Greeks and MacedoniansE. Badian, Department of History, Harvard University
This paper does not propose to bring up the much-debated old question of whether the ancient question of whether the ancient Macedonians “were Greeks.” From the anthropological point of view, if suitably reworded, it could no doubt be answered; I suspect that, to the anthropologist, remains found in the areas of ancient Greece, Macedonia, and surrounding parts would not show significant differences. However, this is of no historical importance: no more so than it would have been to point out in the 1930s (as I am told is the fact) that there is little anthropological difference between Jewish communities and the non-Jewish populations among whom they happen to live. From the linguistic point of view, again, if suitably reworded (i.e, “Did the ancient Macedonians speak a form of Ancient Greek?”), the question seems to me at present unanswerable for the period down to Alexander the Great. We so far have no real evidence on the structure of the ancient Macedonian language; only on proper names and (to small extent) on general vocabulary, chiefly nouns. This is not a basis on which to judge linguistic affinities, especially in the context of the ancient Balkan area and its populations. (1)
Let us again look at the Jews-those who in the 1930s were living in Eastern Europe. Their names were Hebrew with a slight admixture of German and Slav elements; their alphabet and their sacred writings were Hebrew. Yet their vocabulary was largely, and the structure of their vernacular language almost entirely, that of a German dialect. As a precious survival of a pronationalist world, they are of special interest in such comparisons. One wonders what scholars would have made of them, if they had been known only through tombstones and sacred objects.
In any case, interesting though the precise affinities of ancient Macedonian must be to the linguistic specialist, they are again of very limited interest to the historian. Linguistic facts as such, just like archaeological finds as such, are only some of the pieces in the puzzle that the historian tries to fit together, In this case, unfortunately, as every treatment of the problem nowadays seems to show, discussion has become bedeviled by politics and modern linguistic nationalism:(2) the idea that a nation is essentially defined by a language and that, conversely, a common language mean s a common nationhood–which is patently untrue for the greater part of human history and to a large extent even today. The Kultursprache of ancient Macedonians, as soon as they felt the need for one, was inevitably Greek, as it was in the case of various other ancient peoples. There was no feasible alternative. But as N.G.L. Hammond remarked, in the memorable closing words of volume I of his History of Macedonia, “a means of communications is very far from assuring peaceful relations between two peoples, as we know from our experience of the modern world.”(3) It is equally far (we might add) from betokening any consciousness of a common interest.
What is of greater historical interest is the question of how Greeks and Macedonians were perceived by each other. We have now become accustomed to regarding Macedonians as “Northern Greeks” and, in extreme cases, to hearing Alexander’s conquest described as in essence Greek conquests. The former certainly became true, in Greek consciousness in the course of the Hellenistic age; the latter may be argued to be true ex post facto. But it is an important question whether these assertions should properly be made in a fourth-century B.C. context. Not that Greeks abstained from ruthless fighting among themselves. But as is well known, there was in the classical period and above all since the great Persian Wars–a consciousness of a common Hellenism that transcended fragmentation and mutual hostility: of a bond that linked those who were “Hellenes” as opposed to those who were “barbarians,” and (by the fourth century at any rate) of certain standards of behaviour deemed to apply among the former that did not apply between them and the latter.(4) The question of whether the Macedonians, in the fourth century B.C., where regarded as Greeks or as barbarians–a question which, as I have indicated, is not closely connected with the real affinities that a modern scholar might find–is therefore of considerable historical interest. Of course, any answer we might tentatively give must be one-sided at best. The average Macedonian (as distinct from the royal family and the highest nobility) had left us little evidence of what he thought–or indeed, whether he cared. But on the Greek side, fortunately, there are far more records. An answer can and should be attempted.
There is no evidence whatsoever of any Macedonian claim to a Greek connection before the Persian War of 480-479 B.C. Amyntas I had long before this recognized the suzerainty of Darius I; his daughter had married an Iranian nobleman, and his son Alexander I loyally served his suzerain, continuing to profit by Persian favour and protection, as his father had done.(5) However, being a shrewd politician. Alexander I took care to build bridges toward the Greeks, giving them good advice that would not harm his overlord;(6) and when at Plataea it became clear to anyone who would look that a decisive Greek victory could not be long delayed, he came out in full support of the victors, rendering them services that were appreciated. In fourth-century Athens a record of this appears to have survived-and it is of a certain interest that this great Macedonian king, the first of his line to have serious dealings with the Greeks and a friend of Athens in particular was confused with his successor Perdiccas.(7)
In any case, with Persian overlordship gone for good, cooperation with his southern neighbours became an essential aim of policy. It was no doubt at this time, and in connection with his claim to have been a benefactor of the greeks from the beginning, that he invented the story (in its details a common type of myth) of how he had fought against his father’s Persian connection by having the Persian ambassadors murdered, and that it was only in order to hush this up and save the royal family’s lives that the marriage of his sister to a Persian had been arranged.(8) It was also at this time that he took the culminating step of presenting himself at the Olympic Games and demanding admission as a competitor. (The date is not attested, but 476 the first opportunity after the war, seems a reasonable guess.) In support, he submitted a claim to descent from the Temenids of Argos, which would make him a Greek, and one of the highest extraction. With the claim, inevitably, went a royal genealogy going back for six generations, which(again) we first encounter on this occasion. We have no way of judging the authenticity of either the claim or the evidence that went with it, but it is clear that at the time the decision was not easy. There were outraged protests from the other competitors, who rejected Alexander I as a barbarian–which proves, at the least, that the Temenid descent and the royal genealogy had hitherto been an esoteric item of knowledge. However, the Hellanodikai decided to accept it– whether moved by the evidence or by political considerations, we again cannot tell.(9) In view of the time and circumstances in which the claim first appears and the objections it encountered, modern scholars have often suspected that it was largely spun out of the fortuitous resemblance of the name of the Argead clan to city of Argos;(10) with this given, the descent (of course) could not be less than royal, i.e., Temenid.
