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Michael Sakellariou - Macedonia: 4000 years of Greek History
Modern Greek Writer


We will now analyze the most sensible and scholarly Greek approach laid out by the modern Greek writer Michael Sakellariou in his "Macedonia: 4000 years of Greek History".

Dorian Theory, Official Macedonian View, and Hellenicos

According to Sakellariou, the Macedonians were Greek based on the following what he calls "reliable evidence" (Michael Sakellariou, Macedonia: 4000 years of Greek History, p.54):

          [1] Dorian (Greek) roots of the Macedonians

          [2] Official View of the Macedonian Kings about themselves

          [3] Testimony of Hellenicos

We will analyze each one of the these three points individually, and prove that they are not only unconvincing, but biased as well:

[1] The only information that we have regarding the so-called Dorians comes from the ancient myths and traditions. According to this myth, as Sakellariou writes, the Dorian Greek tribe was a section of the Macedonians, which later migrated towards the south and populated Greece. But to reconstruct a history of the Macedonians and ascribe them a Greek (Dorian) background based on myths (especially Greek myths) is quite suspicious, since "the mythical imagination was always fertile in Greece, and it would have found Greek ancestors for the Macedonian people as easily as it had done for the royal line"(Pierre Jouguet, Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic World, p.70).

The key words here are mythical imagination. Furthermore, the Dorian theory is not supported with any credible evidence, and it is not clear why Sakellariou calls it "reliable evidence":

"The theory of the Dorian invasion (based on Hdt. 9.26, followed by Thuc. I.12) is largely an invention of nineteenth-century historiography, and is otherwise unsupported by either archeological or linguistic evidence." and "The Dorians are invisible archeologically." and "There is no archeological record of the Dorian movements, and the mythic arguments are largely conjectural, based on folk traditions about the Dorian home originally having been in northwest Greece" and "The explanation for the connection between the Dorians and the Macedonians may be more ingenious than convincing, resting uncomfortably on myth and conjecture."

So Sakellariou is relying on conjecture, mythical imagination, and an invention of the nineteenth-century historiography, in order to form his conclusion? His point [1] is certainly not a "reliable evidence" since there is no evidence at all to support his Dorian questionable myth.

[2] On the same page of his book, Sakellariou claims that since the official documents of (a) Alexander the Great (the letter to Darius), and (b) Philip V (treaty of alliance) refer to "Macedonia and rest of Greece", then the "Official View of the Macedonian Kings" is that Macedonia is Greek. Here is why Sakellariou is wrong again:

(a) "The designation of Macedonia as part of Greece has intrigued modern critics… The reason for including Macedonia as part of larger Hellas was designed to justify Macedonian participation in the so-called war of revenge. Whatever the truth on this point, on the basis of what we know happened in Macedonia in 480, Alexander had no more grounds for carrying out a war of revenge on behalf of Macedonia than he had on behalf of Athens or Sparta. Of course, Macedonians never regarded their territory as forming part of Greece, and certainly the Greek poleis did not regard Macedonia as being another Greek polis. The reason why Alexander here includes Macedonia as being part of Greece may be an attempt to paper over the glaring anomaly between what Philip and he had just done to 'the rest of Greece' and what he is in the process of doing to the Persian empire." (Professor Edmund F. Bloedow, Diplomatic Negotiations between Darius and Alexander: Historical Implications of the First Phase at Marathus in Phoenicia in 333/332 BC.).

Sakellariou, however, does not point that there is an Official Macedonian View in which Alexander himself differentiates Macedonia from Greece. In Curtius Rufus we see a completely different picture when Alexander responds to Darius in a letter:

"His Majesty Alexander to Darius: Greetings. The Darius whose name you have assumed wrought utter destruction upon the Greek inhabitants of the Hellespontine coast and upon the Greek colonies of Ionia, and then crossed the sea with a mighty army, bringing the war to Macedonia and Greece." (Quintus Curtius Rufus, The History of Alexander, p.50-1)

A clear separation of Macedonia from Greece, a separation that Alexander himself wrote about. The obvious question arouses - why Sakellariou did not even mention this ancient fact? Surely, this is the Official View of the Macedonian King Alexander and as such it deserves the attention. The fact that Sakellariou had purposely avoided citing it only proves how bias he is. The truth is that Alexander uses his propaganda towards his enemies (in the above case Darius), as he likes and when he likes, based on his best interest, as we saw in Bloedow above. Of course, Alexander did not consider Macedonia as forming a part of Greece, a proof of that we found in both Bloedow and Curtius, a proof that Sakellariou purposely avoided to mention.

(b) Sakellariou also mentions the "Treaty of Alliance" between the Macedonian king Philip V and Hannibal, which was recorded by Polybius. However, Sakellariou had once again failed to notify the reader that Polybius himself did not consider the Macedonians to be Greek. Based on evidence in his works, Macedonia was not a part of Greece and the passage from the treaty of alliance can therefore be explained as a cultural link, not ethnic, since Polybius, the Roman generals, and the ancient Greeks, clearly separate Macedonia from Greece (Polybius, The Rise of the Roman Empire, Book V.104 p.300; Book XVIII, 1, 2, 3, 5). As ancient Greek himself, Polybius was in position to know that the Macedonians were not part of his Greek nation. Again we ask the same question - why did Sakellariou avoid these facts? It's obvious that his argument is biased and taken out of context.

