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Macedonian Criticism of Oliver Stone's film Alexander

Letter Sent to Movie Critics - November 2004          

Respected Ladies and Gentlemen:

As you are all aware, Oliver Stone’s film on the Macedonian conqueror Alexander is due to open on November 24. We, the Macedonians, the descendents of Alexander’s Macedonians, want to inform you that we reject the movie as historically inaccurate for it is not a true story of Alexander as Stone claims it to be.  We are particularly concerned by the “Greekness” that Stone has given to the Macedonian king. 


1) Where are the Historical Errors in the film?


Stone has Collin Farell (the actor playing Alexander) saying to the Macedonians before the battle of Gaugamela against the Persians that they are fighting for “the glory of Greece.” 


Ancient sources do not write that Alexander fought for the “glory of Greece” but for that of Macedonia. Three ancient historians detailed Alexander’s address to the army before the battle.  And each one of them made a clear distinction between Macedonians, Greeks, Illyrians, and Thracians, as four separate ethnicities that composed Alexander's army.  Here are the words of the Roman historian Curtius Rufus:


“Riding to the front line he (Alexander the Great) named the soldiers and they responded from pot to spot where they were lined up. The Macedonians, who had won so many battles in Europe and set off to invade Asia ... got encouragement from him - he reminded them of their permanent values. They were the world’s liberators and one day they would pass the frontiers set by Hercules and Father Liber. They would subdue all races on Earth. Bactria and India would become Macedonian provinces. Getting closer to the Greeks, he reminded them that those were the people (the Persians on the other side) who provoked war with Greece, ... those were the people that burned their temples and cities ... As the Illyrians and Thracians lived mainly from plunder, he told them to look at the enemy line glittering in gold” (Curt.3.10.4-10) 


Notice what Alexander told the Macedonians - “Bactria and India would become Macedonian provinces”.  It is for the glory of Macedonia, not for the glory of Greece. The Greeks, are here a second nation of importance to Alexander.


Throughout Oliver Stone’s film there is confusion whether the Macedonians were distinct people or just another Greeks. Ironically the original Synopsis of the film makes the clear distinction between Macedonians and Greeks. There we read: “Alexander led his virtually invincible Greek and Macedonian armies through 22,000 miles…His extraordinary journey begins when Alexander launches his invasion from Macedonia…”


Yet although in the Synopsis the Macedonians are separate from the Greeks, and they left from Macedonia and not from Greece, Stone has them fighting for the “glory of Greece”?!  The error is obvious.



2) Why the Macedonians and Greeks still hate each other today?


Macedonia is now divided between today’s republic of Macedonia, Greece, and Bulgaria.  The division occurred in 1912 when Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria occupied and partitioned the country, inflicting a tragic faith upon the descendents of Alexander. 


In the 19th century Macedonia was occupied by the Turkish Ottoman Empire. The Macedonians then were well aware that they, and they alone, were the descendents of Alexander's Macedonians.The Rules of the Macedonian Rebel Committee proclaimed at the Macedonian Uprising in 1878 fighting liberation of Macedonia from the Turkish empire proclaim:


“It is well known to all of us that this ill-fated country of ours, Macedonia, owing to the egoistic aims of the Great Powers, was gain left to Turkey after the Congress of Berlin. As a result of that, in certain regions of our fatherland many scenes full of blood, known to all of us, took place... We rebelled as advocates of freedom. With the blood we shed all over Macedonian fields and forests, we serve freedom, as the Macedonian army of Alexander of Macedon did, with our slogan ‘Freedom or Death!”


This is very important - in this same 19th century, the Greeks did not claim the ancient Macedonians as "theirs," on the contrary.  The works of the Greeks in the 18th and 19th centuries reveal that the Greeks did not regard the ancient Macedonians as Greeks, but foreigners who had conquered Greece (see Politis 1993:36; Dimaras 1958; Karagatsis, 1952). Politis had cited fourteen examples from the Greek literature from 1794 to 1841 in which the ancient Macedonians are excluded from the ancient Greek world (1993: 40-42).


With the occupation of southern Macedonia by Greece in 1912-13, everything changed.  Greece needs its occupied Macedonian territory and created new propaganda to claim the ancient Macedonians as “Greek”. Such propaganda is needed to justify the present occupation. This stealing of the Macedonian history by the Greeks is resented by the Macedonians who have long before the Greeks claimed descent from Alexander, and still do. 


3) Why today’s Macedonians are direct descendents of Alexander?


In 2001 it was genetically proven by a scientific team from Universidad Complutense in Madrid, Spain, that the ancient Macedonians and the ancient Greeks were two separate and distinct peoples.  It also proved that the modern Macedonians are descendants of the ancient Macedonians of Alexander the Great, while the modern Greeks are not related to either the ancient or modern Macedonians. The lengthy scientific paper which was published and entitled “HLA genes in Macedonians and the sub-Saharan origin of the Greeks”, concludes the following: 


“Macedonians belong to the ‘older’ Mediterranean substratum, like Iberians (including Basques), North Africans, Italians, French, Cretans, Jews, Lebanese, Turks (Anatolians), Armenians and Iranians. Macedonians are not related with geographically close Greeks, who do not belong to the "older" Mediterranean substratum. Greeks are found to have a substantial relatedness to sub-Saharan (Ethiopian) people, which separate them from other Mediterranean groups. Macedonians are related to other Mediterraneans and do not show a close relationship with Greeks: however, they do with Cretans. This supports the theory that Macedonians are one of the most ancient peoples living in the Balkan peninsula, probably long before the arrival of the Mycaenian Greeks, about 2000 BC.”


