Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Social and Intellectual Life in Byzantine Macedonia

Social life in Macedonia was decisively influenced by Christianity which, particularly after its establishment in the first decades of the fourth century as the official religion of the empire, marked men's souls as well as their way of life and social milieu. The church and its associated buildings now became the focus of city and village alike and the heart of social and religious activities.

Yet, despite the spread of Christianity, paganism was not stamped out for a very long time, as we will see below. After the Council of Nicaea (325) the problem of dogmatic heresies also began to take on worrying dimensions, preoc­cupying clerics and laymen alike. In opposition to these two threats, the Christians of Macedonia sought to propagate their orthodox faith in all manner of ways. For example, early Christian funerary inscriptions in Macedonia make a point of emphasizing the faith of the deceased in the main dogmas of the Christian religion, and especially in the doctrine of resurrection. Moreover, the name of the deceased is almost invariably accompanied by the words 'Christian' or 'servant' of God, of Christ or of the Lord. Again, the term 'newly illuminated' that is found on many inscriptions indicates the pride felt by those who had experienced the sacrament of baptism.

The fact that Christians and pagans were for a long period compelled to live side by side, and the natural an­tagonism that they felt towards each other, led the Chris­tians to stress their special identity in various ways. Thus they made extensive use of the Christian symbol par ex­cellence, the cross, which was their main instrument of ex­orcism against paganism. We find, for example, crosses scratched on temples on the acropolis at Philippi as also on the images of Greek, Roman, Egyptian and other oriental deities. It is not unlikely that, rather than destroying pagan temples and other symbols of worship, the Christians of the region preferred simply to purify them and put them to use for Christian worship.

In this connection it is worth mentioning a discovery at the Octagon in Philippi. The small fourth century place of worship which was discovered next to the Octagon and close to a Hellenistic tomb may well have kept alive through the fourth century an older cult, possibly that of the 'heroized' occupant of the tomb, whose place was now probably taken by some local martyr. The discovery of a small column and of hundreds of fourth century copper coins around the tomb argues for the continuity of worship in this area.

The Christians of Macedonia seem to have continued their own way another ancient custom, that of the gods who guarded gateways and turned away evil (Propyla and Apotropaeic gods). There too it was the sign of cross that was most often used. The large relief cross t was found in the walls of Philippi near the western g (above which it must have been placed), is an example. Here the Cross stands for Christ, who took the place of ancient god who protected the entrance. In a Greek la such as Macedonia, pagan survivals (which, as we shall below, are more pronounced in funerary customs) are ι a strange phenomenon; their existence attests the continuity of the ancient Greek heritage. What is of interest us is the way in which the Christians of Macedoi transformed these survivals in order to adapt them to ι needs created by the new religion.

At a time when Christianity was struggling to achive final victory, the faith of the Macedonian Christians was testified by the multitude of martyrs they produced. Apart from Saint Demetrios, the inscriptions, martyrologies a synaxaria mention many other martyrs: Nestor, Dominos, Akakios, Alexander, Theodoulos, John Agathopous, Anysia, Matrona, the sisters Agape, Chioi and Irene and many more. Churches were erected memory of many of them. Thus, according to the written tradition, bishop Alexander of Thessalonike founded church in memory of St. Matrona, while another chur was dedicated to the memory of the sisters Agape, Chioi and Irene.

One of the results of the triumph of Christianity Macedonia at this period was the emergence of monastic life. Though we do not know much about it, especially about its beginnings, it is certain that monastic life w organized in Macedonia at a fairly early date. This is confirmed both by the monuments and by popular traditic Some remains of early Christian architectural complexes can be identified as monasteries, among the more certi examples being the Latomos monastery (Hosios David) Thessalonike. According to the text of Ignatios, this monastery was first built in the name of St. Zachari, soon after the Greek (pagan) mist had been dispersed and the King and Master of all had bestowed the Roman sceptre on Christian emperors'.

