Macedonian names and makeDonski pseudo-linguistics: The case of the name Pyrrhus

By Miltiades Elia Bolaris

Balkan Illusion - phantasia archaica:

“…it is very interesting to note that many of the authentic ancient Macedonian words, according to their etymology and pronunciation, have a striking resemblance to the appropriate words used in the modern Macedonian language (and other so called “Slav”[sic] languages). “Pyri(as).The root of this name could be connected to the noun “pir” (merriment). The name Piri is present in todays’ Macedonian onomasticon. Pyrh(os). This is probably a variant of the previous name.”

From: “Similarities between ancient Macedonian and today’s’ Macedonian Culture (Linguistics and Onomastics)” by Aleksandar Donski, celebrity historian from FYROM.

Pyrrhos / Πύρρος

In the time of the old, humans did not exist. The world was the realm of the Gods. The first supreme divine couple was Ouranos/Ουρανός, Sky and Gaea/Γαια, Earth. They were followed by Cronos/Κρόνος and Rhea/Ρέα. Following a Titanic battle, Zeus (gen:Dios) / Ζευς (Διός) emerges as the supreme Deity. Zeus the Father of all (Ζευς Πατήρ/Zeus Pater) is the sky God, the Father Sky (*Dyeus Phater) of our Indo-European past. He is also the Dyaus-Pita of the Sanskrit Vedes, the Ju-Piter of the Latins, the Dei-Patrous of the Illyrians, but also the Attas Isanus (father sun God) of the Hittites, the Stri-bogu (father God) of the Russians and the Debess Tevs (God father of Heaven) of the Latvians. (1)

Zeus asked Prometheus/Προμηθεύς to mold a human, which the crafty Titan did, molding him out of clay. It was the Golden Generation of mortals that first walked the earth, followed by the Silver one. Times were good for humanity. Everything was easy. Life was good. But then the Bronze Generation came to being, and things did not go so well. Humans became corrupt and impious. Zeus was not going to stand for this kind of insolence coming from the mortals. Something drastic had to be done!

Deukalion/Δευκαλίων was a mythical king of Phthia/Φθία, in Thessaly/Θεσσαλία, the place where many years later Achilles was born.

Deukalion was the son of Prometheus/Προμηθεύς and Pronoea/Πρόνοια. Pro-metheus and Pro-noea are etymological synonyms, and they both mean “forward thinking”; “thinking and planning ahead”.

Prometheus was the one who (despite Zeus’s protestations had “provided” (the verb “to provide” in both ancient and modern Greek is tellingly prometheuo/προμηθευω and provisions are called prometheies/προμήθειες) the human race with the gift of Fire. Along with the fire, he also “provided” them with the knowledge and technology to use it for humanity’s benefit. Fire until then was in the exclusive usage of the Gods, especially of Zeus (thunderbolts were fire falling from the shy on earth) and of Hephestos/Vulcan (he controlled volcanic activity: fire from inside the earth).

Deukalion was married to Pyrrha/Πύρρα who was his opposite in many respects: Her parents were the personification of foolishness: Pyrrha’s father was Epimytheus/Επιμηθεύς ( his name means the backward-looking, the conservative-thinking one) and her mother was Pandora/Πανδώρα (=the one full of gifts). Greeks used all the caustic irony in their arsenal when choosing her name, considering that she was the woman who opened the treasure chest of evils letting them escape to plague humanity ever after, allowing only Elpis/Eλπίς, Hope, to console the now wretched humans in their suffering.

When Zeus caused the cataclysm to destroy the impious Bronze Generation of humans, Deukalion, adequately warned by his father Prometheus, created a water tight wooden cabin and hid in it with his wife. The cabin Deukalion had built floated on water, but once the high waters receded (the parallel connections with the Mythology of the Jews, the Egyptians and the Mesopotamians is obviously apparent), it finally touched on dry land on Mount Parnassus.

