Modern Historians about Macedonia - René Grousset


The Macedonian conquest gave Hellenic civilization, as a priceless compensation, at least the domination of Asia; and we know what a stimulus to the Greek spirit was this encounter, in the Alexandrian syncretism, with the genius of the East. Unhappily, after a hundred years of splendid progress, the Alexandrianism which, in the third century, had presided over the hellenization of the East, suffered a reversal: the Greek spirit was in turn invaded by oriental ideas. Euclid and Aristarchus had lived at Alexandria, but it was also at Alexandria that the neo-Platonists and gnostics lived. Lucian’s outbursts of laughter (in the second century A.D.) were the last protest of the critical spirit against the return of the murkiest pagan mysticism.

Furthermore, when Alexander had made the Greeks masters of the East, they transferred to it their own inability to unite. The Macedonia of the Antigonids, the Syria of the Seleucids and the Egypt of the Ptolemies, like Athens, Sparta and Thebes before them, wore themselves out in an inconclusive struggle which made them fall, one by one, an easy prey to the foreigner — in this case to the Romans. Not with impunity had the Græco-Macedonian dynasties assumed the mantle of the old oriental despots.

René Grousset, A. Patterson ‘The Sum of History’, 1951, Page 10


Similar uncertainty surrounds the personality of Alexander. Should we see in him the agent of the Hellenic League about to Hellenize Asia? Or the Macedonian whom the Orient had won over and divested of Greek civilization to the point of making him a Son of Ammon and Great King? Both personalities were present in him. And the whole drama of his brief life lay in the contrast between them. When he forced the passage of the Granicus, he came to Asia, like Agesilaus before him, to take vengeance for the invasion of Xerxes. His first act was to deliver Ionia. He went on to give Hellenism the coasts of the eastern Mediterranean, Syria, and Egypt; that is, the European façade of Asia. And this part of all his conquests was the only one to prove really lasting. Egypt and Syria remained part of Hellas for nine hundred and seventy years after his day, and western Anatolia for sixteen and a half centuries. On the other hand, east of the Euphrates, on the Persian plateau afterwards conquered by Alexander, Hellenism maintained its hold for barely two centuries. And it was there that the Macedonian, for the eight years of life left to him, began to strip himself of his Greek inheritance.

‘The Sum of History’ Page 153


If the Macedonian kingdoms of Greater Greece had left no other proof of their activity, they would have done enough for ancient civilization by giving it the masters of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius.

‘The Sum of History’ Page 156


One of the sons of Antiochus the Great, Antiochus Epiphanes, tried to react ( 175-164 B.C.). How are we to judge him? The superior strength of the Romans made it impossible for him to secure the triumph of Hellenism by force of arms. But the expansion of Greek nationality was the whole raison d’étre of the Seleucids. Antiochus Epiphanes was therefore obliged to undertake the conquest of the oriental soul by introducing Hellenism to the native peoples

‘The Sum of History’ Page 157


It was the Byzantine Empire which was to realize Alexander’s idea -Macedonian Panhellenism — in face of an Asia in revolt, and realize it for the Greeks

‘The Sum of History’ Page 159