The choice of vocabulary used by the Greeks and Romans to describe their own social and political reality was determined by the fact that the most common form of community life was polis, a city that was a community of citizens. However, we cannot forget that there were other forms of public organisation in Greece. The most important among them was the so-called tribal or federal state, which was the dominant type of state in vast areas of Greece (especially in the western part of continental Greece). There is no doubt that these states, too, or rather their very existence must have had some influence on the political language of the Greeks. However, since many Greek federal states were formed following a transformation of earlier tribal associations and the “ethnic” terminology was shared by loose tribal associations and more advanced federations, most scholars today believe that there was no difference between them. Since tribal states are considered to be unitarian, the dominant view today is that the Greeks did not know federal states and never formulated a federalist theory. In the present project this communis opinio is verified and criticised.
The first stage of the project consisted in making a list of words used in Antiquity with reference to Greek tribal associations and federal states as well as their institutions, assemblies, councils, typically federal offices, officials or systems (e.g. koinon, ethnos, [koine] ekklesia; [koinon] synhedrion; synhedroi and federal officials made to sound like ethnic leaders, e.g. boiotarchai and sympoliteia, isopoliteia, koine politeia, synedriake politeia). In addition, the project includes a study of the use of verbs and nouns with the prefixes syn- and sym- in contexts associated with Greek federations. Apart from a compilation of “federalist” terms an important element of the project is a study of ethnikon and other ethnic expressions used with reference to Greeks living in federations or simply in areas in which the poleis were not the dominant form of community life. Given the ongoing discussion about the meaning of the so-called double ethnikon, we try to establish how Greeks living in areas dominated by the ethne were presented abroad (e.g. only as a federalist-tribal ethnikon or double ethnikon, or perhaps only by reference to the mother polis).
The compilations made in the project will be used to prepare a series of articles explaining the key issues of federalist terminology of the ancient Greeks, and to sum up all the results in an extensive monograph in English.