However that may be, Alexander had clearly made a major breakthrough. He seems to have appreciated the Argive connection and cultivated it. Professor Andronikos has suggested that the tripod found in Tomb II at Vergina, which bears an Argive inscription of the middle of the fifth century, was awarded to Alexander I at the Argive Heraea, to which the inscription refers.(11) Moreover, the official decision by the Hellanokikai won wide recognition. We find it recorded in Herodotus, as proof of the Macedonian king’s Argive descent, and Thucydides accepts the latter as canonical. As might be expected, it was by no means the only version. Flatterers accepting the pedigree to Temenus himself and by the fourth century we find that a version extending the royal line by several generations, to make it contemporary with Midas(a known historical figure of considerable importance), had won general acceptance, indeed seems to be official;(13) the first king’s name is now the very suitable Caranus(Lord).(14)
By the time Herodotus picked up the story of the verdict by the Hellanodikai, a graphic detail about Alexander’s participation had been added. Unfortunately the meaning of his words is not perfectly clear, but the most plausible interpretation is that Alexander in fact tied for first place in the race.(15) In any case, it is clear that Herodotus version comes, directly or ultimately, from the Macedonian court. One might have thought that the historic decision would have encouraged other Macedonian kings to follow Alexander’s example. His successors, Perdiccas and Archelaus, certainly continued to be involved in the international relations of the Greek states and patronized Greek culture. Yet we have no evidence of any participation by Perdiccas and only a late and unreliable record of an Olympic victory by Archelaus, which is difficult to accept.(16) With the exception of the single item, no Macedonian king between Alexander I and Philip II is in anyway connected with the Olympic or indeed with any other Greek games. There is not (so far, at any rate; though this may change) even another Argive tripod.
Another item deserves comment is this connection. It is said to have been Archelaus (and here the evidence is more reliable) who founded peculiarly Macedonian Olympics at Dium. We might call them counter- Olympics, for everyone know where the real Olympic Games were celebrated. It is possible that Archelaus, trying to revive Alexander’s claim at Olympia(and Euripides development of his lineage perhaps was intended as further support), either had difficulties in gaining acceptance or was even rejected, despite the precedent. Such decisions might change with political expediency, and there were certain to be some Greeks who would challenge his qualifications and provide a reason for a new investigation. The suggestion is not based only on the establishment of the counter-Olympics. As it happens, even Euripides manufacture of an older and unimpeachable Temenid descent did not convince everyone. When Archelaus attacked Thessalian Larisa, Thrasymachus wrote what was to become a model oration On Behalf of the Larisaeans. Only one sentence happens to survive: “Shall we be slaves to Archelaus, we, being Greeks, to a barbarian?”(17)
Ironically, it is based on a line by Euripides. Now, that is an odd piece of rhetoric, as applied to Archelaus. Its significance is not merely to demonstrate that as late as c. 400 B.C. the official myth of the Temenid descent of the Argead kings could be derided. What makes it really surprising is that Archelaus seems to have done more than any predecessor to attract representatives of Greek culture and to win their approval–which, like representatives of culture at all times, they seem, on the whole, to have willingly given to their paymaster, even though he had won power and ruled by murder and terror.(18) As we have already noted, Euripides wrote for him and produced a myth of immediate descent from Temenos; a host of other poets are attested in connection with him; and Zeuxis painted his palace (giving rise to a suitable witticism ascribed to Socrates) and gave him a painting of Pan as a gift. It is really remarkable that this king, of all Macedonian kings, should be described as–not a tyrant, which would be intelligible, but a barbarian. It may add up to a declaration at Olympia that either reversed the judgment of Alexander’s day or, at least, confirmed it against strong opposition: our decision on these alternatives might be influenced by whether or not we regard the late report of Archelaus’ Olympic victory as authentic. In any case Thrasymachus’ description of Archelaus should be seen in close connection with the counter-Olympics founded by him and (in whatever way) with the report of his Olympic victory.
As a matter of fact, there is reason to think that at least some even among Alexander I’s friends and supporters had regarded the Olympic decision as political rather than factual–as a reward for services to the Hellenic cause rather than as prompted by genuine belief in the evidence he had adduced. We find him described in the lexicographers, who go back to fourth-century sources, as “Philhellen”–surely not an appellation that could be given to an actual Greek. No king recognized as Greek, to my knowledge, was ever referred to by that epithet. On the other hand, the epithet cannot come from his enemies; they(surely) would have had other tales to tell: of what he had done when the Mede came and before, perhaps. It may be, therefore, that we can trace a tradition that interpreted the decision on his Temenid descent as political gesture back to at least some of Alexander’s own Greek friends. Once we notice this, it becomes even less surprising that, as far as we know, his successor Perdiccas did not tempt fate and the judges again, and that the next king, Archelaus, may have run into trouble when he did.