Yet monasticism must have existed in Macedonia long time before the foundation of the Latomos monastery at the beginning of the fifth century, especially in areas which were isolated from the great religious centres of t province, such as Thessalonike and Philippi. In a funerary inscription from Herakleia Lynkestis, one Spurcius is mentioned as a 'former soldier and holy man'. On other early funerary inscriptions from Edessa and Thessalonike, the adjectives 'brothers', 'fathers', 'holy mother' 'virgin' etc. definitely refer to the monastic vocation of the dead.

There are indications that monks occupied themselv with political affairs too. For example, according to the Life of Hosios David of Thessalonike, the holy man travelled to Constantinople at the head of an embassy order to intercede with Justinian on behalf of his city concerning an important political question.Though this source is not regarded by most scholars as being trustworthy, it is at least an indication of the way in which could intervene in politics.

As natural, funerary rites were also altered by the hristian beliefs. Under the influence of Christian teaching on resurrection and the afterlife, the dead were tried full length, with arms crossed on breast, and d pointing towards the East. Tombs became more humble and modest than before, and only the most prominent citizens were buried in small underground mausoleums, containing sarcophagi. The internal walls of the tombs were often covered with frescoes, whose subjects the Christian teaching on death, usually expressed in symbolic fashion. According to information that can be extracted from their inscriptions, tombs were privately owned, that is they were destined for the burial of the sers and their relatives, though sometimes other were buried in there as well.

Survivals of paganism, a subject already alluded to, are to be detected in funerary customs as well, especially in northern and north-western Macedonia. Many tombs from the region of Prilep, for example, offer evidence of the survival of pagan burial customs in the fourth century, such for example as the burning of the dead, the construction of cenotaphs and libations and animal or vegetable offerings. Broken fragments of glass and clay vases and plates and other offerings are often found in these tombs in fourth century. In this connection the most interesting of the region is that of an adolescent in the necropolis terica, in which, amongst other things there was a pair of gold-plated strigils and, more importantly, a silver coin placed in the mouth of the dead — clearly a reminiscence of the ancient custom of offering an obol to Charon, who led the dead to Hades.

A general trend in late Roman Macedonia is the weaking of Latin influence in general, and especially of in language, as can be shown from the evidence of inscrptions. Indeed, even in those very few areas in which Latin was strongly represented in the early imperial era, that is the Roman colonies of Macedonia (Dion or Philippi etc) number of Latin inscriptions from the early Christian Period is extremely small in comparison with the many inscriptions. This adoption of the Greek language is evidence for the assimilation of the Roman colonists by the population.

To illustrate the predominance of Greek over Latin one may mention an incident that took place during a journey by the orator Himerios to Constantinople, whither he had been invited by the emperor Julian (360-63). Stopping at Philippi , Himerios addresed the crowds which were waiting for him in Greek.This event is particularly significant, if one considers that Philippi was one of the largest Roman colonies in Macedonia.

As regards the cultural life of Macedonia and the type of entertainments which were popular in the early Christian period, our information is very limited. Such evidence as we have comes from the fourth century and shows that the basic entertainment of the inhabitants of Macedonia was watching gladiatorial combats, wild beast fights and animal hunts within the special arena-theatres.

Theatres specially adapted for these performances ex­isted in all the big cities of Macedonia, such as Thessalonike, Philippi, Stoboi and Herakleia Lynkestis. Most of them had originally been built as theatres of the traditional Greek type, but at some point in the middle or late third century they were modified to allow the perfor­mance of this kind of spectacle.

A particularly popular spectacle at this period was chariot racing. Thessalonikans gathered in the hippodrome of their city by the thousands to admire their favourite charioteers.

All the above mentioned places, destined for the enter­tainment of the masses, ceased functioning some time in the fourth century after the edicts that the emperors Con-stantine and Theodosios the Great issued in this connec­tion. The spirit and claims of the new Christian religion prevailed in this field as well.

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Abstract from A. Tsitouridou - R. Browning in the Volume "Macedonia: 4000 years of Greek History and Civilization"

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Demosthenes and Macedonians

Demosthenes a Athenian statesman, recognized as the greatest of ancient Greek orators, who roused Athens to oppose Philip of Macedon and, later, his son Alexander the Great. From this point on (354), Demosthenes' career is virtually the history of Athenian foreign policy. It was not very long before his oratorical skill made him, in effect, the leader of what today might be called the democratic party.

