Ancient Macedonians and their Self-identification

Alexander the Great -

In reality we have only scarce evidence on what the ancient Macedonians believed for themselves. However i will try to collect the available literary and archaeological evidence that would shed some light on the beliefs of the ancient macedonians during Classical and Hellenistic Ages. The available evidence shows that ancient Macedonians considered themselves to be Greek.

Alexander I, king of Macedon

1. Speaking to Atheneans

Men of Athens… Had I not greatly AT HEART the COMMON welfare of GREECE I should not have come to tell you; but I AM MYSELF GREEK by descend, and I would not willingly see Greece exchange freedom for slavery. …If you prosper in this war, forget not to do something for my freedom; consider the risk I have run, out of zeal for the GREEK CAUSE, to acquaint you with what Mardonius intends, and to save you from being surprised by the barbarians. I am ALEXANDER of MACEDON.

[Herodotus, The Histories, 9.45, translated by G.Rawlinson]

2. Speaking to Persians


Tell your king who sent you how his GREEK viceroy of Macedonia has received you hospitably… “

Herodotus V, 20, 4 (Loeb, A.D. Godley)



Every seat in the theater was taken when Philip appeared wearing a white cloak and by his express orders his bodyguard held away from him and followed only at a distance, since he wanted to show publicly that he was protected by the goodwill of all the Hellenes, and had no need of a guard of spearmen.

(Diodoros of Sicily 16.93.1)

Alexander III (the Great)

3. In his letter to the king of the Persians:


Your ancestors invaded Macedonia and the rest of Greece and did US great harm, though WE had done them no prior injury […] I have been appointed hegemon of the Greeks […]

(Arrian, Anabasis of Alexander II,14,4)



……………There are Greek troops, to be sure, in Persian service — but how different is their cause from ours ! They will be fighting for pay— and not much of it at that; WE on the contrary shall fight for GREECE, and our hearts will be in it. As for our FOREIGN troops —Thracians, Paeonians, Illyrians,Agrianes — they are the best and stoutest soldiers of Europe, and they will find as their opponents the slackest and softest of the tribes of Asia.

Arrian (The Campaigns of Alexander) Alexander talking to the troops before the battle. Book 2-7 Penguin Classics. Page 112. Translation by Aubrey De Seliucourt.

5. Burning Persepolis


He set the Persian palace on fire, even though parmenio urged him to save it, arguing that it was not right to destroy his own property, and that the Asians would not thus devote themselves to him, if he seemed determined not to rule Asia, but only to pass through as a conqueror.
but Alexander replied that he intended to punish the persians for their invasion of Greece, the destruction of Athens, the burning of the temples, and all manner of terrible things done to the Greeks: because of these things, he was exacting revenge.
but Alexander does not seem to me to have acted prudently, nor can it be regarded as any kind of punishment upon Persians of long ago.

[Arrian Anab. 3. 18. 11-12].

6. Speaking to Thessalians and other Greeks


On this occasion, he [Alexander] made a very long speech to the Thessalians and the other Greeks, and when he saw that they encouraged him with shouts to lead them against the Barbarians, he shifted his lance into his left hand, and with his right appealed to the gods, as Callisthenes tells us, praying them, if he was really sprung from Zeus, to defend and strengthen the Greeks.

[Plutarch. Alexander (ed. Bernadotte Perrin) XXXIII]

7. Speaking to his own Macedonian Commanders

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)


King Alexander had his siege engines and provisions conveyed by sea to Halicarnassus while he himself with all his army marched into Caria, winning over the cities that lay on his route by kind treatment. He was particularly generous to the Greek cities, granting them independence and exemption from taxation, adding the assurance that the freedom of the Greeks was the object for which he had taken upon himself the war against the Persians.

