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Ulrich Wilcken
German Historian
Alexander the Great

 

[1] "The beginnings of Macedonian history are shrouded in complete darkness. There is keen controversy on the ethnological problem, whether Macedonians were Greek or not." [p.22]

[Point of Interest] Key elements in these few sentences are: "ethnology" and "keen controversy". Based on ethnology, one cannot conclude that the ancient Macedonians were Greek. One cannot, because there is keen controversy whether Macedonians were Greeks or not. That is what Wilken states.

[2] "Linguistic science has at its disposal a very limited quantity of Macedonian words, and the archeological exploration of Macedonia has hardly begun."

[Point of Interest] Key elements are: "limited quantity of Macedonian words." Archeologically, Macedonia is unexplored. Result? There are Macedonian words, albeit, in a "limited quantity", but nevertheless, the words are Macedonian. (Note, it did not say Greek words. Consequently, one cannot equate the term "Macedonian" to mean the same as "Athenian", "Theban", "Spartan" and such. For to claim that Macedonians were Greeks, one must expect that these Greeks used same language - same words. But the author, here, clearly states the existence of "Macedonian words".)

[3] Describing the all familiar episode with Cleitus: "He shouted in Macedonian for his hypaspists, and ordered the trumpeter to sound the alarm". [p167]

[Point of Interest] (The most revealing point in Alexander's psyche; the time when he felt that conspiracy against his life is in the making, when he felt his life is in danger, forgetting his "Hellenic" mask, he shouts in his native Macedonian language. Yes, indeed, a very revealing point. Stripped from any artificiality, and pretentiousness, he reverts to the most instinctive/primitive response and shouts to his guards in Macedonian language.)

[4] "And yet when we take into account the political conditions, religion and morals of the Macedonians, our conviction is strengthened that they were Greek race and akin to the Dorians."

[Point of Interest] Based on political conditions "religion and morals" "our convictions are strengthened" "They were Greek race and akin to the Dorians". A fixed or strong belief being strengthened. These beliefs are formed based on such identifiers/classifiers as religion, political conditions and morals. Let us take a closer look:

(a) Religion is not limited or restricted to one people only. Religion transcends borders and ethnic make-ups of communities with the greatest of ease. One should not go any further than today's Greece, for example. There you have Orthodox, Jewish, Muslum, Catholic, Jehovah, Protestant and other religious denominations. (Weak link) Nevertheless, Alexander is shown to have sacrificed to his father Ammon, to Indian gods, and to local gods in the country he happened to fight. Besides, on p.142 we see that at Susa, Alexander sacrificed to "Macedonian gods according to ancestral rituals, and ordered a torch-race and gymnastic contest to follow." p. 187, line 15, we read the following passage referring to his advances to the Hyphasis:

"Alexander built twelve great tower-like altars on the nearer side of the river. We have been informed by those who refer everything to Babylonia, that this was for the twelve signs of the zodiac. In reality it was the twelve gods of Macedonia to whom these altars were raised." Key words are: Twelve Macedonian gods, not Greek.

(b) "political conditions"? Not much to draw from here. Common land brings common wars, common enemies and common destiny. Political condition can bring people close together and/or drive them apart. The war against Persia brought these two peoples together. (Weak point) However, let us consider the following statements by Wilcken: On p.170, line 31 we find: (Referring to the conspiracy involving the royal pages, the sons of Macedonian nobles. These royal pages who "waited on the king's person", were brought, and tried, in front of the Macedonian army, and consequently executed by stoning. By the way, these royal pages were tutored by Callisthenes).

"As Callisthenes was a Greek, there was no question of trying him by the Macedonian army." Key point: Since Callisthenes was a Greek and not a Macedonian, like the royal pages, he, Callisthenes, a Greek, cannot be tried by the Macedonian army This is a political differentiation based on ethnic classification or national separation, for on p.171, line 33, we see the following reference: "On the march and in battle he was just the same as ever, he (Alexander) was the king of the Macedonian nation, who shared with them the unspeakable fatigues, and the hunger and thirst of this guerrilla warfare." Macedonians clearly distanced as a nation.

