From Phocis to Achaea: Ethnicity and Federalism in Greek Antiquity

Image of Thomas Alexander Husoy

DEPT/SUBJECT AREA: Classics, Ancient History and Egyptology

SUPERVISOR(S): Dr Maria Pretzler, Prof. Mark Humphries. 


THESIS TITLE: From Boeotia to Achaea: The Development of Federalism in Greek Antiquity


My PhD investigates the connections between layers of ethnic identity and federalism in four regions of Ancient Greece: Phocis, Boeotia, Arcadia, and Aetolia. This project aims to look at federalism beyond institutions and investigate the interconnection between federalism and various levels of identity. I research ethnic identity as a multi-layered process, particularly looking at levels such as Hellenicity, trans-regional-, regional-, sub-regional-, and polis ethnic. This involves applying an ethnosymbolic approach, with a focus on myths, festivals, memories, and symbols and their links to the development of ethnicity and federalism in ancient Greece.

The four regions provide case studies; I start with sixth century Phocis, as a set-up for the project, highlighting the significance of local and sub-regional groups in this region to the end of the Third Sacred War in the fourth century. Next, I examine the Boeotians and Arcadians; more evidence survives for both these regions, which allows me to refine my argument. Throughout these three case studies, I highlight the importance of flexibility in the mythical stories for various levels of identity and their links with federal states in ancient Greece. My final case study is Classical and Hellenistic Aetolia. This region developed from a tribal confederate system in the fifth century into a federal state based on the regional identity in the fourth century. In the Hellenistic period, the Aetolian federal state expanded far beyond its traditional ethnic territory, and non-Aetolian members were organised into districts based on their regional ethnic groups, such as the Ozolian Locrians, Dorians, and Agraioi. I start each case study by analysing archaic origin myths and their connections to an ethnic homeland, followed by an investigation of the historical development of these groups using a narrative approach. My conclusion brings all the data together and applies it to the Hellenistic Achaean federal state from 251 to 222.

Training Courses:

June 2020 – October 2020: Swansea Summer Seminars in Myths and Politics from Antiquity to Present Time, Swansea University.

November 2019: Universities of Wales Institute of Classics and Ancient History Postgraduate Conference (UWICAH) 2019: Narratives of Power in Antiquity, Swansea University

Papers Presented at Conferences and Seminars

‘River-Gods and Their Symbolic Meanings for Identities in Central Greece’, Classical Association of Scotland; Aberdeen and North, April 2021

‘Asopus and Trophonius: Changing Genealogies, Regional Ethnic Groups, and Gods in Boeotia’, Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Ancient History (AMPAH), University of Exeter, April 2021

‘Building Phocian Group Identity: Genealogies, Ambitions, and Sacred Wars’, Postgraduate Work in Progress (PGWiP), Institute of Classical Studies, January 2021

‘Regionalism, Local Identities, and Asopids in Central Greece’, Liverpool Work in Progress, University of Liverpool, December 2020

‘Isolation and Social Construction: Constructing Identity in Fourth Century Arcadia’, Universities of Wales Institute of Classics and Ancient History Postgraduate Conference (UWICAH), UWTSD Lampeter, November 2020

‘Sanctuaries, Regional Ethnicities, and Borders in Ancient Boeotia’, COAH PGR Conference, Swansea University, September 2020

‘Asopus, Trophonius, and Pan: Local Identities, Deities, and Genealogies’, Swansea Summer Seminars in Myths and Politics from Antiquity to Present Time, Swansea University, June 2020

‘Thessaly and Phocis: What Xerxes’ Invasion can tell us about the Phocian Ethnos in the Fifth Century’, Herodotus Helpline, University of St. Andrews/The Open University, May 2020

‘Ambitions and Sacred Wars: The Phocian Ethnos from the Persian Wars to the Mid-Fifth Century’, Classical Mondays on the Sun, Autonomous University of Barcelona, May 2020

‘Xenophon, Callisthenes, and Diodorus: The Importance of the Oracular Prophecies and Omens before the Battle of Leuctra’, Stranger Things: Fantasy in Historiography and Reception, Autonomous University of Barcelona, May 2020

‘Cults of Hera in Thespiae and Plataea: Anti-Theban Cults in Southern Boeotia in the Fourth Century?’, Exeter Work in Progress, University of Exeter, February 2020

‘Thessaly and the Narratives of Identities in Central Greece’, Universities of Wales Institute of Classics and Ancient History Postgraduate Conference (UWICAH), Swansea University, November 2019.

‘Thessaly and the Effects on Identities in Central Greece’, Swansea University Department of Classics, Ancient History and Egyptology Research Seminars, Swansea University, October 2019


‘Thessaly and the Narratives of Ethnic Identities in Central Greece’, in T.A Husøy; U. Furlan; H. Bohun, Narratives of Power in Antiquity, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne; Cambridge Scholars Publishers.

Awards and Founding

2021 Travel Bursary, Norwegian Institute at Athens

2020/2019 Swansea University HEAR Silver Award for PGR Rep position in COAH

2018 Classical Association Bursary for Ancient Languages; Swansea University Summer School in Ancient Languages

2018 - Swansea University Postgraduate International Tuition Fees Bursary

Teaching experience

2021 CLH297: Alexander and the Hellenistic World (Teaching Placement)

2019 CLH150: Rome From Village to Empire: Introduction to Roman History (Teaching Assistant)

2018 CLH100: Greek History and Society (Teaching Assistant)

2018 FY-012: Introduction to Being Human (Teaching Assistant)

Awards and Funding:

Swansea University Student Union Silver HEAR Award, 2019, 2020.

Classical Association, Summer School Bursary for Ancient Languages, Swansea University.

Swansea University Postgraduate Tuition Fee Bursary.

Training Courses:

CEDHAR Workshop on Network Analysis, Aarhus University.

QGIS, LinkedIn Learning, 2020.

Presentation Skills, College of Arts and Humanities Swansea University.

Practical Epigraphy Workshop 2019, Ashmolean Museum and the Centre for Study of Ancient Documents.


June 2020 – Peer Review Editor for New Classicists

August 2018 – June 2020 COAH PGR Representative – Swansea University Student Association/College of Arts and Humanities, Swansea University