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Historical Article

Arkadia, Arkadian League - An Anti-Spartan Confederacy



After the Boeotian victory over the Spartans at Leuktra in 371 BC, an anti-Spartan democratic movement arose in Arkadia in the central Peloponnesos. By 369 BC a confederacy of most of the Arkadian city-states was established, and, under the auspices of the Boeotian leader Epaminondas, a city was founded by combining five pre-existing neighboring villages. This new urban center, Megalopolis, became the capital of the short-lived Arkadian League and, like Messene, a fortified buffer against Spartan power in the Peloponnesos. Though it experienced difficulties with its constituent communities, Megalopolis developed into the largest city in Arkadia and exerted a strong influence in the Peloponnesos.

These staters of the Arkadian league, struck at Megalopolis, were produced at the height of the confederacy's power. Among the great rarities of Classical Greek coinage, they are truly masterpieces of numismatic art. The head of Zeus is likely adopted from Leochares' statue of Zeus Brontaios at Olympia, a city the League conquered just prior to the issue of these staters. According to Gerin, these staters comprised a short series struck from Spring 363 until the Battle of Mantinea in July 362. Thereafter the League dissolved into two factions, respectively centered on Megalopolis and Mantinea, and each entered a steady decline into irrelevancy.

ARKADIA, Arkadian League. Circa 363-362 BC. AR Stater (12.19 gm, 1h). Megalopolis mint, Olym-, magistrate or engraver. Laureate head of Zeus Lykaios left / APK monogram, Pan, naked, seated left on rocks, torso facing, head turned to right, holding lagobolon in his right hand, leaning on left arm; ΟΛΥΜ on rocks, syrinx at base of rocks. Gerin, "Les statéres de la Ligue Arcadienne," SNR 65 (1986), 3-12 var. (Obv. die 1/Rev. die unlisted); BMC Peloponnesus pg. 173, 49; SNG Copenhagen -; SNG Fitzwilliam 3851 (same obverse die); Gulbenkian 532 (same obverse die); Seltman, Masterpieces of Greek Coinage 48b = Weber 4259 (same obverse die); Traité pl. CCXXIV, 2 = Mionnet II pg. 244, 7 (same obverse die).

A wonderful example of classical art.