Greek tribes being labeled “Barbarians”

A usual wordwide misconception is the association of the word ‘Barbarian’ with non-Greeks.

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

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“.


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

Plato characterized the Lesbian Aeolic Greek dialect as ‘a barbarian register’ while addressing Pittakos of Mytilene. We do know though Aeolic was a Greek dialect. Another bright example about the abuse of the term “barbaros”

[Protagoras 3410]

Another example is the dialogue between Socrates and Strepsiadis in Aristophanes “Clouds”. At a certain moment Socrates call Strepsiadis “ανθρωπός αμαθές ουτώσι και βάρβαρος“. This make even clearer the term “barbaros” was used as a derogatory term since Strepsiadis…was a well-known Athenian. Unless skopjans insist on believing Atheneans werent greeks either.


Oh! the ignoramus! the barbarian!
I greatly fear, old man, it will be necessary for me to have recourse to blows. Now, let me hear what you do when you are beaten

Aristophanes, ‘Nephelae’ (line 491)

One of the frequent users of the term “barbarian” in order to slander his political opponents was Demosthenes. His most known victim was Philip of Macedon. Not many people thought know that Demosthenes used it also against one of his political opponents, the Athenean orator Aristogeiton [Against Aristogeiton II. 26.17]

Here’s another fine example: Aeschines, On the Embassy 2 183

A word more and I have done. One thing was in my power, fellow citizens: to do you no wrong. But to be free from accusation, that was a thing which depended upon fortune, and fortune cast my lot with a slanderer, a barbarian, who cared not for sacrifices nor libations nor the breaking of bread together; nay, to frighten all who in time to come might oppose him, he has fabricated a false charge against us and come in here. If, therefore, you are willing to save those who have laboured together with you for peace and for your security, the common good will find champions in abundance, ready to face danger in your behalf.

Here Aeschines when attempting to refute Demosthenes’ accusations, clearly titles him a “barbarian” that “fabricated a false charge” against him

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