2. Work in Progress


Elena FRANCHI (Università di Trento)

Border Management Cultures and Strategies in Ancient Greek Federal States

FeBo Project Report 2023, 2


The project FeBo – Federalism and Border Management in Greek Antiquity (ERC 2021 COG PR. Nr. 101043954) aims at investigating the border-management strategies and cultures that stabilised the inter- and intra-federal border zones and thus contributed to the success of the koina that adopted those strategies to the best effect.[1] Without saying, Boiotia features among the most privileged case studies.

The FeBo research group consists of the P.I., Elena Franchi, the three collaborators Claudio Biagetti, Sebastian Scharff, and Roy Van Wijk, and a PhD student, Rebecca Massinelli (https://erc-febo.unitn.it/about-us.html). It also profits from the support of digital-humanities expert Daniele Fusi. Roy Van Wijk and Rebecca Massinelli joined the team at the beginning of the second year and will be engaged on work packages (henceforth: WP[s]) 2, 3 and 4, as outlined in the proposal.

The first year of the project (2022-2023) was specifically dedicated to the study of external, i.e. inter-federal border areas. The objective was the collection and analysis of evidence on economic, ethnic, cultural, and religious interactions on the borders of a koinon in its various phases (WP 1). The research actions undertaken were aimed at investigating phenomena of cross-border cooperation and the forms in which such cross-border cooperation made possible and even necessary a special legal definition of the areas in which this cooperation took place. They were intended to analyse the extent to which these phenomena influenced processes of integration and expansion of a koinon and the role played by cross-border commuters in these forms of cooperation. Beyond that, the extent to which these forms of cooperation were then exploited in the context of border-management strategies came into focus. Finally, the extent to which they are to be understood in a connection with border-management cultures were investigated and will be further explored. The speakers of the FeBinars contributed to the reflection on these issues, and the webinars organised as part of the project constituted a veritable think tank for FeBo. The dynamics studied in the first year with their particular reference to the Peloponnese and Western Greece will then be analysed with specific reference to Boiotia in the second and third year of the project. The initial results were discussed and disseminated in both academic and non-academic settings.


1. Cross-Border Cooperation: from Hybridizing Border Relations to the Definition of koinai chorai

There are cases in which the strong receptive and creative capacity of a centre with respect to interactions with neighbouring centres makes this same centre of particular strategic relevance and thus of absolute interest to a koinon gravitating in neighbouring areas. This seems to have been the case in Phigalia which Claudio Biagetti took as a case study. Situated between the western foothills of Mt. Lykeion and the meeting point between the Messenian territory (to the south), the Triphylian coast (to the north-northwest) and the Arkadian hinterland (to the north and east), the city of Phigalia is certainly the major centre of the area and the one for which the available evidence is the richest and most stimulating. The ancient sources, in fact, emphasise its border location not only because of the role the polis played as a strategic crossroads (Strab. 8.3.22; Polyb. 4.3.4-5; Diod. 15.40.2), but also, to some extent, to point out its more unusual aspects related to local customs (Harmod. Lepr. BNJ 319 FF 1-3; Paus. 8.40.1-42.13), thus giving the scholars the impression of a centre of strong cultural hybridity. The article “Φιλοπόται Μεσσήνιοις ἀστυγείτονες ὄντες. Arcadian Phigalia as a Geographical, Political and Cultural Crossroad” aims to shed light on the function of Phigalia as a crucial stronghold for the control of the western Peloponnese and as a centre highly receptive to external cultural influxes. It was published in the diamond open access journal Hormos. Ricerche di storia antica n.s. 15 (2023), 1-40.

In other cases, the considerable capacity for cross-border interaction gives rise to forms of cross-border cooperation so significant that a legal definition is possible and necessary. Quite common are the so-called koinai chorai, border areas with economic significance, declared ‘common’ and open to joint exploitation by several communities. They are the subject of a further article by Claudio Biagetti. As Biagetti notes, the koinai chorai were often territories that had been at the centre of interpoleic disputes and continued to be disputed even after the proclamation and/or formalisation of their status as common regions. The epigraphic record preserves a number of inter-state treaties that sanctioned the creation of a common region, i.e., reaffirmed its status and conditions of exploitation. The Peloponnese stands out as a privileged observatory for the study of such border territories. The existence of jointly exploited areas in Late Classical Arcadia (IPArk 14; 369-361 BC) is the first indication of a phenomenon that enjoys a certain development in the Hellenistic period (IG V 2, 419; SEG 58, 370; IG IV 2, 75+; IG IV 2, 76-77). Although access to a territory and its resources must first have been sanctioned by a formal agreement between the communities concerned, the intervention of koina and rulers as promoters and/or guarantors of the treaties often looms in the background of such understandings, the one and the other being concerned with the stability and security of the territories over which they exercised their jurisdiction. The article summarising these and further remarks bears the title “Border Regions, Political Communities, Economic Resources: Remarks on the Territories of Shared Exploitation in the Hellenistic Peloponnese” and will be published on the diamond open access journal Pallas. Revue des Études Antiques 123 (2024).


2. From Cross-Border Cooperation to Management Strategy

There are also cases where the evidence suggests that forms of strong receptivity and interactive creativity as well as cross-border cooperation in and between border areas played a primary role for the integration of areas which were newly acquired by koina in a phase of expansion. This is the case forthe city of Oiantheia, in West Lokris studied by Elena Franchi. The ancient Greeks and most probably the Lokrians themselves felt they had to emphasise the Lokrian identity of Oiantheia by mentioning it with few others among the cities founded by the eponymous hero of the Lokrians, Lokros. Given its location, this does not seem to be by chance. According to the most common hypothesis, it should be identified with the modern site of Mathiou in the bay of Vitrinitsa, maybe comprising Kisseli. Ancient sources indicate that Oiantheia clearly had an outlet to the sea that had its own significance, not only for the Lokrian poleis, but also for poleis of the Aitolian hinterland such as Kallipolis (= modern Steno) and Aigition (= modern Strouza). This relevance has already been highlighted in historical, archaeological and topographical research. Thearticle shows how it was instrumental in cross-border cooperation activities that facilitated the integration of Oiantheia into the Aitolian koinon (as well as, subsequently, the recovery of its Lokrian identity). In this case, cross-border cooperation seems to be a bottom-up phenomenon that was exploited by the koinon of the Aitolians in conjunction with two top-down strategies such as the well-known creation of new ‘tele’ (districts) for the newly acquired territories as well as the manipulation of the genealogies of eponymous heroes (and that one goes so far as to make Aitolos a relative of Lokros). The article “Oiantheia in between. Cross-border Activities in Ancient Federal Greece” was submitted to the diamond open access journal Gerión. Revista de Historia Antigua.

