Sunday, November 09, 2008

Risto Stefov and the falsification of Ancient Macedonian history

Australian Macedonian Advisory Council
October 29, 2008

Dear Editors,I feel obliged to write to you in order to express my deepest concern for the deliberate manipulation of well-evidenced historical events which is clearly reflected in the article “Most modern Greeks today believe the Ancient Macedonians were Greek” written by Mr. Risto Stefov. The specific article is full of unfounded claims, an enmity addressed against Greek people and sophisticated misrepresentations of the ancient Greek history with its main aim to deceive the unsuspected reader by attempting to present false claims, disguised to sound truthful.

Before proceeding through a point by point refutation of the baseless claims presented in article in question, I would like to point out that the title of the article is misleading. Certainly it´s not “Most modern Greeks” who accept the fact that ancient Macedonians were Greek but instead it´s the vast majority of the world today, including the core of the contemporary modern historians who accept it as a fact.

To rephrase the author´s initial question…Why is it so important in general for the Slavic element of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) which Mr. Stefov belongs, to believe that the ancient Macedonians were not Greek?

The answer is simple and plain. Because somehow they live under a misguided notion. Particularly, they believe that by disassociating Greeks from ancient Macedonians, this will mean in their illusionary point of view, they, the descendants of the Slavic and Bulgar tribes that entered the Balkan peninsula in the 6th and 7th centuries, are the historical heirs and descendants of the ancient Macedonians who lived a thousand or more years earlier and who were Greeks by their own testimonies. One can hardly go further in Orwellian double-speak. This absurd notion supported increasingly among the Slavs of FYROM, makes as much sense as asserting that if someone manages to prove a car´s color is not white, this would surely mean it is black!

Furthermore Mr. Stefov embarks on an clumsy effort to spread mendacious disinformation as regards to the events of the early 20th century. Incorrectly he states “Didn´t Greece in 1912, 1913 invade and occupy a fully populated Macedonia?” while the truth is that nobody has invaded Macedonia in 1913 but instead during the first Balkan war, the Balkan coalition between Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece invaded Ottoman Empire, for the liberation of the Greeks, Bulgarians and Serbs who lived there. Sadly for the author´s empty claims there was not back then, any ethnicity called ´Macedonian´. The term was used merely as a geographical indicator.
To quote some accounts of contemporary self-witnesses that shatters Mr. Stefov´s unfounded claims and deliberate misinformation:

John Foster Fraser in his “Pictures from the Balkans” verifies: “But who are the Macedonians [5]? You will find Bulgarians and Turks who call themselves Macedonians, you find Greek Macedonians, there are Serbian Macedonians, and it is possible to find Rumanian Macedonians. You will NOT, however, find a single Christian Macedonian who is not a Serbian, a Bulgarian, a Greek, or a Rumanian. They all curse the Turk, and they love Macedonia. But it is Greek Macedonia, or Bulgarian Macedonia, and their eyes flame with passion, whilst their fingers seek the triggers of their guns”. He further adds “I have some hope that in years to come the inhabitants will think less of their Turkish, Bulgarian or Greek Origin and a great deal more with the fact that they are all Macedonians”[2].

Edmund Spencer in his “Travels in European Turkey, in 1850…”writes “The population of Uskioub [Note: Modern Skopje], consisting of Arnouts, Jews, Armenians, Zinzars, Greeks, Bulgarians and Serbians, amounts to upwards of twelve thousand” [3]. Again another clear evidence there was no “Macedonian” ethnicity back then but instead it´s a modern “invention”.
Additionally, John Van Antwerp Fine gives us a realistic portrait of the situation in the Macedonian region by writing: “Until the late nineteenth century both outside observers and those Bulgaro-Macedonians who had an ethnic consciousness believed that their group, which is NOW two separate nationalities, comprised a SINGLE people, THE BULGARIANS [4]. Thus the reader should IGNORE references to ethnic Macedonians in the Middle Ages which appear in some modern works. In the Middle Ages and into the nineteenth century, the term ´Macedonian´ was used ENTIRELY in reference to a geographical region. Anyone who lived within its confines, regardless of nationality could be called a Macedonian.”.

Furthermore, Arthur Douglas Howden Smith in 1908 adds: “It should be remembered, to begin with, that there is NO Macedonian race, as a distinct type [5]. Macedonians may belong to any of the races of Eastern Europe or Western Asia, as, indeed, they do. A Macedonian Bulgar is just the same as a Bulgar of Bulgaria proper, the old principality, that in October, 1908, at Tirnova, was proclaimed independent of Turkey. He looks the same, talks the same, and very largely, thinks the same way. IN SHORT HE IS OF THE SAME STOCK. There is no difference, whatsoever, between the two branches of the race, except that the Macedonian Bulgars, as a result of their position under the Turkish government, have less culture and education than their northern brethren.”