Of course, as is well known, the claim to Hellenic descent is, as such, neither isolated nor even uncommon. It is perhaps the earliest we know of. And no other monarch had the imaginative boldness of Alexander I in having it authenticated, at the right political moment, by the most competent authority in Hellas. (Perhaps no other monarch ever found such an opportunity.) But by the fourth century, certainly, the rulers of Macedonian Lyncestis prided themselves on descent from the Corinthian Bacchiads–a royal dynasty fully comparable with the Temenid claims of their rivals at Aegae. The kings of the Molossi (another people not regarded as fully Hellenic) were descended from Achilles himself via Pyrrhus son of Neoptolemus: their very names proved it. And if not fully Hellenic, then at least equally ancient and connected with Greek myth. The distant Enchelei in Illyria were ruled by descendants of Cadmus and Harmonia, not unknown in the heart of Greece itself.(19)
Whether aristocratic families in Italy and Sicily were at this time also claiming descent from Greek heroes or if not Greek, at least Trojan does not at present seem possible to discover. We have no literature or “family” art going back to such an early period. On the other hand, it is known and uncontested that, long before the fifth century, Sicilian and Italian tribes and peoples were linked by Greek speculation, and had learned to link themselves, to Greeks or Trojans. The two were by no means clearly distinguished at the time, but conferred common legitimacy and antiquity as properly Homeric. Odysseus as Ktistes seems in fact to have preceded Aeneas, at least in central Italy.(20) This makes it very likely (one would think) that the ruling families of the peoples concerned took their own descent back to the mythical ancestor, thus legitimizing their rule. If so, they would precede Alexander I by several generations.
This, as I have had to admit, remains speculation, since relevant evidence is simply unknown. But what we do thus attain is a certain and extensive cultural background to the claim of the Greek origin of the Macedonian people (as distinct form the kings). That claim,.too first appears in Herodotus. It makes the original Macedonians identical with the original Dorians.(21) When it first arose, we cannot tell. It is almost certainly later than the royal lineage, in support of his own contention. Yet in Herodotus it appears as a separate issue, and it is clear that (by his day, at any rate) it had never been submitted to the judgment of the Hellanodikai, presumably because supporting material could not be found and (as we have seen) Macedonian influence at Olympia was never again such as to make acceptance of this much wider claim probable. Certainly, no Macedonian appears on the lists of Olympic victors that have survived (a fair proportion of the whole)until well into the reign of Alexander the Great. Yet one would have thought that Macedonian barons, who thought highly of physical prowess and who certainly had the resources needed, would have been able to win one of the personal contests, or at least a chariot race–a feat that, by some time early in the fourth century, even a Spartan lady could perform.(22) As we have seen, by the end of the fifth century counter-Olympics had been established in Macedon, and Macedonians were free to indulge their competitive ambitions without undergoing the scrutiny of the Hellanodikai. We may confidently assert that the claim to Hellenic descent, as far as the Macedonians as a whole were concerned, was not officially adjudicated for generations after Herodotus and Thucydides.
The origin of this claim (as an unofficial myth) can be dated to some time between the admission of Alexander I and the middle of the century (when Herodotus must have picked it up: i.e., it presumably does still go back to Alexander I himself) and , as I have already implied, may be looked for in the search for further support for the authenticity of the king’s own Hellenism, which was (as scrutiny of the scant evidence has suggested) not entirely un-debated. Like the principal issue itself, it soon developed further. By the time of the Caranus myth (noted above) it had been supplemented by an actual migration of Peloponnesians. This was clearly a more specific event than a claim (to identity with the Dorians) that might arouse both disbelief and even opposition; and it fits in well with the way in which “ancient history” was conceived of in the case of most peoples in the Graeco-Roman world–all but the few who, like the Athenians, laid claim to being(within limits that had to recognized)”autochthonous.” The claim to Greek origin of the Macedonians as a people, therefore, can be seen arising and developing within the fifth and possibly early fourth centuries, at a time when similar claims were familiar and indeed commonplace in the West. In fact, the historian Hellanicus, at some time later in the fifth century, seems to be the earliest literary source that makes Aeneas the founder of Rome.(23)
The first half (approximately) of the fourth century was a sorry time for Macedonia.(24) Between the assassination of Archelaus about 400 B.C. and the accession of Philip II, the gains of the able and long lived kings of the fifth century seem to have been largely lost, and Macedon was weakened by civil war and foreign invasion to the point where, by 359, the kingdom seemed close to disintegration. Philip’s mother and her intrigues (whatever the truth about that obscure and much-expanded topic) had not improved matters.(25) When Philip’s brother and predecessor Perdiccass III was killed in a military disaster in Illyria, Philip (who took over, whether or not as protector of Perdiccas’ young son(26) was faced by several pretenders, each supported by a foreign power.(27) That had been the pattern in several changes of monarch in the Argead kingdom. In this as in other respects, Philip’s achievement deserves to receive full justice.
