The Folds of Parnassos: Land and Ethnicity in Ancient Phokis by Jeremy McInerney

The Folds of Parnassos: Land and Ethnicity in Ancient Phokis by Jeremy McInerney

Author:Jeremy McInerney [McInerney, Jeremy]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: University of Texas Press
Published: 2010-07-21T22:00:00+00:00



We possess only what has drifted ashore from the wreck of a stranded vessel.

—GROTE, History of Greece


The surrender of Phokis in 346 marked the end of the Phokians’ brief appearance in the spotlight of history. Soon Philip would turn his attention further afield, to the Peloponnese and to Thrace, while for the Athenians the realization that the Peace of Philokrates had brought them no benefits at all prompted a fresh outbreak of hand-wringing and political invective. The affairs of the Greeks were moving inexorably toward Chaironeia and the beginning of Greece’s subordination to a succession of outside powers. Behind the upheavals of defeat, however, deeper processes were at work. During the third century in Phokis and beyond, the ties between communities were growing stronger as separate poleis looked for ways to reconcile local autonomy with their participation in broader regional unions. Viewed against this underlying trend, the punishment that followed the defeat of the Phokians in the Sacred War should be seen as no more than a brief interruption in the continuing evolution of Phokis. Although Demosthenes provides a graphic description of the desolation visited on the Phokians by the Thebans, the effects of this destruction would prove just as short-lived as the wealth and power that the Phokians had enjoyed during the Sacred War. More significant than these fluctuations in the fortunes of the Phokians would be the rise of states outside of southern Greece, such as Aitolia, Macedon, and Rome, whose armies would roll over Phokis, occupy parts of Phokian territory, and use Phokis as the setting for their conflicts. Yet, despite the turmoil of the early Hellenistic period (336–146) in Phokis, the principle of federalism would assert itself again and again. Finally, in the period of Roman domination, regional federations such as the Phokian koinon would become part of the archaizing trend whereby the Greeks maintained their identity in the face of overwhelming Roman power.

The resilience of federalism deserves comment. Customarily the years that follow Chaironeia are seen as little more than a coda to the Classical age, a sleepy twilight that engulfed the little states of Greece until it became the battleground for yet more conflicts between the powers of Rome and Macedon. This was, however, a period in which the notion of federalism showed itself to be as important to the growth and survival of Greek society as was its apparent opposite, the principle of the autonomous polis. The great powers in the Greece of the third and second centuries were not Athens and Sparta, but the Achaian and Aitolian Leagues. The Phokian League also continued to function throughout the Hellenistic Age, despite the incursions of the Aitolians and the conquest of the Romans. The persistence of the principle of federalism attests to the usefulness and practical worth of the system. Previously unimportant regions of Greece were able to organize themselves and muster sufficient resources to compete with each other and major international powers. At the same time, as the Phokian


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