Ancient Macedonian Culture and Language

Australian Macedonian Advisory Council
May 03, 2009

In his recent article under the title “Satrapal appointments in Alexander’s Empire”. Mr. Gandeto actually thought he discovered America in 2009 AD, when he wrote that out of 52 persons appointed by Alexander the Great as satraps in the conquered regions of the Persian empire, only 5 were southern Greeks, while the rest consisted equally of Macedonians and Persians or various other Asians. This is, according to Gandeto, the greatest proof that Macedonians were not Greeks. Nevertheless, i would like to express my gratefulness to Gandeto for his excellent remark, since the only thing he achieved using this argument was to give me the chance to speak about a chapter of Macedonian history that people like Gandeto avoid systematically to mention. It´s the chapter which is missing from all the historical schoolbooks of FYROM, because it contradicts and belies their assertions about the non-Greek origin of the ancient Macedonians. I am referring to the spread of Hellenic culture and language in the whole territory of the conquered Persian empire by those same Macedonian satraps. The Macedonians whom Gandeto attempts (without any substance) and arbitrary to de-hellenize, in order to probably establish an imaginary descend from them, although his activities are the exact opposite of what his alleged ancestors did. The ancient Macedonians were constantly promoting Hellenic culture and language whereas Gandeto obviously hates and fights everything Hellenic.

You are indeed right, Gandeto,as regards to the number of the satraps who were of Macedonian origin. Importantly, what you missed out (or deliberately omitted) was to mention the result of the appointment of those Macedonians and the cultural impact of their administration on the various Asian lands they ruled. This result was, according to all the respectable historians throughout the world, the spread of the Greek culture in a vast area from Egypt to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Through a small research in any library, one notes the inconsistencies made by Gandeto:

“The Afghans” by Willem Vogelsang,2002

Page 114

“This all changed in the late fourth century BC, with the start of an era in which Greeks and Greek culture spread to the east. The new rulers were strangers, without any knowledge or understanding of Iranian culture. They were Greeks, and all others were mere barbar¬ians. The Greeks were soon to dominate the settled communities of the Iranian Plateau, thus rapidly widening the gap between sedentary and nomadic life. Excavations show a sharp change in pottery tradi¬tions and the introduction of many types that derive from the west. The expansion of Hellenism started with the rise to power of a young prince in faraway Macedonia.

In the spring of 334 BC, the 22-year old Macedonian king, Alexander, crossed the Hellespont with an army of some 20,000 men”…#PRA1-PA114,M1

Pages 126-127

“Kabul River. A bilingual Greek-Aramaic inscription (Qandahar I) was found in 1958 on a large boulder just north of Old Qandahar in South Afghanistan (III. 6).Another Mauryan text, this time only in Greek and inscribed on a stone slab, was also found in Qandahar, in 1963.

In Arachosia they used Greek script and language, Aramaic script and language, and mixed Aramaic-Prakrit language. In other words, Greek was only used in Arachosia, while Aramaic and Prakrit were used in both places”.

“In the texts, there are frequent references to the peoples of the northwest of the Mauryan empire, including the Yavanas (Greeks) and the Kambojas. The name of the Yavanas, a word ultimately derived from the name of Ionia along the eastern coast of the Aegaean, clearly refers to the Greek population of Eastern Iran; the Old Persian inscriptions of the Achaemenids refer in this case to Yauna. The Greek presence in Arachosia in the third centrury BC, albeit apparently under overall Mauryan control, is further illustrated by the find at Old Qandahar in 1978 of a Greek inscription, dating to c.280 BC.…#PRA1-PA126,M1

Page 129:

“The Seleucid focal point in the East was Bactria and the cities located along the routes leading there from Mesopotamia. Seleucus founded Greek poleis and in general created the conditions that were con¬ducive to Greek colonization”.…#PRA1-PA129,M1

Page 131

“The French archaeologists discovered some Greek inscriptions, including one in the temenos of Kineas (apparently the founder of the city). It is dated to c.275 BC …Other Greek texts were inscribed on papyrus, parchment and ostraca. One of these texts contained a passage from the work of Aristotle. In truth, Greek culture had penetrated deeply into the heartland of Iranian and Zoroastrian civilization”.…#PRA1-PA131,M1

Page 134

“North of the Hindu Kush they minted coins struck according lo the Attic standard of weight, and solely with Greek legends, while south of the mountains they issued coins according to the Indian standard of weight, with Greek and Prakrit legends, the latter in Kharoshthi script”.

