Roman testimonies about ancient Macedonian ethnicity

Roman Testimonies


Quintus Curtius Rufus


Alexander also summoned the delegates of the League of Corinth in order to have himself declared its Hegemon and, when he had obtained their support for his expedition against Persia, he returned to Macedonia (Diod. 17.4.9) The government of Persia had undergone a number of changes since Philip II first organized the Greek crusade against the East.

The History of Alexander - Penguin Classics, Translation by John Yardley, page 20


“They recalled that at the start of his reign Darius had issued orders for the shape of the scabbard of the Persian scimitar to be altered to the shape used by the Greeks, and that the Chaldeans had immediately interpreted this as meaning that rule over the Persians would pass to those people whose arms Darius had copied. “

(Quintus Curtius Rufus 3.3.6)


“For his part Alexander responded much like this: ‘His majesty Alexander to Darius: Greetings. The Darius whose name you have assumed wrought much destruction upon the Greek inhabitants of the Hellespontine coast and upon the Greek colonies of Ionia, and the crossed the sea with a mighty army, bringing the war to Macedonia and Greece. On another occasion Xerxes, a member of the same family, came with his savage barbarian troops, and even when beaten in a naval engagement he still left Mardonius in Greece so that he could destroy our cities and burn our fields though absent himself.”

(Quintus Curtius Rufus 4.1.10)


Mutiny was but a step away when, unperturbed by all this, Alexander summoned a full meeting of his generals and officers in his tent and ordered the Egyptian seers to give their opinion. They were well aware that the annual cycle follows a pattern of changes, that the moon is eclipsed when it passes behind the earth or is blocked by the sun, but they did not give this explanation, which they themselves knew, to the common soldiers. Instead, they declared that the sun represented the Greeks and the moon the Persians, and that an eclipse of the moon predicted disaster and slaughter for those nations.”

(Quintus Curtius Rufus 4.10.1)


Alexander called a meeting of his generals the next day. He told them that no city was more hateful to the Greeks than Persepolis, the capital of the old kings of Persia, the city from which troops without number had poured forth, from which first Darius and then Xerxes had waged an unholy war on Europe. To appease the spirits of their forefathers they should wipe it out, he said

(Quintus Curtius Rufus 5.6.1)


One of the latter was Thais. She too had had too much to drink, when she claimed that, if Alexander gave the order to burn the Persian palace, he would earn the deepest gratitude among all the Greeks. This was what the people whose cities the Persians ahd destroyed were expecting she said. As the drunken whore gave her opinion on a matter of extreme importance, one or two who were themselves the worse for drink agreed with her. the king, too, was enthusiastic rather than acquiescent. “Why do we not avenge Greece, then and put the city to the torch?” he asked

(Quintus Curtius Rufus 5. 7. 3)


From here he now moved into Media, where he was met by fresh reinforcement from Cilicia: 5,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry, both under the command of the Athenian Plato. His foraces thus augmented. Alexander determined to pursue Darius”

(Quintus Curtius Rufus 5. 7. 8)


As for Alexander, it is generally agreed that, when sleep had brought him back to his senses after his drunken bout, he regretted his actions and said that the Persians would have suffered a more grievous punishment at the hands of the Greeks had they been forced to see him on Xerxes’ throne and in his palace

(Quintus Curtius Rufus 5.7.11)


In pursuit of Bessus the Macedonians had arrived at a small town inhabited by the Branchidae who, on the orders of Xerxes, when he was returning from Greece, had emigrated from Miletus and settled in this spot. This was necessary because, to please Xerxes, they had violated the temple called the Didymeon. The culture of their forebears had not yet disappeared thought they were now bilingual and the foreign tongue was gradually eroding their own. So it was with great joy that they welcomed Alexander, to whom they surrendered themselves and their city. Alexander called a meeting of the Milesians in his force, for the Milesians bore a long-standing grudge against the Branchidae as a clan. Since they were the people betrayed by the Branchidae, Alexander let them decide freely on their case, asking if they preferred to remember their injury or their common origins. But when there was a difference of opinion over this, he declared that he would himself consider the best course of action.
When the Branchidae met him the next day, he told them to accompany him. On reaching the city, he himself entered through the gate with a unit of light-armed troops. The phalanx had been ordered to surround the city walls and, when the signal was given, to sack this city which provided refuge for traitors, killing the inhabitants to a man. The Branchidae, who were unarmed, were butchered throughout the city, and neither community of language nor the olive-branches and entreaties of the suppliants could curb the savagery. Finally the Macedonians dug down to the foundations of the city walls in order to demolish them and leave not a single trace of the city.”


The gist of the passage was that the Greeks had established a bad practice in inscribing their trophies with only their kings’ names, for the kings’ were thus appropriating to themselves glory that was won by the blood of others.”

