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ACHAIA ə kā’ yə (̓Αχαία). The Rom. province which included all of the Peloponnesus, much of central Greece and the Cyclades.

The name is derived from ̓Αχαιοί, a common designation in Homer for the Greeks who besieged Troy in the 12th cent. b.c. It is generally applied to the followers of Agamemnon, who came from the fertile plains of Argos and the surrounding areas, and to the men of Achilles who came from Pithian Thessaly in the NE. It is also the name for the Greeks which is found in Hitt. and Egyp. texts of the period 1400-1200 b.c. That they were Gr.-speaking people is borne out by the decipherment of Linear B tablets from Late Bronze Age (Mycenaean) settlements at Mycenae, Pylos and Thebes. Herodotus (VII 94) was no doubt wrong when he stated that they supplanted the Ionians in the Peloponnesus after they moved from their original home in Thessaly. They were instead Gr.-speaking intruders who replaced the original inhabitants of both regions, prob. at the end of the Middle Bronze Age.

In historical times the name was applied to the N central part of the Peloponnesus. It extended from Elis to Sicyon and comprised the narrow, fertile plain and foothills between the Gulf of Corinth and the mountains behind. The twelve small towns located in this region formed a federal league which met first at Helice and later at Aegium. In the 3rd and 2nd centuries b.c. the league became the chief power of Greece. The league was remarkable as one of the most perfect examples of federal government. Every city had equal rights and managed its own internal affairs. In foreign affairs the federal government was supreme. It consisted of all citizens of all the towns and met twice a year to consider matters of common interest. The Achaean constitution was used as a model by the framers of the American Constitution.

After the conquest of Greece by the Romans in the middle of the 2nd cent., the league went into a sharp decline. The region was administered by the Rom. governor of Macedonia until the emperor Augustus in 27 b.c. divided Greece into two parts, Macedonia and Achaia. The latter became a senatorial province. Corinth, which had been rebuilt in 46 b.c., became the capital and the residence of the proconsul. Because of a dispute over taxes Tiberius in a.d. 15 reunited Achaia with Macedonia and Moesia under the administration of an imperial legate, but in 44 Claudius again made it a senatorial province. On the 28th of November 67 Nero declared Greece free at the Isthmian games, but Vespasian soon made it a senatorial province again.


J. A. O. Larsen in T. Frank ed., Economic Survey of Ancient Rome vol. IV. 259-498; E. Groag, Die romischen Reichsbeamten von Achaia (1939); J. Toepffer and C. G. Brandis in Pauly Wissowa RE s.v., “Achaia.”

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The smallest country in the Peloponnesus lying along the southern shore of the Corinthian Gulf, north of Arcadia and east of Elis. The original inhabitants were Ionians, but these were crowded out later by the Acheans, who came from the East. According to Herodotus, the former founded twelve cities, many of which retain their original names to this day. These cities were on the coast and formed a confederation of smaller communities, which in the last century of the independent history of Greece attained to great importance (Achaean League). In Roman times the term Achaia was used to include the whole of Greece, exclusive of Thessaly. Today Achaia forms with Elis one district, and contains a population of nearly a quarter of a million. The old Achean League was renewed in 280 BC, but became more important in 251, when Aratus of Sicyon was chosen commander-in-chief. This great man increased the power of the League and gave it an excellent constitution, which our own great practical politicians, Hamilton and Madison, consulted, adopting many of its prominent devices, when they set about framing the Constitution of the United States. In 146 BC Corinth was destroyed and the League broken up (see 1 Macc 15:23); and the whole of Greece, under the name of Achaia, was transformed into a Roman province, which was divided into two separate provinces, Macedonia and Achaia, in 27 BC.

In Ac 18:12 we are told that the Jews in Corinth made insurrection against Paul when Gallio was deputy of Achaia, and in 18:27 that Apollos was making preparations to set out for Achaia In Ro 16:5, "Achaia" should read "ASIA" as in the Revised Version (British and American). In Ac 20:2 "Greece" means Achaia, but the oft- mentioned "Macedonia and Achaia" generally means the whole of Greece (Ac 19:21; Ro 15:26; 1Th 1:8). Paul commends the churches of Achaia for their liberality (2Co 9:13).


See Gerhard, Ueber den Volksstamm der A. (Berlin, 1854); Klatt, Forschungen zur Geschichte des achaischen Bundes (Berlin, 1877); M. Dubois, Les ligues etolienne et acheenne (Paris, 1855); Capes, History of the Achean League (London, 1888); Mahaffy, Problems, 177-86; Busolt, Greek Staatsalter, 2nd edition (1892), 347 ff; Toeppfer, in Pauly’s Realencyclopaedie.

For Aratus see Hermann, Staatsalter, 1885; Krakauer, Abhandlung ueber Aratus (Breslau, 1874); Neumeyer, Aratus aus Sikyon (Leipzig, 1886); Holm, History of Greece.