If Sakellariou cared to reveal the real Official Macedonian View, he should have mentioned that the Macedonians never considered themselves as Greek in their own writings. For example, they always wrote their nationality next to their names - a Macedonian, something that was uncommon for the Greeks. The Macedonian kings in Egypt "loved to call themselves Macedonians, which is that they were" (Pausanius. X. 7) and Ptolemy proudly refers to himself as Macedonian in the inscription of Olympia (Pausanius. VI. 3) Herodotus always refers to the Macedonian kings by their ethnic name. Arrian pays close attention to clearly identify the Macedonians and the Greeks: fathers name in the case of Macedonians and for the Greeks their city of origin. Sakellariou has also avoided mentioning the following Official View of Alexander the Great as well:

"I do not separate people, as many narrow-minded others do, into Hellenes and barbarians. I am not interested in the origin or race of citizens, I only distinguish them on the basis of their virtue. For me, each foreigner is a Hellene, and each bad Hellene is a barbarian."

Here, Alexander himself states that for him the ancient Greeks (Hellenes) are foreigners. He degrades even further the bad Hellenes into barbarians! In other words, Alexander clearly distinguishes his Macedonians from the Greeks (whom he calls foreigners and barbarians). Alexander himself seems to have made little distinction in his last years between Greeks of Europe or Asia, or even between Greeks and barbarians (A.B.Bosworth, Conquest and Empire, p.257). These are all Official Views of the Macedonians, pointing to the fact that they are not Greek. Sakellariou had completely avoided them, obviously because they do not suit his conclusion, and obviously because he is biased.

[3] The last of Sakellariou's arguments rests on the myth quoted by Hellanikos and is the weakest of all. That this myth is not "reliable evidence" as Sakellariou claims, we find proof in the words of Professor Borza, who responds here to Hammond, although the same response can be attributed to Sakellariou:

"Hammond's firm conclusion that the Macedonians spoke a distinctive dialect of Aeolic Greek is unconvincing to me, resting as it does on an interpretation of a bit of myth quoted by Hellanicus, who made Aeolus the father of the legendary progenitor Macedon". "The handful of surviving genuine Macedonian words - not loan words from a Greek - do not show the changes expected from a Greek dialect. And even had they changed at some point it is unlikely that they would have reverted to their original form". (Eugene Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus, p.92)

Sakellariou as a historian should know that one could not derive such far-reaching conclusion on the basis of mythological crumbs. History cannot be reconstructed even from complete mythological legends.

The term 'Greeks'

We will address few more of Sakellariou's groundless arguments. He claims that in the ancient quotes were Alexander addresses the "Macedonians and Greeks" separately and individually, the "term 'Greeks' is used to indicate the soldiers of the confederation of the 'Greeks,'' while the Macedonians are the "other Greeks." This does not make any sense. What about the ancient texts where the Greeks who do not belong to the so-called "confederation of the 'Greeks'' are clearly distinguished from the Macedonians?

"Darius' Greeks fought to thrust the Macedonians back into the water and save the day for their left wing, already in retreat, while the Macedonians, in their turn, with Alexander's triumph plain before their eyes, were determined to equal his success and not forfeit the proud title of invincible, hitherto universally bestowed upon them. The fight was further embittered by the old racial rivalry of Greek and Macedonian." (Arrian, Book II – The Campaigns of Alexander, p.119)

Sakellariou's argument is obviously biased, he hides again the ancient texts that do not suit his misleading conclusion. It is a fact that not once in the history of the antiquity there had been writings referring to the Greek Athenians, Thessalians, or Spartans being next to "Greeks." There are no ancient writings where "Athenians and Greeks" or "Spartans and Greeks" are mentioned, not even once in the many wars the Greeks fought among themselves! On the other hand, the fact that we only find writings of a kind "Macedonians and Greeks" proves that the Macedonians and the Greeks were indeed two different people, just like the writings of the battles between "Persians and Greeks" prove that the Persians and Greeks were two different peoples as well.

Arrian, himself an ancient Greek writer, was in position to know this, just like every other ancient Greek author in antiquity, which we already mentioned. If for example Arrian or Curtius, meant what Sakellariou is suggesting, they would have specified that by 'Greeks' they meant the 'confederation of the Greeks', or they could have written, "Macedonians and other Greeks," but they haven't. Finally, had the Macedonians been Greek, there would have been no need to differentiate at all, and the ancient writers as well as the Macedonian kings would have simply used the term 'Greeks' for both, without even mentioning the Macedonians. That of course did not happen. The truth is that by "Macedonians and Greeks", both the ancient writers and the Macedonian kings clearly recognized two different ethnicities, proving that Sakellariou's attempt to change the meaning of the sentence is unsuccessful, just like in the previous three points.