The above-mentioned cases of cross-border cooperation are often made possible by, and simultaneously make possible, situations of border porosity. Elena Franchi’s research on the cult of Apollo Pythaios in the eastern Peloponnese is dedicated to a similar case of border porosity and cross-border cooperation. Previous research leads to a distinction between the cult of Pythaios and the cult of Apollo Pythios. According to the available evidence, the former is practised primarily, but not exclusively, in the eastern Peloponnese, especially in Kynouria. Both epigraphic and literary documents contribute to a shared picture of the cult, which seems to have been practised in Kynouria by individuals who were familiar with Lakonian and Argolic cultural habits and alphabets. Whether this familiarity can be attributed to the mobility of such individuals or more generally to widespread mobility between the three regions, both cases seem to indicate that regional boundaries were porous in Archaic times, at least (and maybe not only) with reference to the cult of Pythaios. In addition to having been practised by the Kynourians themselves, the cult was probably also maintained by the Spartans and Argives: in the case of the Spartans and Argives, it formed part of their respective networks of ‘federal’ cults that were also functional to aims of extending control over areas perceived as borders. The chapter “Beyond War. Porosity of Borders and Ritual Interconnectedness across the Southeastern Peloponnese” was submitted to Marian Helm and Sophia Nomicos, editors of the volume “Laconia and the Argolid. An Interconnected Approach towards Reconstructing the Southern Peloponnese in Antiquity” (provisonal title) for publication with Teiresias Supplements Online (in diamond open access).

Another case of the porosity of boundaries and the involvement of actors at different levels (local, regional, supra-regional) of boundary management is that of Ambrakia. The case is currently studied by Sebastian Scharff and appears to be promising. Ambrakiot politics seem to have been essentially border politics. As a point of reference of various claims to power, the territory of the city constituted a contested space. Korinthian settlers, Athenian strategoi, Makedonian and Epirotan kings, Aitolian politicians, and Roman generals all took a lively interest in the city after which the gulf is named. As a consequence, Ambrakia’s history was a history of changing affiliations from independent settlement to Epirotan capital back to independence and membership in the Aitolian League, a process that finally resulted in submission to Roman rule as civitas libera. In addition to the claims lodged by the major political players of the time, the people of Ambrakia also had to face border conflicts with regional and local stakeholders including the Amphilochians, Akarnanians, and the people of a small neighbouring town like Charadros. But what strategies were applied to secure the boundary lines? How were they established and legitimised and what can we say about the permeability of these borders? The article is currently in preparation and will be submitted in January 2024.


3. Cross-border Commuters

The border porosity analysed in the articles reviewed in the paragraph above is often a product of the recurrent passage of individuals we would call cross-border commuters. To a specific category of cross-border commuters, that is the athletes, Sebastian Scharff has devoted an article intended as the first in a series on different groups of border-crossers. Starting from the observation that the role of former athletes as envoys has not been sufficiently analysed yet, the article examines on what kind of diplomatic missions Hellenistic athletes were sent after their career. Of special interest are their roles as interstate arbitrators and mediators in political conflicts, roles which were often assumed in the context of political conflicts with or within federal states. It is striking that Elian victors mediated and arbitrated even in such disputes in which their hometown had been one of the conflicting parties. This reveals what significant a role the prestige gained by an agonistic victory played for becoming appointed envoy. Another main reason for being nominated as ambassadors consisted in the athletes’ prior life realities as cross-border commuters which allowed them to build strong social and political networks from an early age. No doubt, former athletes, often ‘heavy weights’, served in many different roles on diplomatic missions of the highest importance.

The article, entitled “Mediating, Arbitrating, Crossing Borders Constantly. Federal Athletes as Envoys”, was published in the diamond open access journal Erga-Logoi 11, No. 2 (2023), 77-90.


4. Border Management Cultures

In the early months of the project and during the various internal workshops, we investigated the possibility that in certain cases border-zone management may not be attributable to a specific border-management strategy, but rather to a border-management culture. To Sebastian Scharff, we owe the hypothesis that ethne and koina developed specific border-management cultures. Scharff devoted an article to the Aitolian and Achaian border management cultures which specifically focuses on the two most important federal states of the Hellenistic age. It explores whether there were characteristic features of treaty-making practices in the Achaian and Aitolian Leagues respectively. Third-city arbitration delegated to member poleis and a special set of Beitrittsurkunden constituted typical features of Achaian treaty culture, whereas Aitolian-style treaty-making included particularly long dating clauses and centred on politically highly relevant contracts with major players of the day. With regard to the diplomatic personnel, the constant activities of young Achaian athletes provided a broad pool of potential future envoys, a pool that did not exist in Aitolia to the same extent. While the border management of the Achaians often referred to internal boundaries, the Aitolians seem to have been more involved with external ones. In sum, it is argued that there actually were individual treaty cultures in Aitolia and Achaia respectively. The unequal formation conditions of both leagues (polis-structured vs. tribal-based) may be understood as a reason behind these different cultures.

The article, entitled “Treaty Cultures. The Aitolian and Achaian Leagues in Comparison”, was published in the diamond open access journal Hormos. Ricerche di storia antica n.s. 15 (2023), 169-195.


