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Greek Commander and Historian

[1] The modern Greeks claim that the ancient Macedonians were Greek based on the below passage of Thucydides:

"The country by the sea which is now called Macedonia... Alexander, the father of Perdiccas, and his forefathers, who were originally Temenidae from Argos" (Thucydides 2.99,3)

That this myth does not prove that the Macedonians were Greek I offer the extensive study conducted by the Macedonian specialist, Professor Eugene Borza. Analyzing the Temenidae myth transmitted by Herodotus and Thucydides, in details in two Chapters, Eugene Borza - In the Shadow of Olympus p.82-83 gives the following conclusion:

a) "It is clear that the analysis of our earliest-and sole-source cannot produce a consistent and satisfactory sequence of events. My own view is that there is some underlying veracity to the Mt. Vermion reference (as evidenced by the Phrygian connections), that among the Makedones a family of Vermion background emerged as pre-eminent, but that the Argive context is mythic, perhaps a bit of fifth-century B.C. propaganda (as I argue in the next chapter). To deny such fables and attribute them to contemporary Macedonian propaganda may appear minimalistic. But given the historical milieu in which such stories were spawned and then adorned, the denial of myth seems prudent.

b) The Temenidae in Macedon are an invention of the Macedonians themselves, intended in part to give credence to Alexander I's claims of Hellenic ancestry, attached to and modifying some half-buried progenitor stories that had for a long time existed among the Macedonians concerning their own origins. The revised version was transmitted without criticism or comment by Herodotus. Thucydides (2-99.3; 5.80.2) acquired the Argive lineage tale from Herodotus, or from Macedonian-influenced sources, and transmitted it. His is not an independent version. [There is no hard evidence (pace Hammond, HM i: 4) that Thucydides ever visited Macedonia, but it makes no difference; Thucydides is reflecting the official version of things.] What emerged in the fifth century is a Macedonian-inspired tale of Argive origins for the Argead house, an account that can probably be traced to its source, Alexander I (for which see Chapter 5 below). The Temenidae must disappear from history, making superfluous all discussion of them as historical figures.

c) There were further embellishments to the myth of the early royal family. In the last decade of the fifth century B.C. Euripides came to reside in Macedon at the court of King Archelaus, thereby contributing a new stage to the evolution of the Macedonian creation-myth. Euripides' play honoring his patron, Archelaus, probably adorned the basic story, replacing Perdiccas with an Archelaus as the descendant of Temenus-no doubt to the delight of his royal host. Delphic oracles were introduced, and the founder's tale was extended by the introduction of Caranus (Doric for "head" or "ruler"). In the early fourth century, new early kings were added during the political rivalry among three branches of the Argeadae following the death of King Archelaus in 399, another example of the Macedonian predilection to rewrite history to support a contemporary political necessity. The story continued to be passed through the hands of local Macedonian historians in the fourth century B. C., and by Roman times it was widely known in a number of versions. Nothing in this later period can be traced back earlier than Euripides' revision of the Herodotean tradition. The notion that Alexander I or one of his predecessors obtained a Delphic oracle to confirm the Macedonian tie with Argos has no evidence to support it. Had such an oracle existed we can be confident that Alexander, eager to confirm his Hellenic heritage, would have exploited it, and that Herodotus, who delighted in oracles, would have mentioned it. In the end what is important is not whether Argive Greeks founded the Macedonian royal house but that at least some Macedonian kings wanted it so".

d) Borza also mentiones that the "two advocates of the Argos-Macedon link are Hammond, HM, vol. 2, ch. I, and Daskalakis, Hellenism, Pt. 3, both of whom support the notion of a Temenid origin for the Macedonian royal house", however, we have seen above that both of them were corrected with the extensive evidence that Borza carefully reviewed. We have already seen that both Daskalakis and Hammond were incorrect on many matters on the ethnicity of the Ancient Macedonians, therefore it should come to no surprise that their now outdated and poor in evidence material can not be used to claim a Greek identity to the ancient Macedonians. Click here for Daskalakis and Hammond.

[2]Thucydides however, did not consider the Macedonians to be Greek, despite the above myth which wasn’t his original work but it as we saw was only transmitted by him.Here Thucydides clearly separates the Macedonians from the Greeks (Hellenes):

"In all there were about three thousand Hellenic heavy infantry, accompanied by all the Macedonian cavalry with the Chalcidians, near one thousand strong, besides an immense crowd of barbarians." (Thucydides 4.124)

Borza comments: "The use of barbaros [barbarians] is problematic, although it would appear that he normally includes at least some of the Macedonians in this category. See 4.125.3 and Gomme, Comm. Thuc.,3:613,615 and 616 on Thuc. 4.124.1, 126.3 and 126.5 respectively. In the Shadow of Olympus p 152.

"Both Herodotus and Thucydides describe the Macedonians as foreigners, a distinct people living outside of the frontiers of the Greek city-states" – Eugene Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus p. 96


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