Alexander I

Sakellariou also fails in his analysis on Alexander I. He concludes that this Macedonian king took part in the Greek Olympic Games (and therefore is Greek), but fails to notify the reader that his name is not on the list of the winners in the race in which he supposedly won. He also fails to notify the reader of the overwhelming evidence, which shows that Alexander I was not Greek. Instead, he hangs on text out of context yet again.

The Macedonian Tongue

Sakellariou continues writing about the Macedonian tongue, which he concludes, is a 'dialect of Greek'. (Michael Sakellariou, Macedonia: 4000 years of Greek History, p.54). However, in the process he NOT once mention the ancient writings that clearly show that the Macedonian was a distinct language and not a "dialect of Greek" (the testimony of Quintus Curtius Rufus The History of Alexander p.138, Plutarch Alexander 51, Ps. Kallisth., B 32, 14, Plutarch Eumenes 14,5, Pausanius (IV, 29), A.B. Bosworth Eumenos, Neoptolemos and PSI XII, 1284 GRBS 19/3 1978, p227-237, Wilcken, Borza, and Badian). Why doesn’t Sakellariou tell the audience the Official View of the Macedonian King Alexander the Great on the Macedonian language?

"The Macedonians are going to judge your case," he (Alexander) said. "Please state whether you will use your native language before them." and "Do you see how offensive Philotas find even his native language? He alone feels an aversion to learning it. But let him speak as he pleases - only remember he as contemptuous of our way of life as he is of our language". (Quintus Curtius Rufus, The History of Alexander, p.138)

This is Alexander himself talking about his native language, not about a "dialect of Greek". Sakellariou is extremely biased by not even mentioning this ancient fact (as the other above) and his ‘conclusion’ that the Macedonians spoke a ‘dialect of Greek’ is simply corrupt.

Sakellariou’s Criticism on Badian

Sakellariou’s critics on Badian are weak as well. Ernst Badian from Harvard University, has produced magnificent work where relying strictly on ancient evidence and common logic he proves that the Macedonians and Greeks were two separate nations. (Ernst Badian, Studies in the History of Art vol. 10: Macedonia and Greece in Late Classical and Early Hellenistic Times. Greeks and Macedonians).  Borza will later write:

"It is indicative of the strength of Badian’s case that his critics have succeeded only in nit-picking: e.g., Sakellariou, Macedonia, 534-35 nn. 52.53". (Eugene Borza, In the Shadow of Olympus, p.96)

As much as we can talk about the strength of Badian's case, we can at the same time talk about the weakness of Sakellariou's case. He had only managed to nit-pick Badians arguments, but did not even come close to proving them "wrong", (Michael Sakellariou, Macedonia: 4000 years of Greek History, p.534-535 nn. 52-53) for the evidence presented is too strong and persuasive to be defeated.

Ancient Evidence

It is not just a coincidence that the ancient authors have left us with evidence that the Macedonians were not Greek, but a distinct people. Indeed, this evidence is overwhelming when compared with Sakellariou's weak misleading points above, taken out of context. This is precisely why he was not able to counter it, and instead choused to "nit-pick" as Borza states, or simply avoid it. While evaluating the ancient authors, Sakellariou nowhere mentions in his book that Arrian, Diodorus, Plutarch, Polybius, Livius, Curtius Rufus, Justin, Demosthenes, Isocrates, Thrasymachus, Herodotus, Athenaios, Pseudo-Kalisthanes, Pausanius, Strabo etc, etc, do not consider the Macedonians to be Greek. It is obvious that he avoids them simply because they do not conclude what he concludes.

Modern Macedonia

Having failed to establish a 'Greek' link to the ancient Macedonians and a so-called "4000 Years of Greek History", Sakellariou had failed once again regarding the modern Macedonian history as well. He is completely ignorant to the existence of the modern Macedonian nation and avoids evidence once again, which supports its existence. For example, not once does he mention (while talking about population statistics) that all neutral (German, Austrian, English) statistics on the population of Macedonia before 1913, show that the Greeks were only a small minority of about 10%, while the overwhelming majority of the population were the Macedonian Slavs or simply the Macedonians (K.Gersin, Dr.Peucher, A.Rousos). (see the Macedonian-Greek conflict).  He also does not mention that the King of the Greeks during the partition of Macedonia in 1912/3 had said that Macedonia is not liberated but occupied by the Greek army.


We have thus proven with facts that Sakellariou's conclusion that the Macedonians "were Greek" is unconvincing and biased. He had avoided all ancient testimony that does not suit his conclusion and it is simply amazing that such "historian" is trying to pass his book as scholarly evidence, "proving" that the Macedonians "were Greek" based on not a single credible evidence. His book of the supposed "4000 years of Greek History in Macedonia", should therefore be disregarded as yet another distortion of the Macedonian history, for ascribing wrong (Greek) identity to the ancient Macedonians. 


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