Greek origins of Ancient Epirus

Greek origins of Ancient Epirus (Greece - Albania)
Australian Macedonian Advisory Council
February 21, 2009

Epirus, though mostly held by people of Grecian speech and lineage, had an intermixture of those called barbarians; Illyrians, and perhaps others. Herodotus however, among earliest, and Plutarch, among late ancient historians, clearly reckon the Molossians a Grecian people. Some expressions of Thucydides and Strabo may perhaps be construed either way. But, as it has been formerly observed, Herodotus, Thucydides, and Strabo concur in showing that all Greece was of mixed population; and how the distinction of Greek and barbarian, unknown to Homer, arose, and what at last it was, always remained uncertain. Strabo however, clearly acknowledging the Macedonian for a Greek nation, assures us that the general language of the Epirots was the Macedonian dialect of the Greek; that where another language, probably the Illyric, was in use, the people commonly spoke both, and that, in habits and manners, most of the Epirots hardly differed from the Macedonians.

The governments of the Epirot states were, some Republican with annual chief magistrates, as at Athens, Thebes, and Rome; others monarchal. That of Molossis, from earliest tradition, was monarchal; and whether the people may have been more or less allowed the always questionable dignity of pure Grecian blood, yet the claim of the royal family to the oldest and noblest Grecian origin, resting on tradition, but asserted by Straho and Plutarch, with Aristotle´s assent implied, is not found anywhere controverted. They reckoned themselves direct descendants ofNeoptolemus Pyrrhus, son of Achilles; who, it was said, ´” after the Trojan war, migrating from Thessaly, be¬came king of Molossis, Whatever credit may be due to this lofty pretension, that the Molossian sceptre remained in one Greek family, from times beyond certain history till after Aristotle´s age, appears satisfactorily testified.

By advantage of situation and constitution, exempt from great troubles, Molossis, had it had historians, probably afforded little for general interest. Nevertheless we learn from the father of Grecian history that, some generations before his time, it was esteemed respectable among Grecian states. The tale wherein this appears, like many of that writer, somewhat of a romantic cast, nevertheless may have been true in all its parts; and for the information it affords of an important change of manners and policy among the Greeks, and of the florishing condition of several republics about the age of the Athenian legislator Solon, some destroyed before the historian wrote, others little heard of since, while Molossis apparently remained unshaken, it maybe reckoned of considerable historical value.

Clisthenes, tyrant of Sicyon, under whose rule that little state was eminent among those of Peloponnesus,´ desiring, the historian says, to marry his daughter to a man of the greatest consideration and highest worth of all Greece, opened his house for any who, from personal dignity and the eminence of their countries, might have pretensions; that so he might have oppor¬tunity to estimate their merits. Thirteen guests, rivals for his favor, are thus described. There came from the Greek colonies in Italy, then florishing extraordinarily, Smindyrides of Sybaris and Damas of Siris. The former was remarked for going beyond all of his time in the luxury for which Sybaris was renowned. Damas was son of that Samyris who was distinguished by the epithet of the Wise. Am-phimnestus came from Epidamnus, on the coast of the Ionian gulf. Males was of jjEtolia, brother of Titormus, esteemed the strongest man in Greece, but who had withdrawn from the society of men to reside in the farthest part of yEtolia.3 Lcocedes was son of Phi don, tyrant of Argos; that Phidon, says the historian, who established uniformity of weights and measures throughout Peloponnesus, and, together with his power, (so far, it may seem, bene¬ficially exerted,) was remarked for an arrogance un¬equalled among the Greeks; for, depriving the Eleans of the presidency of the Olympian festival, he assumed it himself. Two came from Arcadia, Amiantus of Trapezus, and Laphanes of Pafos. The father of the latter, Euphorion, was celebrated for his extensive. hospitality, and had the extraordinary fame of having entertained the gods Castor and Pollux. Lysanias came from Eretria in Eubcea, then greatly florishing; Onomastus from Elea: Megacles and Hippoclides were of Athens; the latter esteemed the richest Athenian of his time, and the handsomest: Diac-tondes was of Cranon and Scopada? in Thessaly; Alcon was of Molossis. This simple description of Alcon, combined with what has preceded, enough marks that the Molossians were esteemed a Grecian people, and Molossis then considerable among the Grecian states. One of the Athenians, Megacles, was the successful suitor.

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