To help the readers having a more informative view over the issue on stake, I urge them to take a look in the following link. It contains a vast number of excerpts taken by 90 neutral sources, written by travelers, historians, diplomats related to the subject which put an end to the unfounded claims over a so-called “Macedonian “Ethnicity back then. Mr. Stefov, conveniently for his agenda, chooses to ignore all the overwhelming evidence.

Lets return back to the core issue of Mr. Stefov´s article. Namely the ethnicity of Ancient Macedonians. Of course there is no issue at all, whether the modern Slavs descendants of the Slavic tribes that invaded the Balkan peninsula centuries after the demise of the ancient Macedonian kingdom have any link with ancient Macedonians. Obviously as verified by any serious historian, they haven´t!!!

1. The Ancient Macedonians spoke a dialect of the Greek language
Mr. Stefov incorrectly assumes that “This [Koine] was an international language which was used in the Macedonian court and by the Macedonian administration.”. This is simply fallacious and deserves an immediate rectification. Koine became the international language BECAUSE of Alexander´s campaign. Prior to Alexander´s campaign, ancient people like Illyrians, Persians, Paeonians, Indians, Carthaginians, Romans, Thracians, Egyptians, Dardanians did NOT speak Greek. Most of them begun to speak Greek (Koine) AFTER Alexander´s pan-Hellenic campaign to Asia. Therefore Mr. Stefov´s conclusions are entirely wrong since his own premises are erroneous in the first place.

The eminent linguist Olivier Masson states “For a long while Macedonian on mastics, which we know relatively well thanks to history, literary authors, and epigraphy, has played a considerable role in the discussion [6]. In our view the Greek character of most names is obvious and it is difficult to think of a Hellenization due to wholesale borrowing. ´Ptolemaios´ is attested as early as Homer, ´Ale3avdros´ occurs next to Mycenaean feminine a-re-ka-sa-da-ra- (´Alexandra´), ´Laagos´, then ´Lagos´, matches the Cyprian ´Lawagos´, etc. The small minority of names which do not look Greek, like ´Arridaios´ or ´Sabattaras´, may be due to a substratum or adstatum influences (as elsewhere in Greece). Macedonian may then be seen as a Greek dialect, characterized by its marginal position and by local pronunciations (like ´Berenika´ for ´Ferenika´, etc.). Yet in contrast with earlier views which made of it an Aeolic dialect (O.Hoffmann compared Thessalian) we must by now think of a link with North-West Greek (Locrian, Aetolian, Phocidian, Epirote). This view is supported by the recent discovery at Pella of a curse tablet (4th cent. BC) which may well be the first ´Macedonian´ text attested (provisional publication by E.Voutyras; cf. the Bulletin Epigraphique in Rev.Et.Grec.1994, no.413); the text includes an adverb ´opoka´ which is not Thessalian. We must wait for new discoveries, but we may tentatively conclude that Macedonian is a dialect related to North-West Greek.”

2. The ancient Macedonians prayed to the same Greek gods as the ancient Greeks.
The poorly-chosen argumentation reveals Mr.Stefov´s inconsistence with ancient history. His lack of evidence subsequently forces him to produce irrelevant anachronistic analogies with…Christianity even if it is more than obvious we are talking about issues having to do merely with classical ages. Mr. Stefov, for your discomfort, it is only Greeks which gave their deities the familiar Greek epithets, such as Agoraios, Basileus, Olympios, Hypsistos of Zeus, Basileia of Hera, Soter of Apollo, Hagemona and Soteira of Artemis, Boulaia of Hestia, etc and naturally Macedonians as being Greek themselves, were doing similarly which certainly is not the case for non-Greek people. Furthermore nowadays historians agree that Macedonians had the religious and cultural features of the rest Hellenic world.
The worship of the twelve Olympian gods in Macedonia is undoubted
and it is shown explicitly in the treaty between Philip V and Hannibal of Carthage “`In the presence of Zeus, Hera and Apollo …and in the presence of ALL THE GODS who possess Macedonia AND THE REST OF HELLAS” [7].