Deukalion’s name sounds deceptively like “Zeus´ attractive one”, Deus/Δεύς (as Zeus was called in the Aeolian dialect spoken in Thessaly) and kalos/καλός, the handsome, good looking one. But while the part of Deus/Zeus, the supreme God of light and thunderbolts is not off the mark, it gets a bit more interesting: “Deu-” derives also from the verb Deuo / Δεύω which means: to moisten something, to wet, to soak in water. Zeus is is not only known for the fire he sends through his thunderbolts, but rain too (“βροχαι και θυελαι εξ αυτου προερχονται” / rains and storms have Zeus as a source and (Ζευς Υει = Zeus rains). The second part of Deukalion’s name “-kalion” comes from the noun kalia / καλια or kalias / καλιας and which means wooden cabin. Deukalion, therefore, is of the water, but not salty water of Poseidon, it is from the water that Deus / Zeus sends from the skies, and his wife is his material opposite, she is Pyrrha/Πυρρα of Pyr/Πυρ : Fire! She is the Fiery one. The two elements of primordial creation, water and fire, meet at the top of dry earth on top of Parnassus, the poetic mountain of the Muses. And after consulting the Delphic Apollo who tells them to close their eyes and walk and throw behind them the bones of their mother, Pyrrha understands: they pick up stones and start throwing them behind them. The three elemental units of ancient cosmology and creation : Water, Fire and (the bones of) Earth meet and blend in the clear, mountain top Air of the divine Parnassus, and out of their sacred union a new nation of people is being born: the progenitors of all the Greek tribes are born that same day, one after the other, as laas/λααs (stone) after laas is falling, one after the other behind Deukalion, the one of moisture and Pyrrha the one of fire.

The first three stones produce sons. The first son was Hellen / Ελλην whose children are Doros / Δωρος (progenitor of Dorians), Xouthos / Ξουθος (progenitor of Ionians), and Aiolos / Αιολος (progenitor of Aeolians):

“…και οτι Προμηθέως (ή Δευκαλίωνος) καί Πύρρας ΄Ελλην, αφ’ ού ΄Ελληνες καί Ελλάς”

Ησιόδου Γυναικών Κατάλογος, Fragment #2 Oxford Classical texts

“…also that Hellen was the son of Deucalion and Pyrrha, from whom the Hellenes and Hellas” (take their Hellenic name)

Hesiod, Women’s Catalog, Fragment #2 Oxford Classical texts

The second son is Amfiktyon/Αμφικτύων, king of Thermopylae and later king Athens, representing the line of the autochthonous people of Greece, and the third is Orestheus (Ορυσθεύς) king of the Ozolian Locrians (Λοκροί) of Aetolia/Αιτωλία in western - central Greece. And the next three stones produce daughters: Protogeneia/Πρωτογενεια who produced the son Endymion/Ενδυμίων who became king of the Elis, where Olympia is. The second daughter is Pandora / Πανδώρα, the mother of Graecos/Γραικός (from whom name and of his descendants of Magna Graecia in Southern Italy the Latins took the name by which they call the nation of the Hellenes-Greeks):

“κούρη δ΄ εν μεγάροισιν αγαυού Δευκαλίωνος Πανδώρη Διί πατρί θεών σημάντορι πάντων μιχθεισ΄εν φιλότητι τέκε Γραικόν μενεχάρμην”

Ησιόδου, Γυναικών Κατάλογος, Fragment #5 Oxford Classical texts

“and in the palace the daughter of noble Deucalion

Pandora was joined with father Zeus, leader of all the gods,

in love and gave birth to Graecus, the fierce one in battle.”

Hesiod, Women’s Catalog, Fragment #5 Oxford Classical texts

The third daughter was Thyia / Θυία, mother of Magnes / Μάγνης, progenetor of the Magnetians of Eastern Thessaly and Olympus and also of Macedon / Μακεδών, progenetor of the Macedonians, as Porphyrogenetos (Constantinus Porphyrogenitus (3), de Them. 2) mentions, quoting Hesiodos:

“Μακεδονία ἡ χώρα ὠνομάσθη ἀπὸ Μακεδόνας τοῦ Διὸς και Θυίας τῆς Δευκαλίωνος, ὥς φησιν Ἡσίοδος ὁ ποιητής…”

Ησιοδου, Γυναικων Καταλογος, Fragment #7 Oxford Classical texts

“The district Macedonia took its name from Macedon the son of Zeus

and Thyia, Deucalion’s daughter, as Hesiod says:”

Hesiod, Women’s Catalog, Fragment #7 Oxford Classical texts

“η δ’ υποκυσαμενη Διι γεινατο τερπικεραυνειωι

υιε δυο, Μαγνητα Μακηδονα θ’ ιππιχαρμην,

οι περι Πιεριην και ‘Ολυμπον δωματ’ εναιον”

