Aetolia was an ancient district in the mountainous region of central Greece, directly north of the Gulf of Corinth. In ancient times, the inhabitants of the region belonged to various independent tribes and were ruled by minor kings. Known for their piracy, the Aetolians preyed on ships in the Gulf of Corinth and the Aegean Sea.
During the 400s B.C., the Aetolians joined together in a loose alliance of tribes. In time, this alliance developed into a political federation* known as the Aetolian League with its central government at Thermum. As the league grew in strength, it became one of the most important military powers in Greece, extending its influence across central Greece. The league also controlled cities in the more distant regions of the Peloponnese, Thrace, and Asia Minor.
Attempts to expand Aetolian territory led to conflicts with Macedonia during the 200s B.C. The Aetolians formed an alliance with Rome, and together they defeated the Macedonians in 197 B.C. However, when Rome kept the Macedonian region of Thessaly for itself, the Aetolians joined forces with Syria against their former ally. After Rome defeated Syria in 189 B.C., Aetolia was forced to surrender to Rome as well, bringing an end to Aetolian independence. Rome dissolved the Aetolian League and later incorporated Aetolia into the Roman province of Achaea. (See also Federalism.)
* federation political union of separate states with a central government