During the long-drawn-out anarchy and regression, the Macedonian claim to “Hellenism” cannot be expected to have made much progress. As we have seen, no Macedonian (king,baron,or commoner) appears in the Olympic victor lists. Nor do we find the Macedonian people ever regarded as a political entity, transacting business with Greek states. It is the kings that make alliances and (at least on one attested occasion) take part in panhellenic congresses.(28) The Macedonians as such do not appear, any more than, for example, the Persians or the Thracians do. We have to wait until the time of Antigonus Doson, it seems, before the Macedonians are attested as a people in the political sense.(29) This in itself, of course, may not be relevant to the issue of their presumed “Hellenism,” any more than the king’s presence at a congress was to his. For obvious reasons, congresses were political meetings, and attendance at them would be ruled by political needs and convenience. The king of Macedon would be asked to send representatives, just as the king of Persia did, when the Greek states though this desirable or even when he himself did. There is no record of tests by Hellanodikai at such meetings. It does, however, show that for political purposes no difference was seen between Macedonians and (say) Thracians and Persians, i.e., other nations under monarchical rule. This may have been a contributing factor in unwillingness to recognize Macedonians as Greek. Whatever the truth(and I repeat that I am not concerned with the issue of fact), they would easily be assimilated to barbarians, and it seems that indeed they were. It is well known that, when Philip II, after winning the Sacred War, was rewarded by Apollo with the places of the defeated Phocians on the Amphictyonic Council, the seats went to him personally. His representatives are Philip’s men; they have nothing to do with the Macedonians.(30) There is no question here, as there might be in the case on international relations, of his acting as the empowered ruler of his people. He is acting in his own behalf, just as 130 years earlier Alexander I had acted at Olympia. A claim for admission of “the Macedonians” to the Amphictyony would have been much harder to enforce. Philip was far too good a diplomat to advance it.
We have seen that earlier Macedonian kings had been “philhellenic” and had attracted and patronized Greek culture. The precise results of this within Macedonia cannot at present be documented. It is to be supposed that such outstanding works as Zeuxis’ paintings on the walls of the royal palace had some effect on the tradition (obviously a long one) that we have now seen exemplified in the Macedonian tomb paintings. But the missing links have not yet been found. It is to be hoped that they will be. However, if there ever was any really deep penetration even into the circle of the court and the nobility, that presumably regressed in the first half of the fourth century. It is only with Perdiccas III that we for the first time find a demonstrably genuine attachment to an aspect of Greek culture: in this instance, philosophy. We are told extravagant tales of his expecting his nobles to share those interests, and of his excluding from his company (and that may mean from the very title of hetairoi) any that did not conform.(31) At any rate, he had links with the Academy and appointed what appears to have been a court philosopher from that school, Euphraeus of Oreos. The stories we have about him and his influence are overlaid with later amplification, and the fats in any case do not matter here.(32) But as has been rightly observed, the demonstrably false and tendentious account of his death as due to the nobles revenge may be taken as attesting their hatred for him and his influence.(33)
Philip himself learned his lesson if he needed to: he cannot be shown to have had any cultural interest himself,a s his brother (and later his son) did. But he certainly lost no time in reinstating the Macedonian king’s claim to Temenid descent as a practical matter. We have no Herodotus to tell the details. (Perhaps Theopompus did, but his account is unfortunately lost.) What is certain and it cannot be accident is that for the first time since Archelaus, and for the fist time ever reliably, we hear of a Macedonian victory at Olympia: needless to say, the king’s own. And it comes, significantly, at the very first games (356 B.C.) after his accession to power. The story of his victory in the chariot race, which was announced to him at the same time as the birth of a son and one or two military successes, must in its essentials be believed.(34) And since such victories did not come easily or spontaneously, we can see that he had considered the image of the Macedonian monarchy in Greece as important, and as immediately important, as the restoration of Macedonian military power. This, of course, does not mean that he at once developed his plans for winning hegemony over Greece. We have no good evidence on when and how those plans developed, and it would be unrealistic to put them as early as this. But it clearly shows that he had ambitious plans for his relations with the Greek international community: he knew that those relations would be based on actual military strength (of course), but greatly assisted by recognition of his standing as a Temenid and (now) an Olympic victor. Philip was never one to underestimate propaganda and the importance of his image. In the light of our investigation so far, we can trace this trait back to his accession.
In due course, as we know, he did see the opportunities presented by the apparently incurable mutual wars and hatreds of the Greek states. The response of some Greek intellectuals to this (it cannot be shown to have had much effect on practicing politicians, or any at all on ordinary Greeks) had been a call for a Hellenic crusade against the Barbarian in the East. As the hope of having a city-state (Sparta or Athens) lead it faded, they were willing to accept even a monarch as leader in this crusade.(35) Jason of Pherae had been cut off before he could attempt the task.(36) By the time Philip was ready to consider it, the Persian empire was tearing itself to pieces in strapal rebellions; if one could only overcome the first hurdle, the union of the greek states, the rest seemed almost easy. After his victory in the Sacred War, at the latest, his plans seem to have been ready. By 342, he took the first step toward the military goal by invading Thrace in order to make the invasion of Asia strategically possible.(37) About the same time he invited Aristotle to become the teacher for his son and designated heir Alexander.
