Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Federalism and Border Management in Greek Antiquity

Project description

How the Ancient Greeks successfully managed their borders

Federal (central) organisations alone – whether in ancient Greece or modern-day society – cannot limit or resolve conflict within and beyond borders. The EU-funded FeBo project is putting emphasis on how the Greek federal states tackled internal and external border issues. It will demonstrate that federal states carried out careful border management policies aimed at preserving a balance of power and stability rather than a peaceful coexistence. In addition, it will demonstrate that these strategies had to take into consideration economic, ethnic, cultural and religious networks to succeed.


"""Federation for Peace in Ancient Greece” is the title of a well-known article published by J.A.O. Larsen in 1944 (Classical Philology 39: 145-62). As the world was being ravaged by war, Larsen wondered about the potential of federalism as a means of conflict resolution. The subject of his study was federal organisations in a broad sense in ancient Greece, but the research clearly stemmed from a question that is today becoming increasingly topical: can federal organisations limit or even eliminate intra-federal war? The project ""FeBo: Federalism and Border Management in Greek Antiquity"" starts from the assumption that the question above, which continues to be asked by scholars, no longer makes sense. Despite romantic projections, federalisation processes do not guarantee peaceful coexistence, neither within the constituent federal organisations nor on their external borders. This is true for both ancient Greece and the contemporary world. As far as ancient Greece is concerned (and perhaps not only ancient Greece), the question should focus rather on borders: how did the Greek federal states deal with the problem of internal (intra-federal) as well as external borders? The aim of this project is to demonstrate that (a) Greek federal states implemented precise border management policies; (b) these policies did not aim at peaceful coexistence, but rather at maintaining a balance of power and stability; and (c) in order to be successful, these strategies had to take into account economic, ethnic, cultural and religious networks, i.e. there had to be a multi-level policy of border management. In order to prove these points, it will be necessary to adopt a holistic perspective that takes into account not only political borders, but also everyone and everything that crossed and animated these, giving rise in turn to economic/cultural/ethnic/religious networks or even communities of destiny, which were of crucial importance for the stability of a federal state. Politics was not enough. Much more was needed."

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 668 961,00
38122 Trento

See on map

Nord-Est Provincia Autonoma di Trento Trento
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 668 961,00

Beneficiaries (1)