(Quintus Curtius Rufus 8.1.29)


“and he [alexander] demonstrated the strength of his contempt for the barbarians by celebrating games in honour of Aesclepius and Athena

(Curtius Rufus 3, 7, 3)


he consecrated three altars on the banks of the river Pinarus to Zeus, Hercules, and Athena,…”

(Curtius Rufus 3, 12, 27)


About this time there took place the traditional Isthmian games, which the whole of Greece gathers to celebrate. At this assembly the Greeks - political trimmers by temperament - determined that fifteen ambassadors be sent to the king to offer him a victory-gift of a golden crown in honour of his achievements on behalf of the security and freedom of greece

(Curtius Rufus 4, 5, 11)


they also occupied Tenedos and had decided to seize Chios at the invitation of its inhabitants.

(Curtius Rufus 4, 5, 14)


“Then Alexander’s horses dragged him around the city while the king gloated at having followed the example of his ancestor Achilles in punishing his enemy

Curtius Rufus 4,6.29)


Moreover, as a reward for their exceptional loyalty to him, Alexander reimbursed the people of Mitylene for their war expenses and also added a large area to their territories.”

(Curtius Rufus 4.8.13)


Furthemore, appropriate honours were accorded the kings of Cyprus who had defected to him from Darius and sent him a fleet during his assault on Tyre.”

(Curtius Rufus 4.8.14)


Amphoterus, the admiral of the fleet, was then sent to liberate Crete, most of which was occupied by both Persian and Spartan armies”

(Curtius Rufus 4.8.15)


He did not want her tainting the character and civilized temperament of the Greeks with this example of barbarian lawlessness. Alexander advanced from there to the river Tanais, where Bessus was brought to him, not only in irons but entirely stripped of his clothes. Spitamenes held him with a chain around his neck, a sight that afforded as much pleasure to the barbarians as to the Macedonians

(Curtius Rufus 7.5.36)


Meanwhile a group of Macedonians had gone off to forage out of formation and were suprised by some Barbarians who came rushing down on them from the neighbouring mountains.”

(Curtius Rufus 7.6.1)


“Menedemus himself, riding an extremely powerful horse, had repeatedly charged at full gallop into the barbarians’ wedge-shaped contingents, scattering them with great carnage.”

(Curtius Rufus 7.6.35)


Besides the Macedonians there are many present who, I think, will
more easily understand what I shall say if I use the same language which you have employed, for no other reason, I suppose, than in order that you speech might be understood by the greater number

(Curtius 6.9.35)


2. Titus Livius


Aetolians, Acarnanians, Macedonians, men of the SAME language

(T. Livius XXXI,29, 15)


General Paulus of Rome surrounded by the ten Commissioners took his official seat surrounded by the whole crowds of Macedonians…Paulus announced in Latin the decisions of the Senate, as well as his own, made by the advice of his council. This announcement was translated into Greek and repeated by Gnaeus Octavius the Praetor-for he too was present.”

(T. Livius,XLV)


As for the Argives, apart from their belief that the Macedonian kings were descended from them, most of them were also attached to Philip by individual ties of hospitality and close personal friendships.”

(T. Livius, 32.22)


3. Cicero


“For if all the wars which we have carried on against the Greeks are to be despised, then let the triumph of Marcus Curius over king Pyrrhus be derided; and that of Titus Flamininus over Philip; and that of Marcus Fulvius over the Aetolians; and that of Lucius Paullus over king Perses; and that of Quintus Metellus over the false Philip; and that of Lucius Mummius over the Corinthians. But, if all these wars were of the greatest importance, and if our victories in them were most acceptable, then why are the Asiatic nations and that Asiatic enemy despised by you? But, from our records of ancient deeds; I see that the Roman people carried on a most important war with Antiochus; the conqueror in which war, Lucius Scipio, who had already gained great glory when acting in conjunction with his brother Publius, assumed the same honour himself by taking a surname from Asia, as his brother did, who, having subdued Africa, paraded his conquest by the assumption of the name of Africanus. [32] And in that war the renown of your ancestor Marcus Cato was very conspicuous; but he, if he was, as I make no doubt that he was, a man of the same character as I see that you are, would never have gone to that war, if he had thought that it was only going to be a war against women. Nor would the senate have prevailed on Publius Africanus to go as lieutenant to his brother, when he himself; a little while before, having forced Hannibal out of Italy, having driven him out of Africa, and having crushed the power of Carthage, had delivered the republic from the greatest dangers, if that war had not been considered an important and formidable war.”

[Orations of Cicero]

4. Julius Caesar


“Caesar judged that he must drop everything else and pursue Pompey where he had betaken himself after his flight, so that he should not be able to gather more forces and renew, and he advanced daily as far as he could go with the cavalry and ordered a legion to follow shorter stages. An edict had been published in Pompey’s name that all the younger men in the province [Macedonia], both Greeks and Roman citizens, should assemble to take an oath.”