5. A Veritable Think Tank: the FeBinars

Members of the FeBo team constantly consult with external experts. To facilitate the discussion FeBo organises so-called FeBinars, which are webinars in the context of which external experts in (ancient and modern) federalism and border studies present their case studies. Since intra-federal and external borders must necessarily be approached from various research perspectives and with different questions, FeBo organises two distinct series of lectures, each with another focus, one on internal (The Management of Internal Borders by Federal States), the other on external borders (Crossing Federal Borders: Ancient and Modern). Both series have been initiated by the inaugural lecture delivered by Hans Beck on 7 March which focused on a case study involving both intra-federal and extra-federal borders. Beck’s lecture was devoted to Boiotian border issues. Additional FeBinars were given by Francesco Palermo (an expert on contemporary federalism and conflict resolutions strategies related to federalization processes); Peter Funke, who spoke on the internal structure of the koina and intermediate levels of federal administration; Alex McAuley, who gave a FeBinar on the topic of intra- and inter-federal proxenia; Hans-Joachim Gehrke, who outlined the case of Ledrinoi; Nikos Petrochilos, who analysed cases of cross-border cooperation in West Lokris; and Corinne Bonnet with Sylvain Lebreton, who analysed the federalizing or conversely divisive potential of some cults practised in border areas.


Here is the list of previous FeBinars:


Inaugural lecture:

Hans Beck, “Interpolis Cooperation and Competition: the Case of Southern Boiotia” (7 March 2023)


FeBinar series “The Management of Internal Borders by Federal States”:

Peter Funke, “Own and Common. Reflections on the Internal Borders of Greek Federal States” (23 May 2023)

Alex McAuley, “Under and/or through the Border: Proxeny across Federal Borders in the Hellenistic Peloponnese” (29 June 2023)

Hans-Joachim Gehrke, “Internal or External Borders? The Case of Elis and Ledrinoi” (27 September 2023)


Crossing Federal Borders: Ancient and Modern:

Francesco Palermo, “The Law and the Functions of Cross-border Cooperation” (9 May 2023)

Nikos Petrochilos, “From Chalieis to Kallieis: Land, Boundaries and Threats in West Lokris and Eastern Aitolia” (23 November 2023)

Corinne Bonnet & Sylvain Lebreton, “Gods to Federate, Gods to Separate: Territorial Dynamics and Greek Divine Onomastics” (7 December 2023)


Further info, photos and videos of FeBinars can be found at the FeBo website:



6. Dissemination

The first results of the project have already been presented and discussed in the context of conferences, lectures and seminars for doctoral students: the full list can be found here and here. Simultaneously, members of the FeBo team have been engaged in disseminating FeBo to university students, high school students, students in primary schools and in various dissemination contexts. These initiatives are listed here and here.


[1] See “Federalism and Border Management in Greek Antiquity (FeBo) - Project Report 1 (2023),” Münster: University of Münster, 2023, 2 p. (TJO 2022.1). URL: https://www.uni-muenster.de/Ejournals/index.php/tjo/index. I am grateful to Claudio Biagetti and Sebastian Scharff for their valuable suggestions for revising and supplementing these reports, and more generally for their important contribution to the project.


Roy VAN WIJK (Università di Trento)

Recent Work on the Cults of Boeotia, Archaeology, Epigraphy, and History

Conference organized by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 4 to 6 December 2023


For the first time since Fribourg in June 2017, a conference entirely dedicated to Boiotia took place from December 4th to December 6th at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. The school was (briefly) the main hub of activity for Boiotian studies in the world. Accounting for this statement was not just the impressive programme of speakers but also a very high attendance online – according to the organisers 7,000 people, including the author of this report.

The event started with a wonderful exploration of the fortress at Gla and its possible place within the Mycenaean Palatial system around Lake Kopais by Elena Kontouri. She explored how the fortress was a possibly a key hub for regulating the lake’s draining.

From these deepest roots of Boiotian history, the next day was brought to life by Dimitra Oikonomou’s presentation of the place of tripods in Boiotian sanctuaries. This included Apolline stops at the Ismenion in Thebes and the Ptoion at Akraiphnia, investigated the vexing inventory lists for the Heraion found at Chorsiai and treated the seventh-century stone tripods at Plataia. In addition, tripods from Thespiai and Orchomenos were treated as well. It provided a perfect and succinct preview of the religious sites that would return in several other papers. The next paper by Nikos Gkiokas focused on a phenomological approach to the Ptoion sanctuary and its plethora of kouroi, and how this would have impacted the human experience at the site. Concluding the section on dedicatory practices was Maria Mili’s paper on the variations in dedicatory practices in Boiotia and Thessaly, especially regarding childbirth. Whereas in Boiotia the role of the mother was possibly suppressed to emphasise the family, in Thessaly the mother took centre stage in dedications thanking the gods for fertility and new additions to the family.

The next section explored local cults through time. The section was rich in tracing the primordial roots of cults and their development until the Classical and beyond, when evidence is more readily available. Alice Solazzo provides an intriguing start by tracing Poseidon’s role as a safekeeper of amphictyonies and his role as a federal god in Boiotia prior to Onchestos becoming the federal hub in the post-Chaironeia period. In doing so, she traced local mythologies across the region and their connection to Poseidon to reveal that the god was already perceived as belonging to all the Boiotians in the archaic and classical period, thus making the choice for the Onchestos sanctuary as the federal sanctuary a logical one. Following Solazzo’s investigation was the paper by Eleni Goula, in which she revealed the long-standing traditions regarding (Athena) Tritogeneia in Boiotia – with roots in the Mycenaean period – and argued that it was this cult that eventually developed into Athena Ithonia at Alalkomenai. The section concluded with a piece on the cult of Dionysos in Boiotia and an ethnographical exploration of his continuing legacy among the Vlachs in the region.