Apart from all else, the invitation was a political masterstroke. As was brilliantly recognized by Werner Jaeger, it secured for Philip an alliance (secret for the time being, of course) with the philosopher-tyrant Hermias of Atarneus, Aristotle’s patron and relative by marriage, who could provide both a bridgehead and connections with other potentially disloyal subjects of the king.(38) It also resumed, after a necessary interruption, the Macedonian king’s connection with the Academy; but this time cautiously. The Greeks who mattered would obviously be impressed, but the Macedonian barons need fear no repetition of the Euphracus episode. For one thing, Aristotle was the son of a man who had been court physician to Philip’s father. This not only ensured personal loyalty: it meant that he knew the Macedonian court and (we might say) he would know his place. Moreover, it was at once made clear that he was not coming as a court philosopher. He was installed with the young prince in a rustic retreat at a safe distance from the court and the capital. It is to be presumed that Aristotle was as happy to be a Mieza as the courtiers were to see him settled there.
At Philip’s court, Greeks and Macedonians seem to have been completely integrated: there is no observable social difference among the Hetairoi. But as contemporary observers noted, the social tone was far from lofty, as it had been under Perdiccas. Indeed, Theopompus has left us his famous satirical description, culmination in the epigram that the hetairoi might more suitable have been called hetairai: not courtiers but courtesans.(40) The satirist should not be taken too literally. Philip’s court was no Bacchic thiasos, nor a collection of runaway criminals. His own success and (under his direction) that of his commanders and diplomats suffices to prove it. But it is clear that it was better for Aristotle to be at Mieza.
Alexander, in fact, was to be the living symbol of the integration of Greeks and Macedonians, embodying its perfection. Unlike any of his predecessors. Philip seems to have planned far ahead. The integration of his court was a sample of what would some day come, led (he hoped) by his son–who, we ought perhaps to remember, had been born at the very time of Philip’s Olympic victory. What Aristotle taught Alexander, we do not know and probably never shall. The facts were soon overlaid with historical romance, as it turned out (and it could certainly not be foreseen at the time) that the greatest philosopher of the ancient world had taught its greatest king. Romantic speculation must be resisted. In fact, were it not attested, there would be nothing in the future career of either man to enable us to guess the association, although it would be clear enough that Alexander had an excellent Greek teacher.(41) They must have read the classics, like Herodotus and Xenophon.(42) Above all, however, Aristotle inspired the prince with a love of Greek literature, especially poetry, and with the ideal of emulating the Homeric heroes. Aristotle or Aristotle’s relative Callisthenes presented him with a text of Homer, which (we are told) Alexander later put in a valuable casket found among the spoils of Darius. Characteristically, he is said to have kept it under his pillow at night, next to his dagger.(43) Characteristically: for Alexander, despite his thorough Greek education and obviously genuine interest in Greek literature, was nevertheless a Macedonian king. romance about the “Idyll of Mieza” (in Wilcken’s famous phrase) has tended to obscure the obvious fact that Alexander’s contact with Aristotle was not the sole educational experience he had between the ages of thirteen and fifteen. It must inevitably have been during that time that he acquired the more obvious skills essential to a Macedonian king: skills physical, administrative, and political. It was presumable only to a small extent Aristotle’s political theory (if he got so far as to study it) that enabled Alexander, at the age of fifteen to sixteen, to act as regent of Macedon in Philip’s absence and (necessarily with the help of experienced advisers, but nonetheless in his own name) to win a major victory;(44) though when, with Philip’s permission, he founded a colony and named it after himself, his teacher wrote a treatise for him on how to do it.(45) Throughout, Greek culture and Macedonian reality must have proceeded alongside each other. That, indeed, was the point
Alexander grew up in a circle that included Greek and Macedonian friends. Our best evidence on his early friends comes in the list of those exiled after the Pixodarus affair.(46) We have the names of two Macedonian nobles and of three Greeks who had settled in Philip’s refounded Amphipolis. The point is variously noteworthy.
First, although (as we have seen) Philip seems to have made no social distinction between Greeks and Macedonians among his hetairoi, Greeks never commanded his armies. As we shall see, it would have involved technical difficulties and might have caused resentment among the Macedonian soldiers.(47) Alexander, right from the start, entrusted commands to his Greek friends. Indeed, Erigyius received an important cavalry command in the first winter of the expedition and, when he died in 327 after a distinguished career, is described by Curtius as “one of the renowned commanders.” Nearchus, another of these Greeks, ultimately rose to even greater fame, enhanced by the fact that he could also write.(48) Promotion, though naturally helped by personal contact with Alexander and services to him, depended more on talent than on nationality.(49)
What is also worth noting is that these Greeks, of various origins, had become “Macedonians from Amphipolis.”(50) We have no detailed knowledge of Philip’s administration, but it is clear that annexed Greek cities, including those founded by himself, counted as parts of the Macedonian kingdom, not (like those of the Hellenic League) as allies. That, indeed, was why they had not become members of the Hellenic League.(51) Yet, while Macedonian subjects of the king, they nonetheless retained some sort of civic identity which put them on a level with (most obviously) the districts of Orestis or Eordaea within old Macedonia. Whatever it was, it was political masterstroke, for which Philip should receive due credit. There is no trace of it among any of his predecessors, and it foreshadows what was to become characteristic, centuries later, of the cities of the Roman Empire. It is also clear that these cities had attracted able and adventurous Greeks from the less prosperous parts of the Greek world as settlers. And some of them (a very select body) moved on to Pella, to become royal hetairoi.(52) To these Greeks, the question of whether to regard Macedonians as Greeks or as barbarians would have been simply irrelevant.