Ησιοδου, Γυναικων Καταλογος, Fragment #7 Oxford Classical texts

“and she conceived and bare to Zeus who delights in the

thunderbolt two sons, Magnes and Macedon, rejoicing in horses,

who dwell round about Pieria and Olympus…”

Hesiod, Women’s Catalog, Fragment #7 Oxford Classical texts

It is incidentally interesting to note that the names Magnes / Μάγνης and Macedon / Μακεδων, Magnesia/ Μαγνησία and Makedonia /Μακεδονία linguistically are very closely related words. This in itself betrays a deeper fraternity between the two tribes which is attested in the very revealing mythical connection anyway (…”two sons, Magnes and Macedon”…: You cannot get any closer than being brothers!). Both names are derivatives of the Greek root word Mak- / Μακ- (makos / μάκος and mekos / μήκος mean length in Greek and are still very much in usage today in modern Greek: Μakrys / Μακρυς / long and Mekos/Μηκος/long). The original Indo-European root word: *mak which meant “length” and it has remained unchanged in Greek, through ancient times. The same word appears in the Greek word Μακροοικονομικά/Makrooeconomika, spelled in English as Macroeconomics/Large scale Economics. Macro is used in this case as “large scale” to contrast with Micro/small scale.

Magnesia, and Macedonia are both places with mountains. The most probable etymology for their people, the Magnetes and the Macedonians is the “mountain people”, the highlanders, similar to the tribal “Orestai”, for example. This is well accepted by the most respected modern Macedonia scholars:

“What language did these Macedones speak? The name itself is Greek in root and in ethnic termination. It probably means highlanders, and it is comparable to Greek tribal names…”

N.G.L. Hammond, “The Macedonian State” (1989)]

This was the sacred creation myth of the ancient Greek cosmology, as it was poetically narrated mainly by Hesiod/Ησίοδος (about 700 BC, Aeolis and Boeotia), and later on by Αpollonios the Rodian / Απολλώνιος ο Ρόδιος (born 270 BC in Alexandria) and others over the centuries. In this Mythical context, Pyrrha’s destiny, as we saw, was to be the mother or grand mother of all Greeks. Hesiod’s books, along with Homer’s became the sacred bible of Greek religion, so what was told in them was taken very seriously and at face value by the ancient Greeks.

In passing I find the opportunity to mention and to stress here that Hesiod’s sacred pronouncements relating to the fraternal blood relationships between the progenitors of the Ionians, the Dorians, the Aeolians, the Locrian Aetolians, the Magnetian Thessalo-Pierians, the Epirotans and the Macedonians, counted, for the ancient Greeks, sacred volumes more than any demagogic pronouncements by any Athenian orator, who had political knives to grind and geopolitical reasons to raise his fellow citizens´ fears and wreath against Philip II, the restless king of Macedonia. If Hesiod classified the Macedonians as one of the Greek tribes, then so it was, for the ancients: end of the story! More than one thousand and four hundred years after Hesiod had written his assessment on the Macedonians and the other Greek tribes, several Slavic tribes, the Mijaci/Мијаци and the Brsjaci/БРСЈАЦИ and others, crossed the Danube, being pushed by or sometimes following and joining the Turkic Avars in their attacks into the Eastern Roman Empire, Btzantium. These Slavic tribes had been scraping a living just north of the Danube, for some time, but this was only a temporary stop, in the long descent of the Slavs from the Pripet marshes of Belorussia, which eventually ended inside Byzantine lands of the middle and lower Balkans.

Twelve hundred years after their arrival, some of the descendants of these Mijacs and Brsjaks suddenly decided that Hesiod was wrong: The Macedonians were not Greek after all, they claimed, but Slavic. They proclaimed themselves to be the true and only Macedonians, the Makedonci. Leaving the government of the twenty first century Mijaci/Мијаци and Brsjaci/БРСЈАЦИ of Skopje busy erecting statues to Alexander the Great, trying to prove their imaginary ancient Makedonist laurels, we now return to Pyrrha. Pyrrha was considered by the Greeks to be the first mortal person ever born. The province of Thessaly was also called Pyrrhaea/Πυρραία after her descendants who stayed and lived there. Deukalion took Pyrrha and they walked to Epiros/΄Ηπειρος, where they founded the temple and oracle of Dodona/Δωδώνα – Dodone/Δωδώνη. They dedicated this temple to the worship and divine honor of father Zeus.