From these journeys through time – interrupted by a brief break – the subsequent investigations were firmly entrenched in the ground and space by analysing the development of sacred landscapes in the region. A wonderful expose by Vasilis Aravantinos and Kyriaki Kalliga demonstrated the development of the Herakleion in Thebes. Recent excavations revealed early traces of the sanctuary and the early sacrificial pyres that formed the core of the cult at these stages. In addition, they explored how the location of the cult was chosen as well to demonstrate the development of a Theban identity via the Herakleion, for instance through shared feasting. The next paper brought us back to the Ptoion. In this case, Michael Dyer proposed to view the Ptoion’s apogee and possible nadirs as the result of the fertile lands surrounding Akraiphnia, and how its integration into the Theban chora shifted these agricultural networks away from the sanctuary, thus leading to less traffic at the Ptoion. Concluding the sacred landscapes section was the keynote by Yannis Kalliontzis, Guillame Biard and Alexandra Charami on their new research at the sanctuary of the Muses in the homonymous Valley. Working with scattered papers and incomplete notes from the original excavator, Jamot, the team has been cleaning the remaining architectural blocks and examining them. Other elements involve analysing the monuments and the altar; there is the possibility that there was an earlier cult at the site, not necessarily dedicated to the Muses, but perhaps to a predecessor like Kalliope. In addition, evidence for the later re-use of the site for Christian worship was also uncovered, providing an interesting preview for the last section of the conference.

The final day of the conference (initially) took us away from material evidence and into the literary world. The first to breach the topic was Bartłomiej Bednarek on Dionysos Eleuthereus in Eleutherai as portrayed in the Bacchae. Through a close reading of the text and comparing it with other surviving versions of Pentheus’ myth, for instance, Bednarek revealed Euripidean innovations in the Bacchae regarding the interpretation of Agave’s role in killing her son. Staying in the shadows of Kithairon, Nazim Can Serbest dove deep into Thucydides’ text to uncover whether the historian revealed elements of an early cult at Plataia that would later develop into the famed Daidala cult. A further element of his intriguing work was uncovering the agency of nature in Thucydides’ writing and how that was replicated by later writers such as Pausanias. Next up was Tullia Spinedi whose wonderful weaving together of mythology, rituals and sexual boundaries in the material culture and Korinna’s poetry untangled local Eastern Boiotian perspectives captured therein.

Remaining in eastern Boiotia, Trevor van Damme took the audience to Eleon and the recent excavations undertaken by the Canadian Institute to kickstart the section on ceramic evidence. He offered a brief introduction to the site and possible cult places before presenting two Euboian cult vessels found at Eleon and proposing possible parallels with the cult of Artemis Amarysia in the Eretriad, which could imply Artemis was venerated in Eleon too. A more regional-wide approach was employed by Amy Smith and Katerina Volioti. By looking at local Boiotian cups, including the so-called palmette cups, and the local environment of Boiotia, they suggested a deeply entrenched local perspective went into the depictions found on these cups. Rather than viewing them as ‘palmette’ cups, which have no roots in Boiotia, they suggested these plants were either swamp plants or honey suckle that can be found in abundance in the region, and thus revealed an intimate knowledge of the land and a highly interesting human-environmental dialectic at work especially as people would be moving between civic centres and festival sites with these ceramics. Ending this section was the exciting paper by Alexandra Zampiti, where she presented evidence from the Cave of the Leibethrian Nymphs on Helicon. An onomastic and linguistic evidence revealed that dedicators at the site were not just local, but came from across Boiotia. Emphasising their Boiotianness was the use of the distinctive epigraphic traces to reveal their place from within the region. The cave, arguably located near one of the main axes of transport in Boiotia, therefore became a locus of pan-Boiotian worship.

After revelling in the delights of the ceramic evidence, the next section was dedicated to presenting new evidence for cultic practices. Alexandra Charami and Eleni Goula showed evidence from late Classical and Hellenistic funerary contexts in places such as Levadia and Tanagra, in addition to Thebes, that could be linked to the Kabeirion and the cultic practices there. That suggests a wider net was cast for initiation into the cult and could possibly have contributed to a growing cohesion in the koinon at the time. Anne-Charlotte Panissié-Odon brought the proceedings back to the Ptoion, among other places, to reconsider the role of the mantis in the Hellenistic koinon. The Boiotoi were the only ones to have ‘hired’ federal prophets, but Panissié-Odon demonstrated there may have been local traditions of the mantis that were subsequently employed by the koinon, which hired manteis from different cities, to strengthen the cohesion of federation. Finishing off this exciting section was Nikolaos Papazarkadas’ presentation of a stone currently stored in Thebes. It concerned a later re-inscription of a stone that could have demarcated a precinct dedicated to Leto. A new cult epithet was found in the inscription that possibly relates to goat-herding or herding in general, thus uncovering a hitherto unknown element of Leto’s cult and especially her place in Boiotia.

Last but not least was the section dedicated to crossing boundaries. Evi Tsota explored various gates and boundaries across Boiotian sites, before narrowing her focus on the fortifications at Siphai. She presented exciting new material that revealed niches near the gates of the fortress and thus demonstrated an intriguing entanglement between religion and military. Elli Tzavella further looked at cult sites that subsequently transformed into Christian churches in Boiotia, showing how religious worship could tangibly be connected to place. Finally, Stephanie Larson looked at continuity on the Ismenion Hill, including its later appropriation of the site for the construction of the nearby church, as well as its function as a hub of Byzantine activity. This section thus explored the intricate ties between time and space in the ritual landscape of Boiotia.

In sum, the conference demonstrated the rich cultic vocabulary available in Boiotia and the need to investigate this fascinating region further. It is hoped that proceedings will indeed be published, as it would not only strengthen the utility of conferences such as these, but also because of the welter of new evidence that was presented that surely expands our knowledge of Boiotian cult in general.


