Thursday, February 07, 2008

Were the ancient Macedonians Greeks?

They should learn proper Greek and be trained in Macedonian weapons.
Plutarch , Alexander, 47,6
It is known these days for an international dispute to ramify into the dawn of history, culture, linguistics and human rights all at once. Yet, this is exactly what has happened since World War II with the so-called Macedonian Question, which after periods of quiescence has erupt from into a vehement verbal conflict. Ever since the “tall ones” the "ΜΑΚΕΔΟΝΟΙ" as they were called in Homeric Greek, settled down in the Balkan Peninsula named after them, Macedonia, from the Greek name Μακεδονία, has rarely been free from controversy. Even now when the Balkans are no longer the powder keg that they used to be (other regions compete for this honour) a festering debate continues to cloud relations between three neighbouring countries, namely ex-Yugoslavia (FYROM), Bulgaria and Greece.
Below is an intresting abstract from 'Macedonia: 4000 years of Greek History and Civilization'(The Early Years,The inhabitants, Greek edition) that explains some thinks regarding the question of this thread...
There has been much discussion on the question of the nationality of the Macedonians.
Three main views have emerged:
First, the Macedonians were Greeks; second, the Macedonians were not Greeks; and third, the Macedonians were neither Greeks nor Macedonians: they were Illyrians or Thracians. These differences of opinion are due to the contradictory nature of evidence handed down from antiquity.
Let us see some of the available evidence:
  1. A Persian inscription dating from 513 BCE records the European peoples who were, at that date, subject to the Great King. One of these people is described as Yauna Takabara, meaning "Ionians whose head-dress is like a shield". The Persians, like other eastern peoples of antiquity, are known to have applied the term "Ionians" to all Greeks; on the other hand the head-dress resembling a shield has been rightly recognized as that of depicted on Macedonian coins.
  2. In a fragment of Hellanikos (fifth century BCE), Makedon, the mythical founder of the Macedonians, appears as the son of Aiolos. This genealogical relationship reflects the idea the Macedonians were a section of the Aeolians, a sub-division of the Greek race.
  3. After the battle of Issos, Alexander the Great sent a letter to Darius that read as follows: "Your ancestors came to Macedonia and the rest of Greece and did us much harm though we had done them no prior injury; I have been appointed commander-in-chief of the Greeks and invaded Asia in the desire to take vengeance on Persia for your aggressions." From this extract it emerges clearly that Alexander regarded Macedonia as a Greek country, identified the sufferings of Macedonia at the hands of the Persians with the destruction they had wrought in southern Greece , and represented himself as the avenger of all these wrongs.
  4. The formulation "Macedonia and the rest of Greece" also occurs in the treaty of alliance between Philip V of Macedonia and Hannibal. In the same text the phrase "the Macedonians and the rest of the Greeks" occurs twice.
  5. Other passages demonstrate that non-Macedonian Greeks also thought of the Macedonians as their kindred, and of Macedonia as a Greek country. In 217 BCE Agelaos of Naupactos, speaking to a gathering at which Philip V and representatives of his allies were present, prayed that internecine wars between the Greeks would cease. In 211 BCE, Lykiscos, representative of the Acarnanians, described the Macedonians as kinsfolk of the Achaeans. Macedonia is accounted part of Greece by various authors.
  6. The general sense of a passage in Thucydides gives the impression that the historian considered the Macedonians barbarians. Various ancient geographers and historians of the classical and post-classical periods, such as Ephoros, Pseudo-Scylax, Dionysios son of Calliphon and Dionysios Periegetes, put the northern borders of Greece at the line from Ambracian Gulf to the Peneios. Isocrates places Macedonia outside the boundaries of Greece and describes the Macedonians as ούχομόφυλονγένος(an unrelated race). Medeios of Larisa, who accompanied Alexander on his campaign in Asia, calls the Thessalians "the most northernly of the Greeks".
  7. When Alexander I, king of the Macedonians, wanted to compete at Olympia(possibly in 496 BCE), his prospective opponents attempted to exclude him by arguing that only Greeks, and not barbarians, could take part in the Olympic Games. Alexander proved that he was a Greek and was therefore allowed to compete.