History tangles its branches with mythology and following the Trojan war, Neoptolemos/Νεοπτόλεμος (=Young Warrior) the son of Achilles/Αχιλλεύς leaves his paternal Thessalian Phthia/Φθια and follows his grandmother’s footsteps and establishes a new kingdom among the Molossian Greeks of Epirus. The first king of the Molossian Epirotans was another deity of fire, Phaethon (from Phos/Φως (=Light as in: Photographia/Φωτογραφία) derived from: *bheh2 = to shine), the one full of light, the son of Helios/΄Ηλιος (*sehaul), the solar God. The ancients have left us the information that the ancient inhabitants of Epiros were the Selloi/Σελλοί [whose name is related to the Selas / Σέλας , which means “light”, as in Boreion Selas/Βόρειον Σέλας, the northern lights – the Aurora Borealis of the Latins. Selene is incidentally the name of the “night light”, i.e. the moon, in Greek. Selene is also called Selana, by Sappho, in her Aeolian dialect, and Theocritos tells us “ἀλλὰ Σελάνα, φαῖνε καλόν / alla Selana phaine kalon / but Selana lights up beautifully.” Theocritus, Idylls 2.10. Selana or Selene is obviously from the same linguistic root as Luna, the moon of the Latins.

The fire and light connection is everywhere here: Pyrrha, the grandmother of the Greeks, Pyrrhos – Neoptolemos the son of Achiles and first king of the Pyrrhidae dynasty, and finally Phaethon and finally the Selloi.

Selloi/Σελλοι, was also the name by which the priests of Zeus in Dodona were known by. Some ancient authors, and none other than the Macedonian Aristotle himself among them, interestingly claim that the common name of the Greeks “Hellenes” to have derived from these Eperotan Sellenes – Hellenes.

“Περί την Ελλάδα την Αρχαίαν. Αύτη δ’ εστίν η περί την Δωδώνην και τον Αχελώον… Ώκουν γαρ οι Σελλοί και οι καλούμενοι τότε μεν Γραικοί, νυν δ΄Έλληνες”

Αριστοτέλης, “Μετεωρολογικά, Α, 352b”

“in ancient Hellas, in between Dodona and the Acheloos river […], the land occupied by Seli and Graecoi who later came to be known as Hellenes”

Aristotle, “Meteorologica, I, 352b

I need to make a parenthesis and insert a few notes here: The first is on “Hellas”. As Aristotle tells and all the ancients knew, Hellas was originally only the name of the land around Thessaly. It was only much later that the other Greeks adopted this name as their own ethnonym. Additionally, not every place that was inhabited by Greeks was called Greece/Hellas. Greeks of southern Italy re-named their place into Megale Hellas, Greater Greece, Magna Graecia of the Latins, but this were the exception. Greeks lived in Asia Minor for millennia, and they never called their land Greece/Hellas. They instead called their homeland Ionia, Aeolia, etc. and they were called by the other Greeks Ionians, Aeolians, etc. The Macedonians were likewise considering themselves of Greek stock, but they called their land Macedonia, which was considered to be north of the original Hellas proper (south of Olympus). Ethnically though, everyone accepted Macedonia, especially after the expulsion or the eventual Hellenization of the Paeonians and the remaining Thracians to be unquestionably a Greek Land. None other than Strabo the Geographer declares this: Ἐστι µέν οὖν Ἑλλάς καί ἡ Μακεδονία / Esti men oun Hellas kai he Makedonia: Macedonia of course is part of Greece too.

Strabo 7.9

Another issue is the name Graeci and Graecia. Some, who never read their Hesiod or Aristotle, ignorantly claim that these are names that the Romans attached to the Greeks, but this is plainly wrong and unhistorical. The Romans heard the Greeks of southern Italy (Megale Hellas) call themselves Graeci, (Graecoi and Hellenes were both acceptable ethnic names for the Greeks themselves, as Achaeoi, Danaoi or Argoites were in the earlier, Homeric times), so the Romans simply adopted it.

Back to Epirus again, and to Dodona, which is the place where tribes of Pelasgians and Hellenes came together and under the divine light of Helios they worshiped Zeus.