“Religious life in Eastern Iran after the arrival of the Greeks was characterized, as so much else, by Greek and local beliefs, and a synchretism of these two traditions. Next to the names of the main Greek gods, such as Apollo, Artemis, Athena, Dionysos, Helios, Heracles, Zeus and so forth, mentioned on coins and in inscriptions, attempts were being made to identify these Greek gods with local, Iranian deities”.…#PRA1-PA134,M1

“The History of India” by Mountstuart Elphinstone 1841

Pages 470-471

“The above is the information we derive from ancient authors. It has been confirmed and greatly augmented by recent discoveries from coins. These increase the number of Greek kings from the eight above mentioned to eighteen; and disclose new dynasties of other nations who succeeded each other on the extinction of the Greek monarchy”.

“Professor Wilson has published an account of the coins of .the Greek kings, and arranged them as far as our pre¬sent knowledge permits; but as they bear no dates either of time or place, the arrangement is necessarily incom¬plete. The coins of the kings already mentioned, down to Eucratidas I., are found on the north of the eastern Caucasus. The inscriptions, the figures, the reverses, and the workmanship are pure Greek. From Eucratidas II., no coins are found on the northern side of the mountains; and those found on the southern side assume a new form. They are often square, a shape of which there is no ex¬ample in any other Grecian coinage either European or Asiatic: they frequently bear two inscriptions, one in Greek and another in a barbaric character; and, from the reign of Menander, they have occasionally an elephant, or a bull with a hump; both animals peculiar to India, and indica¬tive of an Indian dominion”.…l=el#PPA470,M1

“India, Pakistan and the West” by Percival Spear 1949 page 101

“We now return to the invasions of India. The first and most famous of these is the incursion of Alexander in 326 B.C. This was more than a raid, for Alexander founded cities and established governors, and though within twenty years Greek rule gave place in the Punjab and Afghanistan to the Indian empire of Chandragupta, the Greek kingdom of Bactria maintained a flow of Hellenic influence. For a time Indo-Greek kingdoms controlled the north-west from Taxila, and we know their rulers and dynasties from their coins. This inter¬lude proved invaluable to the historian for a knowledge of India which the inquisitive Greeks passed on to the West, but it also had its influence on India itself. The Greeks readily adopted Indian cults which they equated with their own, but they equally eagerly introduced Greek art and architecture”.…l=el#PPA101,M1

“Pakistan: A Country Study”, by Peter R. Blood 1996,page 8

“The Persian Empire fell to Alexander the Great in 330 B.C., and he continued his march eastward through Afghanistan and into India. Alexander defeated Porus, the Gandharan ruler of Taxila, in 326 B.C. and marched on to the Ravi River before turning back. The return march through Sindh and Balochistan ended with Alexander’s death at Babylon in 323 B.C.

Greek rule did not survive in northwestern India, although a school of art known as Indo-Greek developed and influenced art as far as Central Asia”.…&hl=el#PPA7,M1

“Pakistan, tradition and change” by Khawar Mumtaz, Yameema Mitha, Bilquis Tahira 2003.

Page 3

“The land was the home of ancient civilisations and the meeting point of great cultures: Buddhist, Greek, Muslim, and Hindu”.…&hl=el#PPA3,M1

Page 12

“Traces of a fusion of Greek. Central Asian, Indian, and indigenous cultures can still be seen in the ruins of Taxila city, in the Kalash valley, Gilgit, and Peshawar”.…hl=el#PPA12,M1

“Pakistan & the Karakoram Highway” by Sarina Singh, Owen Bennett-Jones 2004

Page 185

“Until the 3rd century Taxila was the cultured capital of an empire stretching across the subcontinent and into Central Asia. It was the birthplace of a striking fusion of Greek and Indian art”

“Near the road north ol Sirkap are the ruins of a classical Greek temple, a place with Ionic columns in front”…l=el#PPA185,M1

Page 219

“The site has yielded a rich trove ol pot¬tery, jewellery and Greek-influenced art but there isn’t much to see now”.

“In the 2nd century BC the Bactrians built their own city in a Greek-style grid at Shaikhan Dheri”…l=el#PPA219,M1