An evaluation of the evidence suggests the following:

  1. One ancient tradition connects the Macedonians with the Dorians and another traces the family to Argosin the Peloponnese. From this it can be deduced that the Macedonians, like the Dorians, were Greeks.
  2. In official documents of Alexander the Great and Philip V, Macedonia is described as a Greek country; in the first of them, Alexander represents himself as the avenger of the evils wrought by the Persians both in Macedonia and in the rest of Greece; and an ambassador of Philip V classifies the Macedonians with the Greeks in contradistinction with "foreigners"(αλλοεθνείς) and "barbarians" (βάρβαροι). The Macedonian kings, although they believed that they had a different ancestry from their subjects, did not consider themselves to be ruling outside Greece , or over a people foreign to the Greeks

In conclusion, the hypothesis that the Macedonians were Greeks is supported by all the reliable evidence: the ancient tradition that the Dorians were descended from a section of the Macedonians; the view the Macedonian kings held about themselves; and the testimony of Hellanicos, who lived at the Macedonian court. All the testimonia that contradict this view are external and derive either from observers who might have been mistaken, or from enemies of the Macedonians.

The language is not the only criterion used in the disputes between nations to define ethnicity. Archaeology plays an important role in projecting ethnic claims over history and civilization on earth. By digging, the archaeologists discover the past of a nation and can expose it to the public's admiration in archaeological museums. In the dispute between the Greeks and the Slavs on what was the ethnicity of ancient Macedonians, the new spectacular archaeological findings in Vergina, Pella, Dion, and other locations in Hellenic Macedonia, and even as far north as Skopje, unambivalently prove the ancient Macedonians' Hellenism. Archaeology legitimizes the Greek ethnic position on the Macedonian Question point out George Papavizas in his magnifisic book Claiming Macedonia .

Manolis Andronikos, the eminent archaeologist who headed the excavations in Vergina, wrote with respect to the epigraphic evidence of the stones discovered in Vergina: "In the most convincing way the evidence confirms the opinion of the historians who maintain that the ancient Macedonians were a Greek tribe ... and shows that the theory they were of Illyrian or Thracian origin and were Hellenized by Philip and Alexander rests on no objective criteria"+

1-Andronicos, Manolis. Vergina: The Royal Tombs. Athens: Ekdotike Athenon S.A., 1984.
2-'Macedonia: 4000 years of Greek History and Civilization',Athens: Ekdotike Athenon S.A., 1989

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Hellenistic era finds on Kuwaiti isle

5 Feb 2008

Archaeological excavations on Failaka Island, located 20 km off the coast of Kuwait City in the extreme western end of the Persian Gulf, have brought to light a series of significant Hellenistic period findings, beginning roughly during the period immediately following the death of Alexander the Great.

Remains of a fort, temple, shrine, and ancient Greek inscriptions have been unearthed, with the discoveries presented during a press conference at the culture ministry in Athens on Tuesday by Greek archaeologists working at the site in cooperation with the Kuwaiti government.

The head of the six-week-old mission, Angeliki Kottaridis, said Greek colonists in the region arrived with Alexander the Great, with their presence on the isle evident for at least two centuries. According to ancient sources, Alexander the Great himself had named the island Icarus, while his Seleucid successors continued to consider the island a strategic asset due to its position at the mouth of today's Shatt al-Arab, formed by the confluence of the Euphates adn Tigis Rivers in southern Mesopotamia.

The island was later named Failaka after the fort built on the island, with one possibility being that it was derived from the Greek word "filakio" for outpost. The temple and the entire eastern section of the Hellenistic fort were discovered following earlier excavations by Danish, American and French archaeologists. The Greek mission proceeded with the systematic excavation of the western section of the complex, discovering a part of the western wall, a workshop processing stone offerings and a chamber that was part of a Hellenistic era building.