Homer has Achilles exclaim in the Iliad:

“Ζευ άνα, Δωδωναίε, Πελασγικέ, τηλόθι ναίων Δωδώνης µεδέων δυσχειμέρου, αµφί δε Σελλοί σοι ναίουσ’ υποφήται, ανιπτόποδες, χαµαιεύναι…” / Zeus king, Dodonian, Pelasgian, living afar, being master of the cold Dodona around which live the Selloi, your prophets, the dirty footed who sleep on the floor…” Homer, Iliad Π 233 – 235.

Neoptolemos, the son of Achilles was also called Pyrros (which means of the fire, but also red-haired, as some say he was) and established as we said his kingdom among the Molossians. This dynasty was called the Pyrrhidae/Πυρρίδαι after him. Years later, a Pyrrhidaean prince of the Molossians named Myrtale/Μυρτάλη was betrothed to the young king Philip / Φίλιππος of the adjacent kingdom of Macedonia. When his horses won the tethripon (four horse) chariot race for him, Philippos II renamed his queen Olympias/Ολυμπιάς to commemorate his becoming an Olympian victor himself.

A succession of kings some of whose names have come down to us, like Tharrhypas / Θαρρύπας, Arybas/Aρύβας, Alcetas/Αλκέτας, Alexandros/Αλέξανδρος (brother of Myrtale-Olympias) and Aeacides / Αιακίδης, who succeeded him after his (Alexander the Molossian) untimely death in Italy. Aeakides had three daughters, Phthia, Deidamia and Troas, and a son, whom he named Pyrrhos / Πύρρος.

Pyrrhos (319 - 272 B.C) had shaky, dangerous and politically eventful childhood, when at two years of age, after the deposition of his father from royal power while he was fighting against Cassandros/Κασσανδρος/Cassander οf Macedonia, he was rushed to Macedonia and from there to Illyria, where he grew up. Pyrrhos returned to claim his kingdom and established himself as one of the most memorable of the Hellenistic kings. Being a second cousin of Alexander (through his aunt Myrtale/Olympias), he was as fierce and Homeric in battle as Alexander, reminding the older Macedonian soldiers of their fabled king, Alexander the Great.

8] Ὁ δ’ ἀγὼν οὗτος οὐ τοσοῦτον ὀργῆς ὧν ἔπαθον οὐδὲ μίσους ἐνέπλησε τοὺς Μακεδόνας πρὸς τὸν Πύρρον, ὅσην δόξαν αὐτοῦ καὶ θαῦμα τῆς ἀρετῆς καὶ λόγον ἐνειργάσατο τοῖς ἰδοῦσι τὰ ἔργα καὶ συνενεχθεῖσι κατὰ τὴν μάχην. καὶ γὰρ ὄψιν ᾤοντο καὶ τάχος ἐοικέναι καὶ κίνημα τοῖς Ἀλεξάνδρου, καὶ τῆς φορᾶς ἐκείνου καὶ βίας παρὰ τοὺς ἀγῶνας ἐν τούτῳ σκιάς τινας ὁρᾶσθαι καὶ μιμήματα,

8 ] This conflict did not fill the Macedonians with wrath and hate towards Pyrrhus for their losses, rather it led those who beheld his exploits and engaged him in the battle to esteem him highly and admire his bravery and talk much about him. For they likened his aspect and his swiftness and all his motions to those of the great Alexander, and thought they saw in him shadows, as it were, and intimations of that leader’s impetuosity and might in conflicts.

It was the assistance of his legendary Macedonian cousin Alexander the Great whom Pyrrhos saw lying sick in bed in his dream, to help him overcome Demetrios. Sure enough, Alexander helped:

ἐκείνης δὲ τῆς νυκτὸς ἔδοξε κατὰ τοὺς ὕπνους ὑπ’ Ἀλεξάνδρου καλεῖσθαι τοῦ μεγάλου, καὶ παραγενόμενος κλινήρη μὲν αὐτὸν ἰδεῖν, λόγων δὲ χρηστῶν τυχεῖν καὶ φιλοφροσύνης, ἐπαγγελλομένου προθύμως βοηθήσειν. αὐτοῦ δὲ τολμήσαντος εἰπεῖν “καὶ πῶς ἂν ὦ βασιλεῦ νοσῶν δυνατὸς εἴης ἐμοὶ βοηθεῖν;” “αὐτῷ” φάναι “τῷ ὀνόματι”, καὶ περιβάντα Νισαῖον ἵππον ἡγεῖσθαι

2 That night Pyrrhus dreamed that he was called by Alexander the Great, and that when he answered the call he found the king lying on a couch, but met with kindly speech and friendly treatment from him, and received a promise of his ready aid and help. “And how, O King,” Pyrrhus ventured to ask, “when thou art sick, canst thou give me aid and help?” “My name itself will give it,” said the king, and mounting a Nisaean horse he led the way.

