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

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