Ancient Macedonians – Greeks or Barbarians?

 

articles1 Ancient Macedonians   Greeks or Barbarians? 

Some of the most usual fallacies used by FYROM’s hideous propaganda are the baseless assumptions included in the following statement:

The Greeks unanimously stereotyped the Macedonians as ‘barbarians’ and treated them in the same bigoted manner in which they treated all non-Greeks. After all, no Greek people/tribe was ever called “Barbarian“.

This statement is most interesting for what it reveals about those supporting it. What evidence is produced to back up what ALL Greeks thought or how they treated ALL non-Greeks? Has the term “Barbarian” ever been used for Greek people?  This sweeping statement effectively undermines any idea the reader may have about a scholarly method of argumentation.

The first part of the baseless assumption is easily refuted by the existing Literary and archaeological evidence . On the contrary the vast majority of literary sources make a lucid distinction between Macedonians and Barbarians. Usually the sole “evidence” used by its supporters are the politically-motivated orations of Demosthenes and  Thrasymachus.  But as the eminent Professor NGL Hammond convicingly argues: “Such cheap parody is matched by wartime songs about the Siegfried Line or the genitals of Adolf.”

 The word barbaros (=barbarian) had the following meanings;

(a) it was originaly used to describe a person that did not speak Greek, a foreigner.

(b) Eventually it assumed the meaning of uncivilized person.

So the logical question being raised is, in which one of the above statements we can categorize the Macedonians.

Concerning the Macedonians, the word “barbarian” did not mean people who spoke a non-Greek language. According to ancient literary and archaeological sources, Macedonians spoke a Greek dialect.  For example, Livy states : “the Aetolians, the Acarnanians and the Macedonians spoke the same  language”   (“Aetolos, Acarnanas, Macedonas, eiusdem linguae homines”, XXX I.29.15). One must ask whether there is any sane person among the few supporters of this theory who believe that the tragedies perfomed in Macedonia were translated from Greek to a putative local language. Furthemore, Demosthenes undoubtedly would have made a comment on the Macedonian speech, if it were not Greek.

During the classical period the southern Greeks did not use the word barbarian solely in order to define somebody nationally or linguistically. It was also used to describe and/or to demean a vulgar or uncivilized person.

In any case, it was a word more connected with culture and less with race. A Greek was not the person who necessarily had Greek ancestors. He was one who shared in the Greek culture. According to Isocrates “Greeks are those who partake of our education (or cultivation).”

Here we face the second crucial question. Was the term “barbarian” used also for non-Greek people?

The available Literary evidence gives a definite answer. Yes, the term “barbarian” was used both for Greek and non-Greek people.

We all know for starters, Epirotes being classed as ‘barbarians’ from Thucydides, although they were Greek-speaking.

However the ultimate proof of Greek tribes being called ‘barbarians is coming from Athenaios Deipnosophistes where Stratonicus the harp-player was asked “πότερα Βοιωτοί βαρβαρώτεροι…ή θετταλοί, Ηλείους έφησεν” meaning “who were the greatest Barbarians, the Boeotians or the Thessalians” and he replied “the Eleans“.

Quote:

42. And Clearchus. in the second book of his treatise on Friendship, says,-” Stratonicus the harp-player, whenever he wished to go to sleep, used to order a slave to bring him something to drink; ‘ not,’ says he, ‘because I am thirsty now, but that I may not be presently.’” And once, at Byzantium, when a harp-player had played his prelude well, but had made a blunder of the rest of the performance, he got up and made proclamation, ” That whoever would point out the harp-player who had played the prelude should receive a thousand drachme.” And when he was once asked by some one who were the wickedest people, he said, “That in Pamphylia, the people of Plaselis were the worst; but that the Sidetze were the worst in the whole world.” And when he was asked again, according to the account given by Hegesander, which were the greatest barbarians, the Boeotians or the Thessalians he said, ” The Eleans.”

Athenaios VIII 350a

More evidence from ancient sources can be found in older articles dealing with the specific issue.

On the other hand, we have always to be aware that the stereotype of other Greek people – including of course Macedonians – by Atheneans  is “inextricably linked to Athenian imperial ideology”. The last one will be fully acknowledged if we reckon the presentation of the various Greek groups in Old Comedy. A subject which unfortunately has received little scholarly attention.  Monica Florence in a excellent presentation argues:

“The differences between the Athenians and the Megarians portrayed in Old Comedy show that the stereotype of the Dorian Megarians shares certain characteristics with both barbarian groups and the (mostly Ionian) subjects/allies of Athens. In addition to the lengthy scene with the Megarian merchant in the Akharnians, fourteen other references create a vivid and consistent stereotype of Megara: the comic poets repeatedly characterize the Megarians, like the barbarians and the Athenian subjects/allies, as inferior, vulgar, childlike, and conniving. In the Prospaltioi for example, one of Eupolis’ characters criticizes a joke as “Megarian”; it is also vulgar (aselges) and excessively frigid or silly (sphodra psuxron). The character next finds fault with the audience for laughing at childish things (ta paidia, frag. 2). In the Akharnians of Aristophanes, the Megarian merchant characterizes his own daughters as clearly worthless (phaneran zamian); he must resort to a “Megarian trick” (Megarika machana) and disguise them as pigs in order to sell them to the Athenian comic hero Dikaiopolis. “

 Prof. Florence concludes:

“Why do the Megarians not conform to the comic stereotypes of other Dorian groups? I suggest in the second part of the paper that the stereotype of the Megarians is inextricably linked to Athenian imperial ideology. By attributing characteristics typically associated with barbarians and subjects/allies to their Megarian neighbors, the comic poets suggest that the local Greek landscape requires Athenian control and, thereby, sanction Athenian mastery over it.”

 

Related posts:

Want more of this? See these Posts:

  1. FYROM’s Myth #1 “Greeks viewed Macedonians as Barbarians”
  2. Ancient Literary Evidence : Distinction between Ancient Macedonians and Barbarians
  3. Ancient sources – Macedonians Vs Barbarians
  4. Ancient Greeks references to Macedonians as Greeks
  5. Academic Lecture about Ancient Macedonia – Macedonians were fundamentally Greeks
Comments
Mac says:

Greek city states always hated and fought each other in terrible civil wars, but they were always united against external enemies of the Greek nation . Macedonians, Athenians, Spartans, are all ancient Greek citizens of the respective city states. Alexander the Great was the first Greek who united all Greeks together for the first time, and stopped the civil wars of that time creating a huge Greek Empire for the first time.

Mac says:

Greek city states always hated and fought each other in terrible civil wars, but they were always united against external enemies of the Greek nation . Macedonians, Athenians, Spartans, are all ancient Greek citizens of the respective city states. Alexander the Great was the first Greek who united all Greeks together for the first time, and stopped the civil wars of that time creating a huge Greek Empire for the first time.

Alex says:

According to ancient sources, which in the end they are what counts, the Southern Greeks considered Macedonians as their kinsmen.

Hope says:

According to A 6th Grade Social Studies History book The greeks consitered Macedonians Barbarians

ziku says:

read this who are the macedonians