[Diodorus of Sicily, 17.24.1]


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 5.8)

10. Speaking with Diogenes

But he said, ‘If I were not Alexandros, I should be Diogenes’; that is to say: `If it were not my purpose to combine barbarian things with things HELLENIC, to traverse and civilize every continent, to search out the uttermost parts of land and sea, TO PUSH THE BOUNDS OF MACEDONIA TO THE FARTHEST OCEAN, AND TO DISSEMINATE AND SHOWER THE BLESSINGS OF HELLENIC JUSTICE and peace over every nation, I should not be content to sit quietly in the luxury of idle power, but I should emulate the frugality of Diogenes. But as things are, forgive me Diogenes, that I imitate Herakles, and emulate Perseus, and follow in the footsteps of Dionysos, the divine author and progenitor of my family, and DESIRE THAT VICTORIOUS HELLENES SHOULD DANCE AGAIN in India […]”

[Plutarch’s Moralia, On the Fortune of Alexander, 332A (Loeb, F.C Babbitt)]

11. Dedication of Alexander to Athena

Alexander, son of Philip, and the Greeks, except the Lacedaemonians, from the barbarian inhabitans in Asia

[Arrian, I, 16, 10]

12. Prophesy of Daniel about Alexander

And when the book of Daniel was showed to him (Alexander the Great) wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended

Josephus (11.8.5)

13. Alexander points out the Pan-Hellenic character of his campaign

Antipater and Parmenion advised him to produce an heir first and then to turn his hand to so ambitious an enterprise, but Alexander was eager for action and opposed to any postponement, and spoke against them. It would be a disgrace, he pointed out, for one who had been appointed by Greece to command the war, and who had inherited his father’s invincible forces, to sit at home celebrating a marriage and awaiting the birth of children.

[Diodorus of Sicily, 17.16.2]

14. Alexander and Spitamenes’ wife

The savagery of the deed carried more weight with him than gratitude for the favour, however, and he had her ordered from the camp. He did not want her tainting the character and civilized temperament of the Greeks with this example of Barbarian lawlessness.

[Curtius Rufus 8.15]


15. Philip verifying he is Greek

For on many occasions when I and the other Greeks sent embassies to you begging you to remove from your statutes the law empowering you to get booty from booty, you replied that you would rather remove Aetolia from Aetolia than that law

[Polyvius, 18.4.8]



In the presence of Zeus, Hera, and Apollo: in the presence of the Genius of Carthage, of Heracles, and Iolaus: in the presence of Ares, Triton, and Poseidon: in the presence of the gods who battle for us and the Sun, Moon, and Earth; in the presence of Rivers, Lakes, and Waters: 3 in the presence of all the gods who possess Macedonia and the REST of Greece: in the presence of all the gods of the army who preside over this oath. 4 Thus saith Hannibal the general, and all the Carthaginian senators with him, and all Carthaginians serving with him, that as seemeth good to you and to us, so should we bind ourselves by oath to be even as friends, kinsmen, and brothers, on these conditions. 5 (1) That King Philip and the Macedonians and the REST of the Greeks who are their allies shall protect the Carthaginians, the supreme lords, and Hannibal their general, and those with p423him, and all under the dominion of Carthage who live under the same laws; likewise the people of Utica and all cities and peoples that are subject to Carthage, and our soldiers and allies 6 and cities and peoples in Italy, Gaul, and Liguria, with whom we are in alliance or with whomsoever in this country we may hereafter enter into alliance. 7 (2) King Philip and the Macedonians and such of the Greeks as are the allies shall be protected and guarded by the Carthaginians who are serving with us, by the people of Utica and by all cities and peoples that are subject to Carthage, by our allies and soldiers and all peoples and cities in Italy, Gaul, and Liguria, who are our allies, and by such others as may hereafter become our allies in Italy and the adjacent regions. 8 (3) We will enter into no plot against each other, nor lie in ambush for each other, but with all zeal and good fellowship, without deceit or secret design, we will be enemies of such as war against the Carthaginians, always excepting the kings, cities, and ports with which we have sworn treaties of alliance. 9 (4) And we, too, will be the enemies of such as war against King Philip, always excepting the Greeks, cities, and people with which we have sworn treaties of alliance. 10 (5) You will be our allies in the war in which we are engaged with the Romans until the gods vouchsafe the victory to us and to you, and you will give us 11 such help as we have need of or as we agree upon. 12 (6) As soon as the gods have given us the victory in the war against the Romans and their allies, if the Romans ask us to come to p425terms of peace, we will make such a peace as will comprise you too, 12 and on the following conditions: that the Romans may never make war upon you; that the Romans shall no longer be masters of Corcyra, Apollonia, Epidamnus, Pharos, Dimale, Parthini, or Atitania: 14 and that they shall return to Demetrius of Pharos all his friends who are in the dominions of Rome. 15 (7) If ever the Romans make war on you or on us, we will help each other in the war as may be required on either side. 16 (8) In like manner if any others do so, excepting always kings, cities, and peoples with whom we have sworn treaties of alliance. 17 (9) If we decide to withdraw any clauses from this treaty or to add any we will withdraw such clauses or add them as we both may agree