3. The ancient Macedonians united the ancient Greek city states and spread the “Hellenic” language and culture to the known world.
Mr. Stefov adds further his own misguided perception which is the epitome of misinformation. He states “Macedonia fought and defeated the so called “Greeks” in battle and subjugated them from 338 BC until 206 BC when they were briefly liberated and again subjugated by the Romans”.
This is another terrible effort to create the wrong impression amongst the readers that “Macedonians fought Greeks in Chaeronea”. Contrarily, in Chaeronea the opposing sides were:

ξύμμαχα και υπήκοα [allied and SUBJECTED]. One line of approach was direct annexation attempted disastrously by Perdiccas II and successfully by Philip.”Prof. Bosworth adds “Lyncestis probably co-operated with the Illyrian invaders as before in the war against Archelaus, the chaos in lower Macedon at the accession of Amyntas was an ideal time to avenge the annexation attempted by Perdiccas and probably by Archelaus”.

Essentially Mr. Stefov just managed with his above wrong assertion to dissolve his own self-made ´construction´ of ancient Macedonian history speaking about a “unified” Macedonian kingdom.

In relation to the spread of Greek language and culture declares quite amusingly that: “As for spreading the so-called “Hellenic” language and culture, there is no evidence that the Macedonians exclusively did this for the sole purpose of honoring the “Greeks”. The Macedonians gave the world what the Macedonians had and considered to be of value”.
I will briefly analyze the falsification of the author´s assertion, before presenting an enumeration of ancient sources [9] proving that Alexander launched a Pan-Hellenic campaign against Persia and through his conquests spread Hellenism in a vast colonizing wave throughout the Near East. Furthermore he created economically and culturally, a single world stretching from Greece to the Punjab in India with Greek (koine) as lingua franca. He built a network of almost thirty Greek cities throughout the empire, a building program that was expanded by later Hellenistic rulers. These became enclaves of Greek culture. Here gymnasia, baths, and theaters were built. The upper classes spoke koine Greek, wore Greek dress, absorbed Greek learning, adopted Greek customs, and took part in Greek athletics. Ancient sources reports as such and the pan-Hellenic character of his campaign were the definitive statements of the Macedonian royalty and nobility. We find Greek language, poleis, architecture, and art expand As far east as India. Even in Judaea of Roman times, there was a group of Jews called “The Hellenists”. The Greek language survived in the Indian region as late as about AD 120, when the Kushan king Kanishka, who ruled western India, Bactria, and Sogdiana (in an inscription) declared that Greek was to be replaced by “Aryan” (the Bactrian language).

It would be essential to complete this reply with numerous excerpts showing exactly how ancient Macedonians felt themselves about their own ethnicity. After all this is what matters mostly.

Chaeronea Combatants
Side A´
Macedonia, Thessaly, Epirus, Aetolia, Northern Phocis, Epicnemidian Locrians*
Side B´
Athens, Beotian League (Thebes, etc), Euboean League, Achaean League, Corinth, Megara, Corcyra, Acarnania, Ambracia, Southern Phocis.
Neutral sides
Sparta, Argos, Arcadia, Messene. The three last had alliances both with Athens and Philip but their pro-Macedonian activity of 344/3 BC showed they were leaning towards Philip. However they didn´t sent aid to Chaeronea in Philip´s side because of the blocking in Isthmus by Corinth and Megara. Sparta had withdrawn almost entirely from Greek affairs in 344 BC.
Elis had an alliance with Philip though they didn´t take part in Chaeronea but showed their pro-Macedonian feelings by joining their forces with Philip in the invasion of Laconia in the autumn of 338 BC.
In other words, we find on both sides Greeks!!! We are dealing apparently with a Greek civil war!!
If this is translated to Mr. Stefov´s illusionary world that “Macedonians fought Greeks” then following the same irrational line of thought, we have to assume in Coronea “Spartans also confronted Greeks”.

Battle of Coronea (394 BC)
Sparta Vs Thebes, Argos, and allies
In addition, the author adds “So, according to “Greek” logic, the Macedonians united the so-called “Greek” city states by subjugating and subordinating them under Macedonian control. By the same “Greek” logic we can conclude that Hitler too, in WWII, united the Europeans by subjugating them and placing them under German control.”
Here we get a trustful and genuine proof of the author´s selective quotation and hypocrisy. If we are to take his assertion as truthful, then the author ignores conveniently the fact that even the “Unification” between Lower Macedonia and the Upper Macedonian kingdoms by the Argead Royal house was forceful. In fact the annexation of Upper Macedonia took centuries to be successful.
According to the eminent historian prof. A. B. Bosworth [8]
“The upper kingdoms then had a constant struggle to preserve their independence and fostered alliances with the peoples to the west and north. On the other hand the policy of the kings of Macedon was to make the recalcitrant mountaineers truly “