Greek archaeologists also helped in the preservation work done on the noted stele of Icarus ,bearing a large Greek inscription, on display at the Museum of Kuwait, which itself suffered serious damage during the Iraqi invasion.

The archaeological mission was the result of an agreement signed last summer between the Greek culture ministry and the responsible Kuwaiti agency. Interest to renew the bilateral cooperation agreement has been positively met by the Greek ministry.

An undated handout photo released on 01 August 2007 shows the temple of Artemis in the ancient town of Icarus, on Kuwait's Failaka island in the Persian Gulf.


Sunday, February 03, 2008

AIGEAI (Vergina)

Aigeai was the first traditional «capital» of the Macedonian Kingdom. There were several versions for the etymology of its name, such as that it derived from:

  • the Greek word «αίγες» (=goats) referring thus to the oracle advising Karanos to found his capital «at the place he would see sleeping goats» (Euphorion [Sa.3], Diodorus [Sa.4], Justin [Sa.12])

  • the Greek word «αιγίς» (=windstorm) (Theophrastus [Sa.13]) being relevant to the windstorms that hit the area and especially the acropolis, situated at the top of the hill

  • the Greek word «αίγες» (=waves) (Hesychios [Sa.14]) re­ferring probably to a coastal site (or a site by the river).


  • Ancient authors
    1) Herodotus VIII, 137: «Τοϋ δέ Αλεξάνδρου τούτου έβδομος γενέτωρ Περδίκκης έστί ό κτησάμενος των Μακεδόνων την τυραννίδα τρόπω τοιφδε.»
    2) Thucydides I, 61: «αυτοί την Πύδναν έπολιόρκησαν μεν, έπειτα δέ ξύμβασιν ποιησάμενοι και ξυμμαχίαν άναγκαίαν προς τον Περ-δίκκαν, ... άπανίστανται έκ της Μακεδονίας, και άφικόμενοι ές Βέροιαν»
    3) Euphorion fr. XXXIV: «Κάρανος ... έλθών είς Μακεδονίαν έκτισεν πόλιν και Μακεδόνων έβασίλευσεν και την πρότερον καλουμένην "Εδεσσαν πόλιν Α ίγάς μετωνόμασεν από των αιγών»
    4) Diodorus VII, 16: «αλλ' ίθι έπειγόμενος Βοττηίδα πρός πολύμηλον, ένθα δ' άν άργικέρωτας ΐδης χιονωδέας αίγας εύνηθέντας ϋπνω, κείνηςχθονός έν δάπεδοισι θϋε θεοϊς μακάρεσι και άστυ κτίζε πόληος»
    5) Diodorus XVI, 92: «των αγώνων και γάμον συντελουμένων έν Α ιγεαϊς της Μακεδονίας»
    6) Diodorus XIX, 52: «Εϋριδίκην μεν και Φίλιππον, τους βασιλείς, έθαψεν έν Αίγαιαίς»
    8) Plutarch, «Pyrrhus», XXVI, 1: «τών δέ Αιγαίων κρατήσας φρουράν Γαλατικήν έν τη πόλει κατέλιπε»
    9) Arrian, «Anabasis» I, 11.1: «και τφΔιί τφ Όλυμπίω την θυσίαν την απ" Αρχελάου έτι καθεστώσαν έθυσε και τον αγώνα έν Αίγαϊς διέ-θηκετά Όλύμπια»
    10) Ptolemy III, 13.39: « Ημαθίας... Έδεσσα, Βέροια, Αίγαιά, Πέλλη»
    11) Justin Vn, 1.7: «... urbem Edessam ob memonam muneris Aegeas ... vocavit»
    12) Hesychios s.v. αίγες: «κύματα»