Thomas Alexander HUSØY (Swansea University)


From Phocis to Aetolia: Ethnicity and Federalism in Greek Antiquity (PhD Dissertation)



Aims of the Project

From Phocis to Aetolia: Ethnicity and Federalism in Greek Antiquity investigates the complex relationship between ethnicity and federalism in ancient Greece.[1] The concepts of ethnicity and federalism in antiquity have been popular among scholars in the last few decades. The Ethnic Turn in ancient Greek studies emerged in the 1980s, with a significant increase in scholarship focused on this concept in ancient Greece since Jonathan Hall’s landmark volume Ethnic Identity in Greek Antiquity was published in 1997.[2] The other major concept covered in this thesis – federalism in Greek antiquity –  has a long academic history, with the earliest study dating to Edward Freeman’s volume from 1863.[3] In the last decade, multiple new volumes have emerged, dealing with federalism in Greek antiquity and expanding our knowledge and grasp of this political concept in the ancient Greek world.[4] In this thesis, I build upon the current scholarship and aim for this study to be the next step in ethnic and federal studies in ancient Greece.

Federal systems played an important part in the political development of ancient Greece and were, in the Classical period, often organised in states with a shared regional ethnic identity, which (sometimes) could be altered according to political needs. In the Hellenistic period, two such regional federal states became influential powers on the Hellenic mainland and, to some extent, rival the influence of Antigonid Macedonia: the Aetolians and the Achaeans. Both of these koina expanded far beyond their traditional ethnic regions. From Phocis to Aetolia investigates federal developments from the sixth century to the third century BCE, with an emphasis on four regions:

  1. Phocis sets up the thesis, highlighting the significance of sub-regional groups in this region from the traditional date of the First Sacred War in the sixth century to the end of the Third Sacred War (346 BCE). The Phocians were not an influential group, except during the Third Sacred War, yet they provide an intriguing case study for federal development in the Classical period.
  2. Boeotia continues the study as the best-documented federal state in Greek antiquity; like the Phocian chapter, it covers the Archaic period to the end of the Third Sacred War. As a region, Boeotia consisted of influential poleis and subregional identity groups, making it an intriguing study for this project.
  3. Arcadia provides an example of a region where the inhabitants had a strong regional identity but only briefly unified into a regional federal state in the fourth century. This region contained strong sub-regional and polis-ethnic groups; some of these, such as the Mainalians and Parrhasians, developed sub-regional federations in the fifth century,[5] which attests to the importance of local identity within this region. Arcadia is examined from the Archaic period to the Battle of Mantinea (362 BCE), which led to the end of the Arcadian Federation.
  4. Aetolia concludes the thesis as a region that developed from a confederate system in the fifth century to a federal state based on the region’s identity in the fourth century. In the Hellenistic period, the Aetolian Federation expanded beyond its traditional ethnic territory and became a leading power on the Hellenic mainland, with several other regional identity groups as members. The period covered in this chapter reaches from the late Archaic period to the end of the Social War (217 BCE).

These chapters investigate the historical development of ethnicity and federalism in these regions using a narrative rather than a thematic approach. A narrative approach was chosen to effectively convey the developing story of federalism and ethnicity within these four important regions.

Several methodological approaches from extant scholarship on ethnicity and federalism in the ancient world are applied. Additionally, a series of approaches developed for understanding ethnicity and federalism in the modern world are also employed, including McKay’s ethnic matrix,[6] Scandinavian approaches to uses of the past,[7] and ethnofederalism.[8] Applying and adapting these diverse methods to Greek antiquity invited innovative interpretations of the ancient evidence.

Throughout the thesis, ethnicity is considered a multi-layered process, with the main focus pertaining to the identity of regional, sub-regional, and polis groups; these are regarded as different layers of ethnic identity. The project investigates how groups with these various levels of identity interacted, as well as how such layers of identity were organised within federal states. This is combined with an ethnosymbolic approach, centring upon myths, memories, festivals, and symbols as elements of identity.

Following the thesis’s main case studies, there are a series of appendices to elaborate further upon the arguments. The first four of these focus on the genealogical origin stories of the four core regions covered in the thesis. These appendices look at various genealogical connections for the regional eponyms and the interregional implications of these diverse genealogical links. Appendices five and twelve provide two additional shorter case studies looking at Triphylia and Achaea to evidence that the approaches employed throughout the thesis are also applicable to other regions in the ancient Greek world. The remaining appendices provide brief yet relevant case studies of developments and topics, elaborating on some key developments referred to in the main part of the thesis. This includes a survey and analysis of communities incorporated into Megalopolis, the ghost of Polycritus and its relation to the incorporation of Ozolian Locris into Aetolia, and poetry and history use in Hellenistic Aetolia.



Anderson, L. (2014) “Ethnofederalism: The Worst Form of Institutional Arrangement…?”, International Security, 39.1, 165-204.

Beck, H. and Funke, P. eds. (2015) Federalism in Greek Antiquity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Beck, H. et al. eds. (2019) Ethnos and Koinon: Studies in Ancient Greek Ethnicity and Federalism, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner.            

Brædder, A. (2019) “Public History in Scandinavia: Uses of the Past”, in P. Aston and A. Trapeznik. eds. What is Public History Globally?: Working with the Past in the Present, London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 121-130.

Blome, D. (2020) Greek Warfare Beyond the Polis: Defense, Strategy, and the Making of Ancient Greek Federal States, Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.

Fabre-Serris, J. et al. eds. (2021) Identities, Ethnicities and Gender in Antiquity, Berlin: De Gruyter.

Figueira, T. and Soares, C. eds.  (2020) Ethnicity and Identity in Herodotus, London: Routledge.

Freeman, E. (1863) History of the federal government: from the foundation of the Achaian League to the disruption of the United States, London: Macmillan.

Funke, P. and Haake, M. eds.  (2013) Greek Federal States and Their Sanctuaries: Identity and Integration, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner.

Gruen, E.  (2020) Ethnicity in the Ancient World: Did it Matter?, Berlin: De Gruyter.

Hall, J. (1997) Ethnic identity in Greek Antiquity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hall, J. (2002) Hellenicity: Between Ethnicity and Culture, Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Krasilnikoff, J. (2021) “Religion og fortid i antikkens Grækenland: En indføring i oldgræsk polyteistisk historiebrug med eksempler fra de klassiske græske og romerske perioder”, Aigis, 21.2, 1-29.