(c) "Morals"? This must be the weakest link of the three. As it was indicated above, people who inhabit same geographical area, share common borders and fight common enemies, and most of all, trade with each other, sooner or later, they are not only going to borrow from one another, imitate each other's styles (to a certain extent), but even steal ideas from each other. That is, surely, inevitable. Nevertheless, the morals of the ancient Macedonians were quite different from those of the ancient Greeks. They were not branded "barbarians" for nothing. (Very weak point)

On Line 20, p. 22. Referring to the episode of Alexander I who desired to take part in the Olympic Games, to which only Hellenes had access to: "He was at first refused as a barbarian, and it was only when by a bold fiction he traced back the pedigree of his house, the Agreed, to the Herald Tameness of Argues, that he was admitted as a competitor." Key words: "Bold fiction". This is self-explanatory.

[5] [p.2223] "Even in Philip's day the Greeks saw in the Macedonians a non-Greek foreign people, and we must remember this if we are to understand the history of Philip and Alexander, and especially the resistance and obstacles which met them from the Greeks. The point is much more important than our modern conviction that Greeks and Macedonians were brethren, this was equally unknown to both, and therefore could have no political effect."

Key words: (a) "non-Greek foreign people", (b) "we must remember", (c) "the point is much more important than our modern conviction", (d) "equally unknown to both" and (e)"no political effect".

Conclusion: This is same Wilcken who previously stated that: "When we take into account the political conditions, religion and morals of the Macedonians our convictions are strengthened..."

Now, after giving thorough description of the existing conditions in the fifth and fourth cent. BC, he, Wilken states: The point is much more important than our modern conviction. And that means: Ancient Macedonians and ancient Greeks did not regard themselves as brethren; "this was equally unknown to both". Much more important than what we think them today.

[6] [p.23] "A strong Illyrian and Thracian can thus be recognized in Macedonian speech and manners. These however are only trifles compared with the Greek character of the Macedonian nationality; for example, the names of the true full-blooded Macedonians, especially of the princes and nobles, are purely Greek in their formation and sounds".

Key notes: "Macedonian speech and manners" "Macedonian nationality" "names are purely Greek in their formation and sounds".

Conclusion: So far we have witnessed the usage of "Macedonian words", "Macedonian speech", and "Macedonian nationality".

Line 4 on p. 26 we find the following statement: "The Macedonians were thoroughly healthy people, trained not by Greek athletics, but, like the Romans, by military service."

[7] [p. 26] "The dislike was reciprocal, for the Macedonians have grown into a proud masterful nation, which with highly developed national consciousness looked down upon the Hellenes with contempt. This fact too is of prime importance for the understanding of later history."

Key points: (a) "The dislike was reciprocal", (b) "Macedonians had grown into a proud masterful nation", (c) "Highly developed national consciousness", and (d) "looked down upon the Helleness with contempt".

Conclusion: The fact that Macedonians looked down upon the Hellenes with contempt, is not the point I would elevate for "storage" (as J.P. suggests), what I would gladly elevate, though, is the following statement: "proud masterful nation".

Note: (1) If in fact the ancient Macedonians were Greeks, and the Greeks are the Hellenes, then, how can a "Greek- Hellene", like the ancient Macedonians, look down upon themselves? Note: (2) If in fact the ancient Macedonians were regarded as Greeks, like the Thebans, Athenians, Spartans and the other city-states of Greece, how come, we do not find any Greek city-state elevated as a nation? For example, the Athenian nation, the Spartan nation and so forth? This usage of "Macedonian nation" by Wilcken is not an accidental at all. He uses the terms "Macedonians and Greeks" repeatedly throughout the book. Obviously, he finds a strong need to differentiate between these two peoples.

[8] [p.44] "Philip was the Hegemon, the federal general, selected for life by the congress. His kingdom of Macedon naturally did not belong to the Hellenic League..."

