less urbanized parts of Greece (e.g. Aetolia) were like federal states in that the tribal organization comprised units with a considerable degree of local autonomy. There is no ancient Greek term which precisely denotes a federal state: the words most often used are koinon (‘commonwealth’) and ethnos (‘nation’).

The earliest evidence of a federal state is in (probably) 519 bc, when Plataea resisted incorporation in a Boeotian federal state dominated by Thebes and gained the protection of Athens; there are references to the Boeotarchs, the chief magistrates of the federation, in 480–479. The federation may have broken up after the Persian Wars, and for a time Boeotia was controlled by Athens, but it was revived after 446, and we have evidence for its basic mechanisms. The individual cities had similar constitutions, with one‐quarter at a time of the full citizens who satisfied a property qualification acting as a probouleutic (see boule) council. The federation was based on electoral units, eleven after 427; the largest cities with their dependencies accounted for more than one unit, while the smallest were grouped together to form a unit; each unit provided one Boeotarch and 60 members of a council of 660, and within the council one‐quarter at a time acted as the probouleutic body.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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