Alexander, the Southern Greeks and the Macedonian Language

Common Claim by FYROM’s Propaganda:

Though Alexander spoke Greek, loved Homer and respected his tutor Aristotle, there is much evidence that he hated and despised the Greeks of his day“.

 1. While the original author of this piece of Propaganda may project his own sentiments, the evidence associated with Alexander’s Origins and Actions suggest otherwise. The Greek origin of Alexander the Great is reported in the Ancient Greek, Roman, Persian, Indian and Jewish Testimonies both from his Paternal and Maternal side.

2. After the victory in Granicus (334 B.C.) he sent to Athens 300 Persian shields, which were displayed on the Acropolis with the well known inscription:

Alexander, son of Philip, and the Greeks, except Lacedaemonians, from the booty of the barbarians who dwell in Asia“.

3. The Greek mercenaries who were captured, were sent to Macedonia as slaves, because -as Arrian mentions (Alex. An. A, 16,6) , “despite ihe common decisions of the Greeks, and despite the fact that they were all Greeks, they fought against the Greeks and on the side of the barbarians“.

The fact that numerous Greek mercenaries fought against Alexander on the Persian side does not suggest that

When they invaded Macedonia and the rest of Greece, your ancestors harmed us, although we had not harmed them ever before. I, therefore, after becoming the leader of all Greeks and because I wished to punish the Persians, invaded Asia, because it is you who started this hatred". (Arr. B' 14.4).
Alexander’s Greek identity is in doubt. As a matter of fact, among the Greek mercenaries found themselves also some eminent Macedonians. The Leader of the Greek Mercenaries after Memnon’s Death was Amyntas, son of Antiochos, a Macedonian General. It is rather a sign of the decline of standards which followed after the destructive Peloponnesean War (431-404 BC).

4.  After the battle of Issus (333 B.C.) Darius asked to negotiate. Alexander answered with the following words:

“When they invaded Macedonia and the rest of Greece, your ancestors harmed us, although we had not harmed them ever before. I, therefore, after becoming the leader of all Greeks and because I wished to punish the Persians, invaded Asia, because it is you who started this hatred”. (Arr. B’ 14.4).

5.  According to Plutarch’s statement (Alexander, 69, A) whenever Alexander encountered a foreign inscription
somewhere in Asia he gave the order to inscribe the Greek translation underneath. When he decided to take a selected group of young Persians into his army, he “ordered them to learn Greek“. (Plutarch, Alexander,
47,6) (and not the putative “Macedonian”).

 Thousands of Greek inscriptions have been found in Asia, Africa and in Macedonia itself. All are in Greek, because it was the language of the Macedonians and the rest of  Greeks.

6. The destruction of Thebes  taken place in 335 BC, has been identified by many as a sign of Alexander’s ruthlessness. However, according to ancient sources, responsible for the destruction of the city, were the Greek allies of Alexander.  Like Arrian informs us:

“Alexander turned over the decision of what was to be done with Thebes to the Allies who participated in the military action”

Furthermore, in the history of ancient Greece we often come across wars between Greeks. A few examples are:

(a) The Spartan Lyssander destroyed Athens.

(b) The Athenians destroyed Melos and

(c)  the Thebans destroy the city of Plataea.

 The interpretation suggested by FYROM’s propaganda is inaccurate and misleading, as Plutarch explains Alexander’s behaviour by saying that the horrible need of war imposed such extreme behaviour “towards men of the same nationality and the same blood“.

7.  Plutarch offers additional evidence which attests to the Greek nature of the Macedonians and Alexander. In his famous work Parallel Lives he compares, or rather he parallels distinguished Greeks and Romans. Alexander is placed among the Greeks and is compared to Julius Caesar.

Demetrius the Besieger, the most distinguished of Alexander’s successors, is compared to Mark Anthony and Pyrrus. king of Epirus. is compared to Marius. None of the serious historians have expressed any doubts about Alexander’s Greekness. The fact that he was a cosmopolitan Greek is suggested by the following statement attributed to him by Plutarch: “He ordered all to consider the whole world as their nation, the virtuous people as their kin and the evil ones as stangers, and to regard virtue as proof of Hellenicity and evil as synonymous with barbarism“. If Plutarch did not consider him to be Greek he would not have put these words in his mouth.

8.  Alexander as a expression of devotion to Hellenism, built temples in Delphi and Delos and rebuilt Plataea. He also sent some Persian booty to the colony of Croton in Southern Italy, because that city had participated in the sea battle of Salamis where the Greek fleet defeated the Persians in 480 BC.

9. What FYROM’s Propaganda suggests about the deification of Alexander does not imply a lack of Greek consciousness. Deification of heroes was part of the Greek tradition (Heracles. Theseus etc).

Clearchus, disciple of Isocrates and tyrant of Heracleia was also regarded as a god and so was Philip in Ephesus.
Last but not least, the Athenians had deified Demetrius the Besieger. For Alexander, his deification also served his
political aims. The universal state he had founded needed a common ideology as a unifying bond, which under the
conditions of the age was expressed in terms we call religious. Alexander’s policy was later successfully continued by the Romans.

10. A common misconception also appears to be the inacurate claim that No Greek practised Polygamy, therefore Macedonian kings couldn’t be Greek.

In fact while Polygamy was not commonly used among Greeks, there are examples of Greek leaders who practised it like the Tyrants of Sicily. An Indication of this practise was Hieron of Syracuse who married three times. His first wife was daughter to Nicocles of Syracuse, his second  and third wives were daughters of  Xenocrates of Akragas and Anaxilas of Rhegion.

From all the ancient sources we are receivers of the same message. Alexander the Great never missed a chance to verify his pride for his Greek ancestry. His parents had Greek origins. Alexander considered himself as a Greek. He spoke Greek. He grew up and was educated from famous Greek teachers like Aristotle and had as his favourite book Iliad of Homer. He worshipped the same gods like the rest of Greeks. He undertook and accompliced to a military campaign based on the long-term hostility between Greeks and Persians, as leader of the Greeks. Both he and his army spread the ancient Greek language and culture to the fringes of India and therefore Alexander has justifiably been used for centuries as a symbol of Greek civilisation.


Sarantos I Kargakos, An analysis of an Irredentist track: Jacque Bacid’s through the Ages

Molly Miller, The Sicilian colony dates

Waldemar Heckel, Who’s Who In The Age Of Alexander The Great: Prosopography Of Alexander’s Empire