Some interests, especially the wealthy, would have preferred an oligarchy instead of a democracy; many merchants would have preferred peace at almost any price. While they agreed that the Macedonians were barbarians , Demosthenes was the leader of the anti-Macedonian party.

Six years later, however, he was convicted of a grave crime and forced to flee from prison and himself go into exile. He was accused of taking 20 talents deposited in Athens by Harpalus , a refugee from Alexander. Demosthenes was found guilty, fined 50 talents, and imprisoned.

Below is a chapter from the book The Falsification of Macedonian History of Nikolas Martis that explain a lot as about the relationships between Demosthenes and Macedonians



Outside of what I have already written regarding the Greekness of the Macedonians, and the view of the historian Beloch that, «the purest Greek tribe must be the Macedonians, with the physical characteristics of the Indoeuropean Greek race» (blond hair, tall stature)!, I shall explain how the phrase of Demosthenes in connection with the Macedonians has been misinterpreted. I believe that this misunderstanding was perpetrated by the enemies of the Macedonians and has been adopted in good faith by others, without examination of the actual meaning of the words in the speech of Demosthenes.

Before I come to Demosthenes, however, it is necessary to show what was the situation in Greece at that time, in order to explain, a) why the Macedonians and the Epirotes were called by these names, while other Greek peoples such as the Athenians, Thebans, Thessalians, etc., were also called Greeks, and b) what is the reason for the enmity towards Philip of only certain political orators such as Demosthenes. Ancient Macedonia, like other areas of ancient Greece, constituted a separate state and in this case a kingdom. Corresponding states were Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Corfu, Thasos, etc. The political difference between Macedon and the city states of southern Greece, a difference already in existence in the 5th century B.C. and something that was taken seriously at the time, was the Macedonian form of government, that is to say a kingdom. The other Greek city states had either a democratic or an oligarchic form of government, while the Spartans preserved the institution of the double kingship, with all the limitations imposed upon it by the power of the ephors.

The distinction between Macedonians and Greeks which appears in the ancient writers is due to the following reasons. Until the 7th century B. C. every Greek people was called by its own name, such as Thessalians, Boeotians, Aetolians, etc. In the 7th century the name of Greece is generalized starting from Phthiotis. That the space inhabited by the Greek peoples was later named Greece, is clear also from Herodotus: «At that time, Argos was the first city among these which are found in today's Greece»(Herodotus I, 1, 2). In the beginning the Macedonians comprised many kingdoms, such as the Lyncestians, Elimiots, etc., their extent defined by physical boundaries. Around 700 B.C. the Macedonian State vas formed, where central authority was exercised by the kingdom of Aegae, forming a kind of federation with other kingdoms.

Because the Macedonians, just as the Epirotes, lived in areas removed from and of difficult access for the other Greeks, caused by the high mountains interposed, they could not directly participate in the feverish political and national life of the southern Greeks during the classical period. Removed and isolated they preserved like the Epirotes their own name, while in southern Greece the general name Greeks prevailed, together with the particular names of their tribes. The geographical position of Macedonia, its distance from the intellectual centre of Athens and the lack of communication, caused the rest of the Greeks to consider the Macedonians before the time of Philip II, as not belonging from a political viewpoint to Greece proper, while simultaneously they disliked their political system.

The fact that in the space of ancient Greece there were many city states made no difference. Their citizens were Greeks because they had the same language (Greek), the same gods (the twelve Olympians) and the same religion. They fought between them, but they regularly united against a common danger. Then, particl1lar conceptions and political passions were put aside and a panhellenic conscience prevailed all over Greece. It is what characterizes today's Greeks as well, and constitute. one of the most significant proofs of the continuation of the Greek people.