Plutarch, Parallel Lives, Pyrrhos

So he attacked and took over Berroea and forced Demetrios to turn back from his war against another Macedonian King, Lyssimachos.

καταλαμβάνει τὴν Βέροιαν, καὶ τὸ πλεῖστον αὐτόθι τῆς στρατιᾶς ἱδρύσας, τὰ λοιπὰ προσήγετο διὰ τῶν στρατηγῶν.

he took possession of Beroea and then, having established the greater part of his forces there, he proceeded to subdue the rest of the land through his generals.

But events betrayed Demetrios’ false assumptions. Far from being seen as a foreigner by the Macedonians, he was welcome by the local population as a

ὅθεν ἐπιστρέψας ἐπὶ τὸν Πύρρον ἦγεν ὡς ξένον καὶ μισούμενον ὑπὸ τῶν Μακεδόνων. ἐπεὶ δὲ παρεστρατοπέδευσεν αὐτόθι, πολλοὶ τῶν ἐκ τῆς Βεροίας ἀφικνούμενοι τὸν Πύρρον ἐνεκωμίαζον ὡς ἄμαχον μὲν ἐν τοῖς ὅπλοις καὶ λαμπρὸν ἄνδρα, πράως δὲ καὶ φιλανθρώπως τοῖς ἡλωκόσι χρώμενον.

Therefore he turned back and led them against Pyrrhus, with the idea that he was a foreigner and hated by the Macedonians. But after he had pitched his camp over against Pyrrhus, many Beroeans came thither with loud praises of Pyrrhus; they said he was invincible in arms and a brilliant hero, and treated his captives with mildness and humanity.

Of course the fact that Pyrrhus engaged in some of the early attested “hearts and minds” propaganda campaigns did not hurt at all. Using the fact that Epirotans and Macedonians spoke the same dialect of what Linguists now call Northwestern Greek, he dressed some of his Epirotans as Macedonians and put them to the field to do his work:

ἦσαν δέ τινες οὓς αὐτὸς ὁ Πύρρος ἐγκαθίει, προσποιουμένους εἶναι Μακεδόνας καὶ λέγοντας, ὅτι νῦν καιρός ἐστι τῆς Δημητρίου βαρύτητος ἀπαλλαγῆναι, πρὸς ἄνδρα δημοτικὸν καὶ φιλοστρατιώτην μεταβαλομένους τὸν Πύρρον. ἐκ τούτου τὸ πλεῖστον ἀνηρέθιστο τῆς στρατιᾶς, καὶ τὸν Πύρρον ἐζήτουν περισκοποῦντες·

There were some also whom Pyrrhus himself sent into the camp; they pretended to be Macedonians, and said that now was the favorable time to rid themselves of Demetrius and his severity, by going over to Pyrrhus, a man who was gracious to the common folk and fond of his soldiers. In consequence of this, the greater part of the army was all excitement, and went about looking for Pyrrhus;

And here we read a most interesting point as made by Plutarch, which many a later day convert to the peculiar Balkan cult of Slavο-“Makedonism” would curse the time it was printed on paper. It is yet another solid ancient proof of the fraternal identity shared between ancient Macedonians and Epirotan Greeks, whose king Pyrrhos was readily accepted by the famously conservative, stubborn and tribally-minded Macedonians as one of their own kings. A king, indeed that vividly reminded them of Pyrrhus´ own cousin, Alexander the Great:

8] τῶν μὲν ἄλλων βασιλέων ἐν πορφύραις καὶ δορυφόροις καὶ κλίσει τραχήλου καὶ τῷ μεῖζον διαλέγεσθαι, μόνου δὲ Πύρρου τοῖς ὅπλοις καὶ ταῖς χερσὶν ἐπιδεικνυμένου τὸν Ἀλέξανδρον.

8] The other kings, they said, represented Alexander with their purple robes, their body-guards, the inclination of their necks, and their louder tones in conversation; but Pyrrhus, and Pyrrhus alone, in arms and action.

