Saturday, December 19, 2009


by Ioannis Xydopoylos
abstract from the book "Communities in European history: representations, jurisdictions, conflicts", pages 7-9

In 2006  I published a study of the representation of the Macedonians and their country by the historian of die Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC)[23] In it I suggested that Thucydides references to the Macedonian people and their country have a clearly circumstantial character. Furthermore they arc informed by the Poteidaea incident (432/1), the intervention of the Thracian king Sitalkes (429) and the military operations the Spartan general Brasidas undertook in the area (424/3). Thucydides frames his representation of die Macedonians with the Spartan general Brasidas reference to them in the speech he made to his troops. In his harangue Brasidas clearly classified them as barbarians:” you should learn about these barbarians whom now you are afraid of, a part of them you have already fought against, the Macedonians among them, that, from my own estimate of them, and what 1 have heard from others, they arc notstrong”(IV,126.3)[24] Thucydides further establishes this view in his narrative of Brasidas and Perdikkas campaign in Lynkestis in 42V3 B.C. when he wrote that "the Chalkidians and Macedonian cavalry [came to] nearly a thousand, and there was also a large mass of barbarians[25]. These passages have provoked considerable discussion, especially during die late 20th century. Regarding the question of ethnicity, the question is: ..........
...........were the Macedonians Greeks? Or, rather, did Thucydides think of the Macedonians as Greeks or as barbarians? Most recently Simon Hornblower has argued in his Commentary on ”Thucydides“ that “in the present passage [.,.] Thucydides meant to suggest that the Macedonians were intermediate between Greeks and (utter) barbarians” (392)[26] In my opinion, Thucydides did not intend to ascribe any negative value to the Macedonians. Furthermore, as Hornblower has indicated, and as shall be argued later, Brasidas' speech, or Thucydides rendition of it, employs the appropriate language a leader would use co rally his soldiers for an imminent kittle. Besides consideration of Thucydides concern to create a credible narrative it may also be argued that it is unlikely that he would consider the Macedonians "barbarians" or even" intermediates" since this ethnic groups royal dynasty had already been recognized as Greek in Herodotus' account, which Thucydides also accepted[27]. In addition to this it was also known, again from Herodotus, that in the early 5th century BC the Macedonian prince and later king, Alexander I was allowed to participate in the Olympic Games, after having his Hellenic descent proved to the Hellanodikai, Admission to and participation in these Panhellenic Games were undisputed criteria of “Greekness”, Thus it may be asked whether the Greek perception of this ethnos the Macedonians, was mediated by their complex relationships with, on the one hand, the Greek colonies on the Thermaic Gulf and the coasts of northern Aegean and on the other hand, the inhabitants of the Macedonian kingdom ?Perhaps the explanation for Thucydides use of the term barbarians may be found in this interaction of ethne. It would not seem fanciful to suggest that the answer to these questions may be found in this colonial context, which was a stage for acting out conflicts and competitions between local barbarians and the various Greek communities.

An examination of some characteristic passages from Thucydides text offers a framework within which these questions may find answers. Thucydides account of Brasidas expedition in the Chalkidike peninsula records that it was
a peninsula which runs out from the canal nude by the Persian King. And culminates in Achos, a high mountain which projects into the Aegean sea. The cities on Akre include Sane, an Andrian colony…(and) the others are Thyssos Kleonai, Akrothoou, Olophyxos and Dion. Thedeare inhabited by a mixed population of barbarians “barbarian ethne” speaking Greek as well as their own language. A few of them are from Eubean Chalkis, but most are either Pelasgins (descended from the Tyrrhenians who once inhabited Lemnus and Athens) or else Bisaltians, Kreotonians or Hedonians. They all live in small citadels[28].
It has been argued that in this passage Thucydides emphasizes the linguistic criterion, which was not of great importance to him[29] as we shall argue in detail later. His use of the word diglosson (speaking two languages), should be interpreted as meaning speaking Greek and non-Greek languages. One important cause of this linguistic condition was the fact that these barbarian towns were established on the site of previous Greek settlements in the area[30]. It has also been suggested that Thucydides intention was to state that in his days a homogenous population, whether of Greeks or barbarians no longer existed. It is impossible to move beyond speculations such as these regarding Thucydides intentions. Although this passage reveals little about Thucydides specific view of the Macedonians, as he would have had no reason to refer to them in regard to Akte, it nevertheless gives an impression of the contempory Athenian perception of the whole area. Considered in this sense the text shows firstly, that the Macedonians were not classified with these “barbarian ethne” and secondly, that Thucydides distinguished between barbarians and those who spoke Greek.

Thucydides' references to the Macedonians need to be examined very carefully. On the one hand, when he writes “Perdikkas led his own Macedonian army and a force of hoplites supplied by the Greek inhabitants of the country” (IV.124.1), the Macedonians and the Greeks ore clearly distinguished. However, two other passages reveal that he also considered them separate from the barbarians: “....the entire Greek hoplite force came to about three thousand, the Chalkidian and Macedonian cavalry [came to] nearly a thousand, and there was also a large mass of barbarians”…(IV.124.1);… and the Macedonians and the mass of the barbarians…” (IV. 125.1). The opposition between IV. 1263 (cf. above) and IV. 125.1 is obvious: the Macedonians one clearly distinguished from the barbarians[31]. Simon Hornblower has, in my opinion rightly, suggested that Thucydides' view was inconsistent. As has been commented Brasidas incorporation of the Macedonians into the barbarians may be explained by the fact that his speech was meant to encourage his soldiers and it was not a representation of Thucydides own opinion of the Macedonians[32]. A contrast is offered by Thucydides classification of “a large mass of barbarians” in (IV.126.3), which implies that these barbarians were other tribes and of a totally different status to the Macedonians. In addition to this the definition of the Macedonians native allies as barbarians (IV. 124.1) clearly establishes their difference from both the Macedonians and the Greeks. Furthermore Thucydides provides a narrative of the Macedonian expansion in the region, and describes how the Hedonians. Bottiaians and Kresronians were among the people conquered or driven out by the Macedonians. In this account he clearly confirmed the regions multi-ethnic character:
It was the Macedonia of today - the Macedonia by the sea - which had been acquired first by Alexander, the father of Perdikkas, and by his ancestors, being Temenidae coming from Argos in early times, and they reigned expelling by force of arms the Pieres from Pieria, who later settled Phagres and other small places beyond the Srrymon under Mt Pangaeum (indeed the land between Pangaeum and theses is still called today the Pieric Gulf ) and the so-called Bottiaei from Bottiaea, who now live as neighbours ol the Chalkidians. (4) And they acquired a narrow strip of Paeonia alongside the river Axius running down from inland to Pella and the sea. Beyond the Axius they cultivate the land called Mygdonia as far as the Strymon, having driven the Edones out. (5) And they expelled also the Eordi from what is now called Eordia (the majority of them perished and a small part of them have settled by Physka) and the Almopes from Almopia. (6) And these Maccdones acquired both from the other tribes the places which they still hold today, namely Anthemous and Crestonia and Bisaltia and from actual Macedonian tribes a large amount of land. The totality Is called 'Macedonia' and Perdikkas was king of them (I.e. king of the Macedonians) when Sitalces was invading[33].

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