It was perhaps far more relevant to a rather important class of Greeks who must not be omitted in any discussion such as this: Greek mercenaries. At the beginning of his campaign, Alexander had very few Greek mercenaries: he could not afford many and, at that point, did not need many. The Persian King, on the other hand, seems to have had a large number.(53) Alexander’s first contact with them was at the Granicus: those who were captured were sent to forced labour in the Macedonian mines, as traitors to the cause of Hellas.(54) Clearly, this piece of terrorism, comparable with the destruction of Thebes, was intended pour encourager les autres. It turned out to be a mistake. Not only did Greek cities ask to have their citizens back (not, it seems, frightened into acquiescence by the implication that they were supporting or condoning treason),(55) but the effect on the King’s mercenary forces was the opposite of what had been intended. Seeing no hope in surrender, they prepared to fight to the death – as Alexander soon found out. Once he did, the policy was as quietly dropped as it had been flamboyantly started. To obtain their surrender he was happy to promise them safety.(56)
Once the new policy had been established, fear for their own fate no longer guided the mercenaries’ actions. their true feelings can now be seen and assessed. After the battle of Issus, eight thousand of them refused to surrender, made their way down to the coast, and escaped by sea. We are not concerned with the details of their later fate, conflictingly related in our poor sources, except to note that they all fought against Macedon again when they had the chance. But the mercenaries (not many of them) who fought in the Persian ranks at Gaugamela seem to have escaped and remained with Darius. In fact, they remained loyal almost to the end, and when Bessus could not be stopped, joined Artabazus in preparations to continue the war in the mountains. It was only when Artabazus himself surrendered, in exchange for very honorable treatment, that they had to give up. Alexander seems to have used the occasion for another resounding sermon on collaboration with the national enemy, but when they surrendered, he in fact treated them well, releasing those who had been in the Persian service since before war was declared on Persia and merely thanking those who had joined the Persians since (i.e., the real “traitors”) into his own service.(57)
Of course, it must by no means be thought that all Greek mercenaries hated Alexander: by the time these events were concluded, he himself had enrolled far more Greek mercenaries himself than were by now fighting against him. But the loyalty of those Greeks to Darius is nonetheless striking, both because it illustrates the persistent division of opinion among Greeks about the Macedonian conquest and the fact that some continued to prefer Persian barbarians to acquiescence in the conquest, and (although this is not relevant to us here) because it throws unexpected light on the character of Darius III, as at least some men saw it. As for Alexander, not that he was the only possible employer for their labour, his relations with Greek mercenaries continued to be uneasy. We shall come back to them.
As we have seen, it was Alexander who in himself symbolized and who ultimately inherited, Philip’s policy of integrating Greeks and Macedonians. Indeed, it is probably not fanciful to suggest that this may be remotely connected with his own later policy of attempting a limited integration of Greeks and Macedonians with Iranians: the famous “policy of fusion.” That policy, as is well known, aroused anger and resistance among the Macedonian forces near the end of Alexander’s life. Yet after politic concessions he persisted, and at the very end of his life he is even reported to have initiated a rather mysterious military reform, which combined Macedonians and Persians in small tactical units on a permanent basis.(59) In the light of this it is particularly interesting to notice that he never – either before or at the time – tried to integrate Greeks into the Macedonian infantry.(60) We can not really tell why. Presumably, during most of the campaigns hi simply did not want to upset the well-trained Macedonian units that were his best military asset, either in the tactical or in the emotional sphere; while at the very end, both for tactical and for political reasons, integration of Macedonians and Iranians was important, while integration of Greeks with either was not.
The fact as such, however, seems quite certain and has really been known for a long time, although it has not always been adequately noted. It is worth documenting once more, without reference to various late sources on the history of Alexander, where the evidence on the point is not worth much. Unfortunately these sources have at times been irresponsibly used in this context, and this has obscured the issue and the facts. (61)
Alexander himself, as we have seen, like any first-generation product of integration, in a way stood between two worlds not yet perfectly merged, rather than in a world that could be regarded as unified and Greek. Conflicts between the Greek and Macedonian elements occasionally emerge, especially where, in our sources, conflicts between actual Greeks and Macedonians are allowed to appear: thus most prominently, at the banquet that led to the death of Clitus, where Alexander, according to our tradition, sided with his Greek courtiers against his Macedonian officers and denigrated Macedonians as such in comparison with Greeks.(62) At least the outline of that story must be believed, since the killing of Clitus did occur, as a result of a drunken altercation: that part is made clear by the official account, which used the fact to ascribe the event to the wrath of an accidentally neglected god.(63) Although the end is variously told, and at least one of the versions is clearly distorted in the interests of exculpation, in the development of the quarrel we not only do not get alternatives, but it is hard to conceive of it as having been essentially different from what is described. However, although the whole of the argument had turned to a comparison of Greeks and Macedonians, with Alexander favouring the former, at the end he is said to have called for his guards in Macedonian when he felt his life threatened. It has often been argued that this was a reversion to a more primitive part of his psyche, under stress. This could be taken as overpowering his expressed intellectual preference for the Greeks, i.e., the Greek part of his own nature.(64)
But the answer is probably simpler than that. He used the only language in which his guards could be addressed. an interesting papyrus fragment, known for some time, seems to be the only good source to reveal the fact.(65) It tells of a battle, early in 321 B.C., in which the Greek Ambiance, with cavalry and light arms only, faced the Macedonain noble Neoptolemus with his Macedonian phalanx. Wanting to aoid battle and, if possible, to take over the opposing infantry rather than fight them, he set out to convince them of the hopelessness of their position – successfully, as we can gather elsewhere, though our fragment breaks off before we see the outcome. I quote the part that is of interest for our problem:
“When Eumenues saw the close-locked formation of the Macedonian phalanx …, he sent Xennias once more, a man whose speech was Macedonian, biding him declare that he would not fight them frontally but would follow them with his cavalry and units of light troops and bar them from provisions.”