The Histories of Polybius, VII, 9, 4 (Loeb, W. R. Paton)


Now that these descendants of Perdiccas are Greeks, as THEY THEMSELVES SAY, I myself chance to know

Herodotus V, 22, 1 (Loeb, A.D. Godley)


18. Speech of the Macedonian ambassador to the Aitolians:


The Aitolians, the Akarnanians, the Macedonians, men of the SAME speech, are united or disunited by trivial causes that arise from time to time; with aliens, with barbarians, all Greeks wage and will wage eternal war; for they are enemies by the will of nature, which is eternal, and not from reasons that change from day to day.

Titus Livius, From the Foundation of the City 31

19. Macedonians finding another Greek

There a man appeared to them, wearing a Greek cloak, and dressed otherwise in the Greek fashion, and speaking Greek also. Those [Macedonians] who first sighted him said that they burst into tears, so strange did it seem after all these miseries to see a Greek, and to hear Greek spoken. They asked whence he came, who he was; and he said that he had become separated from Alexander’s camp, and that the camp, and Alexander himself, were not very far distant. Shouting aloud and clapping their hands they brought this man to Nearchus…

Arrian, “The Indica” XXXIII

20 “`Alexander, I demand you remember Hellas, for the sake of which you embarked on this expedition, with the intention to add Asia to Greece. …so that by the Hellas and Macedonians you are treated as a man in the way FITTED FOR HELLENES to honor, and only by the barbarians in the barbarian way…’ …And the Macedonians APPROVED his speech.”

Arrian, Anabasis of Alexander 4.11.7-12.1

21 “And the Macedonians were truly DISAPPOINTED BECAUSE they believed that HE [Alexander] CHOSE TO FOLLOW THE BARBARIAN ways OVER THE MACEDONIAN customs and the Macedonians.”

Arrian, Anabasis of Alexander 7.6.5

23 “…she lit the fire before the king himself <Alexander> and wished the world would learn that the women in Alexander’s train took revenge upon the Persians ON BEHALF OF HELLAS, surpassing both sailors and infantry. Noise and commotion ensued and encouraged by FRIENDS and COMPANIONS the king was moved and he jumped up wearing his crown and holding a torch. THE REST followed him, singing and shouting they surrounded the palace, and all the OTHER MACEDONIANS who heard that RUN WILLINGLY holding torches.”
<Plutarch, Alexander 38>


Around 143/142 BC, Damon the Macedonian, son of Nicanor, from the city of Thessalonica, paid with his own money and erected a statue of copper in Olympia, honouring Q.Caecilius Metellus. In the statue’s inscription it is written as motives of this honouring the virtue of the honoured and the sympathetic actions of Quintus Metellus to “Macedonians and the rest of Greeks“. What is more interesting is that the statue was erected from Damon the Macedonian in Olympia, the most important Hellenic centre of that era and it reveals Macedonians saw themselves as Greeks.


Damon of Macedon


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John Merkatatis says:

Let’s see some earlier facts:356 BC:Phillip’s horses get the crown at the Olympic Games.
Only Greek States participated in the Olympics.
432 BC:The king of Macedonia applies to the Amfictionic Council for
entry of the kingdom of Macedonia in the Olympic games as been directly related and descended from the Argives.The Council responsible for the Olympic games after deliberation and investigation as to the validity of the claim,they unanimously approved the Macedonian request and decreed that Macedonians were able to compete.