A celebrated council of the states of ancient Greece. An amphictyony meant originally an association of several tribes for the purpose of protecting some temple common to them all, and for maintaining worship within it, and it was only later that it acquired also a political importance. Its members were called amphictyons ("the dwellers around"). Such associations exited at Argos, Delos, and elsewhere; but the most important was that at Anthela, near Thermopylae, the seat of which was later transferred to Delphi through Dorian influence.
The members of this league were 12 in number, and were, according to Aeschines: the Thessalians, Boetians, Dorians, Ionians, Perhaebians, Magnetes, Locrians, Oetaeans, Phthiots, Malians, and Phocians, and the Dolopians who are mentioned in other accounts. The members of this confederation bound themselves by an oath not to destroy any city of the Amphictyons, nor cut off their streams in war or peace, and to employ all their power in punishing those who did so, or those who pillaged the property of the god, or injured his temple at Delphi. However, this oath was not always kept. In the primitive period of Greek history, it had a beneficial and civilizing influence; but its more important interferences in the affairs of Greece were directly contrary to the spirit of its institution. The first of these was the so-called sacred war, waged from 595 to 585 BC, against the Phocian city of Crissa. The second sacred war, from 355 to 346 BC, gave occasion to the fatal interference of Philip of Macedonia in the affairs of Greece; and a third sacred was, instigated by Philip, was the prelude to the victory of Chaeronea.
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