  • Inscriptions
    1) «ΕΥΡΙΔΙΚΑ ΣΙΡΡΑ ΕΥΚΑΕΙΑΙ» (4th BC) [inscribed base found in the sanctuary of Eukleia; see Παλιαδέλη 1993A, pp.25-34]
    2) «ΜΗΤΡΙ ΘΕΩΝ ΚΑΙ ΣΥΝΤΕΛΗΑ» (4th BC) [inscribed kantharos found in the sanctuary of Kybele; see Δρούγου 1993, pp.5-12]
    3) «ΕΞ [AIJFEAN... ΕΞ ΕΔΕΣΣΑΣ» (late 2nd BC) [catalogue at Argos; see IG IV 617.15]
    4) «ΗΡΑΚΛΗ ΠΑΤΡΩΙ» [found in the Tholos of the palace; see Ανδρόνι­κος, 1984, p.38]


Ptolemy [Sa.ll] recorded Aigeai as a place of Emathia, while Dio­dorus [Sa.4] considered it as a Bottiaian site. Moreover, as regards its exact location , from the previous century until 1976, there was a great misconception (mentioned in the account of Edessa below), that ancient Edessa was identical with ancient Aigeai, and thus the latter was situated in modern Edessa. However, this theory was refuted, as soon as it became clear that in literary evidence (e.g. Ptolemy [Sa.ll]) or inscriptions [Sb.3] both Aigeai and Edessa appeared at the same time. Furthermore, some of the results of the excavations of the last decades, especially the discovery of the royal tombs which, according to Diodorus [Sa.7] and Pliny, [Sa.8] lay at Aigeai, in combination with the existence of a well built palace -essentially related to the function of a «capital»- and the presence of many broken grave stelai at the Great Tumulus, explained as the result of the rapacity of the Gauls (Diodorus [Sa.7]), led to the undeniable identification of modern Vergina (in the southwestern edges of the plain of Thessalonike, to the southeast of Haliakmon) as the ancient Aigeai, and that it evidently lay in ancient Emathia.

Diodorus was referring probably to a broader meaning of Bottiaia in his era, or he was trying to imply that Bottiaia should have accommodated both successive Macedonian «capitals», i.e. Aigeai and Pella.

The excavations in this site, started by Heuzey a French archaeologist who visited Macedonia in the mid-19th century and continued throughout the 20th century, have produced a great range of archaeological finds, thus allowing the reconstruction of the architectural development (fig. 1), and hence the political and social status of the site to a great extent.

Also, north of the ancient city, parts of the prehistoric Cemetery of the Tumuli have been excavated, as well as burial sites dating up to the early Classical period.

Leon Heuzey writes:
"It is indeed a wonderful place, this lesser-known side of the Pieria mountains, sloping to the open spaces of Imathia. Here, the vegetation of the nearly northern face of Olympus descends to the banks of the Aliakmon. Tall trees, mostly majestic elms, cluster in dense forests, often interspersed with fields of corn and sesame.

From league to league a village with red roofs is encountered, or some farm well-stocked with cattle, which resounds to the clamour of large flocks of geese. Then you lose yourself again in the depths of the forest, along shady paths churned every day by the hooves of buffalo and the wheels of carts.

The three villages of Koutles, Barbes and Palatitsia constitute the most remote group of the region. Between two ravines a peak rises, dividing the mountain into two parts and descending sheerly. Where the ravine broadens, the ancient inhabitants had built the citadel of a city, whose walls end at a gentler slope following the encir-cling bed of the torrents."

The French archaeologist continues: "Midway down the slope there projects a level space, the most prominent spot of the entire city, and best suited for the erection of some large edific-e. There, the fine archaeological remains, which had already attracted my notice in the year 1855, are piled in heaps. Magnificent elms crown this plateau, which the local people revere as an ancient grove, and which indicate to all from afar that this is a site hallowed by immemorial traditions of worship".

In first place, parts of the fortifications -being made of local stones and mudbrick, and reinforced with rectangular and semi-circular towers-were discovered along with the acropolis (to the south of the site), whose walls enclosed the palace as well. The acropolis, accommodated some pri­vate houses and workshops along with its own aqueduct, and communi­cated with the site through a gate at the north side of its peribolos. The earlier phases of the fortifications dated to the end of the 4th century BC or the early 3rd century BC (coinciding with Kassander's innovations), while a phase of repair in the time of Philip V and a destruction in the 2nd century BC (because of the Roman invasion after the defeat at Pydna) were also identified; the acropolis buildings dated from the late 4th century BC till the 1st century AD.

