Amphictyonic Council

There were many Greek associations styled by the name; but the one that met at the temple of Apollo at Delplhi, in the spring of the year, and at the temple of Demeter at Thermopyke in the autumn, was known par eminence as the Amphictyonic Council. Twelve Greek states, each having two votes, were represented in this council. Some changes took place in the council, one of them being the admission of the Macedonians in place of the Phocidians. The idea of fraternal solidarity, rooted, however, rather in community of blood, language and religion, than in political interest, always obtained among the Greeks. But the Amphictyonic Council was in no sense a national congress, charged with control or legislation of an imperial or federal character. Each state was politically independent; and the council acted not for the direction of the general affairs of Hellas but rather to restrain aggressions of one member of the council upon another, and as a conservator of religion and of Grecian honors. They some- times acted, however, as a kind of supreme tribunal of peace, of conciliation and arbitration among Hellenic states; and sometimes they were manipulated to subserve the interests of the more powerful states.(1)

A large fine imposed in 357 BC on the Phocians by the Amphictyonic League (dominated at that moment by Thebes), for the offense of cultivating sacred land.the fine was, however, far beyond the Phocians’ ability to pay.[9] Under normal circumstance, refusal to pay the fine would have made the Phocians religious (and therefore political) outcasts in Greece, and liable to have a sacred war declared against them. Behind the religious element, there probably lay a display of realpolitik in bringing charges against the Phocians, instigated by the Thebans. The Phocians had declined to send troops on the Mantinea campaign of 362 BC, despite Theban requests, and this appears to have caused lasting enmity in Thebes. (2)

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laws of war

Greece was comprised of autonomous  city-states (poleis), which included oligarchies as well as democracies. Despite the important political and social differences between city-states, these states shared a common language, worshipped the same gods, relied on the same Homeric epics as a guide to moral values, and shared cultural traditions at periodic panhellenic festivals. For these reasons, it is possible to speak of a common “Greek” set of cultural and religious values and norms. (1)

Although there are a handful of examples in our sources of treaties purporting to regulate the conduct of warfare, the Greek law of war was primarily an unwritten set of norms arising from Greek custom. There is one formal agreement from the classical period that addresses the conduct of war. In theory it applied to much of Greece but was largely ignored in practice. The Amphictyonic Council was an association including the majority of Greek city-states that was formed to protect and oversee the oracle and sanctuary at Delphi.

To say that the law of war was customary is not to imply that it occupied a lesser status in the eyes of the Greeks than written laws and treaties. Today customary international law, particularly in its traditional form that relies on states’ practice, is more controversial and contested than positive law in some quarters. The Greeks did not have this reaction to customary law. They used the same word?nomos?to refer to customs and written statutes.