Thus, genetically and scientifically had been proven not only that the ancient Macedonians were not Greeks, but that they are older then the ancient Greeks.  You may read the full content of this genetic study at the following web address: http://www.makedonika.org/processpaid.aspcontentid=ti.2001.pdf



4) Greek Racial Discrimination against the Macedonians in Northern Greece


The 80-page human rights violation report on Greece entitled "Denying Ethnic Identity - Macedonians of Greece" which was published in May 1994 concluded:


"Although ethnic Macedonians in northern Greece make up large minority with their own language and culture, their internationally recognized human rights and even their existence are vigorously denied by the Greek government. Free _expression is restricted; several Macedonians have been persecuted and convicted for their peaceful _expression of their views. Moreover, ethnic Macedonians are discriminated against by the government's failure to permit the teaching of the Macedonian language. And ethnic Macedonians, particularly rights activists, are harassed by the government - followed and threatened by the security forces - and subjected to economic and social pressure resulting from this harassment. All of these actions have led to a marked climate of fear in which a large number of ethnic Macedonians are reluctant to assert their Macedonian identity or to express their views openly. Ultimately, the government is pursuing every avenue to deny the Macedonians of Greece their ethnic identity"


Thus 90 years after the partition of Macedonia, the ethnic Macedonians are still residents in all parts of Macedonia. Despite the assimilatory policies of Greece, the Macedonians are still sizable minority in this country. In the diaspora, there are also large Macedonian communities in Canada, United States, Australia, and the Western European countries.


Here we have to mention the so-called “Pan-Macedonian Association”, a Greek racist group with a history of well-documented racial hatred against the Macedonian people. It is a deliberately misnamed racist organization of Greeks whose raison d'être is to deny the existence of a distinct Macedonian identity in North America, precisely as Human Rights Watch had described it in Northern Greece. Both Greece and its “Pan-Macedonian Association” strive to appropriate the Macedonian history as “Greek” while in the process denying the existence of both the ancient and modern Macedonians. 


5) Ancient and Modern Evidence about the Distinct Macedonian Nation


The long list of modern scholars (among which are Eugene Borza, Waldemer Heckel, A.B. Bosworth, Peter Green, Ernst Badian, Carol Thomas, S.M. Burstain, P.A. Brunt, John Yardley), agree that the ancient Macedonians were not Greeks, but a distinct nation.  Their views align with the Spanish genetic research above. Eugene Borza, Historian, Professor, and Archeologist, whom the American Philological Association refers to as "Macedonian specialist" has written:


"It is clear that over a five-century span of writing in two languages representing a variety of historiographical and philosophical positions the ancient writers regarded the Greeks and the Macedonians as two separate and distinct peoples whose relationship was marked by considerable antipathy, if not outright hostility."


Waldemar Heckel, one of the foremost Alexander scholars in the world, in his Alexander the Great (2004), writes on page 7:


“It is clear from the extant historians that the lost sources made a clear distinction between Macedonians and Greeks - ethnically, culturally and linguistically – and this must be an accurate reflection of contemporary attitudes...”


In alignment with the genetic results cited above, the ancient Greek and Roman historians also clearly excluded Macedonia from Greece as a distinct country, and the Macedonians from the Greeks as distinct nation.  Not one ancient historian wrote that Macedonia is “Northern Province of Greece” or that the Macedonians are “northern Greeks”. 


The Greek orator Demosthenes, spoke of Alexander the Great’s father Philip II as "not only no Greek, nor related to the Greeks, but not even a barbarian from any place that can be named with honors, but a pestilent knave from Macedonia, whence it was never yet possible to buy a decent slave" (Demosthenes, Third Philippic, 31).


Justin, the Roman historian from the 3rd century AD wrote: "Antipater was appointed governor of Macedonia and Greece" (Justin 13.4.5)


Arrian, the ancient Greek historian from the 2nd century AD wrote: "Darius' Greek mercenaries attacked the Macedonian phalanx… the Macedonian centre did not set to with equal impetus… and the Greeks attacked where they saw that the phalanx had been particularly torn apart. There the action was severe, the Greeks tried to push off the Macedonians into the river and to reserve victory to their own side…  There was also some emulation between antagonists of the Greek and Macedonian races" (Arrian 2.10.4-7). 


Pausanias, the ancient Greek historian from the 2nd century AD wrote: "the united Greeks defeated the Macedonians in Boeotia and again outside Thermopylae forced them into Lamia" (Pausanias 1.1.3)


Plutarch, the ancient Greek historian from 1st century AD quoted Alexander’s words where the king himself separates the Macedonians from the Greeks as distinct nation: “When you see the Greeks walking about among the Macedonians, do they not look to you like demi-gods among so many wild beasts?” (Alex.51.2) 




Please consider the Macedonian position when approaching Stone’s Alexander.  Alexander and his Macedonians would have been appalled by Stone who had tried to make them fighting for Greece, when the ancient evidence says they fought for Macedonia, since they were not Greeks as the ancient authors testify.   


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