Mackil, E. (2013) Creating a Common Polity: Religion, Economy, and Politics in the Making of the Ancient Greek Koinon, Berkeley: University of California Press.

McKay, J. (1982) “An exploratory synthesis of Primordial and Mobilizationist approaches to ethnic phenomena”, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 5.4, 395-420.

Nielsen, T.H. (2002) Arkadia and its Poleis in the Archaic and Classical Periods, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Vlassopoulos, K. (2015) “Ethnicity and the Greek Historian: Re-Examining Our Assumptions”, BICS 58.2, 1-13.


[1] This thesis was supervised by Maria Pretzler, Mark Humphries (2018-2020), and Stephen Harrison (2020-2023). The viva for the thesis took place in November 2022, with a committee consisting of Louise Miskell (chair, Swansea University), Ersin Hussein (internal examiner, Swansea University), and Andrew Erskine (external examiner, The University of Edinburgh).

[2] For an overview of key scholarship with ethnicity appearing in the title until 2015, see Vlassopoulos (2015) 2 n. 9. To this we can also add Figueira and Soares (2020), Gruen (2020), and Fabre-Serries. et al. eds. (2021).  See also Hall (2002).

[3] Freeman (1863).

[4] For some of the volumes on federalism in Greek antiquity in the last decade, see Funke and Haake. eds. (2013), Mackil (2013), Beck and Funke. eds. (2015), and Blome (2020). Beck. et al. eds. (2019) provides a series of case studies on ethnicity and federalism in various Greek regions.

[5] Nielsen (2002), 278 (Nielsen here refers to these states as sub-ethnic federations).

[6] McKay (1982).

[7] For an introduction to this research field, see Brædder (2019). See Krasilnikoff (2021) for the concept applied to Greek and Roman antiquity, with an emphasis on polytheistic religions.

[8] For some definitions of ethnofederalism in the modern world, see Anderson (2014), 171-175.


Carmine NASTRI (Università degli Studi di Salerno)


Doctoral Project: Plutarch’s Greek Questions: An Historical, Historiographical, and Anthropological Commentary


Aims of the Project

For my doctoral project I am treating the work of Plutarch that goes by the name of Quaestiones Grecae (QG).[1] The QG is an antiquarian work in 59 autonomous sections, in a question-and-answer format, that gathers elements peculiar to the culture – understood in Tylor’s broadest definition[2] – of civic and ethnic communities of the Greek world and attempts to provide a definition that may clarify them or a causal explanation that may illuminate their origins and functions. This work, which belongs to the broader realm of Question-Literature, thus combines, in a unique way, features typical of lexicography and of the problemata genre related to the Peripatetic milieu (see Jazdzewska’s excellent 2018 contribution). We are unable to determine whether this collection was published by its author, whereas we can be certain that the Quaestiones Romanae were because of Plutarch’s explicit references in Rom. 15, 7 and, in part, Cam. 19, 12. The QG and the QR, together with the Quaestiones Barbaricae, were probably intended to form a significant triptych that would compare Greeks, Romans and Barbarians. This triptych was inter-related by literary genre and theme, in which each work, however, would retain a well-defined identity with its own characteristics. It is reasonable to think that the work had a long compositional phase, gradually taking up material that Plutarch might have considered worthy of attention and interest, either because it was useful to satisfy some personal curiosity, or because it was functional to the drafting of other works. The composition phase, therefore, preceded the writing of a large part of the Lives, but did not always take place in function of them.

First and foremost, the project will entail drafting an Italian translation and thorough commentary on the 59 Greek Questions following the example set by Halliday (1928) and never pursued again. Three distinct levels will be kept in mind as I comment on each Quaestio, though the levels will be in continuous and mutual dialogue: 1) a more strictly historical level that, where possible, aims to clarify the chronological contexts within which Plutarch’s objects of research are operating, emphasizing their possible continuity over time and the possible meaning of their selection by a πεπαιδευομένος at the turn of the 1st and 2nd centuries CE; 2) a level that would anthropologically examine the rites, customs, and usages described by Plutarch, when the subject matter of the Quaestio allows, and that would analyze Plutarch’s descriptive and interpretative schemes in fruitful comparison with those employed by modern scholars, distinguishing, when possible, the different emic and etic perspectives; 3) a third level, constituting the last section of each commentary, will aim to investigate the mechanisms of construction of the individual QG, analyzing each question and answer, case by case, both separately and in their mutual relation, in an attempt to identify the literary, documentary, and oral sources used by the Cheronaean for the drafting of each Quaestio. The research will also aim to bring out, if possible, the artificial or genuine character of the questions in relation to the answers, and to show the skillful work of decanting done in the transfer from the source’s literary genre to Q&A format of the target work. This Quellenforschung will allow a return to the vexata quaestio of Plutarch's use of materials from the 158 Πολιτεῖαι of the Peripatetic school that appeared as the backbone of the entire collection. It was a group of writings whose reading would have triggered the composition of the QG as a whole, partially determining their themes and characters, but also to consider the possibility of Plutarch's use of lexicographic and paroemiographic collections that were ready or in the process of being compiled. Thus, there will be an opportunity to return to an in-depth investigation of the Cheronaean smithery and its working, of Plutarch’s techniques of composition and reuse of materials, as well as to see the degree of his originality input in his use of sources, that appear, from time to time, discussed, enriched, or plundered.