However, the literary evidence for its history is, compared to the ar­chaeological, less and rather scanty. In first place, Justin [Sa.12] and Euphorion [Sa.3] implied a mythological foundation by Karanos, while Herodotus [Sa.l] implied indirectly that Perdikkas was its mythical founder. Thucydides' [Sa.2] account of the Athenian actions (negotiations with Perdikkas II in their way from Pydna to Beroia) confirmed indirectly that Ai­geai (being the only important site between Pydna and Beroia, where the negotiations could have taken place) was the place of royal residence in this era. However, the first direct historical evidence referred to the marriage of Philip's daughter and his subsequent assassination in the theatre of Aigeai (Diodorus [Sa.5]). Later, Kassander buried there Philip Arrhidaios and his wife Eurydice (Diodorus [Sa.6]), emphasising thus the fact that Aigeai was the royal cemetery. However, Pyrrhos disregarded the holiness of the site and when he occupied it in 274 BC, he left a garrison of Gauls and moreo­ver, he did not stop them from ravaging the area of the royal cemetery (Diodorus [Sa.7] and Plutarch [Sa.9]), raising thus a public clamour. Fi­nally, after the defeat of Perseus at Pydna, Aigeai was sacked by the Ro­mans.

Evidently, Aigeai constituted a unique site, serving as the «capital» of the Macedonian Kingdom (till the movement of the «capital» to Pella, as will be apparent in the relevant reference) and simultaneously as the tradi­tional royal cemetery.

  1. Macedonian Heritage
  2. Maria Girtzi, Historical topography of ancient Macedonia,2001

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Falsification of Macedonian History

"The history of Macedonia is being falsified, no matter how inconceivable and ultimately condemned to failure such an action may at first sight appear to us Greeks.
This is pursued continuously and systematically by certain interests, in every possible way and now, with ample economic means, throughout the whole world."

Publisher: Malliaris Paidia (2007), reprint
Language: English and Greek
ISBN: 978-960-457-093-5

During the last few years there's been some confusion about the Macedonians, their connection with the Greeks, and as a result, the continuation of the Greek (Hellenic) history. That confusion is artificial and it is:
  • Generated by FYROM (Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia) and several factors that wish to serve their own interests by creating trouble in the Balkans, and,
  • Conserved by the same factors and other people who have been misled into some weird hypothesis, as a result of a well designed propaganda.
This book aim to eliminate this confusion that spread specially from those that beleive in the non-Greek origin of the ancient Macedonians and spread falsifications.The main purpose is to demonstrate the arguments along with the facts so that the reader will discover the truth and will be able to distinguish it from the ridiculus theories that are so easily presented, but stand up to no critisism.
Lets see what Nikos Martis said

"The history of Macedonia is being falsified, no matter how inconceiv­able and ultimately condemned to fail­ure such an action may at first sight appear to us Greeks. This is pursued continuously and systematically by cert­ain interests, in every possible way and now, with ample economic means, through­out the whole world.

As a Macedonian and former Mi­nister for Northern Greece, I have con­sidered it my duty to inform both Greek and international public opinion of the groundlessness of such counterfeit con­tentions, and of the case-history of the falsification of Macedonian history.

It is not my aim here to add one more book to the history of Macedon. The incontestable documentation which I have collected and shall expose below to persuaded even those of bad faith,-proves that the creation of a nation through governmental decisions and the appropriation of the name, history and cultural inheritance of other peoples, is simply not possible.

If this illusion is not cleared up, the subject is bound to become more dis­cordant, with danger of creating serious misunderstandings and unforeseeable entanglements, in a region where for a long time there has reigned a climate of friendship, cooperation and neighbour­liness."