Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Dancing Floor of War: A study of Theban imperialism within Boeotia, ca. 525-386BCE

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posted on 2021-11-13, 21:39 authored by Wilson, Alex

This thesis is a reexamination of Thebes’ relationship with the neighbouring Greek poleis (city states) of Boeotia in early Greek history, including but not limited to the so-called Boeotian League or Confederation. Although it is generally acknowledged that Thebes was the dominant city of Boeotia in the Archaic and Classical Periods, scholarly opinion has varied on how to classify Thebes’ dominance. At some point in the period considered here, the Boeotian states gathered themselves together into a regional collective, a confederation. The features of this union (in which Thebes was the leading participant) obscure Thebes’ ambitions to subjugate other Boeotian states. I argue here that it is appropriate to define Thebes’ relationship with Boeotia as imperialist.  I begin with a methodological consideration of the application of imperialism to ancient Greek history. The thesis considers in the first chapters three stages of development in Theban imperialism: firstly an early period (ca. 525) in which Thebes encouraged nascent Boeotian ethnic identity, promoting its own position as the natural leader of Boeotia. Secondly, a period (ca. 525–447) in which a military alliance of Boeotian states developed under the leadership of Thebes. Thirdly, a period which was the earliest true form of the Boeotian Confederation, contrary to scholarship which pushes the date of the Boeotian collective government back to the sixth century. I argue that the Boeotian federal constitution of 447–386 gave Thebes sufficient control of Boeotia to be classified as an imperialist structure.  A final chapter independently considers the evidence of Boeotian coinage, which has often been used problematically to inform historical analysis of Boeotian relations. I argue that on cultural and economic grounds alone the numismatic evidence suggests that Thebes’ dominance in Boeotia extended to monetary influence.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Classical Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

950504 Understanding Europe's Past

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies


Trundle, Matthew