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The relationship between ancient Macedonians and Greeks


An excerpt from a compiled german paper titled “Greek history up to 336 BC – a first overview up to the appearance of Alexander the Great“. By Norbert Froese. Taken from the german website antike-griechische.de (“ancient-greece”). He writes about the relationship between ancient Macedonians and Greeks.

We have taken/translated a passage from page 24:

The rise of Macedonia – The relationship between Macedonians and Greeks

Historians argue about whether Macedonians are actually Greeks. In this form, I don’t think the question is very productive. What is interesting, however, is the question of how the inhabitants of the Greek heartland perceived the Macedonians and whether the Macedonians themselves felt like Greeks.

From the perspective of the mainland Greeks, the Macedonians are at most something like half-Greeks. On the one hand they are connected to the Macedonians through a related language (23), but on the other hand they are separated from them by a number of features of culture and tradition. Conversely, according to the evidence available, the Macedonians felt that they are at most somehow related to the Greeks, but not really belonging to them.

Macedonians are only allowed to take part in the Olympic Games if they are recognized as of Greek descent in individual cases. There is no polis culture in Macedonia and the wine was drunk unmixed. The latter is considered barbaric in the Greek heartland. When it came to the question: Barbarian or Greek, the Greeks of the heartland attached great importance to such points of everyday culture. (24)

So in the eyes of the heartland Greeks, the Macedonians weren’t really Greeks. And the Macedonians did not consider themselves real Greeks either. However, there were efforts on the part of the Macedonian rulers to bring Macedonia closer to the Greek culture.

King Archelaos opened Macedonia to Greek culture

A predecessor of Philip II., King Archelaos, opened Macedonia to Greek culture. And the Macedonian capital Pella was made home to a large number of Greek scholars and artists. Philip II of Macedon resolutely ties in with this tradition. He also determined Aristotle as the tutor of his son Alexander (who later became Alexander the Great).

The rise of Macedonia to a great power is assessed differently in the Greek heartland. For some, the Macedonians are just enemy barbarians, just like the Persians. So, like at the time of the Persian Wars, you have to unite against them and try to defend yourself against an overpowering enemy. Others advocate accepting the supremacy of Macedonia and pulling together with them against the Persians. The most famous representatives of these two positions today were the Macedonian enemy Demosthenes (25) and the Macedonian friend Isocrates.

Footnotes of the quoted passage:

23) If you are a little generous then you can see Macedonian as a somewhat strange Greek dialect.

24) The Macedonian symposia often end in general drunkenness until they dropped. That is far from the picture conveyed by Plato of a Greek symposium. Plato describes symposia as cultivated cultural evenings in which, despite the hetaera that may be present, the cultivated and demanding conversation is cultivated. Of course, wine is only drunk mixed with water. And even if the effects of alcohol do set in at some point, everything remains highly civilized.

Overall, this may be a somewhat over-idealized picture, but one can certainly assume that Macedonian symposia were indeed more alcoholic and rougher than the symposia in the Greek heartland. Drinkability was simply part of the image of the real Macedonian man.

25) Demosthenes even went so far in his hostility towards the Macedonians that he considered entering into an alliance with the Persians against the Macedonians rather than wanting to fight with and among the Macedonians against the Persians.

Source: Griechische Geschichte bis 336 v.Chr. – Ein erster Überblick bis zum Auftritt von Alexander dem Großen; by Norbert Froese. Found and published by Makedonien.mk.

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