Dolmens and cromlechs have been found in the ancient area
of Achaea dating back to the Neolithic period. Flint axes and blades fabricated
from materials such as quartz or obsidian have been found in megalithic chamber
tombs from this ancient region. Among other finds, alabaster pottery sherds have
been discovered during excavations at Antheia in Achaia and dated to the
thirteenth century CE.
and Classical Greece
According to Pausanias, in 688 BC the city of Hyperesia
was threatened by an army from Sicyon. The locals defended their city by placing
burning torches on their goats' (aiges in Greek) horns. The Sicyonians
retreated and the Hyperesians renamed their town Aigeira (Greek: Aίγειρα) to
honor the goats.
During the 5th century BC the cities of Achaea were
neutral in the Persian Wars and were usually neutral in the struggles between
Athens and Sparta. We begin to hear more of Achaea in the following centuries.
In 373 BC the Achaean city of Helice was destroyed in a
great cataclysm. “Immense columns of flame”, the first record in history of the
phenomenon of earthquake lights, were seen in the days leading up to the
earthquake. The quake hit at night causing Helice to subside and then a massive
tsunami rushed in from the Corinthian Gulf to inundate the city. All the
inhabitants perished. The city of Boura, further inland, was also destroyed in
In 367 BC, during Epaminondas’ third invasion of the
Peloponnese, the Achaean cities agreed to an alliance with Thebes. But soon
when oligarchs retook the cities of Achaea they allied with Sparta against
Epaminondas. At the Battle of Mantinea in 362 BC the Achaeans were allied to
Sparta, Athens and Mantinea against Thebes.
The Achaeans were part of the Greek alliance led by Thebes
and Athens which was defeated by King Philip II of Macedon at the Battle of
Chaeronea in 338 BC. Subsequently Achaea was part of the Macedonian dominated
The Achaean League (Greek: κοινὸν τῶν Ἀχαιῶν), also known
as the Aegean League, was a Hellenistic-era confederation of Greek city states
on the northern and central Peloponnese. The first league was formed in the 5th
century BC. The second Achaean League existed between 280 BC and 146 BC.
The regional Achaean League was reformed in 281/0 BC (on
the basis of a looser alliance of the founding city-states extending back to
the 5th century BC), and soon expanded beyond its Achaean heartland. It was
first joined by the city of Sicyon in 251, which provided it with its first
great leader, Aratus of Sicyon. The League soon grew to control much of the
Peloponnese, considerably weakening the Macedonian hold on the area. It
acquired Corinth in 243 BC, Megalopolis in 235 BC and Argos in 229 BC. The
increased size of the league meant a bigger citizen army and more wealth, which
was used to hire mercenaries. However the league soon ran into difficulties
with the revived Sparta of Cleomenes III. Aratus was forced to call in the aid
of the Macedonian King, Antigonus Doson, to defeat Cleomenes in Sellasia.
Antigonus re-established Macedonian control over much of the region.
In 220 BC, the Achaean League entered into a war against
the Aetolian League, which was called "the second Allied War". The
young king Philip V of Macedon sided with the Achaeans and called for a
Panhellenic conference in Corinth, where the Aetolian aggression was condemned.
After Aratus's death, however, the League was able to reap
much of the benefits of Macedon's defeat by Rome in 197 BC. Under the
leadership of Philopoemen, the League was able to finally defeat a heavily weakened
Sparta and take control of the entire Peloponnese.
The League's dominance was not to last long, however.
During the Third Macedonian War (171–168 BC), the League flirted with the idea
of an alliance with Perseus, and the Romans punished it by taking several
hostages to ensure good behavior, including Polybius, the Hellenistic historian
who wrote about the rise of the Roman Republic. In 146 BC, the league erupted
into an open revolt against Roman domination, the Achaean War. The Romans under
Lucius Mummius defeated the Achaeans at the Battle of Corinth, razed Corinth
and dissolved the League. G.T. Griffith has written that Achaean War was a
hopeless enterprise for the Achaeans, badly led and backed by no adequate
reserves of money or men. Lucius Mummius received the agnomen Achaicus
("conqueror of Achaea") for his role.
Achaea was conquered by the Romans in the year 146 BC.
Emperor Augustus established Achaea as a senatorial province; generally
speaking, the region benefited from the enlightened attitude of Roman emperors
such as Augustus. This was because Achaea was geographically closer to Rome
than other provinces, and so it was given political advantages and greater
status in order for the Roman court to maintain a political equilibrium within
The rule of Achaea in Roman times was placed under the
Senate while a preconsul of Praetorian rank was appointed as its governor with
the administrative seat in Corinth. However, Rome exercised fairly light
control over Achaea: no Roman garrisons were posted there, native religious and
social groups were widely tolerated by the Romans, and a general sense of free
determination amongst the Greeks was commonplace. After the reign of Augustus
the province of Achaea was combined with Macedonia from the years 15 until 44,
coinciding with the frontier troubles. This combined imperial province was
overseen by a governor placed at Moesia along the Danube River. In the year 67,
Emperor Nero declared Greece to be politically free from the Roman Empire, and
the Greeks began their own autonomous rule. However, Roman authority over
Greece was reestablished soon after with Emperor Vespasian, who placed the
province once again in the hands of the Roman Senate.
and modern history
Achaea remained a province of the Byzantine Empire after
the fall of the western Roman Empire. In the 6th and 7th centuries, Slavs
invaded the Peloponnese, and settled in parts of Achaea as well. By the 9th
century, the whole peninsula was under Byzantine control again. However, after
the Fourth Crusade several new crusader states were founded in Greece. One of
these was the Principality of Achaea, founded in 1205, which like the Roman
province covered a much larger area than traditional Achaea. Achaea was
recaptured by the Byzantine Empire by 1430, and became part of the Despotate of
The Despotate of the Morea fell to the Ottoman Empire in
1460. As a part of the Morean War, the Republic of Venice captured Achaea in
1687 and held it until 1715, when the Ottomans recaptured the Peloponnese.
Under Ottoman rule, Achaea was part of the Morea Eyalet.
In the Greek War of Independence, Aigio was one of the
first cities to be liberated by the Greeks and all of Achaea was liberated by
the end of 1821. Achaea produced several heroes including Kanaris, Zaimis and
Roufos and prime ministers of Greece including Andreas Michalakopoulos as well
as some head of states.
In the first administrative subdivision of independent
Greece, Achaea was part of the Achaea and Elis Prefecture. This was divided
into the prefectures of Achaea and Elis in 1899. Achaea and Elis were reunited
in 1909, and split again in 1930.
Achaea saw an influx of refugees that arrived from Asia
Minor during the Greco Turkish War of 1919-1922. Tens of thousands were
relocated to their camps in the suburbs of Patras and a few villages mainly
within the coastline. One of the camps was named Prosfygika.