Now, Xennias’ name at once shows him to be a Macedonian. Since he was in Ambiance’ entourage, he was presumably a Macedonian of superior status, who spoke both standard Greek and his native language. He was the man who could be trusted to transmit Ambiance’ message. This clearly shows that the phalanx had to be addressed in Macedonian, if one wanted to be sure (as Ambiance certainly did) that they would understand. And–almost equally interesting– he did not address them himself, as he and other commanders normally addressed soldiers who understood them, nor did he send a Greek. The suggestion is surely that Macedonian was the language of the infantry and that Greek was a difficult, indeed a foreign, tongue to them. We may thus take it as certain that, when Alexander used Macedonian in addressing his guards, that too was because it was their normal language, and because (like Ambiance) he had to be sure he would be understood. We may also take it as certain that educated Greeks did not speak the language, unless(presumably) they had grown up with Macedonians and had learned it, as some of Alexander’s Greek companions clearly must have.
That these facts(fortunately for us) can be documented, for the period just after Alexander’s death, by a late but reliable source is variously helpful to the historian. First, it throws much-needed light on the difficulties that Greeks had in commanding Macedonian infantry. Philip II, we remember, is not known to have employed any. Presumably, the first-generation Greek immigrants into his cities had not learned the language. Ambiance, however, is notorious for the trouble he repeatedly had in getting Macedonian infantry to fight for him, even though he was one of the ablest of the Successors. We can now see that his disability was not only his Greek birth, as has always been realized, but the simple fact that he could not directly communicate with Macedonian soldiers. His alien culture and provenance were not only obvious in an accent: it was a matter of language.(66) In the end, he therefore lost his bid for power and his life.(67) We also learn–and this is where this discussion started–that although Alexander’s Greek companions (or at least some of them) did know the language, having come to Macedonia at an early age, Alexander never tried to impose Greek on his Macedonian infantry or to integrate it with Greek units or Greek “foreign” individuals.
Above all, however, this helps to explain how, half a generation after Philip’s revival of the Macedonian king’s claim to eminent Greek descent had been accepted at Olympia and his efforts to integrate his court had been bearing fruit, Greek opponents could still call not only the Macedonian people, but the king himself, “barbarian.” In this respect, nothing had changed since the days of Archelaus. The term is in fact more than once used of Philip by Demosthenes, most notably in two passages. In one, in the Third Olynthiac (3.24), he claims that a century ago “the king then in power in the country was the subject [of our ancestors], as a barbarian ought to be to Greeks.” In the second, a long tirade in the Third Philippic (9.30 f.) , he claims that suffering inflicted on Greeks by Greeks is at least easier to bear than that now inflicted by Philip, “who is not only not a Greek and has nothing to do with Greeks, but is not even a barbarian from a place it would be honorable to name–a cursed Macedonian, who comes from where it used to be impossible even to buy a decent slave.” This, of course, is simple abuse. It may have nothing to do with historical fact, any more than the orators’ tirades against their personal enemies usually have. But as I have tried to make clear, we are not concerned with historical fact as such; we are concerned only with sentiment, which is itself historical fact and must be taken seriously as such. In these tirades we find not only the Hellenic descent of the Macedonain people (which few seriously accepted) totally denied, but even that of the king. It is not even mentioned merely in order to be rejected: the rejection is taken as a matter of course. Now, the orator clearly could not do this, if his audience was likely to regard his claim as plain nonsense: it could not be said of a Theban, or even of a Thessalian. The polite acceptance of the Macedonian kings as Hellenes ruling a barbarian nation was still not totally secure: one would presumably divide over it on irrational grounds, according to party and personal sentiment–as so many of us still divide, over issues that are inherently more amenable to rational treatment.(68)
As regards the Macedonian nation as a whole, there was (as far as we can see) no division. They were regarded as clearly barbarian, despite the various myths that had at various times issued from the court and its Greek adherents, perhaps ever since the time of Alexander I, and demonstrably ever since the time of Perdiccas II. This comes out most clearly in a well known passage by one of Philip’s main supporters, the apostle of panhellenism, Isocrates. The passage is so important that it must be quoted in full in a note.(69) Some time not long after the Peace of Philocrates, the orator congratulates Philip on the fact that his ancestor, had not attempted to become a tyrant in his native city (i.e., Argos), but “leaving the area of Greece entirely,” had decided to seize the kingship over Macedon. This, explains Isocrates, shows that he understood that essential difference between Greeks and non-Greeks: that Greeks cannot submit to the rule of a monarch, live without it. It was this peculiar insight that enabled Philip’s ancestor to found a firmly established dynasty over a “people of non-kindred race.” He is described (with pardonable exaggeration, for it is unlikely that Isocrates was deliberately contradicting similar claims by other dynasties that had by then arisen: see above) as the only Greek who had ever done so.