It was now a matter of simply arranging the turning in of the Macedonian army to Pyrrhus. The communication was flawless. The fraternization of the two armies happened by the soldiers themselves, the Epirotanas and the Macedonians, and there was no need for translators: Epirotans and Macedonians spoke the same (Northwest Greek) dialect, after all:

ὥστε τοὺς Μακεδόνας σύνθημα προστρέχοντας αἰτεῖν, ἄλλους δὲ κλάδους δρυὸς ἀναστέφεσθαι διὰ τὸ καὶ τοὺς περὶ ἐκεῖνον ἐστεφανωμένους ὁρᾶν. ἤδη δὲ καὶ πρὸς αὐτόν τινες ἐτόλμων λέγειν τὸν Δημήτριον, ὡς ὑπεκστὰς καὶ προέμενος τὰ πράγματα καλῶς δόξει βεβουλεῦσθαι. τούτοις τοῖς λόγοις ὅμοιον ὁρῶν τὸ κίνημα τοῦ στρατοπέδου καὶ φοβηθεὶς κρύφα διεξέπεσε, καυσίᾳ τινὶ καὶ λιτῷ χλαμυδίῳ περιστείλας ἑαυτόν. ἐπελθὼν δ’ ὁ Πύρρος ἀμαχεὶ παρέλαβε τὸ στρατόπεδον, καὶ βασιλεὺς ἀνηγορεύθη Μακεδόνων.

and some of the Macedonians thus ran to him asking for the watchword, while others put oak branch garlands on their heads because they saw the men around him garlanded. At the same time some dared to tell even Demetrios himself that if he withdrew and renounced his affairs people would think that he had followed a wise course. He saw that these words seemed to correspond with the agitation in the camp, and frightened as he was, secretly disappeared, wearing a (typical Macedonian) causia hat and a simple soldier’s cloak. With him gone, Pyrrhos took over the camp without a fight, and was proclaimed king of the Macedonians. (Plutarch, Parallel Lives, Pyrrhus)

This signaled the end of Demetrios’s army, and the Chinese strategist Sun Tzu would have been very proud of Pyrrhos: “Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting – Sun Tzu”.

The Carthaginian Hannibal, arguably the best strategist of ancient times after Alexander, excluding Alexander from the competition, when asked who was the best strategist, answered that in his opinion, Pyrrhos was the best of them all:

Ἀννίβας δὲ συμπάντων ἀπέφαινε τῶν στρατηγῶν πρῶτον μὲν ἐμπειρίᾳ καὶ δεινότητι Πύρρον, Σκιπίωνα δὲ δεύτερον, ἑαυτὸν δὲ τρίτον,

Hannibal, however, declared that the foremost of all generals in experience and ability was Pyrrhus, that Scipio was second, and he himself third

He went on to fight many battles, in Thrace, Macedonia, and Epirus. He fought and defeated the Romans in two major battles, first being the battle of Heracleia (280 BC), after which he marched on to Rome, but realizing that his army was not as large as was required for a siege and capture of such a large city, he turned back having come as close as 50 kilometers from Rome’s walls. He fought against the Romans a second time, in the battle of Asculum (279 BC).

Following that second defeat at the hands of Pyrrhos, the Romans were hard pressed to find excuses:

18 …καίτοι λέγεται Γάιον Φαβρίκιον εἰπεῖν, ὡς οὐκ Ἠπειρῶται Ῥωμαίους, ἀλλὰ Πύρρος νενικήκοι Λαιβῖνον, οἰόμενον οὐ τῆς δυνάμεως, ἀλλὰ τῆς στρατηγίας γεγονέναι τὴν ἧτταν·

18…and yet we are told that Caius Fabricius declared that it was not the Epeirots who had conquered the Romans, but Pyrrhus who had conquered Laevinus, Fabricius being of the opinion that the Roman defeat was not due to their army, but to its general;

His costly victories drained his army of his best Epirotan and Macedonian soldiers. To his jubilant supporters at the end of the battle of Asculum, he philosophically replied:

“Εν ετι μίαν μάχην νικήσωμεν, απολώλαμεν.”

“If we win yet one more battle, will’ ll be destroyed.”,

giving rise to the now famous expression: Pyrrhic victory / Πύρριος νίκη, to henceforth describe a victory won at such a great cost that should be considered as bad as a defeat.