The modern Greeks have the same virtues and vices as those of their ancestors. As for the particular names of the tribes, they are still in use today to denote the inhabitants of a specific geographical area of Greece. The continuous historical presence of the Greak tribes in Greece does not permit any other people to be arbitrarily called Greeks and the citizens Athenians, Peloponnesians, Macedonians, Thessalians, etc. The participation of Alexander I in the Olympic Games was an important event of panhellenic significance for the contact and communication between the Macedonians and the other Greeks, an event decisive for the destiny of Hellenism. The intellectual and artistic world of southern Greece that was more developed did not remain indifferent when this opening towards Macedonia took place and thus a multitude of artists, wise men and scientists found a response in the Macedonian public. This assimilation was completed in the 4th century B.C. The enormous economic boom and the capable leadership of the Macedonians contributed towards significant changes resulting in innovations and creations in every kind of art and craft, especially in metallurgy, painting and architecture, which became models even for the Romans as it is evident in the art works found in Pompei.

The successors of Alexander the Great gave a new impetus and created centres of science, art and learning renowned up to our days. This great transposition of the centre of Hellenism towards the north starts at the time of Philip II. His victories and the simultaneous decadence of the other Greek city states, created a psychological climate of envy and displeasure among the other Greeks and particularly the Athenians, where the public opinion of Greece was formed (even then I), against these politically and intellectually unknown Macedonians. All the accusations regarding the 'barbarism' of the Macedonians do not originate from philosophers, historians, poets or other writers, but from political orators and especially Athenians.

Demosthenes, the principal advecsary of Philip, addressing the Athenians said: «... are not all our strongholds in the hands of this man, and if he becomes master of this land shall we not suffer the worst?... Is he not an enemy? Doesn't he possess our lands? Is he not a barbarian? Does he not deserve the worst epithets?» (Demosthenes, Third Olynthiac, 16 )!

In his great anger Demosthenes talked exactly as they do all who abuse' someone with a great many ornamental epithets-is he not this one? Is he not the other? what more can one say? I think that Demosthenes used the phrase 'is he not a barbarian?' only to abuse Philip and this view is strengthened by the fact that in another speech, the Second Olynthian,

Demosthenes praises the Macedonian state, saying: «Surely this Macedonian power and rule was of no small help against the Olynthians during the generalship of Timotheus; again it was equally so when it allied itself with the Olynthians against the Potideans; and now when the Thessalians are ailing and troubled it helped the struggle against the house of the tyrants))( Demosthenes, Second Olynthiac, 14). Besides, Demosthenes would never accuse anybody as a barbarian (non-Greek), because the same accusation, a barbarian descent, was leveled against him. Says Aeschines in his speech Against Ctesiphon: « ... the slanderer [Demosthenes] was born .. , and from his mother he is a Scythian barbarian, Greek only in speech ...»( Aischines, Agains t Ctesiphon, 172')

Demosthenes spoke with anger and passion against Philip. This may be gathered from a letter of Isocrates towards Philip II, where he calls Demosthenes and the other orators who were against Philip, 'raging demagogues'(Isocrates, To Philip, 129). Isocrates also tells Philip that, «... all the Greeks wil be grateful to you, these who are directly affected and the descendants of the others, because through you they will get rid of barbarian tyranny and receive Hellenic attention»(Isocrates, To Philip, 154). We should not ignore the fact that both Demosthenes as well as Isocrates were orators, and in this capacity they often misused their freedom by indulging in verbal hyperboles. Equally, Isocrates makes a clear distinction between Macedonians and barbarians, as it is apparent in another point in his speech, saying: «And I say that you must benefit the Greeks, reign among the Macedonians, and rule more barbarians»(Isocrates, To Philip, 154). This same Isocrates elsewhere in his speech writes: «... and you as if born free ranging, consider the whole of Greece as your country, just as the man who gave you birth»(Isocrates, To Philip, 127).

In 217 B.C. Agelaus from Naupactos speaking at a meeting where Philip V and the representatives of his allies were present, expressed thewish that the wars between Greeks should stop(The Histories of Polybius, Y, 103, 9). Polybius says, «At that time you were rivals as to leadership and glory of the Achaeans and the men of the same race, the Macedonians, and their leader Philip»( The Histories of Polybius, IX, 37, 7)

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