Note: Macedonians were not Hellene, and Macedonia was never a member of the Hellenic League, a league that encompassed and "united" all the Greek city-states. Isocrates expanded the term Hellene to include, no racial descent, but mode of thought, and those who partook of Attic culture, rather than those who had a common descent were called Hellene. He saw the true Hellene only in the Greek educated in the Attic model. He did not regard the barbarians of Attic education as Hellenes. Here are the rest of the Wilken quotes:

Wilcken's Quotes

[1] "Even in Philip's day the Greeks saw in the Macedonians a non-Greek foreign people, and we must remember this if we are to understand the history of Philip and Alexander, and especially the resistance and obstacles which met them from the Greeks. The point is much more important than our modern conviction that Greeks and Macedonians were brethren, this was equally unknown to both, and therefore could have no political effect." [p. 22-23]

[2] "The dislike was reciprocal, for the Macedonians have grown into a proud masterful nation, which with highly developed national consciousness looked down upon the Hellenes with contempt. This fact too is of prime importance for the understanding of later history. [p.26]

[3] "Philip was the Hegemon, the federal general, selected for life by the congress. His kingdom of Macedon naturally did not belong to the Hellenic League..." [p.44]

[4] "On the other hand, we look in vain for the 7000 league infantry in the battle front. One gets the impression that, apart from the Tessalians, Alexander took the Greek contingents rather as hostages, who would help to keep Hellas quiet." [p.75]

[5] "The naval superiority of the enemy had a determining effect on Alexander's plan of campaign. As the Persian fleet controlled the sea, the greatest danger was the possibility that the Great King might transfer the war to Greece and by his immense treasures coerce the Greeks into fighting against him." [p.77] [fighting against Alexander]

[6] Thebans responding to Alexander's demands: "anyone who wished, in company with them and the Great King, to free Greece from the tyranny of Alexander, should forthwith join them." [P.72]

[7] "It appears that while Alexander stayed in Macedonia, the Greeks kept quiet, though the parties hostile to him in the cities felt his hegemony as a grevious burden. But when he went northwards and remained a long time in unknown and remote lands, from which no news come, the Greek world was filled with unrest and excitement." [P70]

[8] "To the latter [Philip II] the designed campaign of vengeance was merely a pretext and an instrument of policy for making Macedonia a great power. But Alexander, into whom Aristotle had instilled a love of Greek culture, was bound to take up the Panhellenic idea with the greatest enthusiasm as affording him an opportunity to carry Greek culture into Asia; there was also the personal motive, the example of his heroic ancestors and especially of Achilles. Accordingly he crossed over to Asia, full of the romantic conceptions that he as a second Achilles was leading the Greaks against the barbarians; but at the same time he went forth as King of Macedonia, to conquer new territory." [p.66]

[9] "The Greeks regarded the hegemony of Philip as, after all, a foreign domination; they did not look upon the Macedonians as Greeks." [p.45]

[10] "His Kingdom of Macedonia naturally did not belong to the Hellenic League." [Philip's kingdom] [p.44]

[11] "Isocrates never for an instant thought of a politically unified state under Philip's leadership. It is simply the internal unification of Hellas which he calls on Philip to bring about." [p.37]

[12] "it is equally an error to believe that the Panhellenic idea started with the object of the union of the nation into one state." [p.37]

[13] "When Philip read the book, the insistence of his descent from Heracles must have been welcome to him; for in his policy he had to stress this mythical derivation, as the types of Heracles on his coins show. But on the other hand he must have smiled at the naivete shown by Isocrates." [p.36]

[14] "Isocrates must have taken this strong realist for an idealist, such as he was himself, if he believed that Philip would draw his sword for the beaux yeux of the Greeks." [p.36]

[15] "He [Philip] needed but to modify these plans cleverly, in order to conceil his Macedonian aims with Panhellenic catch-words." [p.37]

[16] Jacob Burckhardt: "the myth was the ideal basis of their whole existence." [p.34]

[17] "When Isocrates in this treatise makes so much of Heracles as Philip's ancestor, this was meant not merely for Philip, but for the Greek public as well." [p.35]

[18] "The strong emphasis on Philip as a Heraclid and therefore a true Hellene, was to make easier for Greeks the idea of subordination to foreign leadership." [p.35-6]

 

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