Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Jennifer Roberts

Committee Members

Joel Allen

Liv Yarrow

Subject Categories

Ancient History, Greek and Roman through Late Antiquity | Diplomatic History | European History | International Relations


Alliances, Classical Greek History, International Relations in Antiquity, Constructivism, Classical Studies


This dissertation offers a reassessment of interstate alliances (συμμαχία) in the fourth-century BCE Greek world from a socio-cultural perspective. Although there are a number of studies of ancient and modern alliances that approach the topic from a politico-military perspective, this is the first to apply a socio-cultural perspective to classical Greek alliances. By considering the subject in its own context, from the primary literary and epigraphic sources rather than modern theoretical models, this study aims to identify how contemporaries understood and represented their collaborative activities with other poleis. This approach leads to insights that challenge the widespread notion that classical Greek alliances were temporary affiliations designed for nothing more than political and military objectives. On the contrary, even though alliances materialized within the context of warfare, they were reifications of the ideational, cultural, religious, and economic interactions between individuals in each polis. The overall endeavor, therefore, can be considered a socio-cultural history of Greek alliances in the fourth century BCE.

Part I shows how the practice of constructing an interstate alliance was a social activity that grew out of historical interactions on the interpersonal level. It also examines the constitutive element behind the legislative and religious activities in alliance negotiations, which strengthened old ties and developed new ones in a common cause and towards a common identity. Part II reviews the principal Athenian, Spartan, and Theban bilateral alliances of the fourth century BCE. It emphasizes their distinct alliance experiences and practices, while also noting the prevalent importance of socio-cultural factors for their success or failure. Part III reexamines the end of alliances and offers an alternative interpretation of that phase based upon contemporary perceptions. It also highlights the innovative and important contributions which this project offers to the wider academic community. Although this study seeks out contemporary perceptions, its conclusions engage with the current debates in history, classics, and international relations studies.