Given the commentary and punctual analysis of the individual Quaestiones, it will be possible, following an inductive method, to address more general problems concerning the work. I propose to reflect on Plutarch’s selection of his objects of inquiry:  significantly, these seem to refer back to the Greek world prior to Hellenism and the arrival of Rome, to the world between Homer and Aristotle, a world in which one notes the conspicuous absence of Athens and Plutarch’s discreet interest in his native Boeotia. It will therefore be necessary to reflect on the purposes of writing this work, a problem intimately and constantly connected with the audience for which the author composes his work and his work’s intrinsic nature. We cannot rule out that the work may be a team effort and left ‘unfinished’, and a strongly hypomnematic character must be acknowledged. It may have served as a collector of materials elsewhere (re)used by Plutarch in his writings and probably on the occasions offered by everyday life. These features would suggest a work intended for personal use or for a small group; nevertheless, we can’t deny that it is written keeping in mind the educated contemporaries, Greeks and Romans, who must have found the topics covered of some interest. The antiquarian character of these, at a time when the claim of greater antiquity of community institutions served to impose and vindicate their prestige, win disputes, and obtain favors and privileges, will not be the reflection of harmless hobby, but will have acquired a particular political value. Accordingly, it will also be necessary to question the form of the work and its belonging to a specific literary genre that calls for discussion, insight, and inter-activity, and its possible expendability in other contexts, such as banquets and visits to great sanctuaries, contexts that serve as a background for other Plutarch’s works. Finally, I propose to return to the problem of the title of the work, not in a vain attempt to determine what it was originally (if there ever was one), but to meditate on aetiology among the ancients, analyzing what Greeks meant by αἴτια and αἰτίαι over time, from Homer to Plutarch.


Selected Bibliography

Barrow R.H., Plutarch and his Times, London 1967.

Boulogne J., 1992 Les Questions romaines de Plutarque, II, 33, 6 in W. Haase, H. Temporini-Vitzthum (hrsgg. von) ANRW, Hildegard 1992, pp. 4682-4702.

Boulogne J. (éd. par), Plutarque: Œuvres Morales. Conduites Méritoires de femmes ; Étiologies Romaines ; Étiologies Grecques ; Parallèles Mineurs, Paris 2002.

Brenk F.E., Plutarch the Greek in the Roman questions, in D.F. Leão, L.R. Lanzillotta (ed. by), A man of many interests: Plutarch on religion, myth, and magic: essays in honor of Aurelio Pérez Jiménez, Leiden-Boston 2019, pp. 240-254.

Carrano A. (a cura di), Plutarco: Questioni greche, Napoli 2007.

Chassignet M. (éd. par), L’étiologie dans le pensée antique, Turnhout 2008.

Giesen K., Plutarchs Quaestiones graecae und Aristoteles’ Politien, Philologus 60 (1901), pp. 446-471.

Halliday W.R., The Greek Questions of Plutarch, Oxford 1928.

Harrison G.W.M., Problems with the genre of problems: Plutarch’s literary innovations, Classical Philology 95, 2 (2000), pp. 193-199.

Jazdzewska K., Plutarch’s Greek Questions: Between Glossography and Problemata-Literature, Hermes 146 (2018), pp. 41-53.

Oikonomopoulou K., Plutarch’s corpus of quaestiones in the tradition of imperial Greek encyclopaedism, in J. König, G. Woolf (ed. by), Encyclopedism from Antiquity to the Renaissance, Cambridge 2013, pp. 129-153.

Oikonomopoulou K., Space, Delphi and the construction of the Greek past in Plutarch’s Greek Questions, in A. Georgiadou, K. Oikonomopoulou (ed. by), Space, Time and Language in Plutarch, Berlin-Boston 2017, pp. 107-116.

Payen P. (éd. par), Plutarque : Grecs et Romains en Questions, Toulouse 1998.

Payen P., Le recueils de Questions et la tradition «antiquaire» dans le corpus de Plutarque. Essai de synthèse, Pallas 90 (2012), pp. 217-233.

Polito M., Dagli scritti di Eraclide sulle costituzioni: un commento storico, Napoli 2001.

Polito M., Gli opuscoli sulla politeia della scuola di Aristotele: appunti e riflessioni, in Parola del Passato 72 (2017), pp. 11-43.

Preston R., Roman questions, Greek answers: Plutarch and the construction of identity, in S. Goldhill (ed. by), Being Greek under Rome: cultural identity, the Second Sophistic and the development of empire, Cambridge-New York 2001, pp. 86-119.

Schettino M.T., Le Πολιτεῖαι Aristoteliche nel Corpus Plutarcheo, in A.P. Jiménez, J.G. López, R.M. Aguilar, Plutarco, Platón y Aristóteles: actas del V Congreso Internacional de la I.P.S. (Madrid-Cuenca, 4-7 de mayo de 1999), Madrid 1999, pp. 643-655.

Schettino M.T., The Use of Historical Sources, in M. Beck (ed. by), A Companion to Plutarch, Chichester 2014, pp. 417-436.

Stadter P.A., Plutarch’s Historical Methods: An Analysis of the Mulierum Virtutes, Cambridge (Massachusetts) 1965.

Tanga F., The Religious Landscape of Plutarch’s Quaestiones Graecae, in R. Hirsch-Luipold, L.R. Lanzillotta (ed. by), P. Lötscher (in collab. with), Plutarch’s Religious Landscapes, Leiden-Boston 2021, pp. 229-238.

Van der Stockt L., Plutarch in Plutarch: the problem of the hypomnemata, in I. Gallo (a cura di), La biblioteca di Plutarco, Napoli 2004, pp. 331-340.

Ziegler K., s.v. Plutarchos von Chaironeia, in RE XXI, 1, Stuttgard 1949, coll. 636-962.


[1] I shall not return here to the work’s title problem, referring to it by the title of the humanistic translations. It is impossible to establish what the original title was (Payen 2012, p. 230) – if there ever was one – due to the discrepancy between a discordant and unclear manuscript tradition; the references of Plutarch in Rom. 15, 7 and Cam. 19, 12 to the Quaestiones Romanae – a work related to the Quaestiones Graecae but not perfectly akin to them – as Αἴτια ῥωμαικά; and Lamprias’ catalogue referring to our work as Αἰτίαι Ἐλλήνων.

[2] “The complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities acquired by man as a member of society.” E.B. Tylor, Primitive Culture: Researches into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Language, Art and Custom, London 1871.


