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
THE MISINTERPRETATION OF DEMOSTHENES' POSITION AGAINST THE MACEDONIANS by Nikolas Martis
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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