Whether Philip was entirely happy about this we cannot know. As we have seen, he had made every effort to reconcile and integrate Greeks the Macedonians. But the passage provides the necessary background to the fact that even Philip had not tried to pass off his Macedonians as Greek and had been perfectly content to accept membership of the Delphic Amphictyony as a personal gift, just as, in due course, he never tried to make his Macedonians members of the Hellenic League. Meanwhile, he was hoping to leave the final settlement of the problem to the future: alexander was to prepare the way for fuller integration than could at present be attempted or claimed.(70)
We have no idea of what Macedonians, on the other side of this fence, thought of this whole issue: no Macedonian oratory survives, since the language was never a literary one. But that the feeling of a major difference (obviously, the Macedonians), of their being “peoples of non-kindred race,” existed on both sides is very probable. for one thing, the language barrier would keep it alive, even though the literary language of educated Macedonians could only be Greek. That fact was as irrelevant to ordinary people (and perhaps even to those above the ordinary level) as was the Hellenic cultural polish of the Macedonian upper class that has been revealed to us in recent years. The artistic and cultural koine of much of eighteenth-century europe was French; indeed, upper class German ladies might confess that it was the only language they could write.(71) Yet not all of them, by any means, were even Francophile, and none of them felt that they were French. The reaction to a Greek “court philosopher,’ or perhaps–if we can believe at least the outline of the story–the anger of Clitus: these help to document feelings in the very class that, as we now know, was culturally conspicuous for Hellenism. But like many prejudices, these feelings of antagonism are most clearly seen among ordinary people–whether the Athenians who applauded Demosthenes’ tirades or ordinary Macedonian soldiers; and not only those who deserted Eumenes.(72)
Alexander himself, with that basic tact that (at times surprisingly) links him to his father, had not tried to force military integration on his Greeks and Macedonians. both were useful to him as they were. Having monopolized the market in Greek mercenaries, he forced them to settle in the northeastern frontier region of the empire, in a ring of colonies that was to ensure its military safety.(73) Even before his death, when he had disappeared into India and there were apparently rumours circulating that he would never return, some of the conscripts in those colonies started on the long migration home, and at least some of those who did were successful.(74) As soon as he was safely dead, many thousands of them banded together for the long march back, through areas held by hostile Macedonians and inhabited by natives perhaps equally hostile to both. Of course, this movement had little to do with national antagonism on the mercenaries’ side. It was a revolt against Alexander’s despotism, which in the instance had happened to be aimed at Greeks. The fact that in the final battle a large contingent betrayed their comrades and deserted to the Macedonians shows that (as centuries before in the battle of Lade)(75) national antagonism was by no means pervasive, and was perhaps not at all prominent. However, a Macedonian army under Pithon did defeat the rebels. Pithon, no doubt recognizing their immense value for the empire as a whole, persuade them to go back to their posts, assuring them personal safety in return. Yet, contrary to his oath, seventeen thousand Greeks were cut down, after surrendering their arms, by the enraged Macedonians, and Pithon could not stop them.(76) The patent needs of the empire and the oath of their commander were swallowed up in the explosion of what we can only regard as the men’s irrational hatred for their Greek enemies. The effect of the massacre on the later history of the region cannot be assessed; but it must have been considerable.
The rebellion at the eastern extreme of the empire thus helps us document Macedonian antagonism toward Greeks. Correspondingly, rebellion at the other end documents Greek feeling about the Macedonians. Perhaps rebellion had been brewing even before. but it was in any case the immediate result of Alexander’s disappearance. Once more Athens rallied the Greeks to freedom, and once more she found many followers. The war, known to us (and to some ancient sources) as the Lamian War, was described by it protagonists as “the Hellenic War.” The term speaks for itself, at least concerning the feelings of those who used it.(78) In a wider Greek theater, where love of Greek freedom was not easily given up, and where (just as in earlier) despotism was still equated with barbarian rule, the spirit we find in Demosthenes’ oratories was thus confirmed.
In fact, these two rebellions at the two extremes of the empire were the only ones for a long time. It was (significantly) only Greeks, whether professional soldiers or mere Greek citizens, who showed enough spirit to challenge what they felt to be the foreign domination. But that they in fact did so shows that at this time the gap between Greeks and Macedonians was by no means bridged. The work of the Argead kings who had long tried to work toward bridging it, and the work of Alexander who was himself the result of the long process (though, as we saw, he did not try to force it on beyond what was acceptable), was to take perhaps another century to reach fruition. Perhaps it was not fully completed until both parties became conscious of their unity, as it had by then developed, in contrast to a conqueror from the barbarian West.(79)
Studies In The History Of Art Vol 10:
Macedonia And Greece In Late Classical
And Early Hellenistic Times.
Washington, National Gallery of Art. 1967-69.
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