Caesar, Civil War 111.102.3


5. Velleius Paterculus


In this period, sixty-five years before the founding of Rome, Carthage was established by the Tyrian Elissa, by some authors called Dido. 5 About this time also Caranus, a man of royal race, eleventh in descent from Hercules, set out from Argos and seized the kingship of Macedonia. From him Alexander the Great was descended in the seventeenth generation, and could boast that, on his mother’s side, he was descended from Achilles, and, on his father’s side, from Hercules

[Velleius Paterculus: “The Roman History” Book I, 5]


6. Marcus Junianus Justinus


Caranus also came to Emathia with a large band of Greeks, being instructed by an oracle to seek a home in Macedonia. Hero, following a herd of goats running from a downpour, he seized the city of Edessa, the inhabitants being taken unawares because of heavy rain and dense fog. Remembering the oracle’s command to follow the lead of goats in his quest for ar empire, Caranus established the city as his capital, and thereafter he made it a solemn observance, wheresoever he took his army, to keep those same goats before his standards in order in have as leaders in his exploits the animals which he had had with him to found the kingdom. He gave the city of Edessa the name Aegaeae and its people the name Aegeads in memory of this service

M.Justinus’ epitome of Pompeius Trogus’ Universal History 7.1


Next he directed the army towards Thebes intending to show the same mercy if he met with similar contrition. But the Thebans resorted to arms rather than entreaties or appeals, and so after their defeat they were subjected to all the terrible punishments associated with a humiliating capitulation. When the destruction of the city was being discussed in council, the Phocians, the Plataeans, the Thespians and the Orchomenians, Alexander’s allies who now shared his victory, recalled the devastation of their own cities and the ruthlessness of the Thebans, reproaching them also with their past as well as their present support of Persia against the independence of Greece. This, they said, had made Thebes an abomination to all the Greek peoples, which was obvious from the fact that the Greeks had one and all taken a solemn oath to destroy the city once the Persians were defeated, Thev also added the tales of earlier Theban wickedness - the material with which they had filled all their plays - in order to foment hatred against them not only for their treachery in the present but also for their infamies in the past.

M.Justinus’ epitome of Pompeius Trogus’ Universal History 11.3.6


7. Aelian


When Hephaestion died at Ecbatana (in 324) Alexander placed his weapons upon the funeral pyre, with gold and silver for the dead man, and a robe-which last, among the Persians is a symbol of great honor. He shore off his own hair, as in Homeric grief, and behaved like the Achilles of Homer. Indeed he acted more violently and passionately than the latter, for he caused the towers and strongholds of Ecbatana to be demolished all round. As long as he only dedicated his own hair, he was behaving, I think, like a Greek; but when he laid hands on the very walls, Alexander was already showing his grief in foreign fashion. Even in his clothing he departed from ordinary custom, and gave himself up to his mood, his love, and his tears.

Varia Historia, vii, 8.


Perdiccas the Macedonian who accompanied Alexander on his expedition was apparently so courageous that he once went alone into a cave where a lioness had her lair. He did not catch the lioness, but he emerged carrying her cubs. Perdiccas won admiration for this feat. Not only Greeks, but barbarians as well, are convinced that the lioness is an animal of great bravery and very difficult to contend with.



8. Pliny the Elder:

Such, at all events, were the opinions generally entertained in the reign of Alexander the Great, at a time when Greece was at the height of her glory, and the most powerful country in the world.

Pliny, Natural History, chapter 12

9. Tacitus

[6.41] At this same time the Clitae, a tribe subject to the Cappadocian Archelaus, retreated to the heights of Mount Taurus, because they were compelled in Roman fashion to render an account of their revenue and submit to tribute. There they defended themselves by means of the nature of the country against the king’s unwarlike troops, till Marcus Trebellius, whom Vitellius, the governor of Syria, sent as his lieutenant with four thousand legionaries and some picked auxiliaries, surrounded with his lines two hills occupied by the barbarians, the lesser of which was named Cadra, the other Davara. Those who dared to sally out, he reduced to surrender by the sword, the rest by drought. Tiridates meanwhile, with the consent of the Parthians, received the submission of Nicephorium, Anthemusias and the other cities, which having been founded by Macedonians, claim Greek names, also of the Parthian towns Halus and Artemita. There was a rivalry of joy among the inhabitants who detested Artabanus, bred as he had been among the Scythians, for his cruelty, and hoped to find in Tiridates a kindly spirit from his Roman training.

Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome Chapter 8, pg. 221

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This is the way things should be, get off what we are on now

Nick Hodges says:

I would like to add the following : Alexander the Great addressing the dead Hellenes of the battle of Chaeronia said:Holy shadows of the dead, I am not to blame for your cruel and bitter fate, but the accursed rivalry which brought sister nations and brother people to fight one another. I do not feel happy for this victory of mine. On the contrary, I would be glad brothers if I had all of you standing here next to me, since we are united by the same language, the same blood and the same visions.
Quintus Curtius Rufus, ”Historia”‘.

Nicos Sampson says:

well done mate, this is the best Macedonian site I’ve ever come across on the internet.

Etsi bravo.