Amphictyons, members of an amphictyony, a term used by the ancient Greeks to designate an association of neighboring tribes or cities for the observance of the law of nations toward each other, and the protection and worship of some deity, whose temple was supposed to be the common property of all. The word is sometimes derived from the mythical hero Amphictyon, son of Deucalion and Pyr-rha, but is properly a compound from and or signifying " dwellers around " or "neighbors." The origin of these associations is enveloped in much obscurity, and beyond the fact that several of them existed in Greece at a very remote period, forming as it were the germ of one of the strongest bonds of union by which the Greek tribes were held together, we know nothing of the circumstances of their formation. The most celebrated of these confederations was that known as the amphicty-onic council, which from small beginnings rose to great importance, on account of the wealth and magnificence of the temple of Apollo at Delphi, of which it was the special guardian. It was composed of 12 tribes, variously described by the authorities, but generally supposed to comprise the Ionians, Dolopians, Thessalians, (Etasans, Magnetes, Malians, Phthian Achaeans, Dorians, Phocians (including the Del-phians), Locrians, Boeotians, and Perrhsebians, all of whom originally dwelt in and around Thessaly and were of equal importance, although subsequently we find them distributed over all parts of Greece. Some became utterly insignificant or extinct, and the fact of the Dorians standing on an equality with the Dolopians or Malians shows that the council must have existed before the Dorian conquest of the Peloponnesus. The council met twice a year, in the spring at the temple of Apollo at Delphi, and in the autumn at that of Ceres at Anthela, near Thermopylae, and was represented by two classes of deputies from each tribe, the hieromnemons and the pylagorse, whence it has been supposed that two amphictyonies, organized for the worship of two distinct deities, were subsequently merged in one.
The 12 tribes had equal rights at the meetings of the council, and each was entitled to two votes, to be given by its deputies. The objects of the confederation are best described in the following oath which each of its members was obliged to take: "We will not destroy any amphictyonic town, nor cut it off from running water in war or peace; if any shall do so, we will march ' against him and destroy his city. If any one shall plunder the property of the god, or shall be cognizant thereof, or shall take treacherous counsel against the things in his temple at Delphi, we will punish him with foot and hand and voice, and by every means in our power." Notwithstanding the humane and wise objects of the council, it engaged in two sanguinary wars against some of its own members, called the first and second sacred wars, and finally lent itself to the ambitious purposes of Philip of Macedon, who in the name of the league excited a third war in 338 B. C., in which the liberties of Greece were extinguished at the battle of Chasronea. The first of these wars, which began in 595 B. 0. and lasted till 585, was declared against the Phocian city of Crissa, on account of injuries inflicted upon persons visiting the oracle of Apollo at Delphi, and resulted in the total destruction of the city.
The second sacred war, from 355 to 346 B. C, originating in a charge against the Phocians of taking into cultivation a tract of land belonging to the Delphic temple, was carried on with such vindictiveness that nearly every Phocian town was destroyed. Philip of Macedon, having entered the struggle at the solicitations of the Thessalians, decided the war in their favor, and thus gained his fatal ascendancy in the affairs of Greece. The Phocians were ejected from the league at the close of the war, but were subsequently readmitted. The duration of the amphictyonic council is not precisely known, but it survived the independence of Greece.