Pyrrhos, restless as usual, went south to help the Sicilian Greeks against the encroaching Carthaginians. They eventually proclaimed Pyrrhos king of Sicily, then disillusioned with his dictatorial ways asked him to leave. One more battle fought against the Romans, and unable to find fresh, new war-hardened recruits among south-Italian Greeks, convinced him to return to Greece. He fought against the Spartans in a not so glorious battle against Spartan old men and belligerent Spartan women who were fighting on a ditch they had hastily dug outside of unfortified Sparta, but he failed. On his return, he went to help his supporters in the city of Argos, but he died in the narrow streets of ancient Argos.

Most of the information and most all of the quotes on the life of Pyrrhos I took from Plutarch’s Parallel Lives/Πλουτάρχου, Βίοι Παράλληλοι, a monumental collection of biographies written by the Plutarch/Plutarchos/Πλούταρχοs, circa 45–120 CE. His 46 Lives/Bioi are in “Greek and Roman” pairs: He paired every Greek statesman, general, orator etc, that he presented, with a Roman equivalent.

Here are some of the most famous examples:

The Greek orator Demosthenes was paired with the Roman Cicero.

The Greek statesman Demetrios Poliorcetes was paired with the Roman Antonius.

The Greek marshal-statesman Alexander the Great was paired with the Roman Julius Caesar.

The Greek marshal-statesman Phillipos B’ was paired with the Roman Scipio Africanus. (both biographies are now lost).

Greek marshal-statesman Pyrrhos was paired with the Roman Gaius Marius.

Unlike some modern Balkan chauvinists, bent on history falsification, the ancients knew their history very well. They knew very well who was a Greek and who was a Roman. Maybe the ones who try to claim Alexander, Philip, Aristotle or Pyrrhus as Slavic (or even Albanian, for that matter), should take note of what the ancients wrote in their own time. At that time, the Greeks and the Romans had no idea of the whereabouts of the Slavs (or the Albanians), both of whom appeared in history and in the present location in the lower Balkans several centuries later.

What would have been the name of Pyrrhos/Πύρρος, had he been a south Slav today?

Pyr/Πύρ/ Πῦρ, as we previously saw means “fire” in Greek. The words pyroclastic (broken rocks of fire, coming out of the volcano), Pyrotechnics (the science of materials capable of producing heat, and the art of creating fireworks), Pyre (Greek πυρά/pyrá, as in “Funeral Pyre”, the funeral fire that consumes the human body, as practiced by Hindus or ancient Greeks, among others), Pyrex Glass (the fire-resisting glass used in home kitchen products), Pyromania (the impulse to deliberately start fires for self gratification), are all derived from the Greek root “pyr-“. This is how Webster´s dictionary defines it:

” Main Entry: pyr-

Variant(s): or pyro-

Function: combining form

Etymology: Gr, from pyr — more at fire

1 : fire : heat

2 a : produced by or as if by the action of heat b : derived from a corresponding ortho acid by loss usually of one molecule of water from two molecules of acid

3 : fever “

Pyrrhos/Πύρρος and (in feminine form) Pyrrha/Πύρρα evidently mean “the one of fire”, the person that is made of or is born of: pyr/fire. In a less poetic way, which obviously does not apply to the name of a king or a goddess, it is also used to describe a red-haired person or “the reddish one”.

Back to our question now: What would have been the name of Pyrrhos/Πύρρος, had he been a south Slav of the middle ages, or of today? We do not need to go too far searching for it; a beautiful equivalent Slavic name already exists in Bulgarian: Ognyan/Огнян, “the one of fire” (Female: Ognyana/Огнянa), as derived from Ognen/Огнeн the Slavic and, particularly in this case Bulgarian, word for fire.


(1)The Oxford introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European world, J. P. Mallory, Douglas Q. Adams).

(2) Women’s Catalog, Hesiod, Oxford Classical texts. Ησιόδου Γυναικὠν Κατάλογοι.

(3) Iliad, Homer. Ομήρου Ιλιάς.

(4) Parallel Lives, Pyrrhus, Plutarch. Πλουτάρχου Παράλληλοι Βίοι, Πύρρος

Source: American Chronicle

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kosta says:

Was it Alexandrovski the Greatski? Makedoskata? dont think so. Think these guys are making themselves a laughing stock most of the time. Its ok to use the term Macedonia but qualify it properly, serbobulgarian-macedonia, slav-macedonia. And realise the core of Macedonia has always been Hellenic.