1. Alexander I, king of Macedon:“Men of Athens… Had I not greatly AT HEART the COMMON welfare of GREECE I should not have come to tell you; but I AM MYSELF GREEK by descent, and I would not willingly see Greece exchange freedom for slavery. …If you prosper in this war, forget not to do something for my freedom; consider the risk I have run, out of zeal for the GREEK CAUSE, to acquaint you with what Mardonius intends, and to save you from being surprised by the barbarians. I am ALEXANDER of MACEDON.”
Herodotus, The Histories, 9.45, translated by G.Rawlinson]

2. Alexander The Great:“Your ancestors invaded Macedonia and the rest of Greece and did US great harm, though WE had done them no prior injury […] I have been appointed hegemon of the Greeks”
(Arrian, Anabasis of Alexander II,14,4)

3. Alexander the Great speaking to his troops:There are Greek troops, to be sure, in Persian service — but how different is their cause from ours ! They will be fighting for pay— and not much of it at that; WE on the contrary shall fight for GREECE, and OUR HEARTS WILL BE IN IT. As for our FOREIGN troops —Thracians, Paeonians, Illyrians,Agrianes — they are the best and stoutest soldiers of Europe, and they will find as their opponents the slackest and softest of the tribes of Asia.
Arrian (The Campaigns of Alexander) Alexander talking to the troops before the battle. Book 2-7 Penguin Classics. Page 112. Translation by Aubrey De Seliucourt

4. Alexander The Great and Diogenes
“But he said, ´If I were not Alexandros, I should be Diogenes´; that is to say: `If it were not my purpose to combine barbarian things with things HELLENIC, to traverse and civilize every continent, to search out the uttermost parts of land and sea, TO PUSH THE BOUNDS OF MACEDONIA TO THE FARTHEST OCEAN, AND TO DISSEMINATE AND SHOWER THE BLESSINGS OF HELLENIC JUSTICE and peace over every nation, I should not be content to sit quietly in the luxury of idle power, but I should emulate the frugality of Diogenes. But as things are, forgive me Diogenes, that I imitate Herakles, and emulate Perseus, and follow in the footsteps of Dionysos, the divine author and progenitor of my family, and DESIRE THAT VICTORIOUS HELLENES SHOULD DANCE AGAIN in India […]”

5. Alexander the Great dedication to Athena:
Alexander, son of Philip, and the Greeks, except the Lacedaemonians, from the barbarian inhabitants in AsiaMany more excerpts can be found on:


1] “Pictures From The Balkans” by John Foster Fraser (published in 1906), Page 5
2] “Pictures From The Balkans” by John Foster Fraser (published in 1906), Page17
3] “Travels in European Turkey, in 1850: Through Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Thrace,…” By Edmund Spencer, page 28, Published 1851
4] The Early Medieval Balkans: a critical survey from the sixth to the late twelfth century By John Van Antwerp Fine, Page 37
5] Arthur Douglas Howden Smith, “Fighting the Turk in the Balkans: An American´s Adventures with the Macedonian Revolutionists”, 1908, p. 4-5
6] Olliver Masson, 1996, “Oxford Classical Dictionary: ´Macedonian Language”.
7] Polybius 7.9.1-7; Treaty of alliance between king Philip V of Macedonia and Hannibal
8] ´Philip II and Upper Macedonia´ by A. B. Bossworth, p.100
9] (Aelian ´Varia Historia´ 13.11; Arrian I.16.7, I12.1-2, Plutarch Ages. 15.4, Moralia I, 328D, 329A, Alex. 15, 33, 37.6-7; Diod. 16.95.1-2, 17.67.1; Callisthenes 2.3.4-5, 2.4.5, 2.4.7-8, 3.1.2-4; Arrian “Indica” XXXIII, XXXVIII, XXIX, ´Anab.´ Arrian I.16.7, II, 14, 4, 3.18.11-12 ; Polybius IX.35.2, IX.34.3, 17.4.9; Curtius 3.3.6, 4.1.10-11, 4.5.11, 4.14.21, 5.6.1, 5.7.3, 5.7.11, 8.1.29)

Australian Macedonian Advisory Council

Conclusion: As it is evident from the extensive analysis of the facts, Mr. Stefov´s article consists of an overall historical falsification and distorted presentation of facts. Of course it´s his and his people right to denounce for whatever reason this may be, their well-attested from all sources Slavic/Bulgarian origin and history but it´s not their right to usurp the history and heritage which rightfully and evidently belongs to Greece. I hope that Mr. Stefov and the people he represents will eventually find a name which represents their heritage - “Macedonia” evidently does not!

By Ptolemy

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