Ancient Greece from the perspective of the Greeks – what about Macedonia?

AncientsAncient Greece from the perspective of the Greeks - what about Macedonia?

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A brief chronological outline and a few thoughts on the Greek view of Macedonia. Roughly starting with ancient Greece, but more about the Greeks of the newly founded kingdom and something about the current modern Greeks.

If you want to define the borders of ‘Ancient Greece’, you should first consider the following:

That the ancient Hellás or the Roman province of Achaia by no means coincide with the territory of the modern state of Greece.

With regard to Macedonia, the state of affairs “according to the ancient view” is very clear:

On the other hand, however, areas that belong to the state territory of modern Greece and whose historical tradition is sometimes vehemently claimed by the Greek state are, according to the ancient view, no or only dubious parts of Hellás: Thessaly, Epeiros and above all Macedonia.

The definitions or quotes, are taken from “What is Greek History? A case study on the problem of historical spaces” (Was ist griechische Geschichte? Ein Fallbeispiel zur Problematik historischer Räume) by German scholar Andreas Hartmann.

However, there is another problem. “Ancient Greece” did not exist as a state in any epoch until the Greek kingdom was finally founded in the early 19th century. Of course, Greek nationalists try to portray the Eastern Roman Empire (also referred as Byzantine Empire) and even the Macedonian Empire as a ‘Greek state’ at that time.

The argument that the area in which the “ancient Greek culture” spread should be regarded as ancient Hellas is also brought up by the Greek nationalists. This raises the question of whether Egypt and Persia should also be counted as “Ancient Greece” – of course not. That alone shows the absurdity of reasoning on such a basis.

“Barbarians and Oppressors of ancient Greece”

As mentioned at the beginning, Macedonia in particular is not part of ancient Greece according to the ancient view. This fact is even described by the ancient Greeks themselves in countless traditions, and what few people know today: this assumption that “Macedonia was not within Greece’s borders” was valid until 150 years ago – and that also in Greece itself. An extreme contradiction to today’s general and public opinion in Greece about Macedonia as well as the politics and direction of Athens today.

In “Nationalism, Globalization and Orthodoxy – the social origins of ethnic conflicts in the Balkans” by Victor Roudometof we can find a list of various Greek intellectuals and academics for the period 1794-1841 who followed exactly this line. The Macedonians were seen as the first “oppressors of the Greek world that lasted for 2,000 years”, who of course did not belong to something named as “Greek world”:

A more precise example is offered by Roderick Beaton and David Ricks in “The Making of Modern Greece” (p. 59/60), which is how the Greek historian Constantine Paparrigopoulos once distinguished between Greeks and Macedonians in his earlier works. As well as that the ancient Macedonians were an independent nation. Among other things, he justified this with the fact that “in general history the Macedonians had a different mission than the ancient Greeks”.

Later, with the help of Droysen’s works, he made use of the “concept of Hellenism” to Hellenize the Macedonians and to implement them in modern Greek historiography as part of (the new and future) Greek history:

“Former arch enemies of Hellenism”

In “The Oxford Handbook of Hellenic Studies”, Greek archaeologist and writer Yannis Hamilakis gives us another example of how the principle of “multiple Hellenism” was also applied on the basis of Fallermayer’s work. The former arch enemies of Hellenism from the point of view of the intellectuals – the Macedonians (and also Byzantines) – are now part of the national history and the historical continuity of modern Greece and its historiography:

In the period of “the search for identity” of modern Greek historiography, a general rethinking took place, the Macedonians were no longer represented as an independent nation, the borders of ancient Greece now also included the Macedonian Empire – the empire of Alexander III even becomes defined as Greece or a ‘Greek Empire’.

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History books have been castrated, so Demosthenes sermons of hatred against the Macedonian King Philip II of Macedon have disappeared under the cloak of silence. But Alexander III and his father also unintentionally changed their role in modern Greek historiography, instead of conquerors, the Macedonian kings became the “unifiers of the Greek city-states”. This detail is described in “Greece – the modern sequel” by Greek historians John S. Koliopoulos and Thanos M. Veremis, on page 245:

On page 246 we can see the first signs of the Hellenization of Macedonia becoming entrenched in modern Greek historiography and the academic world. From Greek scholars it was demanded to participate “in the ideological battle against enemies from outside”. Most of the Greek academics were willing to do this and so “special writings and works” were fabricated to feed the new Greek national ideology and politics in the Hellenization campaign around ancient Macedonia and the Macedonians:

To make it clear again what the official standpoint of Athens and also the content of the first history books of the then young Greek kingdom on the Macedon question was, derived from “Political Uses of the Past” by Jacques Revel and Giovanni Levi.

  • Macedonia was outside the borders of ‘ancient Greece’
  • Macedonians were considered a complete separate nation
  • Macedonians were considered to be the conquerors and oppressors of ancient Greece, the first of a series of occupiers (Byzantium and Ottomans).

Source: Makedonien.mk (German), translated by History.mk

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