“The book of Iran: the history of Iranian art” by Habibollāh Āyatollāhi 2003

Pages 92-93

“A number of researchers claim that “The Mass Weddings of Susa”, including Alexander’s marriage to his third Persian wife, the daughter of Darius III or to the daughter of Memnon, also the marriages of his commanders, such as Seleucus who married the daughter of Yazdgird as ordered by Alexander were part of a plan to bring the Persians and the Greeks together. Nevertheless, according to historic documents this plan did not succeed for the Seleucid kings laid great stress on preserving their Greek identity and insisted on retaining their administrative and military control throughout Persia consequently refraining from pursuing any cultural objectives and goals. They founded Greek cities in which Persians and Greeks would be able to take up a form of peaceful co-existence. Very little remains of these cities today nevertheless this trend caused the development of a Greek influence in Persian an and in return, Greek art was also affected by the East through Asia Minor.”
“This centralization later resulted in the creation of cities that were Greek in both name and nature. The Seleucids attempted to build Greek temples in the cities and also to popularise the performance of Greek religious customs. One of these Greek cities may have been situated around Fassa in Pars, as a collection of sculptures and Greek ceramics have been discovered in the area”

“In addition to these small examples of Greek architecture, fragments of large elegant bronze statues have also been discovered, one of which is claimed to be of Serantiocus the IV. These fragments, some examples of Hellenistic art and several small statues of Greek gods reveal a wider use of metal during this period. A collection of official royal seals and a number of prints created on plaques and tablets are among the objects remaining from the Seleucid period. This collection includes drawings of the full body, bust or head of Greek gods or heroes, images of Seleucid commanders, masks and symbolic objects such as Apollo’s stool”.…hl=el#PPA92,M1

“The Cambridge history of Iran” by Ehsan Yarshater 1983

Page xxv

“Among the rare written documents from the Parthian period are three parchments relating to the sale of the same vineyard- Of these, two dated 88/87 and 22/21 B.C. are in Greek (the third in Parthian), which shows the currency of Greek and its validity in courts. Even in the 3rd century A.D., when Shapur I wanted to record his victories over the Romans he used in his renowned inscription at the Kaba-yi Zardusht, not only Middle Persian and Parthian, but also Greek; such was the prestige of the language some 400 years after the Seleucids had been driven out of Iran.

The Greek script was not only used for Greek itself, but was adopted in eastern Iran by the Bactrians to render their Iranian language; and later when the Kushans conquered Bactria, they adopted both the Bactrian language and the Greek alphabet, as is seen in their lapidary inscriptions and on their coins. Indications of Greek influence can be seen in a number of other fields as well. Drachma (Pers. dir(h)am) and denarius (Pers. dinar) were adopted as the basic denominations of currency. Some designations of weight and measures were borrowed from the Greek, as is seen in Middle Persian stir, and in the division of the whole into six equal parts (Pers. dang). The words for silver (sim) and for a good many precious stones (diamond, emerald, pearl, ruby) in Persian are derived from the Greek and this suggests the value placed by the people not only on Greek jewellery and its craftsmanship, but also on the polis as the centre of high life and fashion.

The Greek presence was felt even in the religious sphere. Greek temples and statues could be seen in Greek cities from Punjab to Asia Minor, from Jaxartes to the island of Kharg in the Persian Gulf.”…hl=el#PPR25,M1

Page xxvii

“This art, “modern art” to the Iranians,was now to be seen in Greek temples, theatres, gymnasia, and the complexes of administrative buildings in the polis, as well as in Greek artifacts”.…hl=el#PPR27,M1

These were the deeds of those Macedonian satraps in Asian lands, Gandeto, whom you consider as non-Greeks. Yet they managed to spread Hellenic culture and language all the way to India. Is there really a better example of a people who conquered almost the half of the known world at his time and spread the language of one of the subjugated to him peoples instead of his own? The usual excuse used by Gandeto is: “Greek was the lingua franca of that time, so Macedonians have to adopt it”. This was clearly not the case, as Greek became the lingua franca in Near East only after being conquered by Alexander´s Macedonians. Before Alexander´s conquest, the lingua franca of the Persian empire was in fact Aramaic.

“Petra and the lost kingdom of the Nabataeans” by Jane Taylor 2001 page 151

“In the following centuries, as the cuneiform-writing Assyrians extended their empire westwards, they adopted the whole package of Aramaic language and script to ease official communication between the new provinces of the Assyrian Empire. It soon became the one common language of the Middle East, and its use became even more widespread during the Persian period. As Aramaic gained wider currency as the language and script of government, it was increasingly written by people for whom it was not their first language, many of whom doubtless had prodigious volumes of official writing to produce….