Alice SOLAZZO (Università degli Studi di Palermo)


Doctoral Project: The federal sanctuaries of Boeotia: religion and politics


Aims of the Project

My PhD thesis, a project I have been working on for a year, aims to analyze the role played by the federal sanctuaries of Boeotia in the Classical and Hellenistic ages through the study of epigraphic and literary sources.[1] My examination will focus, specifically, on the shrine of Athena Itonia at Coronea, the shrine of Poseidon at Onchestos, the Ptoion at Akraiphia and the Amphiareion at Oropos. The latter, despite not being defined by scholars as trans-regional or federal, represents a significant religious space for evaluating how the Boeotians initiated processes of identity affirmation in dialogue with other powers of the Greek world.

Each of the four sanctuaries will be treated by thematic chapters, further sub-structured into macro-topics. They will be preceded by an introduction and a chapter on the Boeotian confederacy. The introduction will focus on the history of federalism studies and the most recent research on federal sanctuaries, which developed following the publication of P. Funke and M. Haake’s volume on trans-regional sanctuaries in ancient Greece (2013).  To understand the literary texts and documents relating to the sanctuaries, as well as their political and religious functions they held for the Boeotians, there will be an initial chapter on the Boeotian confederacy, based on the latest research findings, which aims to outline a history of the Boeotian koinon from the end of the 6th century BC to 197 BC. In this chapter, I will address some issues related to the Greek federal vocabulary, often reproduced through inadequate modern translations, and I will reconsider the method applied by historians to the study of ancient federal systems, which is characterized by non-inclusive exegesis and too rigid conjectures compared to the variable federal contexts of the ancient world.

The second chapter will be centered on the sanctuary of Poseidon at Onchestos. After reconstructing the history of the excavations and establishing the period in which the cult and the sanctuary started, all the literary and epigraphic sources relating to Onchestos will be analyzed, providing an opportunity to describe the rites performed in honor of Poseidon in Boeotia and the ways in which the Boeotians consolidated their ethnic identity through the creation of traditions, very often of a genealogical nature, that ensured a link with the god. A survey of the onomastic attributes with which the Boeotians addressed Poseidon will provide a starting point for reflecting on the interactions between the human and the divine in Boeotia and the god’s spheres of influence in the region. Finally, the reasons why the Boeotians chose the sanctuary of Poseidon at Onchestos as their federal seat in the Hellenistic period will be discussed and a profile of Poseidon as a federal deity offered, considering the other contexts in Greece in which the god presided over amphictyonies.

The next chapter, on Athena Itonia, will be similarly structured. The history of the cult’s birth, via mythical traditions and rituals, will be followed by a study of the goddess’s onomastic attributes. A significant part of the chapter will be devoted to analyzing the links with Thessaly, since a cult of Athena Itonia is also attested there, and the festivals held at the sanctuary in the Hellenistic period, the Pamboiotia, as these represented the true federal agones of Boeotia, organized according to the district system at the basis of the Boeotian federal state.

The fourth chapter will concentrate on the sanctuary of Apollo Ptoios. From the 6th century BC, the Ptoion stimulated the birth of numerous traditions as it was used by some Boeotians to corroborate the ethnos through a series of dedications to the god. After addressing the problem of the sanctuary’s birth and of the presumed existence of two places of worship, one local and one Theban, I will reflect on the characteristics that qualify a sanctuary as trans-regional or local and on the various strategies adopted by political actors to make use of religion to consolidate ethnic and identity ties.

The final section of my thesis will be on the Amphiareion at Oropos, whose literary sources will be discussed regarding the identity of the worshipped hero and the existence of an original sanctuary in the Theban territory at the beginning of the Classical period. I will then move on to the study of the sanctuary located in the territory of Oropos, tracing in parallel the fate of Oropos in the Classical and Hellenistic periods, to show that the large number of epigraphic documents found in the sanctuary is linked with the Boeotians’ desire to exhibit the political and identity unity of the region in a cultic context visited by all Greeks.

The comprehensive analysis of the four places of worship will provide a more precise idea of the functions that these religious spaces had for the Boeotians, but also of the ways in which the federal structure permeated the religious life and ritual sphere of the region.


[1] Supervisor: Daniela Bonanno; Co-Supervisor: Matteo Zaccarini.


Call for Papers: Regions and Levels of Identity in the Ancient World (Celtic Conference in Classics in Cardiff, 9–12 July 2024)


Dear all,

We are delighted to share with you the call for papers for our panel, ‘Regions and Levels of Identity in the Ancient World’, to be held at the next Celtic Conference in Classics in Cardiff, 9-12 July 2024.

Identity in the ancient world was diverse, fluid and situational, and functioned on multiple levels. In this panel, we aim to put the focus on identity formation and articulation in regions across the ancient world. Suggested topics for talks include, but are not limited to:

-     How were levels of identity formed?

-     How was it expressed?

-     Relationship between myth and identity

-     Regions within regions or larger empires

-     Multi-level identity and political systems in ancient regionalism

-     Emic and etic versions of identity levels

-     Interregional/trans-regional relationships between identity groups

-     Geography and identity

The panel will aim to further our understanding of why and how trans-regional, regional, sub-regional, and local identities formed in the ancient world, as well as what the initial impetus was for the ancient understanding of these regions. It will also look into the relationship between identity groups on multiple levels and the states which formed around them.

The panel aims to answer these questions through an interdisciplinary approach analysing the development of regional communities and how identity affected their political developments, as well as the social and economic relationships between individuals and communities within and across regional boundaries.

Papers should be approximately 40 minutes long. We invite papers focused on identity in any ancient region. Abstracts from people in all areas of classical and ancient-world related scholarship are welcome: postgraduate researchers, early career researchers, independent scholars, and established academics. Those interested in participating can send a short abstract of 300 words to ancientregionslevelsofidentity@gmail.com by Wednesday 31st January 2024. Notice of acceptance will be given by mid-February.

Best wishes,

Thomas Alexander Husøy and George Allen




How to Cite

2. Work in Progress . (2023). Teiresias Journal Online, 2(2). Retrieved from https://www.uni-muenster.de/Ejournals/index.php/tjo/article/view/5261
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