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Were Ancient Macedonians Greek?
According to John Haywood's "Atlas of World History":

"Macedonia, a country considered by Greeks as a kingdom of barbarians, was inhabited by Illyrians, Thracians and greek Dorians".

There is no agreement as to what was Ancient Macedonian language like. By some scholars considered as similar to Dorian greek dialect, by others as similar to Aeolian greek dialect, by some as a separate dialect of Greek, and by some others as a language distinct from Greek, even if related to Greek.

Another interesting fact is that when in 460 BC king Alexander I of Macedonia wanted to take part in Olympic games, he was initially not allowed to do so: ''ΟΥ ΒΑΡΒΑΡΩΝ ΑΓΩΝΙΣΤΕΟΝ ΕΙΝΑΙ ΤΟΝ ΑΓΩΝΑ, ΑΛΛΑ ΕΛΛΗΝΩΝ'' (in English: "no barbarians can contest the games but [only] Hellenes").

Only later, when he invented a story that his dynasty originated from kings of the Greek city of Argos, they allowed him to participate.

The same article from which I cited the quote above, claims that those who didn't allow him to participate must have been silly, because:

Quote:The Eleans' objection to Alexander's right to compete as a Greek is hard to understand when we consider the fact that another winner, Theagenes of Thasos, geographically Macedonian, had already won two wreaths in boxing and pankration contests in BC 480 and 476 (see Table 16.II).

However, the article is clearly wrong regarding the island of Thasos being supposedly "geographically Macedonian".

As a matter of fact, the island of Thasos was conquered by the kingdom of Macedonia not before the reign of Philip II (359 - 336 BC), while before that, Thasos belonged in some periods to the Athenian Empire and in some periods to other Greek city-states, but not to the kingdom of Macedon.

We must also note, that in the same Olympic games in 460 BC took part - moreover, without any problems similar to those encountered by Macedonian king Alexander I - king of the Greek kingdom of Cyrene, located in what is today Libia (Cyrenaica), Arcesilaus IV of the Battiad dynasty.

This shows, that even African Greeks - who also lived in a monarchy - were considered by Eleans as "more Greek" than people from Macedonia.


So a possible theory is, that Macedonians (and their language) were initially not identical with Greeks, and only later underwent Hellenisation.

Another possibility is, that language spoken in Macedonia was a strange mix of Illyrian, Thracian and Dorian or Aeolian Greek, rather than "pure" Greek.

What seems to be rather undoubtful, is that [other] Greeks considered Macedonians as somehow "inferior" and "barbarian". Of course this applies only to times before the reign of king Philip II and his heir Alexander III the Great, when Macedonians proved that they were not "inferior" to [other] Greeks.

Regarding Alexander III the Great and his reinforcements from Greek city-states - how did he communicate with them?

Well, I suppose that Alexander - as any educated person in the Greek-influenced world of that time - could speek Koine language fluently:

Even various dialects of Greek language were not 100% mutually intelligible, which is why Koine "Lingua" was invented.

However, Koine was not a mother tongue, not a native language, for major part of people who knew it.

Koine Greek in Ancient Mediterranean world, was like English language is today in Europe.


What do you think?

What are the most important arguments for and against the "Greekness" of Macedonians?

Etruscans were using Greek alphabet, their military was similar to Greek and their culture was similar - but they were not Greek.
This issue has been discussed in the past, you may look through this discussion for an insight on the historical and archaeological evidence for and against any theory on the Greekness of the Macedonians. If it does not cover you, you may want to make more specific questions covering certain points you deem obscure. Be advised, that this issue is very sensitive (I am a Greek Macedonian myself) and a casual approach on the matter might easily cause unwanted heat...

See here
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George C. K.
῾Ηρακλῆος γὰρ ἀνικήτου γένος ἐστέ
Ok, thanks, I will check the thread you linked.

I know that this issue is sensitive, but my point to create this thread was not to start another quarrel between nationalists of the modern Republic of Macedonia and of the modern Hellenic Republic, but discuss real possibilities of Ancient Macedonian identities (for example - where they Greek, or maybe Illyrian, Thracian, or maybe a mix of these three, or a "peoples" on their own, distinct from everyone around).

-political opinion edited out-
...and do NOT get political, I have edited out all your opinions on the political situation or else I would be forced to answer and we would really derail from the purpose of RAT.
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George C. K.
῾Ηρακλῆος γὰρ ἀνικήτου γένος ἐστέ
There is too little of Ancient Macedonian surviving for linguists to make a thorough analysis of and therefore come to a definitive classification. There are two main recent theories, that Macedonian was an archaic dialect of Greek, incorporating many influences from Illyrian and Thracian, or that Macedonian and Paeonian formed a sister group to the Greek dialects within a larger linguistic family, which had a common ancestry.

Fac me cocleario vomere!
On the issue of language, my understanding is that Macedonian has a number of similarities, and probably would have been somewhat intelligible to a Greek speaker (although some linguists suggest that Philip would have been pronounced "Bilib" due to a patois sound shift. On the criterion of mutual intelligibility, Macedonian might be considered a Greek dialect. The line between a dialect and a separate language is in reality an often dubious one, and some linguists quip that a "language is a dialect with an army an navy." I have also been told by people who know linguistics better than I do, that Macedonian is related to Greek, but it is not the most closely related language: this honor goes to Phrygian.

When the Greeks went about policing their own ethnic boundaries, the Macedonians usually fell on the outside, although for diplomatic reasons the Macedonian royal family was considered of Greek descent, and therefore members of the royal family were allowed the participate in the Olympic games. Nonetheless, Greeks could point to a number of un-Greek things Macedonians did, most notably drinking un-diluted wine, and for having homosexual relationships between between fully grown, bearded men (Greeks, on this definition, only had sex with boys).

The Macedonians, despite the Hellenic pretensions of their royal family, were themselves content to let this separation stand. Note, for example, the isolation amongst Alexander's successors that Eumenes of Caria faced, not being an ethnic Macedonian. Even Hellenistic kings identified themselves as "Macedonians" to their subjects (for example Antiochus I in the Borsippa cylinder). But the again, when necessary, the Macedonians wave the Panhellenic banner when they had to, most notably Alexander in his crusade against the Persians. Alexander even had the audacity to justify his brutal destruction of Thebes in the fact that the Thebans had Medized during the Persian Wars. They had, but so had the Macedonians!

The short answer, would be no, the Macedonians were not full card carrying Greeks. But as with most controversies in the ancient world, it is complicated!

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