Achaea was a narrow region of ancient Greece that included southeastern Thessaly and the north coast of the Peloponnese*. The poet Homer used the name Achaeans in his epic* poem the Iliad to refer to the Greeks who fought in the Trojan War.
In the 700s B.C., Achaea established colonies in southern Italy that supplied grain and other foods to Greece. The Achaeans prospered, and by the 400s B.C., the growing towns of the region had joined to form a military confederation known as the Achaean League. The league reached the height of its power in the 200s B.C. At that time, it included both Achaean and non-Achaean city-states* and controlled most of the Peloponnese and parts of central Greece. The Achaean League created an early form of representative government in which member city- states, rather than individual citizens, voted on issues.
Conflict with the city-state of Sparta led the Achaean League into an alliance with Macedonia in 224 B.C. This alliance lasted until the league joined Rome against Macedonia in 198 B.C. Later, Achaea became part of the Roman province of Macedonia. Then in 27 B.C., Rome created a new province called Achaea that included all of central Greece, the Peloponnese, and the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea. The region remained part of the Roman Empire until the A.D. 400s, when Greece became part of the Byzantine Empire. (See also Cities, Greek; Colonies, Roman; Federalism.)
* Peloponnese peninsula forming the southern part of the mainland of Greece
* epic long poem about legendary or historical heroes, written in a grand style
* city-state independent state consisting of a city and its surrounding territory