Although this Imperial Aramaic script developed some regional variations, for as long as the Persian Empire was the unifying power it retained a broad similarity throughout the

Persian-ruled territories. But a century or two after the Persian collapse in the fourth century BC at the hands of Alexander the Great, local differences began to proliferate. In the new Hellenistic kingdoms of the Seleucids and Ptolemies, Greek was now the official language of government: but the existing peoples or tribes within these territories were by now too habituated to Aramaic to change to a new and unknown language”.…l=el#PPA151,M1

“Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of New Testament Times” by Paul Barnett 2002 page 47

“From the sixth to the fourth centuries B.C. Israel was a satrapy within the vast Persian empire. At its height this empire extended from India in the cast to the Aegean in the west and from the Black Sea in the north to Egypt in the south. The Aramaic language, the lingua franca of the Persian empire, became the language of the Jewish people, including Jesus himself. His words spoken from the cross—”Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani” (Mk 15:34)—are Aramaic”.…hl=el#PPA47,M1

“A conversation in the art of spiritual reading” by Eugene H. Peterson 2006 page 127

“Just as translation into Aramaic had become necessary in the years following Cyrus’s decree that Aramaic would be the official language of the huge and multi-languaged Persian empire, so two hundred years later translation into Greek became necessary when Alexander the Great conquered everything Persian and nearly overnight (as history goes) turned everyone into Greeks, or at least people who spoke Greek. As Aramaic had become the lingua franca of Cyrus’s Persian empire,so Greek became the lingua franca of Alexander’s Greek empire.And for the same reason — in order to run a government and conduct business with such a diverse population speaking so many tongues (a regular Babel it was),there had to be a common language. This time the Greeks were in charge, so the language was Greek”.…l=el#PPA127,M1

Why would the Macedonians impose Greek, that is a language totally unknown to those people, who were familiar with Aramaic for centuries, if Greek was a foreign language to the Macedonians themselves? And how reasonable does Gandeto´s claim seem, that Macedonians were not Greeks, while every memory of them that has survived till nowadays in the folk tradition of those people that were conquered and ruled by the Macedonians, connects them undoubtedly to Hellenism? There are some isolated tribes in Pakistan claiming till today that they are partly of Greek origin, descending from those soldiers of Alexander who settled there and married the local women. Every time a foreigner visits them and mentions the name “Sikander” (Alexander) their response is “Yunan” (Greek). As the famous medieval Persian poem “Salaman and Absal” says

“A Shah there was who ruled the Realm of Yun,1 And wore the Ring of Empire of Sikander;”

1 Or “YAVAN,” Son of Japhet, from whom the Country was called ” YUNAN,”—IONIA, meant by the Persians to express GREECE generally. Sikander is, of course, Alexander the Great, of whose Ethics Jami wrote, as Nizami of his Deeds.…er+yunan&hl=el

“Indigenous Environmental Knowledge and Its Transformations: Critical Anthropological Perspectives” by Roy Ellen, Peter Parkes, Alan Bicker 2000 page 268

“Contemporary accounts of the Kalasha, including ethnography, develop¬ment prospectuses and travel journalism, reiterate a handful of stock romantic motifs: mysterious ‘Aryan’ origins, or legendary Greek descent from Alexander the Great”…r&dq#PPA268,M1

“Errant journeys: adventure travel in a modern age” by David Zurick 1995 page 42

“The curious inhabitants of these isolated valleys, people who call themselves Kalash but are known to the surrounding Muslims as infidels. Kafirs—those “not of the book”—are thought to be descendants of Alexander’s Greek army, a belief based on the fair complexions and red hair found among these people, as well as on the local lore that traces such a historical connection”.…hl=el#PPA42,M1

“Genomic diversity: applications in human population genetics” by Surinder Singh Papiha, Ranjan Deka, Ranajit Chakraborty 1999 page 84

“Although legends indicate that the Burusho are of Greek ancestry, and it has been suggested that they had accompanied Alexander the Great during his expedition to India, yet their origin is uncer¬tain”.…%20el#PPA84,M1

“The Gem Hunter: True Adventures of an American in Afghanistan” by Gary W. Bowersox, Jonathan Ross, T. M. Jordan, March Davenport 2004 page 413

“Kalash:Children of Nature regarded as a primitive pagan tribe known as Kafir Kalash living in three valleys (Birer, Bumburet and Rambur) in the NWFP of Pakistan. Their way of life has experienced little change over the last 2.000 years. One theory of their origin is that (hey are descendants of the Greek troops of Alexander the Great, who settled these valleys. They celebrate their religious festivals with group dancing, feasting and drinking. Some of their gods are similar to those of the Romans and Greeks;”…#PRA1-PA413,M1

“Let’s Go India & Nepal 8th Ed: India & Nepal” by Jane Yang 2004 page 242

“A two-day hike over the Chandrakhani La (3660m) takes you to Malana, a moun¬tain village whose inhabitants claim to be descendants of Greek soldiers under Alexander the Great.”…l=el#PPA242,M1

Written by Kapetan Doukas from the AMAC forums: Macedonian Forums

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