FYROM’s Myth #1 “Greeks viewed Macedonians as Barbarians”

Contrary to popular beliefs emanating from FYROMthe ancient Macedonians are not identified as <barbarians> and more importantly, they always distinguish themselves from the <barbarians>.  For example, Alexander I in his famous speech at Plataia (Her. IX.45) differentiates himself from the <barbarians> by stating: “εθέλων υμίν δηλώσαι την διάνοιαν την Μαρδονίου, ίνα μή επιπέσωσι υμίν εξαίφνης οι βάρβαροι[..] ειμί δε Αλέξανδρος ο Μακεδών.” The ancient literary and archaeological evidence make a persistent and lucid distinction between the Macedonians and the <barbarians>.

In Thucydides, some Epirotes come under the classification of <barbarians>, like  the case of Amphilochians, but not the Macedonians. As a matter of fact, a passage of Thucydides is erroneously used by Slavic ultranationalists to imply that that ancient writer considered Macedonians as <barbarians>.

Particularly, during the joint expedition of Brasidas and Perdiccas against Arrhabaios of Lyncestis, Thucydides writes: “ιππής δ’ οι πάντες ηκολούθουν Μακεδόνων ξύν Χαλκιδεύσιν ολίγον ες χιλίους, και άλλος όμιλος των βαρβάρων πολύς.” The passage makes explicit a segregation between Macedonians and the <Barbarians> (=”όμιλος των βαρβάρων”). 

Here we have to underline that for several decade,  instead of building up a case which carries conviction, the  traditional villains of FYROM’s propaganda resort to fall in the trap of faulty syllogism and fallacious argumentation. Usually the sole “evidence” used by the supporters are the politically-motivated orations of Demosthenes and  Thrasymachos which served as direct attacks against Philip II and Archelaos, respectively.  

Of course, since the general mentality of the Slavic Nationalists appears to be “My mind is already made up. Dont confuse me with facts“, they are eager to believe that exceptional cases are enough, not only to reject a general rule, but even worst, to baptise the exception itself as the general rule.

Therefore, based on Demosthenes’ political attacks on Philip, they comically tend to resort to unsubstantiated, sweeping statements  such as “Greeks considered Macedonians as Barbarians”, which effectively undermine their stance. As the eminent Professor NGL Hammond convicingly put it: “Such cheap parody is matched by wartime songs about the Siegfried Line or the genitals of Adolf.”

Furthermore, they carry the simplistic notion that the concept of being a <Barbarian> during antiquity, is equated solely with the meaning of a “non-Greek”.  

Lets attempt now to face a crucial question. Was the term “barbarian” used also for Greek people during antiquity?

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 (VIII 350a) 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“.

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

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”. In order the last one t0 be fully acknowledged, one has to reckon the presentation of the various Greek groups in the Old Comedy.

At face value it is of no importance, but it is used by modern/current propagandists to define themselves, with the insistance that the Macedonians were not Greeks/Greek speakers (but as stated above the evidence speaks differently and the affairs of the Macedonians are inseparably entangled with those of the Sourthern Greeks). Therefore, the confusion that one may observe today is the result of how some interpret the interrelation of the Southern Greeks and Macedonians, in an attempt to disengage the latter from the ancient Greeks.

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